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Next best thing to a flying car


The denialism stuff is kind of depressing, so here are two quick hits of environmental good news. The first involves bicycles in Paris; the second a magical new technology that can transport you from San Francisco to Los Angeles for only a dollar, gets 184 miles per gallon, and is commercially viable today.

Via Grist, the world’s large bike-sharing scheme is showing signs of huge success. In the three weeks that the 10,000 “Freedom Bikes” have been available in Paris, patrons have taken them for 1.2 million rides. On average, each bike is taken for six rides a day.

The only hitches have been minor:

In Paris there have been few teething troubles with the high-tech system that supplies the bikes for up to €1 per half-hour — but one is a result of residents using them to glide downhill to work and then taking public transport home, resulting in gluts of bikes at some low-level stands and shortages at higher altitude stations, such as Montmartre.

Observers are waiting to see what happens when the weather turns nastier this fall, but so far the program has been a hit, and other cities are taking note.

And that magical technology that can transport you cheaply and efficiently from San Francisco to L.A.? It’s called a bus. Savvy (and cheap!) East Coasters (such as myself!) have long made use of the Chinatown bus to get between New York, Boston, and D.C. A company called Megabus is now taking the concept west.

Of course, Greyhound has run buses between west coast cities for year. The one tiny problem with Greyhound is that…most people would rather spend time in a Turkish prison than on a Greyhound bus.

Megabus basically applies the Southwest Airlines business model to the bus industry: cheap fares, direct routes between popular cities, and non-standard pick-up points. Also like the discount airlines, Megabus will employ yield management pricing, offering the first four seats on a route for only $1, and gradually increasing the price as more sell.

That’s all good for consumers. For the environment, the benefit is that even conventional buses get 184 miles per gallon per passenger, which is hard to beat without stuffing six people into a Prius.

Photo of Velib riders available under Creative Commons license from Flickr user malias.

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