We need to do all the (transportation) things

August 9, 2021

No I didn’t write this because of the IPCC report, I don’t write that fast, been working on it for a while.

Something that has become more and more clear to me over the last few years is that there’s no single silver bullet for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation (aviation, shipping, rail, and particularly cars and trucks), which is now the largest US source of GHG emissions.  Partly this is because we’ve spent decades making ourselves dependent on fossil fuels, and partly this is because we can only change things so fast even if we want to.  And, because we’ve dithered for so long (with the obfuscating assistance of the fossil fuel industry and their useful political idiots), we don’t have much choice but to do everything we can, immediately, to cut emissions. If you think, “maybe GHGs are not a problem, I’m sure we’ll adapt”, this is not for you, stop reading, go away, you’re an idiot, no I will not approve your comments.  This is instead, do not be so focused on your own favorite silver bullet that you dismiss other things that would help, because anything that is roughly cost-effective would help, and we need all the help.

So, where are we now?  Right now, the median vehicle trip is only 5 miles (my calculation, from ORNL data), but that is only about the 30th percentile commute, which for a lot of people is a a 5-days-per-week round trip.  And short trips don’t cover a lot of miles; the average length of all trips (not just commutes) is 10 miles, but half the miles traveled occur in trips of up to 19 miles (this is not intuitive, I made a fake distribution in a spreadsheet so I could verify I had not made an error).  And the trips up to 5 miles only (cumulatively) account for about one-eighth of all miles traveled in cars and trucks.  So, bicycles and micromobility by themselves are not enough.  On the other hand, biking works for a whole lot of people, right now, all weather, e-bikes solve the hill problem and help with the range problem, and biking and micro-mobility could do a lot to improve use of long-haul transit, and reducing car use in dense places (cities) does a lot to make increased density not just palatable, but even attractive.

We’re producing electric cars, yes, but right now they’re only 2% of all new cars in the US (that’s new cars, not all cars), and the average car on the road is 12 years old; cars sold today will be with us for a while.  If we miraculously transformed all our cars to be electric overnight, we’d also need to make the electrical grid about 15% larger than it is now — not the GHG-free electrical supply, but the total supply, generated all ways, delaying the phase-out of existing dirty generation. The non-electric cars that we drive also tend to be ludicrously bloated; that’s no help at all.

We could move closer to our work and to shopping, but moving is a pain (says a friend, “three moves equals one fire”) and the first two decades of my life I lived someplace undergoing 3% population growth every year, largely in (literal) green-field development and it severely burdened the government to keep up (in particular, to keep up with school construction; “portables”, double sessions and 45-15 scheduling were all used to deal with the problem), so there are limits to how quickly people can move around and how fast we can build infrastructure to add people to an existing city or suburb, assuming that everything else aligns to make it possible.  On the other hand, we actually did this — 3% growth per year for 20 years, it happened, over a whole Florida county (Pinellas, decades ending 1970 and 1980, see also Pasco, and Hillsborough).

It’s also worth comparing the things we think are “hard”, with what’s truly hard.  Long-haul air travel without liquid fuels?  That’s really hard.  Ocean shipping at existing scale and speed without liquid fuels?  Also hard.  And among the liquid fuels, hydrocarbons are superior; alcohol could work, but it’s less energy per gallon or kilogram when burned, never mind that biofuel alcohol production has a lot of fossil fuel inputs (these could be improved, but that’s only at the experimental stage right now)  All the other substitute fuels have similar problems — burning hydrogen itself produces no long-lived greenhouse gases, but producing hydrogen requires energy, which comes from where?  And carbon capture?  Not proven at scale, and that also uses energy, who’s going to pay for that?  And where do we put it, to be sure it will stay put?  And yes we should keep studying these things, they look really interesting, some of them will turn into wins, but they haven’t yet, we need to diversify our risks, and we don’t have time to wait.

The distinction between what we can do now — things that are proven to scale, that are done elsewhere already, that were even done here in the past — versus things that we might be able to do in the future, is important, because we need to make real reductions now, not promised reductions in a future that will arrive as slowly as our dragging feet can manage.  The problem with global warming is that it does not reverse quickly; we’re emitting CO2 far faster than the climate can come into equilibrium (oceans absorb an almost incomprehensible amount of heat) and it persists in the atmosphere for hundreds of years.  If through some miracle we zeroed out our greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, it would still take decades (centuries?) for the earth’s temperature and all its weird-weather effects to come into equilibrium; however, any reduction in emissions now is still good because otherwise the rate of change comes even faster and the endpoint is far worse.  

