From today's SFGate - Tanker fire destroys part of MacArthur Maze / 2 freeways closed near Bay Bridge
Updates at Nwzchik.
From today's SFGate - Tanker fire destroys part of MacArthur Maze / 2 freeways closed near Bay Bridge
Updates at Nwzchik.
A nice discussion at 37 signals about the use of abstraction vs. realism on subway maps, looking in particular at maps of London's (which is highly abstract) and New York's (which is more realistic) standard subway maps.Helpful distortion at NYC & London subway maps
It is not obvious that one is inherently better than the other for all purposes. As noted earlier on the post about Could you walk it quicker, the London map imposes huge distortions. On the other hand, the more complicated the map, the more that is required to be filtered, arguing for more rather than less abstraction.
The specialist publisher Capital Transport has put out a number of books about the history of the Underground, and its maps, which are quite interesting.
From Today's LA Times: High-speed train line plan may be derailed
The article suggests cutting the authority from 300 staff with 75 consulting firms under contract (of which 100 must be PR and survey firms) to 6 staff. I hope this is true, it would save the taxpayers of California a fortune on a boondoggle.
Though the article notes the line would "zip" passengers from LA to SF in 2.5 hours, this is only downtown LA and a few select stations to downtown SF (and a few select stations), unless you live on top of the stations, the access costs remain. Since one can drive the corridor in 6 hours or so, and fly it in an hour (plus 2-3 hours of access), the gains are marginal over driving (plus I need to rent a car at the other end) and negative over flying.
Furthermore, the idea that the private sector would pony up 20 billion to invest in the line is I suspect ludicrous, just look at the disaster the Public Private Partnership has been on the London Underground. One hopes (for the sake of the shareholders) firms would not be so daft as to pour good money after bad on the hopes of making money on this train.
California is not Europe and it is not Japan, and rail doesn't turn a real profit there either.
From today's Washington Post: Power Companies' Reach May Expand
The key issues:
1) Federal vs. state authority
2) Granting private for-profit power companies the "power" of eminent domain to condemn private property owned by others.
In general, the United *States* probably needs a more robust electrical grid, but the federal government is not the right agent to bring this about, and private firms should not be given eminent domain powers without strong local oversight. But a free market does not exist today in electric power distribution, so the situation is quite distorted already.
From today's New York Times: U.S. Employees Selling Transit Passes Illegally, Investigators Say .
The federal government, to provide incentives for its employees to take transit, has given them a subsidy of transit passes. Instead of paying their employees more dollars (a currency in fact produced by the US government) and letting them make their own transportation decisions, or charging more for alternatives (on parking generally owned by the US government), it attempted to impose an alternative currency, and is outraged, outraged I say, that people have attempted to perform currency exchange, economic arbitrage between the subsidy and money for them that is more useful.
This is what you get for trying to direct human behavior .. performing "social engineering" as the term is used in Minnesota.
The report was apparently requested by Republican Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, who is apparently upset at government employees using the market system.
Coleman should instead be pleased at how well the federal employees understand markets and are willing to cut through red tape.
Mayor of NYC Bloombergproposes a Fee for Driving Into Manhattan
"The proposal that is sure to attract the most attention, and possibly objections, is one to impose the $8 fee on car drivers, and $21 for truck operators, to drive in Manhattan south of 86th Street."
As the article notes, this proposal copies the London congestion charging scheme, almost point for point, including the use of cameras and the extremely expensive AVI system for enforcement.
A list of predictions made in 1900 by the Ladies Home Journal (making its round in various blogs). Note the transportation predictions:
"Prediction #4: There Will Be No Street Cars in Our Large Cities. All hurry traffic will be below or high above ground when brought within city limits. In most cities it will be confined to broad subways or tunnels, well lighted and well ventilated, or to high trestles with â€śmoving-sidewalkâ€? stairways leading to the top. These underground or overhead streets will teem with capacious automobile passenger coaches and freight with cushioned wheels. Subways or trestles will be reserved for express trains. Cities, therefore, will be free from all noises.
