May 2011 Archives

Brookings defends itself against criticisms of its recent Transit Accessibility report: Explaining the Findings of Transit Accessibility Research

37 Signals on Ten design lessons from Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture

1) Respect “the genius of a place.”

2) Subordinate details to the whole.

3) The art is to conceal art.

4) Aim for the unconscious.

5) Avoid fashion for fashion’s sake.

6) Formal training isn’t required.

7) Words matter.

8) Stand for something.

9) Utility trumps ornament.

10) Never too much, hardly enough.

(Via Kottke.)

GOOD asks: Why Are Car Seats So Poorly Designed? :

The difficulty of installing a car seat affects the market for car rentals, trains, planes, buses, and taxis. It is also hard to make it thorough childhood without purchasing three or more seats, and there are dire warnings against using a pre-owned one. If the United States is serious about moving away from fossil fuels and toward ride sharing, reuse, and public transportation, designers are going to have to solve the last mile problem … for parents. You got me on the train, now how do I get to grandma’s house?

Every time we plan a U.S. trip, the car seat becomes a major part of the conversation. Do we take ours, meaning we have to carry it, along with child, on the plane or train, install it in a strange car, vacation, tote it on the plane or train again, and reinstall in our car? Or do we take our chances at the other end with a rental car and a rental car seat—which is often dirty and, at an additional $10 per day, expensive? All cars don’t have the same belts and latches. All seats are not installed the same way. And the car rental attendants don’t help, because it is a liability issue. One tends to reach the conclusion that it would it be easier to drive, in your own car, leaving the seat in place.

But it is also a problem for shorter trips. We would sign up with Zipcar tomorrow if we weren’t anxious about having to install the seats (yes, our family now requires more than one) in a different model of car every time. When you are paying by the hour, you don’t want to spend the first 30 minutes strapping in the car seat. On a visit, my father can’t zip off with my son for ice cream because I don’t want to spend as much time moving the seat from car to car as it takes to eat a cone. And let’s not even talk about cabs. During this winter’s blizzard, we spent an hour and a half on the subway at 10 p.m., sleeping child in a backpack, because once your child is out of the Infant Graco Snugride, there’s no safe way to take a taxi. You try checking the car seat at a museum. Or wearing it on your back.

She then proposes:

So much design innovation is concentrated on grown-up seats. But the children’s car seat languishes. My idea? A universal docking system, across all car models, across all car-seat manufacturers. Two mounts, in the backseat of every car, that match two “feet” on the base of every car seat, from infant to booster. To take out the seat, you push a button to unlock the mounts. To install the seat, you center it over the mounts, press down, and hear a satisfying click. Installation in a rental car, in a taxi, in a car pool: two minutes. You could ditch your car.

This sounds to me like a good idea, hence it is appropriate for the GOOD website. The difficulty is that it will take a decade to phase in given the sluggishness of vehicle turnover.

The assumption inherent in this proposal of course is that car seats are good things (my children have all used them, but I try not to obsess about perfection on this, the point is that they don't move when the car stops). Steven Leavitt, author of Freaknomics, reports different findings:

[Heaton] found no difference in the death rates or incapacitating injuries for children in car seats versus children using adult seat belts. Like me, he found a slight advantage for car seats in preventing non-incapacitating injuries relative to adult seat belts (car seats offered a 10% improvement for these less serious injuries in both of our samples). The only difference is that in his data the gap in injuries between car seats and seat belts is statistically significant, whereas in my data set it was not.

Of course the car seat lobby, the medical industry, and the nanny state all promote car seat use for children up to the age of 65, or a weight of 150 pounds, or height of 6'6'', whichever comes later, and these limits keep increasing.

Schneier on Security: U.S. Presidential Limo Defeated by Steep-Grade Parking Ramp:

" It's not something I know anything about -- actually, it's not something many people know about -- but I've posted some links about the security features of the U.S. presidential limousine. So it's amusing to watch the limo immobilized by a steep grade at the U.S. embassy in Dublin. (You'll get a glimpse of how thick the car doors are toward the end of the video.) "

Annie Lowrey in Slate Magazine: Long commutes cause obesity, neck pain, loneliness, divorce, stress, and insomnia. : "This week, researchers at Umea University in Sweden released a startling finding: Couples in which one partner commutes for longer than 45 minutes are 40 percent likelier to divorce."

(Via Marginal Revolution.)


NY Times has a nice infographic: The Great Kilowatt vs. Gallon Face-Off

(Via Matt Kahn.)

Tyler Cowan, an economist at George Mason, writes about driverless cars ..

Regulations Hinder Development of Driverless Cars -

"IN the meantime, transportation is one area where progress has been slow for decades. We’re still flying 747s, a plane designed in the 1960s. Many rail and bus networks have contracted. And traffic congestion is worse than ever. As I argued in a previous column, this is probably part of a broader slowdown of technological advances.

But it’s clear that in the early part of the 20th century, the original advent of the motor car was not impeded by anything like the current mélange of regulations, laws and lawsuits. Potentially major innovations need a path forward, through the current thicket of restrictions. That debate on this issue is so quiet shows the urgency of doing something now."

(Via David King.)

See also: Marginal Revolution

I crashed the airplane

Niet Roken


If it says no smoking, why is there an ashtray on both the inside and outside of the lavatory door?

(this not a new rule, and seems universal on major carriers)

- dml

Duty free


At heathrow terminal 4 the lady at the duty free shop needed to see my boarding pass.

She said this was due to security. Taxes more likely. But isn't this an international terminal? Didn't I need a boarding pass to get in?

(I suppose I could have snuck in from another domestic terminal, and not plan to go on any flight and try to leave the terminal by some means other than airplane, but seriously?)

- dml

Passport verification

| 1 Comment

So Delta calls me to the desk to verify my passport. No big deal. But they already verified my passport on the outbound trip. They verify again on boarding. They verified at security on the front end and UK on entering last week and in Switzerland when exiting. They verify at immigration.

Further, when you buy the tix you enter the number, but to print your own boarding pass you have to do it again, each time (going and coming).

Can't the system remember this data?

How does this multiple inspection of the same document make anyone more secure?

- dml


Swiss security

On a plane above France it might be useful to note that Swiss security resembles the US pre 2001.

You don't show a boarding pass at security. (though you are supposed to have one)

You do remove liquids and laptops, but not shoes,belts, wallets, or underwear.

The Xray quickly sends you on.

The line is truly minimal.

After clearing security you can buy Swiss Army Knives at retail shops.

Remind me the number of aviation terror incidents originating in Switzerland?

- dml

Location:Airplane over France

British Airways

Now to reflect on BA.

The flight from London to Geneva was three hours late. The incoming flight was delayed, and there was weather affecting the airport.

Staff however was close to useless.

The gate agent said she couldn't give info since that was a customer service job, and she was only a gate agent, though it clearly said "senior customer service representative" on her name tag.

Customer service said the plane had landed (it hadn't), it wasn't going to be late, just delayed a few minutes (isn't that late?), the volcano was to blame (I doubt it), and that information would soon be on the giant scoreboard telling you which gate to go to (it wasn't for a long time, not until well after scheduled departure)

After passing the boarding pass scanner and walking down the jetway, the flight attendants want to check my boarding pass again? Do they think someone could have got in the system between these points?

How often does presenting the same piece of paper count as sufficient?

- dml

Location:Safely aboard my British Airways flight

A new report from the UK, echoing the issues in the US ... Driven to disrepair? England’s roads under pressure from traffic, weather, spiralling costs and budget cuts - Audit Commission:


England's 236,000 miles of local roads - used by 30 million drivers every day - are under attack from increasing traffic, severe winters, higher repair costs, and dwindling highways funding.

The challenges faced by the country's 152 council highways authorities are the subject of a new Audit Commission reportGoing the Distance: Achieving better value for money in road maintenance.

The report highlights how councils can get more for their money, including cost-saving collaborations with neighbours, asset management to show when road maintenance will be most effective, new ways of keeping residents informed, and weighing short-term repairs against long-term resilience.

Between them, council highways authorities are responsible for 98 per cent of the country's roads*, spending a total of £2.3 billion in 2009/10. Yet, in response to increasing financial pressure on councils, highways budgets are facing significant cuts.

