Category Archives: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Vote McGinn

I’m still a bit shattered by the results of the mayoral race.  Nickels was a sophisticated, cosmopolitan leader who understood growth and what that means for Seattle.  Was he perfect?  Not at all.

Nonetheless, Democracy (in this case, the torch’n’pitchfork “any bum but this one” variety) works its magic, and we’ll have a new mayor come next year — which is too bad, if you’re a fan of transportation and big infrastructure investments.  Warts and all, Nickels has been the Transportation Mayor, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s at least a little bit scared about What Comes Next.

So it falls to us, the electorate of Seattle, to figure out which brand of new will be less bad when it comes to transportation.  While the worst that could be said of Nickels might have been that he was a little too fond of mega-projects, both Joe Mallahan and Michael McGinn have serious flaws when it comes to their support for progressive transportation policy.

McGinn is notably anti-tunnel (I think he missed the point of Nickels’ support for a tunnel; namely, you HAVE to build the surface option to get to the tunnel, which you punt 15 to 20 years into the future … meaning it never gets built).  Heck, the man staked his entire campaign on it.  Beyond that, I’m not sure McGinn really has much grasp on transportation.  His campaign website makes some vague promises to “eliminate overcrowded buses”, but to me that’s kind of like Nickels promising that it’ll never snow again.

Mallahan, for his part, offers far more specifics.  You can read them here, but I’ll summarize: screw Paul Allen and other developers.   Mallahan sounds terrifyingly like the “Lesser Seattle” group that torpedoed every modern development in Seattle until they finally couldn’t deep six the light rail.   He’s anti-streetcar, anti-Mercer Project.  He’s pro-tunnel.  He’s pro-bike.

McGinn’s lack of specifics are troubling, but at least he seems to be pro-growth.  I say “seems to be”.  It’ll be interesting to see how the candidates do for themselves in the weeks ahead.

And, if nothing else, at least the City Council gets it.  Look forward to the era of the weak mayor, Seattle.

The Automotive Campaign

Is it possible that the need for candidates to prostrate themselves at the altar of Detroit means that the majority of American politicians haven’t yet realized what most other Americans have known for decades, namely that American cars are crap?

Gutter John actually wins a point for owning foreign vehicles, but loses 12 points for owning 13 damn cars in the first damn place. You’d think that someone whose wife asserts that the only reasonable way to get around Arizona the use of a private plane could get by with, say, 7 personal vehicles.

But then, I suppose that each house needs to have a car located there to keep the garages from feeling that sad, cold, emptiness.

“It’s Like An Airplane”

Maybe you trust this man to make smart environmental policy? I wouldn’t:

Representative Anthony D. Weiner, Democrat of Brooklyn and Queens, drives a 2008 Chevrolet Impala, leased for $219 a month. Representative Michael R. McNulty, a Democrat from the Albany area, gets around in a 2007 Mercury Mariner hybrid, a sport utility vehicle, for $816 a month.

“It gets a little better than 25 miles a gallon,” Mr. McNulty said.

Charles B. Rangel, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is not so caught up in the question of gas mileage. He leases a 2004 Cadillac DeVille for $777.54 a month. The car is 17 feet long with a 300-horsepower engine and seats five comfortably.

“It’s one of the bigger Cadillacs,” Mr. Rangel, of Harlem, said cheerfully this week. “I’ve got a desk in it. It’s like an airplane.”

Modest or more luxurious, the cars are all paid for by taxpayers. The use of a car — gas included — is one of the benefits of being a member of the House of Representatives.

There are few restrictions on what kind of car the members can choose, and there is no limit on how much they can spend. But the benefit can be politically sensitive, given the growing concerns about automobile emissions and an economy that has left many people struggling to pay for the rapidly rising cost of gas, which was averaging $3.63 a gallon nationwide earlier this week.

Not only does the federal government pick up the cost of the lease and the gas, but also general maintenance, insurance, registration fees and excess mileage charges. The perk itself may draw heightened attention in the coming weeks as members of Congress consider proposals to address gas prices, including one to suspend temporarily the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon.

Congressional records show that about 125 members of the House make use of the benefit, which has been in place since at least the 1980s and is part of the allowance provided for their office operations. They include Representatives Charlie Melancon of Louisiana (2007 Chevy Tahoe), Bobby L. Rush of Illinois (2007 Lincoln Navigator) and Alcee L. Hastings of Florida (2006 Infiniti M45).

The Senate does not permit its members to lease cars with public money.

The Gas Tax Holiday as Word Problem

Apocalypse Tom owns a 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX, an all wheel drive pseudo sports car that goes faster than Tom reasonably needs to drive and allows him to go over Snoqualmie Pass in winter weather that keeps everyone except chained-up semis and Tom at home.

The WRX has a 15.9 gallon gas tank, and requires premium gasoline. With premium gas running $3.929 per gallon in the Seattle market, a full tank costs $62.47. Presume that Congress elects to implement the McCain/Clinton plan for a Gas Tax Holiday.

1) Assuming that the price of premium gasoline remains fixed at $3.929/gal., how much money in dollars does Apocalypse Tom save on his weekly trip to the pump if his weekly top-off requires purchase of 3/4 tank? What can Tom buy with the savings?

2) What is Apocalypse Tom’s percentage savings over the taxed price, again assuming a fixed price of $3.929/gal.? Round your answer to the nearest hundredth of a percent.

3) Because the Gas Tax Holiday is sure to be temporary, what is Apocalypse Tom’s total savings in dollars over a period of 20 weeks?

4) Assuming that he chooses to save the extra money calculated in Question 1 instead of spending it on junk food, how much whiskey can Apocalypse Tom purchase with the accumulated savings, in order to get him through a notional McCain inauguration?

Answers After the Jump. Seriously, try to work it out, and let Tom know if you think he’s insane.

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