Prediction #5: Trains will run two miles a minute, normally; express trains one hundred and fifty miles an hour. To go from New York to San Francisco will take a day and a night by fast express. There will be cigar-shaped electric locomotives hauling long trains of cars. Cars will, like houses, be artificially cooled. Along the railroads there will be no smoke, no cinders, because coal will neither be carried nor burned. There will be no stops for water. Passengers will travel through hot or dusty country regions with windows down.
Prediction #6: Automobiles will be cheaper than horses are today. Farmers will own automobile hay-wagons, automobile truck-wagons, plows, harrows and hay-rakes. A one-pound motor in one of these vehicles will do the work of a pair of horses or more. Children will ride in automobile sleighs in winter. Automobiles will have been substituted for every horse vehicle now known. There will be, as already exist today, automobile hearses, automobile police patrols, automobile ambulances, automobile street sweepers. The horse in harness will be as scarce, if, indeed, not even scarcer, then as the yoked ox is today.
Prediction #7: There will be air-ships, but they will not successfully compete with surface cars and water vessels for passenger or freight traffic. They will be maintained as deadly war-vessels by all military nations. Some will transport men and goods. Others will be used by scientists making observations at great heights above the earth.
Prediction #8: Aerial War-Ships and Forts on Wheels. Giant guns will shoot twenty-five miles or more, and will hurl anywhere within such a radius shells exploding and destroying whole cities. Such guns will be armed by aid of compasses when used on land or sea, and telescopes when directed from great heights. Fleets of air-ships, hiding themselves with dense, smoky mists, thrown off by themselves as they move, will float over cities, fortifications, camps or fleets. They will surprise foes below by hurling upon them deadly thunderbolts. These aerial war-ships will necessitate bomb-proof forts, protected by great steel plates over their tops as well as at their sides. Huge forts on wheels will dash across open spaces at the speed of express trains of to-day. They will make what are now known as cavalry charges. Great automobile plows will dig deep entrenchments as fast as soldiers can occupy them. Rifles will use silent cartridges. Submarine boats submerged for days will be capable of wiping a whole navy off the face of the deep. Balloons and flying machines will carry telescopes of one-hundred-mile vision with camera attachments, photographing an enemy within that radius. These photographs as distinct and large as if taken from across the street, will be lowered to the commanding officer in charge of troops below.
Prediction #22: Store Purchases by Tube. Pneumatic tubes, instead of store wagons, will deliver packages and bundles. These tubes will collect, deliver and transport mail over certain distances, perhaps for hundreds of miles. They will at first connect with the private houses of the wealthy; then with all homes. Great business establishments will extend them to stations, similar to our branch post-offices of today, whence fast automobile vehicles will distribute purchases from house to house.
Prediction #29: To England in Two Days. Fast electric ships, crossing the ocean at more than a mile a minute, will go from New York to Liverpool in two days. The bodies of these ships will be built above the waves. They will be supported upon runners, somewhat like those of the sleigh. These runners will be very buoyant. Upon their under sides will be apertures expelling jets of air. In this way a film of air will be kept between them and the waterâ€™s surface. This film, together with the small surface of the runners, will reduce friction against the waves to the smallest possible degree. Propellers turned by electricity will screw themselves through both the water beneath and the air above. Ships with cabins artificially cooled will be entirely fireproof. In storm they will dive below the water and there await fair weather."
Of course they missed the airplane, and were optimistic about how people should deal with traffic. But number 6 about the replacement of the horse was spot on
What will 2100 look like, or are we just so cautious now that we don't make 100 year predictions anymore?
April 18 (Bloomberg) -- Russia plans to build the world's
longest tunnel, a transport and pipeline link under the Bering Strait to Alaska, as part of a $65 billion project to supply the U.S. with oil, natural gas and electricity from Siberia. ... more.
This reminds one of Buckminster Fuller, who long ago advocated linking the world's electrical grids to balance loads (assuming low losses on transmission). Looking at his Dymaxion Map gives a new perspective on how close Alaska and Siberia are.