So, what have we got that we can do now?  And how do we help it happen?

Not driving

Not driving, how does that happen?  Buses, trains, subways, bicycles, scooters, skateboards and walking all worked well in the past, work in other places right now, and work for many people here already.  People use them in combination, i.e., “multimodal”. New technology, for better lighting, better tires, better batteries, better materials, and better motor controls has already made these better than they were in the past. There’s no particular reason to believe that not-driving should be rare.  

It’s probably worth describing some of the parameters of these other modes, because to read what other people say, it is clear that many people don’t know how they work.

(Begin digression)

On a plain bicycle, a typical speed is in the range of 12-15mph.  Some people can cruise at 20mph, but that’s not usual case.  Anyone cruising (not sprinting) at 25mph is in exceptionally good shape.  Only top athletes cruise at 30mph.  Increasing speed comes with sweat and safety tradeoffs; higher speeds generate passing conflicts with other riders, surprise drivers (if bikes and cars share space), and yield much more unpleasant crashes.  Someone who bikes 6 miles to work at 20mph will want a shower when they arrive; they’re typically drenched in sweat.  Cruising at 12mph means that 6 miles takes 30 minutes without stops, which is generally regarded as a comfortable limit on commute length and results in much less sweat, yet still provides plenty of exercise. For congested automobile traffic on surface streets, 12mph is quite competitive, given that a bicycle can filter up to intersections instead of waiting in line (multiple bicycles also clear intersections far more quickly than cars do per “lane”, even given the reduced size of a bicycle lane).  Solo crashes at lower speeds are also much safer.  Lower speeds are safer for pedestrians; though bicycles are far safer for pedestrians than cars are, pedestrians-fatality crashes at or below 15mph are even rarer.

E-bikes come in several flavors; throttle and pedal assist, and regulated at 20mph, regulated at 28mph, and (illegally) not regulated.  Typical e-bikes come with a 250W assist, which is “you’re now very fit” at the push of a button.  The legal limit in the US is 750W, which is quite a lot of power (more than the best athletes produce continuously) and there are bikes on the road with more than that; sometimes for speed, but the ones that I know of (I know of 2) use it for hill-climbing with cargo.  There’s wacky variation among state laws, but above describes California and federal regulations (which apply to use and sale, respectively).   20mph cuts a 6-mile commute to 18 minutes, and with much less sweat.  For my commute (through a Boston suburb and Cambridge) an e-bike would handily beat driving at rush hour, and would be competitive even off-peak, but commute speed is not my only priority (I also care about exercise, have repair skills that don’t include batteries and motors, and charging at work is a hassle).  One important thing that e-bikes do is flatten hills; it may be that the shortest route traverses a hill, or the safest route traverses a hill, and on a regular bike you might choose to avoid the hill because hills are work.  But on an e-bike, no problem.

The big win for multi-modal commutes (where the default multiple modes are “walking” and “transit”) is that the alternatives are notably faster than walking.  A 10 minute walk at 3mph is half a mile.  For a bicycle, assuming a minute spent locking up, the remaining 9 minute ride at 12mph is 1.8 miles.  For a train or subway station, that increased speed puts 13 times as much area within 10 minutes of the station, so crudely, 13 times as many people can reach the station without using a car, which would add to congestion near the station and also requires much more space for parking than a bicycle does.  A skateboard is slower (9 mph) but needs no locking if you carry it with you onto the train, so an extra minute, resulting in 9 times the area that can reach the station in 10 minutes.  A skateboard, if you are capable of using one (I’m not, at least not yet) is also supremely reliable; no pneumatic tires to puncture, no chain to come off, no brakes to fail.

