November 2008 Archives

via Kottke, from AIGA Journal of Design: The (Mostly) True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway

If the system is complicated, its representation will be complicated.

From Times of London London congestion charge zone slashed by Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson (BoJo) is eliminating the western extension of the congestion charge zone as of 2010, implemented in 2007, by former mayor Ken Livingston, but retaining the original core zone instituted in 2003.


From WaPo The Car of the Future -- but at What Cost? on the economics, or lack thereof, of hybrid electric vehicles. The article essentially argues that the Volt etc. are "fluff" and not what will save GM because they are too expensive to generate sufficient demand to be profitable.

Also a story in the Strib on independent enthusiasts and their EVs: Electric cars: Plug 'n' go

From WaPo: From Funding to Infrastructure, New Transportation Secretary Faces Major Problems

interviews the usual suspects, but probably useful to read.

From the Strib: Access cut off to Rock Island Swing Bridge

A bridge once connecting Dakota and Washington Counties in Minnesota was closed to pedestrian traffic. "the double-decker structure was closed to trains in 1980 and vehicle traffic in 1999. The bridge was built in 1894." after part of it fell down. It was planned to be removed in 2010.

"Washington and Dakota counties inherited the bridge when it went into tax forfeiture after several years of private ownership."

The End of Daylight Savings Time

From Green Daily Obama Should Axe Daylight Time

If it doesn't save energy, and may cost lives according to "The effects of daylight saving time on vehicle crashes in Minnesota" ( a recent working paper by Arthur Huang and myself), we should end this charade once and for all.

If you want more useful daylight at the end of the work day, don't change the clock, just go to work earlier!

International Transport Economics Conference
Incorporating the International Conference on Funding Transport Infrastructure

The International Transport Economics Conference (ITrEC) brings together researchers, practitioners, and policymakers interested in questions of transport economics. Topics include economic questions relating to revenue and finance; congestion, pricing, and investment; production function and cost estimation; transport demand; energy and environment; safety; institutions and industrial organization; and transport and land use. The conference is designed to appeal to participants from varied backgrounds, including economists and transport professionals in particular.

The conference has previously been held in Banff, Canada(2006); Leuven, Belgium (2007); and Paris, France (2008).

Submission of Abstracts

Abstracts will be categorized and ranked by peer reviewers. Theoretical, empirical, case-study, and policy-oriented contributions are welcome. Abstracts of up to 1,000 words must be submitted electronically at by November 21, 2008 for consideration.

Key Dates

Abstracts Due: November 21, 2008
Abstracts Selected and Submitters Notified: January 2009
Final Papers Due (subject to acceptance): April 3, 2009
Early Registration Deadline: May 15, 2009
Conference: June 15-16, 2009
More Information

David Levinson
RP Braun/CTS Chair in Transportation
University of Minnesota
dlevinson {at}

Sara Van Essendelft
Conference Coordinator
University of Minnesota

The conference is hosted by the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota.

What type is that blog

| 1 Comment

(Via AS) The Swedish site Typealyzer analyzes the Myers-Briggs "type" of blogs based on writing style. According to this site, I am still INTJ (for at least 28 years now, since I was first typed).

In contrast, wikipedia types out at INTP, (the P rather than J presumably because of neutral point-of-view and so many authors) and the nexus website at ESTJ (I don't know why).

Nurses want more traffic safety


A nice article by Jim Foti in the Strib:

Nurses urge 'ounce of prevention' on Minnesota's traffic laws

"Minnesota's refusal to pass stricter traffic safety laws earned it the second-lowest score in a new national ranking.

"The Emergency Nurses Association released its 2008 scorecard of traffic safety in a St. Paul conference room with vivid views of Interstate 94 and the State Capitol. The group is hoping to persuade the Legislature to save lives -- and lots of money -- by beefing up the rules."


"Despite its scorecard ranking, Minnesota generally does well in national surveys of overall highway deaths. In terms of traffic fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, for example, Minnesota had the second-lowest death rate, after Massachusetts, according to Cheri Marti, director of the state's Office of Traffic Safety."

SAT Question ... look for the internal contradiction in the logic of the Emergency Nurses Association. I.e. do those measures they advocate really save lives, or is there a kind of risk compensation going on?

E.g. Given the crash, wearing a seatbelt is good, but maybe wearing a seatbelt increases the likelihood of a crash.

We are pleased to announce the publication of the Fall 2008 issue of the
Journal of Transport and Land Use, available at

Table of Contents

From the Editors
David M Levinson, Kevin Krizek

Accessibility Long Term Perspectives
Kay Axhausen

Managing the Accessibility on Mass Public Transit: the Case of Hong Kong
Hong K Lo, Siman Tang, David Z.W. Wang

Seven American TODs: Good Practices for Urban Design in Transit-Oriented
Development Projects
Justin Jacobson, Ann Forsyth

Examining The Role of Urban Form In Shaping People’s Accessibility to
Opportunities: An Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis
Darren Scott, Mark Horner

The Role of Employment Subcenters in Residential Location Decisions
Eun Joo Cho, Daniel Rodriguez, Yan Song

Equity Impacts of Transportation Improvements On Core and Peripheral Cities
Eran Leck, Shlomo Bekhor, Daniel Gat

Book Reviews
Review of Planning for Place and Plexus
Susan L Handy

The Journal of Transport and Land Use is an open-access, peer-reviewed
online journal publishing original interdisciplinary papers on the
interaction of transport and land use. Domains include: engineering,
planning, modeling, behavior, economics, geography, regional science,
sociology, architecture and design, network science, and complex systems.

Thank you for the continuing interest in our work,

David M Levinson

From the Strib: Double-deckers coming to Twin Cities?

It looks like a cool test by SW Transit this week.