A nice article in today's Strib on the History of the Minnesota as Tax: Over its 82 years, state's gas tax has never cost so little
From today's Strib: Editorial: Want heavier trucks? Fully fund highways. Again misanalyzing the issue they say
"Oberstar was right; raising the gas tax is doing the right thing. In the case of allowing heavier trucks on state roadways, it is also the necessary thing. "
Raising the gas tax on cars is not necessary to allow heavier trucks on the road. Raising the diesel tax on trucks might be somewhat more appropriate, after all, at least the class that benefits would be the class that pays. Even better would be charging trucks a weight-distance tax (pdf).
The cited issue brief (Legislative Committee Services Oregon Legislature, Dec. 2000) notes
"Most of the ongoing revenue collected by states and the federal government for highway construction and
maintenance is from vehicle fuel taxes. To the extent that a vehicleâ€™s fuel use correlates with its road use
and wear, a fuel tax is an equitable way to â€śchargeâ€? for use of the road system. Variations in vehicle fuel
economy, however, weaken the correlation between a fuel tax and road wear. This is true for all vehicles,
but especially for heavy vehicles. An increase in truck weight that nearly doubles road wear may only
increase fuel use by 10%. A weight-mile tax can be structured to more accurately assess for costs of wear."
This of course would not be popular among truckers, who would love to get all the benefit for one-tenth the cost by having light vehicles pay per distance instead.
Twins ballpark will have Minnesota flavor ... it is surrounded by parking ramps. Even parking ramps look nice in watercolor.
DARPA Grand Challenge is a competition for driverless cars, the third of which will be held in an urban environment in November 2007. These challenges are excellent ways to motivate research (read Longitude by Sobel on earlier challenges). This is getting some buzz as one of the contestants is being parked at the London Science Museum, (an excellent Science Museum by the way).
Let's hope this ends better than the Automated Highway System demonstration of 1997, which despite technical success resulted in cancellation of the program.
I believe Driverless cars will succeed where AHS did not, as this is a much better design path, as it does not require both new networks and new vehicles, only new vehicles which can operate (we hope without incident) in mixed traffic.
It is often said in economics that "sunk costs are sunk", meaning they should not be considered a cost in economic analysis, because the money has already been spent.
Now consider two cases
In case 1, we have a road project that costs $10.00 today, and at the end of 10 years has some economic value remaining, let's say a salvage value of $5.00, which when discounted back to the present is $1.93 (at 10% interest). This value is the residual value of the road. Thus, the total present cost of the project $10.00 - $1.93 = $8.07. Clearly the road cannot be moved. However, its presence makes it easier to build future roads ... the land has been acquired and graded, some useful material for aggregate is on-site perhaps, and can be thought of as the amount that it reduces the cost of future generations to build the road. Alternatively, the land could be sold for development if the road is no longer needed, or turned into a park.
Assume the present value of the benefit of the road is $10.00. The benefit/cost ratio is $10.00 over $8.07 or 1.23. If we treat the salvage value as a benefit rather than cost, the benefit is $10.00 + $1.93 = $11.93 and the cost is $10, and the B/C is 1.193.
In 10 years time, the community decides to replace the old worn out road with a new road. This is a new project. The salvage value from the previous project is now the sunk cost of the current project (after all the road is there and could not be moved, and so does not cost the current project anything to exploit). So the cost of the project in 10 years time would be $10.00 - $5.00 = $5.00. Discounting that to the present is $1.93.
The benefit in 10 years time is also $10.00, but the cost in 10 years time was $5.00, and the benefit/cost ratio they perceive is $10.00/$5.00 = 2.00
Aggregating the two projects
the benefits are $10 + $3.86 = $13.86
the costs are $8.07 + $1.93 = $10.00
the collective benefit/cost ratio is 1.386
the NPV is benefits - costs = $3.86
One might argue the salvage value is a benefit, rather than a cost reduction. In that case
the benefits are $10.00 + $1.93 + $3.86 = $15.79
the costs are $10.00 + $1.93 = $11.93
the collective benefit/cost ratio is 1.32
the NPV remains $3.86
Case 2 is an identical road, but now the community has a 20 year time horizon to start.