The Commission has found that the cost of maintaining roads is now 50 per cent higher than it was ten years ago, in part due to inflation in road materials and construction costs. Other pressures facing councils are:

  • Road traffic is expected to increase by more than 30 per cent by 2025;
  • In the next three years there will be a 26 per cent drop in government revenue funding and 16 per less capital funding via local transport plans;
  • Damage by utilities works costs nearly £50 million every year.**

Councils must also strike a difficult balance. Public perceptions of whether roads are in good shape are often only skin deep, so potholes and patchworks attract the most criticism. But dealing with these so-called 'worst first' surface issues must be weighed against prolonging a road's 'whole life' before it is too late.

Chairman of the Audit Commission, Michael O'Higgins says:

'Prevention is better than cure, but councils have to consider the safety and insurance risks of damaged surfaces. Roads costs are rising while councils' belts are tightening. Improvement in A roads seems to have stalled, and the road network overall is starting to deteriorate.'

In cash terms, its road network is a council's single most valuable asset. Yet councils struggle to apply asset management principles to roads. They cannot be sold, they don't generate income, indeed they consume large resources. Hardly surprising that some councils see roads as liabilities rather than assets.

But the report urges councils to consider asset management plans, such as Cornwall's Transport Asset Management Plan (TAMP), which for an investment of £80,000 is driving consistent levels of service and road condition across the whole county. Such plans also indicate when best to intervene with works to extend the whole life of a road, typically a maximum of only 20 years.

The study team found that collaboration pays real dividends. The Midlands Highway Alliance estimates it has delivered £5.1 million savings for councils and £7.8 million for the Highways Agency in its first three years, and it is looking to a further £14 million of savings between 2010 and 2014. Ten authorities in the East of England have also formed an alliance to save £6m over five years, with £3.3 million from shared back office costs alone.

Michael O'Higgins says:

'Sadly we found collaboration between councils to be rare, with too few councils procuring in cost-saving partnerships.'

'Pick up any local newspaper and you will see that people care very much about their local roads. In the last national Place Survey, roads were a higher priority with residents than crime or affordable housing. Our report aims to help councillors maintain their local network against a backdrop of reduced funding. Roads in disrepair can put the brakes on trade, economic prosperity, even emergency services. But a well-maintained network helps people, goods and services to move freely and safely.'



I am not convinced about the rising traffic, but the revenue issue and continued aging of infrastructure are quite real.


London Railway Annual Reports

Whilst I am in England, it seems appropriate to note ... A set of scanned Annual Reports from private London Underground Railway companies can be found here. These include reports from the Metropolitan, District, City and South London, and Central lines, among others. These were the only years available in the archives at the time I visited and scanned them (via camera).

These reports date from the 1860s through the 1930s.

Online matrix helps users determine accessibility

Online matrix helps users determine accessibility

People who make transportation and land-use decisions in the Twin Cities region have a new tool: an online “accessibility matrix” that illustrates variations in accessibility to different types of destinations for travelers who drive, bike, walk, or use transit.

The matrix is one of the outcomes of the CTS-led Access to Destinations Study. In the interdisciplinary study, researchers analyzed, described, and mapped how accessibility—the ability of people to reach the destinations they need or want to visit—has changed over recent decades in the Minneapolis–St. Paul metropolitan region, whether by auto, bicycle, public transit, or on foot.

Funding sponsors included the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Hennepin County, and the McKnight Foundation, in cooperation with the Metropolitan Council.

The matrix displays four types of maps: accessibility (the ability to reach destinations), mobility (the ability of people to move on the network), travel time (how long it will take to get between census blocks with each of the travel modes), and land use (the distribution of activities by census block).

Users can select up to four filters, including year, mode, time of day, and destination type (such as retail, restaurants, or recreation). The result, for example, could be maps showing the accessibility of jobs between two distant suburbs by transit or by car.

The tool is hosted by the University’s Minnesota Traffic Observatory (MTO), a transportation laboratory staffed by experts in managing large data sets and creating visual models of complex data. The matrix is just one of the MTO’s systems that support effective transportation and land-use planning. Future researchers will be able to further develop the tool and add new data as they become available.

CTS has also created tutorials to assist users with the new tool. The tool, the study’s 11 research reports, and a high-level summary of the research are available online.

The map is available online here.

Mac|Life says: Cities in Motion Arriving for Mac Today

Paradox Interactive announced today that its mass transportation simulator, Cities in Motion, will be released for Mac today. If you've got a burning desire to design mass transit systems to get millions of people to work (or if you're just frustrated with your own city's transit system and want to show them how it's done) this ultra-nerdy simulation may be for you.

Developed by a new Finnish (as in: from Finland) development studio (Colossal Order,) Cities in Motion could probably just as easily been called Traffic Tycoon as its gameplay resembles that of other crowd simulations like Rollercoaster Tycoon. Though Cities in Motion is doubtlessly a cooler name.

The game has been available on PC since late February and has garnered a mixed bag of review scores averaging out to a Metacritic rating of 70 (relatively average for the video game section of Metacritic.) Though a mixed reception is all that can reasonably be expected for a modern day train set.

Anyone with experience on the game? Should I get?

The Concrete Lobby?


It appears the Concrete Lobby is also taking a sophisticated approach with:, a campaign in favor of Life-Cycle Cost Analysis (who could be opposed?) backed with research from MIT. I am getting press releases from Laura Braden, who works at Mercury, "a high-stakes public strategy firm", about their recent CNBC ad, Fox News ad, etc. She has also sent me emails in the past about Building America's Future (led by Ed Rendell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Michael Bloomberg), but this seems a different campaign.

The domain is registered in Portugal by someone with an Admin named "Domain Discreet". Who is behind this?

Much as I wish it were true, transportation economists don't finance marketing campaigns in favor of Life-Cycle Cost Analysis.

As an aside about different marketing approaches, compare with local efforts, where the lobby at least says who they are.

We are pleased to announce the publication of Vol. 4, Issue 1 of the Journal of Transport and Land Use, available at

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Journal of Transport and Land Use enters year four

David M. Levinson



Agglomeration economies, accessibility and the spatial choice behavior of relocating firms

Michiel de Bok, Significance b.v., and Frank van Oort



‘New urbanism’ or metropolitan-level centralization? A comparison of the influences of metropolitan-level and neighborhood-level urban form characteristics on travel behavior.

Petter Naess


An application of the node-place model to explore the spatial development dynamics of station areas in Tokyo

Paul Chorus and Luca Bertolini


Defining land use intensity based on roadway level of service targets

Hamid Iravani, Arash Mirhoseini, and Maziar Rasoolzadeh


Impacts of ethanol plants on highway networks

Subhro Mitra, Alan Dybing and Denver Tolliver


Book Reviews

Review of "Gridlock: Why We're Stuck in Traffic and What to Do About It" by Randal O'Toole

Reviewed by David M. Levinson



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.

World Tour

My world tour continues next week, Monday May 23-May 25 I will be playing Cambridge UK at the Moller Center for the Applied Urban Modelling Conference. The talk will be "Does First Last: The Existence and Extent of First Mover Advantages on Spatial Networks". Day 1 (Monday May 23) of the conference and the drinks reception will be held at the Fitzwilliam Museum, (Courtyard Entrance), Trumpington Street, Cambridge. CB2 1RB, Day two (Tuesday 24 May) will be held in the Department of Engineering, Trumpington Street, Cambridge. CB2 1PZ. On May 25 I will be playing Loughborough University, giving the talk "Network Structure and Travel Behavior". Date: Wednesday 25 May 2011, 16.00 — 17.00 Location: Design Studio (RT0.29), Department of Civil and Building Engineering On May 27, I will be playing EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland again giving the talk "Network Structure and Travel Behavior". Date: Friday, May 27th, 15:15, Location: GC C2 413 I hope you can make it.

Reader CP sends me this link to a LA Times Op Ed: California High-Speed Train Wreck


The only practical way out of this mess is to follow the legislative analyst's advice and start over, renegotiating terms with the federal government and building the initial segment in a more populous area, such as between San Francisco and San Jose or between Los Angeles and Anaheim. That way, even if the rest of the line is never built, we'd still end up with a heavily used urban rail line. Such renegotiation could jeopardize federal funding and delay construction, but the needless haste created by Washington's arbitrary deadlines have resulted in mistakes that could be extremely costly.