And the article doesn't even mention the fear that a double-decker will knock down (or be decapitated by) a skyway (presumably this was tested and measured).

Design and Go presentation

My Design and Go presentation on The Importance of Being Accessible is now posted.

Fix Chicago's Transit and win $5000

Via PG: InnoCentive - Virtual Project Room, Challenge 7520002

Registration is required, but here is the gist of the contest:


"DEADLINE: Dec 05, 2008

Let me know if you win.

Will we be over-stimulated

| 1 Comment

From Newgeography, an interesting essay by Samuel Staley:
Will we be over-stimulated?
asking the impertinent question of whether we should continue to invest in mature infrastructure.

My take is we need to rebuild and maintain what we have before we should start building to serve new markets, since we serve so many places that we now contemplate "bridges to nowhere" while real bridges age in place.

Ah, the fresh air of Fresno ... Calif dirty air kills more than car crashes

From the article: "If pollution levels were to improve to federal standards, the study says residents of the two air basins would suffer 3,860 fewer premature deaths, 3,780 fewer nonfatal heart attacks and would miss 470,000 fewer days of work annually. School children would miss more than 1.2 million fewer days of school, a savings of $112 million in caregiver costs. There also would be more than 2 million fewer cases of upper respiratory problems.
"As a society we make decisions to spend money on things such as railroad crossings or air traffic control - things that improve safety," Brajer said. "There are a lot of ways society spends money to make things safer, and that's what we're trying to get at." "

From WaPo (via BJ) 'Slugs' Fear HOT Lanes Will End Free Rides

"Slugs fear that allowing toll-payers into the existing carpool lanes will tempt affluent drivers who now welcome passengers to drive solo instead. Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large), chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and a frequent slugger, last week called for an independent study of how the HOT lanes would affect the impromptu carpooling system. He also complained that the private companies planning the toll lanes have not fully addressed the questions and concerns of slugs and HOV drivers."

The right to be served by an impromptu carpool is an interesting theory.

World Usability Day

I will be speaking at Design and Go, an event at the St. Paul Union Depot Nov. 13 6-9 pm on Accessibility as part of World Usability Day.

Transport World Eyes Obama DOT

From TrafficWorld: Transport World Eyes Obama DOT ... the list of mentioned possible USDOT people.

Welcome to Amerika

From Phil G (shagbark): Welcome to Amerika

"DC Metro is going to start randomly inspecting bags: "

Why are public transit systems not like streets?

This seems far worse than the tracking that takes place with Farecards or the potential associated with road user charges.

Via Yglesias Judge grants DC's Metro transit system relief after Belgian bank demands $43 million payment - Los Angeles Times

"WASHINGTON (AP) _ A federal judge has granted temporary relief to the Washington area's transit agency after a Belgian bank threatened to immediately collect $43 million on a loan.

KBC Group requested the money following the collapse of insurance giant American International Group, which had guaranteed a financing deal with the Metro system in 2002.

The transit agency says the bank's demand would require immediate cuts and delay improvements at a time when ridership is rising. It warned that other agencies could face the same predicament.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said Thursday she would hold a hearing Nov. 12 for the parties to argue the case."

Similar stories seems to be affecting lots of agencies that borrow funds. See also:

The Reckoning - From Midwest to M.T.A., Pain From Global Gamble


From BBC: E-mail error ends up on road sign

"The English is clear enough to lorry drivers [No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only]- but the Welsh reads "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.""

Via Megan McArdle, the Infrastructure Stimulus Debate is Joined: Brooks vs Avent Bashing on Brooks

The point of the upcoming Surface Transportation Reauthorization is not really noted, though the lobbyists are certainly out (e.g.T4America)

My take

(1) The existing surface system (buses, rail, highways) is mature, it will not cease to be mature by throwing lots of dollars into new facilities, (no realistic amount of new facilities will obviate the existing system) but will slowly become senile (and yes, literally, collapse) if it isn't properly monitored and maintained. It is not sexy, it will not result in ribbon cuttings, but it is necessary to rebuilt what exists. Whether this can be successfully depoliticized I don't know, transforming surface transportation into a regulated public utility might be a first step. Nevertheless, the marginal benefits of new facilities have diminished as the existing system has built out, and the marginal costs have risen. The rate of return on new investments of the existing surface transportation technology is generally fairly small or negative. There are still of course selected useful projects, the likelihood these will be what is actually built with new funds in the current political/policy climate is small.

(2) Congestion as a problem has peaked. This does not mean I believe there is no congestion, just that it is not really growing. Vehicle travel has not risen for half-a-decade, and while it certainly depends some on the economy and gas prices, it more importantly depends on the finiteness of people's time. There is only so much travel people can do. The obvious solution to the remaining congestion is road pricing, which once the gas tax ceases to function as a revenue generator will be the natural replacement. A steady source of money tied directly to use would also help if surface transportation is organized as a utility.

(3) Over 40,000 people a year die on roads. Why is this not taken seriously? This calls for new strategies, namely taking the driver out of the loop. This is not an infrastructure problem per se (infrastructure is seldom the primary cause of crashes), rather it is a research program along the lines of the DARPA Urban Challenge that is required. Give more money to scientists and engineers, we can spend it too, with the salutary effects of stimulus and the ultimate benefit of at least one million extra Americans after 50 years. At $5 million per life, that is worth $5 trillion to our human capital stock.

(4) There is a huge correspondence problem with federal financing of transportation. Transportation is almost always a local issue. Why should Nevada's money go to Washington, DC to be spent in Iowa, and vice versa? Can't Nevada and Iowa separately figure out their priorities?

David Levinson

Network Reliability in Practice

Evolving Transportation Networks

Place and Plexus

The Transportation Experience

Access to Destinations

Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Intelligent Transportation Systems

Financing Transportation Networks

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