The initial cost is $10, and the cost in 10 years time is $5.00 (discounted to $1.93). The benefits are $10 now and $10 in 10 years time (discounted to $3.86). There is no salvage value at the end of the first period, nor sunk costs at the end of the second period.
What is the benefit cost ratio?
the costs are $11.93
the benefits are still $13.86
the benefit/cost ratio is 1.16
the NPV is $1.93.
If you are the community, which will you invest in?
Case 1 has an initial B/C of 1.23 (or 1.193), Case 2 has a B/C of 1.16. But the real benefits and real costs of the roads are identical.
The salvage value in this example is, like so much in economics (think Pareto optimality), an accounting fiction. In this case no transaction takes place to realize that salvage value. On the other hand, excluding the salvage value over-estimates the net cost of the project, as it ignores potential future uses of the project.
Time horizons on projects must be comparable to correctly assess relative B/C ratio, yet not all projects do have the same benefit/cost ratio.
This "paradox" was first noted to me by Mark Snyder. I don't know how widely it is known or understood, but it does affect analysis.
A recent post on Jonathan Schwartz's Weblog : The Glamor in Mass Transit (?) basically talks about the efficiencies of scale. Sun computer, which Schwartz leads, has long argued the network is the computer, and has been trying to move intelligence back from the decentralized desktop into the highly centralized information technology control center.
The comparison between mass vs. private transportation and mass vs. private computing is worth noting. Everyone has a mental image of mass transit, though that image varies by individuals, some who see it is valuable, some as something they would not touch. The perception of course is shaped by their individual experiences, preferences, locations, and so on. Mass transit is efficient in certain specific contexts, but it requires users give up an element of freedom and (in general) spend more time traveling.
The personal computer revolution of the late 1970s and early 1980s enabled individuals to have control over their computing environment, without relying on a third party to provide that service. This provided freedom (I can write my own programs, and run them when I want in real-time, not having to go down to the computer center and load my program on to the Cyber at Rich Hall at Georgia Tech, and wait 20 minutes for the output to be printed (in below zero F temperatures, really, in Atlanta, January 1985, you can look it up .. Reagan's second innaugural was delayed by the same coldfront) so that I can do a homework problem for Professor Betamax's Fortran class (the course was videotaped, and was replayed every hour, so we could attend when we wanted). I hear horror stories of people who work in controlled environments like Lotus Notes, where they can't deal with email conveniently but require using a browser with a sluggish email program behind it.
So as much as we might curse personal computers, or cars, freedom of action is what they provide.
A good mass transit system, like the so-called web 2.0, can provide the same freedom through its ubiquity, and free the user from the need to manage complex systems (automobiles, computers), focusing only on the higher level decision (what I want to do, what I want to say, where I want to go). But it builds in additional dependencies (will the internet be up? will I have to pay to get access in a hotel room to my data? will the bus show up on time? does the bus really go there? what will google do with my data? do I want to see personalized ads based on my research paper on transportation?).
Freedom from and Freedom to are important distinctions. I would much rather have Freedom to act than freedom from cost or risk of acting.
What should be owned and what should be rented or provided as a service is one of those essentially tug-of-wars that shape every aspect of the modern economy. There must be some economies of scale, or we would not see scale, but there must also be diseconomies, and loss of freedom is one of them.
I recently finished an essay/paper on Network Neutrality.
The politically-charged notion of network neutrality came to the fore in 2005 and 2006, using analogy from transportation as one of the key tools in motivating arguments. This paper examines how the various notions around network neutrality (common carriage, regulation, price discrimination) have played out in the transportation sector, and suggests many of the current arguments fail to understand the nuances of how complex networks actually operate to serve the many demands placed on them.