The LA Times is being cynical. Restarting the process either with a Bay Area or LA local line means the LA local line, since the SF Bay Area San Jose to San Francisco section is tied up with local opposition. This of course would be a better use of the money than the Central Valley line. Note that I did not say this would be a good use of money.

Greater Greater Washington is running a redesign the DC Metro Map contest: See the redesigned Metro maps and vote for your favorite!

Zhan Guo at NYU has a very nice paper in TR part A about the distortionary effects of Harry Beck's London Underground Map: Mind the map! The impact of transit maps on path choice in public transit:

The conclusions (the paper is behind a paywall) Emphasis Added:

"This paper investigates the effect of schematic transit maps on travel decisions in public transit systems. The relationship might have significant implications for public transit operation and planning, but so far it has been largely overlooked by both academics and practitioners. The paper first defines four types of information delivered from a transit map: distortion, restoration, codification, and cognition, and then discusses their potential influence on travel location, mode, and path choices.

The case study on the London Underground confirms that a schematic transit map indeed affects passengers’ path choices. Moreover, the map effect is almost two times more influential than the actual travel time. In other words, underground passengers trust the tube map (two times) more than their own travel experience with the system. The map effect decreases when passengers become more familiar with the system but is still greater than the effect of the actual experience, even for passengers who use the underground 5 days or more per week.

The paper also shows that the codification of transfer connections is also important. Different codification can make a transfer look more or less convenient on a transit map than in reality, which will either decrease or increase the perceived transfer inconvenience for the corresponding stations. This paper observes both situations in the underground case study and quantifies this codification effect, in terms of the number of attracted or precluded transfers, for four major transfer stations: Baker St., Bank/Monument, Victoria, and Oxford Circus.

Of course, these results are only based on the London Underground, a unique case in many aspects. Few transit maps enjoy such public popularity as the tube map in London. Many transit maps include prominent geographical features, which dilute the map effect. Other systems have different past or present versions of their transit map, which precludes a lasting and stable map effect. Many metropolitan regions possess an easier-to-comprehend urban form than London, which could weaken the role of a transit map in the formation of a cognitive map. The subway map effect in New York City is probably different from that in London. Therefore, readers should be cautious about making generalizations.

If a transit map has an impact on travel decisions, what are the implications for transit operation and planning? First, if passengers trust a schematic map more than their own experience, all planning efforts aimed at changing travel behavior need to consider the map effect; otherwise, the effectiveness of those efforts might be weakened. For example, this map effect might partially explain why Advanced Traveler Information Systems (ATIS) often yields modest improvements in terms of travel time savings in public transit ([Hickman and Wilson, 1995], [Avineri and Prashker, 2006] and [Ben-Elia et al., 2008]). Secondly, a transit map might cause certain operational problems. For example, it might unintentionally shift more passengers to a congested segment in the network and thus form a bottleneck. The overcrowding at the Victoria and Oxford stations and on the link between the King’s Cross and Old Street stations, which is much shorter on the tube map than in reality, are possible examples.

Accordingly, a transit map could potentially become a planning tool to solve operational problems and improve system efficiency. For example, link lengths could be revised, and transfer stations could be re-coded on a transit map in order to change passenger behavior and mitigate platform and train crowding. Annotations of waiting time or crowding for selected stations on the map might also be important (Hochmair, 2009). Clearly, this approach has its own limits: we could not redraw a transit map however we pleased.

In terms of future trends, ATIS and alternative travel information channels, such as smart phones and the internet, might change the role of a transit map in mixed ways. On the one hand, they may weaken the transit map effect. For example, internet-based trip planners may recommend specific travel paths based on their actual attributes. On the other hand, they may strength the map influence as well. For example, a transit map might become more accessible to passengers through, for instance, smart phones or the internet. Travel information, such as crowding and delays, delivered in a map format could be more effective than other media ([Hato et al., 1999] and [Talaat, 2011]). Conventional media like the transit map will still likely be critical and indispensible for trip planning despite the prevalence of real time information (Cluett et al., 2003).

In summary, transit maps can have a profound impact on passengers’ travel decisions and system performance. Both individual passengers and transit agencies should ‘mind the map’ in order to make their best planning decisions.


Techdirt is outraged, but this isn't just Homeland Security, it is the whole damn government which doesn't systematically compare benefits to costs.


"Homeland Security Doesn't Do Cost/Benefit Analysis; They Just Do Fear And Bluster from the you-might-die!!!!!! dept

This should hardly come as a surprise, but a new paper that analyzes money being spent on Homeland Security finds that it's incredibly wasteful (found via Julian Sanchez). You can read the full report (pdf) by John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart, which probably confirms what most people were already thinking. Basically, Homeland Security has ratcheted up spending at a massive rate, and there's little to no effort to judge that spending against the actual risk reduction. That is, there's simply no one doing any sort of real cost-benefit analysis on this spending. The report seeks to do some of that, and what it finds isn't pretty. From the abstract (with my emphasis):

The cumulative increase in expenditures on US domestic homeland security over the decade since 9/11 exceeds one trillion dollars. It is clearly time to examine these massive expenditures applying risk assessment and cost-benefit approaches that have been standard for decades. Thus far, officials do not seem to have done so and have engaged in various forms of probability neglect by focusing on worst case scenarios; adding, rather than multiplying, the probabilities; assessing relative, rather than absolute, risk; and inflating terrorist capacities and the importance of potential terrorist targets. We find that enhanced expenditures have been excessive: to be deemed cost-effective in analyses that substantially bias the consideration toward the opposite conclusion, they would have to deter, prevent, foil, or protect against 1,667 otherwise successful Times-Square type attacks per year, or more than four per day. Although there are emotional and political pressures on the terrorism issue, this does not relieve politicians and bureaucrats of the fundamental responsibility of informing the public of the limited risk that terrorism presents and of seeking to expend funds wisely. Moreover, political concerns may be over-wrought: restrained reaction has often proved to be entirely acceptable politically. 

In seeking to evaluate the effectiveness of the massive increases in homeland security expenditures since the terrorist attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, the common and urgent query has been "are we safer?" This, however, is the wrong question. Of course we are "safer"--the posting of a single security guard at one building's entrance enhances safety, however microscopically. The correct question is "are the gains in security worth the funds expended?" Or as this absolutely central question was posed shortly after 9/11 by risk analyst Howard Kunreuther, "How much should we be willing to pay for a small reduction in probabilities that are already extremely low?"

Among other things, the report looks at everyone's favorite DHS boondoggle, the naked radiation scanners at the airport by the TSA. Apparently, DHS was directly told by the GAO to study the cost-benefit and it refused to do so. The same is true of other DHS expenditures:

Indeed, at times DHS has ignored specific calls by other government agencies to conduct risk assessments. In 2010, the Department began deploying full-body scanners at airports, a technology that will cost $1.2 billion per year. The Government Accountability Office specifically declared that conducting a cost-benefit analysis of this new technology to be “important.”12 As far as we can see, no such study was conducted. Or there was GAO’s request that DHS conduct a full cost/benefit analysis of the extremely costly process of scanning 100 percent of U.S.-bound containers. To do so would require the dedicated work of a few skilled analysts for a few months or possibly a year. Yet, DHS replied that, although it agreed that such a study would help to “frame the discussion and better inform Congress,” to actually carry it out “would place significant burdens on agency resources.”

Of course, from a political perspective, this makes perfect sense. It's all game theory. You don't get praised and promoted for doing a cost-benefit analysis that saves taxpayer money from wasteful and useless projects if a terrorist attack happens. So the end result is that the incentives for everyone at DHS to just spend as much as possible in the hopes that it stops something, knowing that if anything bad happens (as it inevitably will), all of the blame will go towards anyone who said "we shouldn't do project x that would have prevented attack y." 

Of course, the real problem is that this is exactly what our enemies would like. They don't care about "terror" for the sake of terror. They want the US to spend itself silly to completely bankrupt the country. And it appears to be working. That doesn't make me feel any safer at all, no matter what the cost."

