12 November 2012

“Cars have come to stay and they are getting cleaner and cleaner,”

This was the quotation from the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen this past week in his defense of advocating for the building of a DKK (that's the ISO code for the money used in Denmark) 27 Billion tunnel running 12 kilometers/7.5 miles from northeast of the city center (The North Harbor/"Nordhavn") east through the island of Amager around to the southwest where it would join with the country's E20 motorway which heads both east to the bridge to Sweden and west to the bridge over to the island of Funen ("Fyn" in Danish) and then to Jutland.

(And the cost could be even higher

Even if it is paid out using coins made with holes and/or embossed hearts or bills/notes currently printed with pictures of pagan relics (and ironically, bridges) on them (they used to have moths, sparrows and Hans Christian Andersen) that's a lot of real money; At current exchange rates that works out to 4.6 Billion U.S. Dollars or 3.6 Billion Euros! 

Let's put these costs in some perpective: 
1995 Storbælt Ferry Fares
Remember though, the above are very long fixed-links (16-plus kilometers) over/under salt-water that have all included a two-track railway in their construction, and these bridges perform a task that has helped to in the case of Storbælt, connect the provinces to the capital, and in the case of Øresund, unify the Copenhagen-Malmö region and connect Denmark to Asia the rest of Scandinavia.  

(The fixed-link to Germany is more controversial because a route from Sweden through Denmark to Germany has already been created by using the two bridges plus Jutland, but it certainly has a potential market)
2012 Storbælt Bridge Tolls

When  looking at these project costs, please keep in mind that these facilities charge a toll that is comparable to the fare of the ferries they replaced or still partially compete with; which is certainly not the case for similar projects in other parts of the world.

So this "Eastern Bypass" (the new name intended to attract funding from the national government) is a project that will cost 70% of what the fixed-link bridge projects did, but offers Copenhagen no parallel capacity for rail (which actually does need more capacity through the city center), and doesn't do anything for the nation or the region, or the EU as a whole.  It merely "promises" to remove congestion from the city center.

Congestion, it turns out, is an inevitable consequence when the private sector produces an unlimited number of vehicles and expects the public sector to spend limited resources to build an unlimited amount of space for them to run on. ---Gordon Price, Transport Planner and former City Councillor, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Current Motorway Network around Copenhagen
One has to wonder if the Public-Private-Partnership that is proposing to build this sewer tunnel really thinks that motorists in Copenhagen, who already moan about how much they pay to own their horseless carriages, are going to shell out a toll to use this tunnel that is going to have to be at least DKK 200 (USD 34/EUR 27) (i.e. is the equivalnt to 70% of those current bridge tolls) in order to pay off the facility at the rate that the bridges are doing?  Especially when there is an existing untolled Western Bypass (called Motor-ring 3) that offers the northern suburbs similar access to/from the E20 motorway? 

(We'll discuss the false promise of ring roads and by-passes, as well as tunneling projects cost in later posts)

Or is something-else afoot here?  Is Copenhagen about to "pee in its pants to keep warm"?

Interchange proposal for Long Bridge
The Lord Mayor actually spoke, of course, in his native Danish and said: "Men bilerne er altså kommet for at blive, og de bliver renere og renere." but our headline is an acceptable translation, and that's disturbing because he is seemingly accepting that if cars don't pollute out of the tailpipe, then they don't pollute period and their presence is perfectly okay.  This of course ignores the noise and other pollutants that foul the environment such as rubber particles from tires and oil from lubricants.  Not to mention the logistics of these new motor vehicles and how they are powered.  Say, did you know that cars need storage when they aren't in use?

He goes on, in the original Berlingske News Bureau article on which the Copenhagen Post article is based, to say "Så derfor skal vi også sørge for, at trafikken kan afvikles ordentligt, så vi ikke spilder tid, når folk sidder i kø," or, and kind reader you are free to contribute a better translation in the comments section, "We therefore must ensure that traffic can flow properly so we don't waste the time (of people who chose to travel by private car) when they sit in queues".  

In other words, the top official of the city that had promised to be the first carbon-free city on Earth in the 21st century has just also promised that his city will, because of course it must, don't you know, accomodate and move more cars.


Miles Bader said...

Yup, the biggest problem of cars is not pollution, it's the crazy huge amount of space they demand (the accomodation of which destroys and warps the entire urban landscape), and their deleterious effects on the surroundings (who wants to live anywhere a highway?) and on social life generally (by dramatically increasing isolation and reducing chance interactions).

When you look at the reduction in car usage and desire amongst the young, it has nothing to do with pollution or the economy or any of the usual bugbears.

I'm not sure whether the pollution scare is a good thing or a bad thing... It's good because it's proven an effective way to help promote alternatives to car usage, and to damage the "cars for everything" notion that has fixated western society for 50 years, but it's a bad thing in some ways because it's focused attentions in a way that allows politicians (like this bozo) to declare "mission accomplished" as soon as they see a few people driving electric cars or something.

Erik Sandblom said...

So the Social Democrats campaigned on a congestion charge, which they ditched, and they're now going to build a big highway? That sure is an interesting development.

Ryan Zamaria said...

Car's aren't really getting any cleaner.
Electric cars will push our demand for hydro even more. Although I'm a big supporter of wind & solar, they won't power electric cars and everything else we need -- which means either coal or nuclear.

Space required is also an obvious issue with conceding "cars have come to stay".
(Most likely) the next premier of Ontario wants to build a news highway. This highway cuts through vital green space. Again, how is this helping to be "cleaner & cleaner"?

jniles said...

anIf asked to choose between coal and nuclear, I would choose nuclear. Despite Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, [http://spectrum.ieee.org/static/fukushima-and-the-future-of-nuclear-power] I believe the human society is smart enough to make this power source safe. U.S. nuclear powered ships are an ongoing demonstration of safety and reliability for the past half century. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Naval_reactor]

tstreet said...

The reduction in pollution from cars has absolutely nothing to do with their carbon emssions which you did not mention. Anything that encourages even more car use is just wrong, period.

Sally aka Fixpert said...

Gross. He should come to the U.S. and do a tour of our famous car cities. Spend a week in Houston, then Phoenix, and Los Angeles and see if he'd like to live in a city that was built for cars. A ped / bike-friendly city is a humane city.

Eric Booth said...

The business case for grand toll roads just doesn't add up. In Spain and elsewhere they're going bust. Who's going to invest in roads and cars? All the costs will come back to the public purse if they are crazy enough to be approved. http://www.euronews.com/2012/10/12/end-of-the-road-for-spanish-motorway/