The full document can be downloaded here
When I first came to England, I went into the HMV store and my son, trying to find something familiar immediately glommed onto Thomas the Tank Engine (he had a Thomas train in Minnesota, but it really wasnâ€™t a big deal for him then). I bought the DVD which he became obsessed with for a time. Having not seen Thomas in detail before, I was surprised he is thought of as an icon for railfans. Almost every episode has some kind of disaster. I suppose this realistically portrays the state of surface rail in England, but it is hardly a positive spin on things, even if it works out in the end. The 26 episodes on the first season DVD follow, with a brief description of the maladies befalling The Isle of Sodor.
1 Thomas and Gordon - Thomas doesnâ€™t get uncoupled soon enough and is pulled by Gordon
2 Edward and Gordon - Edward gets picked to work, but isnâ€™t thanked by Gordon
3 The Sad Story of Henry - Henry refuses to leave tunnel
4 Edward, Gordon and Henry - Gordon blows safety valve, Henry & Thomas save train
5 Thomasâ€™ Train - Thomas leaves trainâ€™s coaches behind (as they were not coupled)
6 Thomas and the Trucks - Thomas pulls trucks, trucks willfully push him too fast, bump into each other, and as a consequence overshoots station
7 Thomas and the Breakdown Train - James derailed because trucks push him too fast. Thomas moves broken trucks and rights James. Thomas gets own branch lline
8 James and the Coaches - James steams controllers hat, overshopts stations, bumps coaches, passengers mend the brakepipe with bootlace and newspaper.
9 Troublesome Trucks - James pulls trucks (brakes would stick on or axles run hot) coupling snaps
10 James and the Express - Gordon switched off mainline onto loop, so James pulls
11 Thomas and the Guard - Henryâ€™s system out of order, Thomas leaves guard behind
12 Thomas goes Fishing - Thomas needs water, draws water from river, Thomas gets fish in boiler, blocks pipes
13 Thomas, Terrance, and the Snow - Thomas bangs snowplow attachment, Thomas runs into a snow bank, Terrance the tractor pulls him out.
14 Thomas and Bertie - Thomas and Bertie the Bus get into race. Bertie has better acceleration, but a circuitous route and the railway has Right-of-way, Thomas wins, but racing is officially discouraged.
15 Tenders and Turntables - Turntables spins James around because of wind. Indignation meeting Gordon, James, and Henry
16 Trouble in the Shed - Thomas and Edward pick up slack from still sulking engines. Brings in Percy
17 Percy runs Away - Gordon almost crashes into Percy (Percy was on the wrong track), Percy runs away with no driver to pull brakes, and crashes into an earthbank.
18 Coal - Henry not operating well, bad coal
19 The Flying Kipper - Points frozen, danger sign not set. Crash. Henry derailed and remodeled.
20 Whistles and Sneezes - Gordonâ€™s whistle stuck. Boys on bridge vandalize Henryâ€™s Coaches. Henry â€śsneezesâ€? ashes at boys.
21 Toby and the Stout Gentleman - Toby, a tram engine, moves trucks from farms to market, business dries up.
22 Thomas in Trouble - Police writes up Thomas for wheel sidings and cowcatchers. James runs into tar trucks.
23 Dirty Objects - James is pushed into tar wagons by his trucks
24 Off the Rails - Gordonâ€™s plan for revenge misfiles and he slides into a ditch
25 Down the Mine - Thomas falls down the mine, is rescued by Gordon
26 Thomas Christmas Party - who knew trains were religious. Was a locomotive risen from the dead 2000 years ago?
The trains clearly have some major sins (the series was written by Reverend Awdry after all, there must be a moral), they seem largely to be a variant of Pride:
* Express is better than Pulling Coaches is better than Pulling Freight is better than Shunting
* Trains get â€ścheekyâ€? with each other.
* Engines Want shiny coaches, shiny paint.