For multi-modal commutes, plain bicycles are typically for first-mile(s) or last-mile(s); they’re good for either, but are more of a pain to take with you on a bus or train.  Buses often have racks on the front, but if lots of people were doing bike-bus-bike commutes (where the bike travels on the front of the bus), those racks would tend to be full and you might have to wait for a bus with an empty slot, which adds unreliability.  Some trains (Caltrain, e.g.) allow bicycles at rush hour, but when you compare the human occupancy of a “bike car” with a regular car, a rider + bike take 3 times as much space, and the increased difficulty of boarding and leaving the train carrying a bicycle risks increasing dwell times at stations. Level boarding platforms would help with this — roll on/off is much easier than carrying a bike up/down steps; this is an example of how doing “all the things” can interact favorably, because we should be doing level boarding for ADA and faster boarding in general.  Most trains and subways, however, do not allow plain bicycles at rush hour, because that would cut their overall capacity and they often run full (this is definitely true for BART and MBTA).  Folding bicycles typically receive an exception, but these are sort of an all-around compromise; the nicest ones are ok bikes, but not the best bikes, the lightest is 22lbs but over 30lbs is common, so they’re a noticeable hunk of “luggage”, and even folded they take up a bit of space.  E-bikes are useful for larger amounts of first/last miles, or those that include hills, but are much worse for bike-transit-bike unless the transit is roll-on and roll-off, because e-bikes are notably heavier than plain bicycles.

A skateboard tends slower than a bicycle, but is darn near optimal for multimodal use.  They’re light and compact, and you can carry them on a bus or train anytime, and typically use them right up to the moment you step onto the train/bus, crowds and local regulations permitting.  (Local regulations may not permit, because local regulators look down on the sort of riff-raff who would use a skateboard for transportation).

E-assist scooters, skateboards, mono wheels, and hoverboards are all very, very interesting. By default these can travel at least 20mph (unclear if they’re legally regulated or not) and are also relatively easy to carry on/off transit, depending somewhat on details.  E-skateboards are probably the easiest; hoverboards and mono wheels, in my limited experience (picking them up at a demo) are somewhat more lumpy, though more compact than a folding bicycle. Traveling at 18mph on something that you take with you on the bus or train means that the 10-minute area around a train station is now 36 times larger than what you could reach walking 3 mph.  Scooters require less skill, but are heavier (27lbs, versus 17 for an e-skateboard) and a little bulkier even when they fold, though the folding scooter I saw had a nice design for carrying.

For cargo delivery, especially urban cargo delivery, e-assist “bicycles” (actual bicycles, tricycles, and quadricycles) work well for small loads.  There are tradeoffs between loading time, time spent stuck in traffic, time spent traveling back and forth for new loads, and contention for loading dock space, which can be an issue for trucks, but much less so for bicycle delivery.

There are weather issues with all of these choices, but if the goal is not-driving, a fraction of the cost of a car can still buy both a bicycle AND an e-scooter, where the bike is better for cold weather (exertion makes heat, studded snow tires deal with ice and snow) and the e-scooter is better for heat and rain (less exertion; mostly stationary posture makes a rain poncho work better, less sweaty).

Trains and subways are notable because rail can carry a boggling quantity of people.  One subway line in Boston can carry (and does carry, at non-pandemic rush hour) as many people per hour in a single direction as 10 lanes of car traffic at maximum throughput. For longer-haul commuters, commuter rail carries 42% of the total rush hour traffic into Boston.

(End digression)

Quite a lot of what we need for other modes is attention paid to the same sort of convenience that causes us to default to cars today.  So, buses and trains, if they only come once an hour, that’s not convenient — so don’t do that, arrange for them to come more frequently.  Yes, that will cost money.  Waiting for transit, what if it is raining, what keeps the weather off?  So waiting areas should have a roof, and a bit of shelter from wind, too.  When it snows, we plow roads for cars, but we don’t plow sidewalks, and often road-plowing results in sidewalks being blocked at every street intersection; if we expect people to not-drive, better make it reliably physically possible.  Buses get delayed in traffic; when multiplied by all the people on the bus, that’s a huge inconvenience, so the bus should get its own lane and be able to trigger green lights at intersections. Biking, is there a safe place to lock-up a nice bicycle?