KSTP's angle: Washington Ave. Closure Prompts Increased Taxi Cab Fares

I get my 8 seconds of fame on the video (available at the link above).
Washington Ave. Closure Prompts Increased Taxi Cab Fares The permanent closure of Washington Avenue near the University of Minnesota is prompting higher taxi cab fares. "Red & White Taxi" figures customers needing rides to University hospitals, hotels, or athletic events will likely pay several more dollars per cab ride. Drivers say Washington was the shortest route to campus and will now have to find longer alternatives. Analysts say ultimately if driving in the area becomes too cumbersome it may prompt more people to use light rail and rely less on vehicles.

Road Closed


Media barons willing, I will be on KSTP tonight (c. 10pm) talking about Washington Avenue, closed to traffic. I will be asleep, so tell me what I said.





Brad DeLong writes:

Ron Paul: Get the Government Out of My Government!

Strongbow Richard de Clare descendants Sutton Dudleys de Clonard Branch

Matthew Yglesias on Ron Paul:

Ron Paul And The Civil Rights Act: I watched Ron Paul on Hardball yesterday afternoon talking about his opposition to the Civil Rights Act.... The real issue here is Paul’s perfectly sincere [complaint that the]... Civil Rights Act is... a genuinely large infringement of people’s private property rights. It says that just because you own a hotel doesn’t mean you can decide to bar black people from staying at it. It says that just because you own a bus, you can’t decide to make black passengers ride in the back. It says you can’t buy—at any price—a seat at a whites-only lunch counter. It’s a massive instance of big government medaling in people’s private business.

It was also in the 1960s and 1970s an absolutely vital tool in resolving a social and political crisis of gargantuan proportion.... Ron Paul, like Rand Paul before him, opposes this measure not—or not only—out of some bias against black people but out of a deeply-held belief that the state should never solve any social problem no matter how severe the problem or how effective the solution.

It seems to me that that is wrong. When you own a hotel and bar Black people what happens is that if Black people comes in and sleep in the beds you call the police--functionaries of the state--and they then take the Black people away and charge them with trespass. When you own a bus and require Black people to sit in the back and Black people sits in the front you call the police--functionaries of the state--and they then take the Black people away and charge them with trespass. When you own a lunch counter and make it whites-only if Black people sit down at the lunch counter you call the police--functionaries of the state--and they then take the Black people away and charge them with trespass.

Ron Paul's belief is that the state should assist in amplifying social and political crises and injustices whenever the propertied wish to provoke them.

Private fee-simple property is, after all, an institution established and enforced by the government. You can hardly get the government out of what is, fundamentally, the government's core business.

Or if you do--if you no longer rely on government to enforce your property rights, you had better be willing to hold seisin in the manner of Richard "Strongbow" de Clare--and had best start practicing with horse and lance...

This is a major problem for libertarians, though not for anarchists. Property rights are a social institution that improve efficiency, they are not however strictly moral. My own property is something worth preserving, as that is property I largely earned from work I did (with of course aid along the way from previous generations). Taking my property from me would discourage work. That the Queen of England owns property comes from inheritance because her ancestors (and the spouses of those ancestors) used force somewhere along the way. Buckminster Fuller labels them the Great Pirates, which I think is a very poetic phrasing of this phenomenon.

But property is not an absolute, and the expectations that the government can help random racist property owner enforce racial exclusion on his property, paid for by the general public, is noxious. This is less of a problem for anarchists like David Friedman who authored The Machinery of Freedom, who don't rely on the government, but may hire their own private security firms. As those aware of the world may note, Anarchy has problems of its own.

As Hans Rosling says "People who don't like government, go into this corner and discuss Somalia, People who don't like markets, go into that corner and discuss North Korea."

This is a transportation problem because the issue is basically one of the common carrier, who must the bus carry, and how must they be carried? And this was an issue with Rosa Parks, who decided to start the Civil Rights movement those who were defeated in the War of Northern Aggression still grumble about. (Though in that case the Montgomery Bus Company was apparently publicly owned, and the Jim Crow laws required it, it could just as easily have been private at the time, and been a private sector requirement, as it had been in the privately-owned streetcar era).

12cityroom sign articleInline v2

The NY Times on a new safety sign:

A Spooky Reminder to Obey the Speed Limit - "A Spooky Reminder to Obey the Speed Limit

New York City, it should be noted, has a speed limit: 30 miles per hour unless otherwise noted. The Transportation Department is hoping a pixelated image of a skeleton won’t let you forget it.

A custom-designed speed board — those radar-equipped digital signs that tell drivers how fast they are moving — will be unveiled this summer that sends a spooky message to lead-footed New Yorkers: a gaunt LED skeleton appears whenever it detects a car exceeding the 30 m.p.h. limit on city streets.

To underscore the deadly consequences of speeding, the skeleton is a bony version of the familiar pedestrian stick-figure who appears on crosswalk lights."

I look forward to the evaluations. We need to be careful to avoid Hawthorne effects though.

Recently seen at a bus shelter: Billboard ad

Business Wire press release:

Teamsters Local 320 Opens “Stop the Slash” Phase II With Twin Cities Billboard, Bus Shelter and Print Campaign

As the battle over Minnesota’s projected $5.2 billion budget deficit intensifies, Teamsters Local 320 – representing some 11,500 public employees throughout Minnesota’s 87 counties – has begun an advertising campaign asking lawmakers to halt plans to balance the budget by firing public employees, neglecting street maintenance and cutting education, rather than require the richest Minnesotans to pay their fair share of taxes.

“Hey Minnesota Legislators… They pay their fair share of taxes… or we pay with our futures.”

“The war on working families and the middle class must stop,” stated Local 320 Principal Officer Sue Mauren. “As Governor Dayton has said again and again, it’s time for the rich in Minnesota to pay their fair share of the bills. And it’s time for some legislators to stop blaming public employees – the teachers, trash collectors, police and firefighters, public defenders, university workers and airport workers – for America’s recession when they should be blaming the real culprits on Wall Street and K Street.”


The third ad, which appears on billboards throughout the Twin Cities, features a picture of a large pothole with the caption: “Defeat The Pothole Protection Act”

Chuck Marohn endorses streets over roads ... Co-opting Complete Streets

: "Now notice that I called this route a 'road' and not a 'street'. Understanding the difference between a road and a street is critical to understanding the problem we have with engineers misusing the Complete Streets approach. From our Placemaking Principles for a Strong Town:
To build an affordable transportation system, a Strong Town utilizes roads to move traffic safely at high speeds outside of neighborhoods and urban areas. Within neighborhoods and urban areas, a Strong Town uses complex streets to equally accommodate the full range of transportation options available to residents.

Roads move cars at high speeds. Streets move cars at very slow speeds. We should build roads outside of neighborhoods, connecting communities across distances. We should build streets within neighborhoods where there are homes, businesses and other destinations. The auto-road is a post-WW II replacement of the rail-road. The street should be what it has always been; the street."

Streets are in cities, from the Latin Strata (and have always been paved with something), roads are in the country, from the same root as "ride", and harken back to the rural routes taken by men on horses. Streets are for land access (and secondarily movement), roads are for movement (and secondarily land access). We get problems when we treat roads like streets and streets like roads. The words are probably muddied in common usage, but transportationists need to keep these things clear.

Drunk Engineer writes: Brookings Loonies « Systemic Failure: "Oh my, what is the Brookings ‘Institution’ smoking?

Their report on transit performance ranks Silicon Valley as #3 in the nation for what they term ‘transit access’ — even better than New York City. They also rank the Valley’s sprawling office parks as #3 in the nation for transit-accessible employment.

Silicon Valley, I must point out, has a whopping 3.5% transit mode-share."

To defend Brookings for a minute, they are not measuring performance, they are measuring access and coverage. Access to jobs within 90 minutes (as a %) is much better for small cities than large, because you must reach the end of the region within that time (there are limits to transit inefficiency). Coverage is typically better in gridlike (western and midwestern) cities, since most people can reach transit by walking. Those two things are factors in mode share, but do not alone define mode share, which depends on many other things. It is these measurements which are useful. One can easily question their thresholds for walk distance or % of jobs within 90 minutes (compared to say, total jobs with 45 minutes), that is not (or should not be) the point. The point is the data is now all together in one place where it can be systematically compared.

