The “Prius effect: Energy-efficient cars undercut the appeal of the light rail” was written by Chuck Plunkett for The Denver Post. The main idea of the article is that energy-efficient cars made the light rail, which has harmful effects on the environment, less attractive for the passengers. Plunkett explains to us that to make the light rail worth keeping it needs to have a higher number of passengers. Since cars are becoming fewer gas hogs and the price of light rail tickets is increasing, the light rail is starting to become far less appealing to commuters. Plunkett believes that the light rail needs to change the way it receives energy. However, the price for the tickets is not the main reason why Plunkett does not like light rail; it has appealed to him for a long time, but lately, he has started worrying about the environmental effects. Plunkett compared the amount of CO2 given off by the light rail to the amount given off by cars and the outcome was that cars’ emission rates were lower. However, basing on O’Toole’s research which compared the CO2 output of SUVs, passenger trucks, and passenger cars with that of the light rail, Plunkett discovered that the CO2 output of the former was above that of the latter. Unfortunately, the RTD is at a disadvantage, because, as stated by Plunkett, Denver has half the amount of riders compared to the national average. Another issue that Plunkett brings up is that cars will have to “average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016” to meet the new requirements that our president has set. It is estimated that by 2020 cars will have decreased their CO2 output by about 24.6 percent, which is far more than the light rail being at only 10.2 percent. Plunkett states that even if the light rail used 20 percent renewable energy, it would not be able to reduce it to the cars and SUVs of our future. However, RTD says that Randal O’Toole’s findings are biased because mostly 2008 Model cars were used in comparison to the light rail. Secondly, the supporters of the light rail argue that it brings good things to the community around it, such as easy access to the community by walking and “economic benefits too” (Plunkett).
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Why light rail should not be eliminated
The light rail has been beneficial for me at times, but I don’t use it enough to say I’m a regular passenger. However, my brother uses it almost every day to go to and from his work. If it was not for the light rail, my brother would not have a way to work, which, I suspect, is the same for many people in the state. Thus, if we follow Plunkett’s advice, several people will be unable to get to their jobs. Another reason why people use the light rail is to have a safe, and relatively cheap, ride home after they stayed up late somewhere. Using the light rail is much cheaper than using a cab, for instance. If we were to eliminate the light rail, I think it would affect a lot of people in several ways. In addition, if we take away the light rail, what will happen to the people working of RTD? RTD employs a great number of people and all of them will lose their jobs and ability to keep their families if the light rail is closed.
Inaccuracy of the author’s claim
Most of the cities that have the light rail, such as Sacramento, Charlotte, and Phoenix, are large cities. Plunkett states that “light rail ridership in Denver is low”. However, every time I ride the light rail, it is fairly full. Plunkett mentions that the ridership is low in Denver; it constitutes 24 passengers per mile, which is about half of the national average. Perhaps, compared with larger cities, such ridership rates are normal for Denver taking into account its size.
Communities around the light rail as a counter-argument
Plunkett uses the fact that several communities have been built around the light rail since it first started as a counter-argument, and he is quite effective in doing so. I have seen several schools, libraries, and hospitals that the light rail is close to. This alone shows that it brings a positive boost to the communities it serves. Since schools have been cutting their budgets, which, in its turn, led to cutting bus routes, the light rail could be a future solution for getting kids to and from school. Whenever there is a sporting event downtown, the light rail is full of riders. This is why its necessity for the community is evident.
Entirely car-based transportation system
O’Toole states that there is a “great impact on our environment due to the forging of materials and building light-rail systems”. How much impact did the Denver Transportation Expansion project (T-Rex) have on the environment? We continue to build and repair our highways, but O’Toole never mentions this in his reports. Perhaps, an entirely car-based transportation system can reduce CO2 emission, but there are still many other things besides the light rail that affect the environment and we should be equally concerned about all of them.
In sum, Plunkett’s ideas that the light rail is harmful to the environment are supported by sufficient evidence. He has proved that its CO2 emissions are higher than those of passenger cars. However, eliminating the light rail will have several negative consequences for society, which serves as a reason for considering this issue in more detail. Our world is oriented towards progress and maybe in the coming decade, we will significantly advance in our technologies. We are looking more and more into renewable energy, so what’s to stop us from finding it? They have found a way to make cars more efficient. Why don’t we do it with the light rail?
Plunkett, Chuck. “Prius effect: Energy-efficient cars undercut the appeal of light rail.” The Denver Post 16 June 2009: Web.
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