The system is strangely personified, trucks (freight cars) play tricks, and engines have personalities, yet are subservient to humans, still Drivers and Firemen and Fat Controller must negotiate with engines
Interestingly, the Engines recognizes intelligence is in the tracks (though one says â€śI seem to know the right line by instinctâ€ś)
Apparently later seasons tone down the carnage on the tracks, though it still remains, and Season 5 is quite dark and forboding, an Empire Strikes Back to Season 1's Star Wars.
More on Thomas here: Thomas and Friends - Season 1 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
We recently had a child in England ... a brief summary of the process is below
In England there is no prenatal care, there is antenatal care (which I thought when I first heard it that they were against babies). And you only see the doctor once in the process, the rest is handled by midwives. Socialised medicine is strange in what they do for you.
For instance, patients keep their own records, there doesn't appear to be a copy at the doctor's office (though this cannot really be the case it is much too absurd for a bureaucracy not to keep data), much less a digital version (and their project for that, the world's largest civilian IT program seems to be having difficulties and ... more difficulties (and its leader has come under some amusing scrutiny (his mom notes he failed computers in college) though they are still trying).
The fact that it is a centralized 10 year program already shows why it is doomed to fail, and that no lessons from the failure of transportation mega-projects and ITS or the success of the internet have been learned.
However, there are several home visits by the midwives, I suppose so the nanny state can check you out at home. They don't do ultrasounds either except when something appears to be a problem, those you must acquire privately. And for your blood work they give you Lucozade) rather than a special sugar drink (which I am sure is cheaper). Given the lack of doctors, lack of ultrasounds, lack of drugs, lack of malpractice insurance and lawsuits, lack of billing, kicking you out of the hospital in one day etc., it should be cheaper, one wonders why National Health Service are running a deficit.
The "A team" of doctors is at the hospitals (My wife actually only saw one doctor prior to the day of birth, and that was only to do the birthing plan, and he didn't even lay hands on). The procedure was only delayed 4 hours, not too bad on the whole. The nursing staff/midwives is largely immigrant, though I guess the US is moving that way as well. The midwives also seem to have less training than US midwives. The doctors seemed quite good (more competent than their US counterparts).
One doesn't get a private room. There is a ward with about 6 mothers, though there are privacy curtains. This seems to be more for the convenience of the nurses/midwives monitoring everything than to actually save money, the amount of space difference is minimal, and the hospital (Chelsea and Westminster) has plenty of enclosed open space. I don't know its utilization, it seemed higher than Fairview-Riverside.
Post-natal care involves 3 home visits by midwives, basically to collect data, again they don't lay hands on or even look closely at the baby unless asked to. They do weigh it once or twice. There is also a health visitor who comes by.
The at-home visits are nice in principle especially for late in pregnancy and just after child-birth when mobility might be constrained. In practice, there didn't seem to be too much point, the medical system just asking the same questions over and over again without actually treating anything. You get a team of midwives, so you may never see the same midwife twice.
The child-birth was much smoother this time, probably because a planned c-section is much preferrred to an emergency c-section. The lack of billing (or especially the infuriatingly time-wasting and tree-killing "this is not a bill" statements) is fantastic.
From today's Pioneer Press ... the new threat to our civilization Sidewalk rage flares in asphalt jungles
I suppose there is research to be had on inter-modal rage (bike on ped, truck on motorcycle, scooter on bus, etc.)
From today's Sydney Morning Herald: Cross City Tunnel receivers put tollroad on sale block . The tollroad tunnel went under (so to speak) in part because they missed their forecast, getting 30000 travelers per day instead of 90000.
Forecasting traffic is not easy, but there are established methods that should get freeway demand estimates within 20-30% or better (i.e. one lane) of actual values (not 300% off) and one is not convinced these guys used them. In fact, even with no tolls, traffic was still only 60% of the predicted flow.
Unfortunately, there is really no liability for poor forecasts, at least not for the forecasters.
Of course this points out the advantages to private sector assuming the risk, the public is not on the hook for a bailout. It also argues for higher returns to compensate for the risk, otherwise projects won't get built.