I agree Fresno is not one of the top 10 US cities for transit.

Gas 2.0 writes: Op-Ed: If You Build Public Charging Stations, Will They Come?:

"So I ask my fellow alt-fuel advocates; is it really wise to invest in an infrastructure that nobody demanded? Will those empty EV spots fill sooner, rather than later? Is the government stepping in where private enterprise should be taking over? Will these charging stations become just another testament of government folly, or are they bribing would-be EV buyers with free energy?"

The solution is not long-time charging stations scattered about, it is cars that do not require frequent charging, especially if one is on the road. Charging stations at (non-home) parking spaces make as much sense as gasoline fill-ups at work. If you have to routinely charge more than once a day (presumably home), it is too much. For long-distance travel, solutions like A Better Place make sense, with full battery swap out. Otherwise, we need a quick charge solution, much like gas stations allow a quick fill. Think about the cell phone model. People can be bothered to charge at home, and form a charging habit, and maybe in their car, but not on the road, because that requires extra infrastructure, thought, etc.

(Via Parking Today.)

Solar Roadways

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Does it scale?

Brookings publishes: Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America

This is a very nice, and very important report on Transit Accessibility across the US, providing a technical database for systematic inter-urban comparisons


An analysis of data from 371 transit providers in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas reveals that:

  • Nearly 70 percent of large metropolitan residents live in neighborhoods with access to transit service of some kind. Transit coverage is highest in Western metro areas such as Honolulu and Los Angeles, and lowest in Southern metro areas such as Chattanooga and Greenville. Regardless of region, residents of cities and lower-income neighborhoods have better access to transit than residents of suburbs and middle/higher-income neighborhoods.
  • In neighborhoods covered by transit, morning rush hour service occurs about once every 10 minutes for the typical metropolitan commuter. In less than one quarter of large metro areas (23), however, is this typical service frequency, or “headway,” under 10 minutes. These include very large metro areas such as New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and Washington. Transit services city residents on average almost twice as frequently as suburban residents.
  • The typical metropolitan resident can reach about 30 percent of jobs in their metropolitan area via transit in 90 minutes. Job access differs considerably across metro areas, from 60 percent in Honolulu to just 7 percent in Palm Bay, reflecting variable transit coverage levels and service frequencies, and variable levels of employment and population decentralization. Among very large metro areas, the share of jobs accessible via transit ranges from 37 percent in Washington and New York to 16 percent in Miami.
  • About one-quarter of jobs in low- and middle-skill industries are accessible via transit within 90 minutes for the typical metropolitan commuter, compared to one-third of jobs in high-skill industries. This reflects the higher concentration of high-skill jobs in cities, which are uniformly better served by transit. It also points to potentially large accessibility problems for workers in growing low-income suburban communities, who on average can access only about 22 percent of metropolitan jobs in low- and middle-skill industries for which they may be most qualified.
  • Fifteen of the 20 metro areas that rank highest on a combined score of transit cover- age and job access are in the West. Top performers include metro areas with noted transit systems such as New York, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington, but also Salt Lake City, Tucson, Fresno, and Las Vegas. Conversely, 15 of the 20 metro areas that rank lowest are in the South.

These trends have three broad implications for leaders at the local, regional, state, and national levels. Transportation leaders should make access to jobs an explicit priority in their spending and service decisions, especially given the budget pressures they face. Metro leaders should coordinate strategies regarding land use, economic development, and housing with transit decisions in order to ensure that transit reaches more people and more jobs efficiently. And federal officials should collect and disseminate standardized transit data to enable public, private, and non-profit actors to make more informed decisions and ultimately maximize the benefits of transit for labor markets.

Ground-effect robot could be key to future high-speed trains:

"Source: IEEE Spectrum — May 10, 2011

Japanese prototype of a train that levitates on cushions of air (credit: Tohoku University)

A robotic prototype of a free flying ground-effect vehicle has been developed by a Japanese research group at Tohoku University.

The ground-effect vehicle takes advantage of fast-moving air and uses stubby little wings to fly just above the ground, like a maglev train. The vehicle is controlled more like an airplane than a train; the operator has to deal with pitch, roll, and yaw as well as a throttle.

The researchers are looking to use this robot to generate a dynamic model of how vehicles like these operate, which they hope to apply to a manned experimental prototype train that can travel at 200 kilometers per hour in a U-shaped concrete channel that keeps it from careening out of control."

(Via Kurzweil.)

Google lobbies Nevada to allow self-driving cars :

"Google lobbies Nevada to allow self-driving cars May 11, 2011 Source: New York Times — May 10, 2011

Google is quietly lobbying for legislation that would make Nevada the first state where autonomous vehicles could be legally operated on public roads and would allow occupants to send text messages while sitting behind the wheel.

Dr. Sebastian Thrun of Google (formerly Stanford University) has said robotic vehicles would increase energy efficiency while reducing road injuries and deaths. And he has called for sophisticated systems for car sharing that, he says, could cut the number of cars in the United States in half."

(Via Kurzweil.)

Blacktop and whitetop




Why are sidewalks and driveways made of concrete, but publicly owned streets are much more typically made of asphalt? What does this say about private and public goods and priorities? Are we building the public environment on the cheap, yet are willing to invest in concrete for private goods?

Prof Richard de Neufville at MIT uses this as example of the effect of Discount Rate on decisions. He argues if interest rates are higher, the future matters less, so first cost is more important, while if rates are lower, costs in the out-years matter more. He also points out that capital subsidies (as in the Interstate program) warp local decisions to choose investments with higher first costs (i.e. concrete) compared with asphalt.

Back to the first paragraph, I suspect local governments are more concerned with first costs than downstream, i.e. they have a high discount rate, while private homeowners internalize those costs when deciding on driveways.

This doesn't explain sidewalks though, which are typically provided by developers (as are local streets).

Infrastructurist cites our work: New Reports: Higher Gas Prices Mean Safer Roads

Politicians continue to search for answers to the problem of America’s rising gas prices — low as these prices remain in global terms — but many are searching in the wrong places. Redskins quarterback bustRep. Heath Shuler has proposed a 45-day federal gas tax “holiday,” as if the 18 years since the tax was last raised were not holiday enough. Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska has proposed an “expensive federal subsidy” that “makes no sense” and is “counterproductive” to economic recovery, writes Robert Puentes at The New Republic:

It would actually reward high-income households and those that buy the most gas and do nothing for the 9.2 percent of the labor force that is unemployed or those who are retired and living on Social Security.

Social scientists, meanwhile, continue to explore the potential benefits of higher gas prices. A new report from Canadian researchers connects higher fuel costs with reduced sprawl. A pair of recent studies from Mississippi State (via The Transportationist) link higher gas prices with safer roads.

The first, which appeared in the Journal of Safety Research (pdf) last December, studied the relationship between gas prices and car accidents in Mississippi between 2004 and 2008. The researchers report both both short- and intermediate-term links between high prices and reduced crashes, with intermediate effects generally stronger. From a policy standpoint, the researchers conclude:

that if decision makers wish to reduce traffic crash rates, increased gasoline taxes are a considerable option because raised gasoline prices reduce traffic crashes directly.

In the January issue of Accident Analysis & Prevention (pdf), the same research team (give or take a couple members) studied the same time period for relationships between gas prices and drunk driving. The researchers report a connection between higher gas prices and fewer crashes caused by drunk driving, particularly one-car, property-damaging accidents. Exactly why high prices reduce less severe crashes is unclear; perhaps lighter drinkers, responding to economic changes, drink even less. Meanwhile, the researchers conclude, the effect is limited with regard to more severe crashes, perhaps because heavier drinkers are less likely under any condition to alter their behavior:

[H]igher gasoline prices are less likely to deter heavier drinkers from drunk driving, as heavier drinkers are less likely to change driving behaviors due to gasoline price changes and may even drink more in response to economic stress.