  • Build densely.  We did this in the past, we could do it again.  Not only does this shorten car trips, it also makes alternatives feasible.  But it seems unlikely that we could add density (people) faster than 3% per year.  The goal therefore should be to make whatever growth we can work as well as possible; site it close to transit stations, site it close to bike routes that connect to nearby destinations.  Don’t create dense housing in the middle of nowhere, even if that land is cheaper.  In some cases there are problems with municipal funding — it’s common to fund the  bulk of K-12 education from property taxes, so adding people puts pressure on a town’s budget — so fix those taxes, it’s not like that’s an inherently good way to pay for schools, it’s just a thing we happen to do (and it helps preserve the effects of redlining, so it’s kinda racist, too). There are other good reasons to make this funding change.
  • Make transit nicer (a non-comprehensive list of examples):
    1. Improve subway signaling so that trains can run closer together (this will save time and make them less crowded)
    2. Buses obtain a double benefit from bus lanes; not only is the bus ride less delayed, but the buses can run more frequently (or fewer buses can provide the same level of service).  For example, if a bus lane converts a circular 30 minute route into a 20 minute route, then it takes only 2 buses to come once every 10 minutes, instead of 3.
    3. At intersections, buses should be able to request an early green so that they are least-delayed, for the same reasons.
    4. There’s a level of crowding that causes many people to avoid transit; if there is crowding, great, transit is popular, but the goal is to get more people on it, not just minimize per-rider costs, so ADD MORE TRANSIT till the crowding is reduced.  If the existing service cannot be expanded (trains are maximum length, running at minimum interval, still crowded) then add alternatives — redundant bus and bike routes for short haul, better support for carpooling for long haul.
    5. Elevators should work, and should also be easy to find and access.
    6. Clean stairwells more aggressively (so that they don’t smell).
    7. Bus stops (and train stops!) should be sheltered from the weather.
    8. Trains should use level boarding, because that is faster, easier, better for disabled people, and eases the option of bikes on trains.
    9. Trains should use electrical power (not batteries, that is not yet proven for trains at scale) because that is quieter, cleaner, and provides faster acceleration from stops which saves time.
    10. Trains should come frequently, and where possible trains and buses should have properly synchronized transfers (frequent service takes a lot of the sting out of poorly coordinated transfers, but minutes spent waiting or walking add up fast).  We have a lot of rails in place already around some large cities, we just don’t use them enough.
    11. Transit should not shut down at midnight; there are people who need it at all hours.
    12. Transit stations should have abundant, safe, and convenient sheltered bicycle parking, and perhaps also lockers for scooters and skateboards; not everyone wants to carry those with them onto the train.
    13. Train tracks should be improved so that the ride is smooth, and people riding the train can easily read or work while they ride, if they wish to.
  • Make “micro mobility” nicer.  I have many, many suggestions here, because I ride a bicycle daily to work and am well aware of all the little friction points.  Someone with daily transit experience (I had that once…) can probably flesh out my suggestions above.  But on to the bicycles and little e-things:
    1. There really, truly, needs to be safer places to ride.  That probably won’t happen until a larger number of people are biking/etc, but if you want to get people out of cars, either driving has to become a lot less pleasant (that will be ever so popular) or else not-driving has to become a lot more pleasant.  And this right here is the number one item.  Safe, separated, relatively direct and non-squirrelly bicycle routes connecting popular places.  And allow all the little e-things to use them, too — seems obvious, but some places (e.g., Massachusetts) have laws that technically ban e-assist from bike paths.
    2. Uniform sensible standards for all the e-things, so the markets are bigger.  That means, the same power limits and speed limits and where-you-can-ride and who-can-ride and what-you-must-wear rules in all the states must match.  California has good-enough rules, every state should adopt California’s standards, no, your state is not special.  Your safety objections are foolish, if you cared about safety, you’d be all over item #1, #3, #4, and #5, your state is not special, your city is not special (yes the European speed limit is better, but 20mph is not terrible).
    3. Trucks should have side guards.  This is the rule for some US municipal truck fleets, and is the rule in much of Europe.  Sideguards reduce bicycle (and pedestrian) overruns, which are deadly and horrible.
    4. Trucks (large and small, including pickup trucks) should be designed for improved visibility.  It’s been done in Europe, we could do it here.  
