Transfer payments and The End of Oil by Paul Roberts

Seen at Pillar Point on a Sunday morning.
What a great way to get from San Francisco to one of the best beach walks in Northern California, with dogs.

Now, I haven't got around to working on the published spreadsheets. And I also have not managed to figure out the really difficult m and b coefficients I am seeing for the San Mateo bus system.

These are the questions that I would like to explore now:

  1. I need to get the spreadsheets and the data entry forms into good condition. Rewrite for clarity, list the validation tests, work out a way so users can print out a graph and the matching assumption values.

  2. What about looking at schemes for equalizing the "perceived personal cost" between cars and bus riding? Lets look at various kinds of transfer payment.
I was reading The End of Oil by Paul Roberts. One of the things I found interesting was how Mr. Roberts describes the chronic problems of desirable solutions that cost more than the present oil based solutions.

The End of Oil, by Paul Roberts, book website:

I recommend to you The End of Oil as an enjoyably sane and well organized broad view of the "end of oil" and the paths available and the problems in moving American and the world society towards using much less oil.

Getting paid for riding the bus? Getting paid for leaving your car at home on grocery day? How about time specific coupons to direct freight cart traffic onto lightly loaded buses.

Noting the broader view from Wendell Berry

Sunrise from Pillar Point West Shoreline Access

Here is an essay by Wendell Berry, pointing to changes in social philosophy that correspond with a simpler, low energy American society.

Wendell Berry is writing about very big ideas.

This "Put carts on the public bus..." essay is a relatively small project to bring forward a lower energy transportation structure.

If we can solve some of the problems identified from this small project, then perhaps other low energy transportation projects will also become more feasible.


Spreadsheet, chart and form available

Sorry, the bugs are not fully worked out for this posting process. The graph and the spreadsheet are not synchronized and the underlying assumptions are not clearly presented.

Here is a chart showing the relative perceived costs of trips made using an automobile and a bus.

Chart of perceived cost for a given hourly wage, gasoline price, car mileage and bus fare

Here is a form for changing the input values of the perceived cost chart.

Input data form

Total cost of a trip: Car versus Bus

Personal time $5/hr, Gasoline $3.70/gallon,Bus fare $2.00, Vehicle 22.5 mi/gallon, bus and auto coefficients mentioned earlier.

So here is a graph to begin exploring problems with the economic utility of using carts on the public bus as an alternative transportation system to the auto or truck.

The lines show a kind of total cost for making a trip of a given distance.

For the car, the total cost being graphed is $ 5/hr for personal time plus $.33 per mile for gasoline and maintenance.

For the bus, the total cost being graphed is $5/hr for personal time plus $ 2.00 bus fare.


The graph shows in a nutshell the problem that all kinds of bus travelers face: When you count a cost for the time you spend riding the bus, the "total cost" of the bus ride is greater than the similarly figured "total cost" of a car trip.

  • I'll work on putting up a Google spreadsheet so you can experiment with changing the values of the graph. It is very interesting to see the effects of eight dollar gasoline and a modest improvement in the linear equation coefficients of the bus system.
  • One of the most impressive changes in assumptions is to explore cart transportation schemes that eliminate the cart operator. Carts that can travel on the bus system without an operator are released from the time and distance economics that make individual autos attractive.