I spend my life as a Content Management System Administrator. Below is a short list of the cool (and uncool) tools I use. Much of this is aligned with my Sisyphean objective to be paperless (to be strived for, but ultimately frustrated by the workings of others).


  • Journal Editing. For the Journal of Transport and Land Use we use Open Journal System. This works well for some things, but it breaks down for paper re-review, it does not notify editors a paper has been resubmitted, and there are other bits of wonkyness and user-unfriendliness. On the other hand, it is a much nicer backend than used by many publishers. I suspect all journal management software is a bit wonky. When I review or submit to other journals I am tied to the various CMS for each journal. These are unfortunately not linked, even within same publisher. Single LogIn, at least within publisher would be nice. OpenID maybe? The consequence is I have many log-ins which are difficult to track, even for the same journal. These are all fixable with effort, but why bother for something used only a few times each?
  • Mail - (the backend is Gopher mail) I used to use lots of rules and folders, but have switched to two major folders, InBox and Archive. If it is in the InBox, it is for me to do. If it is in the Archive, it is done. The problem is long-term items, like journal reviews (sorry other editors), which have their own folder (Reviews ToDo) which I check monthly. This ensures long term items stay out of the InBox and that I don't return reviews too soon, which just encourages the editors to send more (no good deed goes unpunished). Thus I am trying to follow the GTD rule of "touching it once".
  • Notes - (MobileMe Syncing). These are for lists of things, like frequent flyer numbers, which I want at hand, or extended bits of work that I do on one machine, but want available on another (work vs. home vs. laptop vs. phone).
  • Addresses - (MobileMe Syncing). Note I scan Business Cards via CardMunch on the iPhone, so I can now scan these directly (almost) to the address book. Apparently CardMunch uses Mechanical Turk services, not OCR, as had my previous physical scanner, which seems a step backwards, but probably improves accuracy.
  • Calendar - (MobileMe Syncing)
  • ToDo/Project Management - I now use Omnifocus. (I used to use (MobileMe Syncing), but this was approximately useless). This is very new, but it seems quite workable.
  • Blog reading - The tools of choice for RSS feeds are Google Reader and  Reeder for iPhone. Google Reader does not handle some sites well (i.e. sites are not Reader-friendly, and want you to go directly there, presumably because they want ad revenue). All good sites however let you read full blog posts via Google Reader. The list of blogs read can be exported as an OPML file (some of mine are here), which is nice in principle. There were some services (Toluu) that tried to connect people based on their OPML files, but this did not seem to take off.
  • Blog writing - The Transportationist is hosted on a Moveable Type foundation on the University of Minnesota's UThink site). I now generally writes posts via MarsEdit rather than the painful web interface ... it would be nice to sync this across multiple computers, so I have draft posts where-ever I am. Apparently syncing across multiple computers can be done with Dropbox, using symlinks (e.g. created using MacDropAny), not aliases.
  • Website Management - For Nexus, I use Dreamweaver, which I get at a steep discount from the University. The site is hosted on MacOSX, running Apache. I occasionally use BBEdit, which is much nicer for editing source code than Dreamweaver, but Dreamweaver has decent file management, and can attach templates to pages effectively. The site itself was designed as part of a class project at Metropolitan State University, and employs a minimal amount of javascript.
  • Paper indexing - All the papers on nexus are indexed in RePEc - research papers in economics, to ensure they get listed by Google Scholar.
  • References - When I write in LaTeX (MS Word is banished in my world), I create a .bib file, starting usually with Google Scholar, which can export files in BibTeX. I sometimes use JabRef to manage the content in the files. Surely there is a better way. I have heard things about Mendeley and Papers, but have yet to make the plunge. Has anyone experience with these?
  • Bookmarks - Safari (MobileMe Syncing). I uploaded my bookmarks to Delicious once, but aside from the bookmarks bar, I don't really use Bookmarks anymore.
  • Documents - MacOSX (with Spotlight), I don't quite get the need for separate document management software on my own machine, I can find things, and don't want to tag my files, folders should be enough. Perhaps if someone could convert folder names to file tags, I could do away with folders. People talk about Yojimbo and DevonThink, but again, I have yet to make the plunge, it seems a high fixed cost with relatively low benefit.
  • Statistical Databases - Stata is our (nexus group) official statistical program, though some students prefer R, which I cannot argue with, but do not have time or patience to learn (it is enough I learned LaTeX)
  • Archiving - The Metropolitan Travel Survey Archive (MTSA) is hosted as a series of flat files, some of which are formatted in XML so that SDA can be used for online analysis. We are considering moving files to ICPSR, which is a larger social science archive, for safer-keeping and economies of scale, but the migration involves some pain. We should also have a copy at the Digital Conservancy.
  • Professional Network - LinkedIn (though really, I am not sure what this does, I know what Facebook does, but no one hangs out here it seems)
  • Maps, Geographic Data - My lab uses ArcGIS for all its geographic data, but these are stored in the computer file system, rather than their being a good CMS for this, which seems odd, one would think ArcGIS would have better CMS capabilities. Maybe I don't know enough, or maybe there is an opportunity. It pains me that ArcGIS is not available on Mac.
  • Backup - I use TimeMachine for local backup (though I have Time Machine Scheduler, so it only runs once a day rather than tying up my machine. I once (until 2 minutes ago) used Mozy for off-site backup, but this was really slow, especially for my home machine, and they are ending unlimited backup, so this is on the way out. New solution needed.
  • Website Registration - GoDaddy
  • Finances - The U of Mn has a large Peoplesoft installation, but this is almost totally useless for really basic things, like easily determining the amount of money left in project accounts. Banks have done this online for more than a decade, it can't be that hard.
  • Other U of Mn stuff - can be accessed by myU or OneStop. I am not clear why both exist. I am not clear why there cannot be a cookie so that as a faculty member, it defaults to Faculty OneStop. I suspect faculty never go to myU, I don't know about students.
  • Project Reporting - CTS manages a Quarterly Reports system for all the projects that go through them. Fortunately other sponsors like NSF only ask for annual reports. Unfortunately other sponsors like TRB (NCHRP) ask for monthly.
  • Teaching - I use Moodle for course management. This is a great program, which would be better if I could drag and drop files from my desktop instead of using old-skool web-interface. Nevertheless, much high praise to Moodle, which is an open source project.


  • Passive Entertainment - iTunes contains my music, movie, TV, audiobooks, podcasts and many ebooks. The library bends under the weight, and the software seems a bit inefficient, especially with homesharing. Other books are in Kindle format, which is probably the direction I will go for all new books.
  • Podcasts - Instacast solves the podcast syncing problem, which is, I don't want to constantly sync my iPhone via iTunes, which is slow, just to update podcasts, and I don't want to go to the online iTunes Music Store to download them. The downside is that podcasts sometimes stop if the AT&T network is slow for any reason, and need to be restarted. But this is a really nice App in general.
  • Games - This really needs work (Nintendo, iPhone, MacOS) - I should be able to store Wii games on the system or a server, not use DVDs to load. I also have a set of Board Games (which are not organized), including a set of Railroad Games for use in the class to play with network evolution.
  • Photos, Short Movies - iPhoto stores these, I have thought about sharing with Flickr, MobileMe, Facebook, or Wikimedia commons (if I had time to categorize, label, and add metadata to these properly) (and have done trivial amounts on each) but none of these seems ideal quite yet. If Yahoo did not own Flickr, I would trust it more. And with 20K+ photos, it is not trivial to upload. Like iTunes, iPhoto seems to crack under the weight of large libraries.
  • Personal finances - My financial institutions have their own CMS which I must comport with. I have thought about Quicken (or Quickbooks) and would like a solution for Receipts especially that syncs with my tax program, but the upfront setup costs of Quicken dissuade me.
  • Taxes - I use TurboTax, I switched to TurboTax online this year, from offline, but there did not seem to be a way for them to take my last year's return to populate basic fields. (It says it could, I couldn't find it). I am disappointed in Intuit for this, but otherwise it seemed to work well enough without crashing or loosing all my data.
  • Book index - Our books are almost completely indexed on Library Thing, but this needs a good iPhone app or Mobile-friendly website, preferably with local storage when I am in the basement of a used book store (a cell phone dead zone).
  • Knowledge - I store all my knowledge on Wikipedia, and increasingly Wikibooks (where I have three textbooks ranging from Featured to candidate to in progress). Alas, I have done a brain dump already (I am ranked 3055, a long slip from my number 37 ranking back in the early days (March 2004), I am fairly sure I was higher at some point, but it doesn't seem archived), so there is nothing non-personal I know that the web does not. I guess there is some other knowledge in my papers and books.
  • Friends - The Facebook (sorry, you are not really people, just content to be collected and managed)
  • Genealogy - I have a set of GEDCOM files encoding my ancestors, my aunt did one side of my family, I did the other side of my family, which are sitting on my computer. I don't actually have a tool for this. I don't want to upload all of it without some privacy control, and don't know if there are any good sites, I played with a few a few years ago, like Geni, but none of the wiki-like sites seems to have sufficiently matured, and Geni disabled GEDCOM. Maybe my children will eventually care or have a school project and figure this out.
  • Buddy List - I have contacts in a variety of IM and communications systems. Address Book as above noted is the primary store for Contacts. There is also AIM, Skype, Facebook, and Google for chat. Fortunately I don't chat much. I moved my mom from AIM to FaceTime.
  • Shopping wish list - Amazon keeps my wish lists.
  • Backup - At home there is TimeMachine and SilverKeeper for the iTunes library, which runs weekly. I periodically copy my home library to my work machine in case of disaster, but this is too infrequent. I have killed Mozy, since they killed unlimited.