    5. Curbs should be rounded over.  Sharp-edged granite curbs are a gratuitous hazard in any crash (they’re also heck on car tires).  Either the sharp edge can be rounded off, or the granite can be replaced with concrete, which works fine with snowplows in Minneapolis and Chicago (you can look at curbs on Google Streetview, and I wrote to both highway departments to ask about durability and cost and they said it is fine).
    6. One-way streets by default should include a counterflow option for bicycles/etc.  Streets are often made 1-way to prevent car and truck cut-throughs in quiet neighborhoods, but bicycles and other small things are quiet and safe so need not be excluded, and benefit themselves from the safe, quiet cut-through.
    7. Bicycle parking should be abundant, easy to find, easy to use, and should include provision for oddly-shaped bicycles (tricycles, for people who lack balance; cargo bikes, for people who need to transport children and other cargo; recumbents, for people with back issues).  Some bikes are heavier than their riders can lift into upper racks; some bicycles have wide tires.  Some popular rack designs are actually terrible; those should be avoided.
    8. Bicycle parking should be sheltered from the weather, and where theft is a problem, should include anti-theft measures. For example, at the MBTA Pedal&Park bicycle parking, access requires a registered commuter card, the cages are monitored with video cameras, they are sited so that anyone walking by can see inside, and there’s a cardboard policeman at the end because studies show that helps a little (and the cost is low).
    9. At intersections, “Idaho Stop” should be the rule for bikes etc.  This is “treat stop lights like stop signs, treat stop signs like yield signs, and of course that always includes yielding to pedestrians”.
    10. At intersections, bikes etc should be allowed to proceed on the LPI (early walk signal) and on all-ways pedestrian signals, again yielding to pedestrians.
    11. Lights along bicycle commute arteries should be synchronized to bicycle speeds, not car speeds.  This will save time and also reduce sprinting at yellow lights, which is not the safest thing for either cyclists or pedestrians.
    12. Bike/etc lanes and paths should be smooth.  That means preparing off-road paths well enough that tree roots don’t tear them up in a few short years, that means any piece of a road re-designated for bicycle/etc use should have its pavement checked and fixed (the default is that it is awful).
    13. Bike/etc paths and lanes (especially the lanes) should be clean and (especially) clear of glass and other tire-damaging debris.
    14. At minimum lanes should wide enough for people to comfortably ride side-by-side.  Off peak, people often like to ride together, at rush hour people need to pass, and some bikes are wider than others.
    15. Adopt German lighting rules; requiring and standardizing lights means that they’re cheaper, ubiquitous, and annoy pedestrians and other cyclists much, much less.
  • Make “walking” nicer.  Here, walking also includes rolling, in wheelchairs and mobility scooters. And, again, my knowledge here is incomplete, this is just a start.
    1. Streets and roads should have sidewalks, and those sidewalks should be comfortably separated from the road.
    2. Roads should have crosswalks at useful intervals.  Pedestrian overpasses are not preferred because climbing stairs is work and anti-wheeled-thing and climbing ramps tends to add distance, and adding distance for the slowest mode is bad.
    3. Intersections should be designed to enhance pedestrian throughput and safety.  For example, right-turn-on-red should not be allowed any place with much pedestrian traffic (or near parks and schools where children are likely to be using the road).  Slip lanes should be avoided because they encourage hasty turns.
    4. In urban areas with lots of pedestrian traffic, sidewalks should be adequately wide for that traffic.
    5. Sidewalks should not be the default repository for random clutter and road signs; there should be a clear and unobstructed path.
    6. Where it snows, sidewalks should be plowed first.  Crosswalks should not be obstructed by snow piles.
    7. Adjacent roads should be puddle-free so that pedestrians do not get sprayed when it rains; or, there should be barriers to prevent this (a bike lane protected by parked cars is an adequate barrier; or, a wide bike lane).
    8. Urban sidewalks should have awnings so that people on foot are shielded from the worst of the weather.
    9. Crosswalks must drain properly, so that people walking step in many fewer puddles (and would you want to handle a wheelchair wheel after it had been dunked in who-knows-what?)
    10. Trucks should have many fewer blind spots, and the high front grills that are popular now in the US have practically nothing to do with actual truck utility, and should be banned.  There’s no need to design new trucks, because these regulations exist in other parts of the world (e.g., Europe) and their designs could be used here instead.
    11. Laws against jaywalking should be revised.  Some other countries do have similar laws, but they’re weaker (typically applying only “within 50m of a crosswalk/intersection”) and our laws haven’t resulted in greater pedestrian safety.  In practice their main use is to give cops an excuse to harass black people.

If we can’t stop driving, we can still drive smaller cars less, and maybe make them electric.

Not driving is an effective way of reducing GHG emissions from driving, but right this moment, many commutes are impractically long, shortening those commutes takes time and money, useful transit doesn’t reach all people, and there’s no replacement ready for those disabled people who get around in cars now (there should be, but we haven’t gotten around to designing it, so instead, they get cars).  So, given that some of us are really stuck using cars, people need to change how they use them to reduce their impact (and they’ll need to keep doing this for decades, until their car is electric and the electrical grid is mostly fossil-fuel-free):

  • Reduce car trips.
    • car pool.  People did this in the past, people still do it today to help take advantage of HOV lanes.  There are places, now, where people do “casual carpooling” (aka “slugging”) for this.  The win is larger for longer trips because it’s easier to amortize the time to gather passengers, and long trips account for many miles.  This seems like something where an “app” should help; not one done for profit by windfall-seeking tech, but by (contracted by) a transit system.
    • use (grocery) delivery services, carefully.  Don’t use one that just replaces point-to-point car trips with someone else’s, and don’t replace a single trip per week with many smaller ones.  Do use those that bundle several deliveries into a single trip, or do use those that don’t use a car (especially, not a hydrocarbon-fueled car).
    • combine trips (e.g., buy groceries on the way home from work).  Maybe you think you’re already doing this, but if we can do more, we should.
    • don’t drive the short trips; people may not be car-free, but perhaps they can find an alternative for the trips that are short.
  • Shorten car trips.
    • live closer to work.  This is hard, partly because we have social (tax) policies designed to encourage home purchase instead of home rental, and that makes it harder to move.  This is also hard because typical zoning restricts density, which limits the amount of housing that is actually near work. But if the need or opportunity to move appears, favor a shorter commute — 20 miles is 33% less than 30 miles, that’s a savings.
    • use zoning to cluster “work” locations closer to where people already live rather than out in the boonies, so that transit and carpooling are more likely to be effective, and also so that a change in jobs is less likely to result in a huge change in commute.
  • Don’t drive fast.  For energy conservation purposes, this is more about highway speeds, though there are also important safety reasons for not driving “fast” around pedestrians.
  • Use electric cars.  Even with our still-plenty-of-fossil-fuel electrical supply, electric cars are more efficient, overall this is still a win.  But at our current rate of not-e-car replacement, this will take decades.  Nonetheless, for a long commute, try to buy an electric car sooner, not later.  Yes they are expensive.
  • Use smaller cars.  For gasoline-powered cars, obviously, smaller cars get better mileage, better mileage means reduced emissions.  But if it is an electric car, smaller cars have smaller motors and smaller batteries; actually scaling up the electric car fleet will bump into various production constraints (Lithium? Copper?), and the smaller electric cars are, the more we can build before those limits hit.  Note that these are rate-of-production constraints, not resource limits; in the same way that we can only move so many people into a city per year, we can only grow production so fast.  When we hit (temporary) limits, we’ll get price spikes, better to stretch our production capacity into the largest number of cars instead of into the largest cars.
  • Politically, stop inconveniencing other modes.  For example, stop defending street parking from replacement with bike lanes or bus lanes, and stop opposing street designs that prioritize pedestrians.  Don’t oppose camera enforcement of speed limits near schools or in urban areas.  All the other modes must become nicer and safer if we expect people to use those instead of driving; the alternatives to carrots for other modes, is sticks for driving.

These are things to do, permanently, until the electrical supply is green enough and all the cars and trucks are electric.  And yes, this will involve some tradeoffs, some of them unpleasant, but for cars and trucks, our progress in reducing GHG emissions thus far is terrible.  We’ve made a bunch of dumb choices in the recent decades, those choices will cost us now.  We embiggened our cars and trucks unnecessarily, we made rules against building housing close to where many people work.  We decided that the highest use of a good fraction of our urban streets was car storage.  These were mistakes, and now we have to reverse them as fast as we practically can.

And yes, I really think we have to do all this stuff, and quickly.  Not just “we have a schedule” or “we’re waiting on proposals from a task force”.  Do them.  Now.  Sooner really is better.  If it requires new laws, pass the laws.

One Response to “We need to do all the (transportation) things”

  1. Jan-Willem Maessen Says:

    Now I want to go to the demo of all these other alternative that actually lets you ride them. The point about skateboards is well taken, and I know a Ph.D. engineer that regularly takes a razor scooter from place to place for a similar reason (easy to sling over your shoulder on the T, can keep up with slow cyclists).


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