  • Ebook Conversion - I still seek less paper. We have over 3000 bound books, many of which I would love to replace with electronic versions, if I did not have to pay a fortune to do so. Converting CDs to a music library was painful, but this looks to be god-awful.
  • Simplified CV/Website/Metadata (.rdf) reference management - I seek automatic updating of CV and website from same the reference database. There are programs that do this, from BibRef files even, but they don't produce the web output I want, so this is still non-optimal.
  • DVD libary - My DVDs are not indexed unless ripped. I need some way to store DVDs in my media library efficiently, and without copy protection, so the content remains available even if the media is scratched.
  • Offsite backup! - went with Minnesota-based CrashPlan (if they lose my data, I can hunt them down), though Backblaze seems a worthy alternative.
  • References management? (Papers vs. Sente vs. Mendeley)
  • Document management? (Yojimbo vs. DevonThink)
  • Personal financial management
  • <li> Grocery lists
  • Household inventory
  • Password management, like 1Password
  • A systematic way to identify needs. Are there categories of my existence that are not cataloged, managed, and described digitally?
  • A Content Management System (CMS) for my Content Management Systems - lets call it a Content Management System management system (C(MS)^2).
updated May 12, 2011

Washington Mall

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Ur multimedia 337478

UMNews reports "Coming soon to a campus near me" The light-rail trail begins Effective May 16, Washington Avenue will close for good to automobile traffic between Pleasant and Oak streets due to construction and then operation of the Central Corridor LRT.

Apparently the official title is Washington Avenue Mall. "Washington Mall" would be pithier. Perhaps "Bruininks Mall" after our soon to be departed President who spent so much of his time on the CCLRT.

The gridless grid

eMercedesBenz Electric Roads May Be In Our Future

We ask a lot of our cars – heat me, cool me, be silent, be comfy, be exciting and, increasingly, propel me without costly and polluting gasoline. It’s the latter request that confounds, since batteries, the most obvious replacements for gas, are heavy and have limited energy storage.

But what if the energy storage burden was shifted from our overworked cars to the road?

Researchers at the Energy Dynamics Laboratory at Utah State University are working on just such a solution, called electrified roads.

Electric vehicles, or EVs, could pick up small amounts of electricity as they drive over charging pads buried under the asphalt and connected to the electrical grid. Researchers say that a continuously available power supply would allow EVs to cut battery size as much as 80 percent, drastically reducing vehicle cost.

“Basically you get power directly from the grid to the motors as the car moves,” said Hunter Wu, a Utah State researcher who was recruited from The University of Auckland in New Zealand, where the technology was pioneered, to further develop the concept. “You can travel from the West Coast to the East Coast continuously without charging.”

Nicola Tesla first discovered the principles of wireless charging, or inductive power transfer, in the late 19th Century. It works by creating an electromagnetic charging field that transfers energy to a receiving pad set to the same frequency.

Manufacturers are already marketing wireless charging pads for electric vehicles – retrofitted to accept the charges – that can deliver a 5-kilowatt charge with 90 percent efficiency from a distance of about 10 inches.

There is also a trial application of electric roads – albeit at slow speeds and using very long charging pads – for buses at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, south of Seoul.

But Wu is thinking of something much more radical: charging at interstate speeds. This will require several technical breakthroughs, he said.

“At 75 mph, you’re only going to stay on a pad for about 30 milliseconds,” he said. “We need to turn the pad embedded in the road on and off really quickly.”

The pads would need to be able to signal to each other that a car is coming and the car would also need to communicate its need for a charge, he said.

Wu said the pad must also deliver power even when the car isn’t directly over top of it – a capability called horizontal misalignment that the current generation of stationary inductive power transfer chargers don’t have.

John Boys, a University of Auckland professor who is credited with refining the technology, said it would be possible to transfer up to 30 kW of power at an average efficiency of 80 percent on the highway. Assuming that chargers would be available at home and work, Boys said, a car would only need “a battery big enough to make it to the nearest interstate or major road.”

Wu said the cost of electrified roads, pegged at $1.5 million to 2.5 million per lane mile, could be made up through charging a toll along the roadway.

Not only would the cost of EVs, but range anxiety would be totally eliminated, he said.

“This technology,” Wu said, “would propel EVs forward.”

This is a fascinating proposed technology that could reduce the required battery size and weight, and thus increase efficiency of EVs. I previously noted a proposed technology: turning the road into a solar panel.

Combine these two ideas (solar roads with electric roads), and you can take the road and the car "off the grid."



Speaking of Aerotropolis, Paleofuture links to Urban Airport of the Future (1926): ""

The fine people at Popular Mechanics recently published a book that deserves a prominent place on every retrofuturist's bookshelf. The Wonderful Future That Never Was by Gregory Benford looks at technological predictions that appeared in the pages of Popular Mechanics from 1903 until 1969. The prediction below was an attempt to address what was seen as an inevitable problem; how to land personal aircraft in busy cities. The solution here was to erect a gigantic landing port supported atop four skyscrapers.

I have not read the book yet, but it looks great.

Joe Urban on A Traffic Light Out, an Intersection Improved: ""

He says:

Now watch this video on You Tube that I took today at 38th and Hiawatha, near my home. I call it “You Go, No You Go.” True, the traffic signal was out (just blinking red – treat it like a stop sign). It has been that way all week. But the similarities to the resulting behaviour was uncannily like that seen in the London example [ON THE BOTTOM, FROM A FEW YEARS AGO].

Believe me, a four way stop sign at that intersection is perhaps not the best long term solution, but….

…But allow me a moment to point out the “dance.” As you can see, the traffic is backed up to Lake Wobegon, but that’s not the point. At the actual intersection, everyone is taking turns and pedestrians and bikes are almost on equal footing, if you will. Everyone is stopping. Everyone is looking. The train goes by, the gates raise, cars cross north to south, the eastbound car and bus pull up to Hiawatha, pedestrians cross to the median, one of them dashing across the entire street as the northbound vehicles are coming across, It is a dance. A bit clumsy, but a dance.

And a funny dance at times. You go, no you go. That’s what half the drivers seemed to be saying this week. They were used to zoning out there – red: stop, green: go. What the hell!? Now I have to think about it and be careful? I’m taking Minnehaha Avenue instead! As I watched the traffic before I started filming, one car pulled up to the blinking red lights, windows open. I could hear the passenger giving instructions – “who goes? who goes? OK go! Aaah, don’t crash!” Bikers especially woudl get to the intersection and look left, right, left again, behind, above! Trust nobody!

As a biker taking my kids to preschool every day in the Burley, I have to say I kind of prefer it this way. I cross that beast of a street on a typical day, and frequently, while sitting on the island between the right turn lane and the traffic streaming by at 45 miles per hour, I feel, um, insecure. I have visions of how on earth to try and jump out of the way of an errant car, while still saving my children in the trailer behind me. It isn’t fun. Sure, it has been confusing for us this week, but at least at the intersection everyone is moving slow and for the most part, paying attention. I like that. I like that a lot.

I am all in favor of Shared Space in the right context (e.g. campus, London). Unfortunately, an almost freeway (Hiawatha Ave) is not that context. Why do the pedestrians run? Not an improvement.

 Modeled Behavior reports on: Altruism and discrimination in traffic:

"A new working paper by Redzo Mujcic and Paul Frijters uses the question of ‘Who stops for whom in traffic?’ to shed light on several important and interesting issues related to when, why, and for whom we exhibit altruism. Here is how they summarize their results:
We study social preferences in the form of altruism using data on 959 interactions between random commuters at selected traffic intersections in the city of Brisbane, Australia. By observing real decisions of individual commuters on whether to stop (give way) for others, we find evidence of (i) gender discrimination by both men and women, with women discriminating relatively more against the same sex than men, and men discriminating in favour of the opposite sex more than women; (ii) status-seeking and envy, with individuals who drive a more luxury motor vehicle having a 0.18 lower probability of receiving a kind  treatment from others of low status, however this result improves when the decision maker is  also of high status; (iii) strong peer effects, with those commuters accompanied by other  passengers being 25 percent more likely to sacrifice for others; and (iv) an age effect, with  mature-aged people eliciting a higher degree of altruism."

Guardian reports: Osama bin Laden death: Intelligence reveals US rail threat from al-Qaida:

"Information found at scene shows 'aspiration' to attack American trains, says Department for Homeland Security"

Autonomous cars interview

Will sends us a link AAH #101 – Burns, Baby, Burns – John's Journal on Autoline Detroit: ""

(At 26:00, there's a good discussion of autonomous cars by Larry Burns, former VP of R&D at GM, about legal issues etc.)

The Utopianist dislikes The Aerotropolis:

To most people, building an entire city around an airport probably seems like a terrible idea. First of all, airports just aren’t fun — especially in the US, they’re irritating places and filled with never-ending lines, over-priced food, and irascible TSA agents. And that’s to say nothing of the pat downs. Second of all, they’re usually sprawling, aesthetically offensive, and loud — most cities go to good lengths to relegate its airport to the outskirts for a reason.

So why does John D. Kasarda, a University of North Carolina business-school professor, author and consultant, think that the cities of the future will be built around airports? Why does Kasarda insist that today’s successful metropolises will become tomorrow’s aerotropolises?

It really boils down to a single idea: he believes that cities with major airports and air-shipping capacity will become the next great port cities in coming years, and that cities can flourish if they’re built with the aim of producing and moving air freight. Kasarda describes his vision in an upcoming book, Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next. According to Metropolis magazine (which reviews the book here), an aerotropolis goes something like this:

It’s a city that’s built around an airport, the bigger the better, with factories and/or traders, both dependent on air freight, close by, followed by a ring of malls and hotels, followed by a ring of residential neighborhoods. The airport isn’t an annoyance, located as far out of the way as possible, but the city’s heart, its raison d’être.


I think some cities will be airport based, but not too many. The advantages are few when most people fly once or twice a year. Even for those who fly more frequently, there is little need for it to be the center of the region (since the number of people flying into and out of downtown before and after work is quite small). Freight gains little advantage from centrality, where local streets are likely to be highly congested. The airport could easily be at the edge of the region, where the externalities are minimized. Further, cities could easily have multiple airports if demand is high enough, and the economies of scale small enough.

Minneapolis roads are falling apart, so reports the MnDaily. Props to U of Mn professor Mihai Marasteanu for his quotes: Cuts could force Minneapolis to slow its assault on potholes | - Serving the University of Minnesota Community Since 1900:

"‘We have a very large system that was built many years ago,’ University of Minnesota civil engineering professor Mihai Marasteanu said. ‘Right now we are [at] the point in time where we need to invest to keep it at a reasonable level.’

Marasteanu said he believed the city was doing the best it could given budget constraints, but repairs will only get more expensive in the future if there isn’t enough maintenance now.

‘This is a big issue,’ Marasteanu said. ‘There’s a huge gap between what is needed and what is actually spent.’"

The headline "assault on potholes" and its military metaphor is like the DMZ museum, where the South Korean military described its successive victories at points farther and farther south on the Korean peninsula.

I will just add that the budget constraints are false constraints. City roads are in more terrible condition than County or State roads. Priorities are not set right (witness the city bidding for the Vikings stadium). There are lots of solutions to fund roads, and if people believed the funds would actually go to fix those bad roads, they would get support in many places (though not everywhere).

WBAY news in Green Bay reports the "Interstate" is now a valuable brand. Governor Maps Road to 'Interstate' 41:

May 04, 2011 12:35 AM EST By Kristin Byrne

Big changes are in the works to turn U.S. Highway 41 into an interstate, which Governor Walker says could mean more economic growth in the state.

Governor Walker was in Green Bay Tuesday to make the announcement.

The interstate would run 142 miles, from the Mitchell Interchange on I-94 in Milwaukee to where Highway 41 connects with I-43 in Green Bay.

So how do you turn a highway into an interstate? And what does it mean for drivers?

Transportation officials at the news conference said drivers won't see much of a difference but the change will ignite economic growth because businesses will want to locate near an interstate.

'Everybody thinks the interstate is like a brand, and then that brand says access, it says safety, it says speed, it says convenience. And we are essentially, you know, in this corridor, we're affiliating ourselves with that brand,' Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said.

'You've got an issue that makes it easier for cars and trucks to drive on. It's certainly safety factors are built in which makes it a more safe corridor, and long term, not only for drivers, it will be good for businesses because it's going to be easier to get on and off,' Governor Walker said.

The governor and the Secretary of the Department of Transportation explained the project could include widening shoulders, making median improvements, and replacing crossroads with on- and off-ramps.

Some preparation work has already been done on Highway 41 with improvements in Brown and Winnebago counties.

The upgrade could cost between $15- to $20 million, mostly federal money the DOT says would come from existing funds.

'What we do is use it on focusing on the infrastructure that, for really for many of the last several years, has been largely ignored,' Governor Walker said.

The goal is to have interstate signs up in 2015.

This would be interesting to validate, do otherwise equivalent roads draw different traffic or development simply due to the "Interstate" brand, or is this just hooey (a technical term)?

Freakonomics Blog (Daniel Hamermesh) writes: The Dutch Rail System’s Strange Peak-Load Pricing: ""

I bought a round-trip ticket for a short train trip in the Netherlands, paying full price. Later I asked a colleague if there are discounts of any kind. Yes, she said, as long as you travel after 9 a.m. I assume this illustrates peak-load pricing, so I asked about traveling in the evening rush hour. It turns out the discount is good any time after 9 a.m.—there is no peak-load pricing for evening rush.

I know of no U.S. transit system that has peak-load pricing only in the a.m. Is this because our evening rush hours are more compact than in Europe? My colleague suggests that this is one more manifestation of the long and regular hours worked by most Americans, as compared to Europeans whose workdays often end at 3:30 or 4 p.m. It’s hard to think of another explanation. Despite these differences, the Dutch rail system will shortly be changing this, disallowing the discount between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

I assume this is an efficiency measure, since most trips are round, you only need to do the increase on relatively inelastic work trips once per day to have an all day effect. Sort of like tolling in only one direction. But there may be other explanations as noted in the comments.

Great British Rail Journeys


Great British Railway Journeys is another one of those "about Britain" series (Coast, Britain from Above) which in this case follows former "future Prime Minister" Michael Portillo on a series of rail trips and compares present day places against how they were described in Bradshaw's Railway Guide from the middle of the 19th century. This is (so far) two series of 20 and 25 half-hour episodes, so it is a significant time commitment. But if you want to see bits about how Britain works, along with a lot of rail porn, in the form of a travelogue, it is quite interesting.

I was part of a International Transport Forum roundtable in December 2008 that produced this report Terrorism and International Transport: Towards risk-based security policy

The costs of potential damage from terrorism are substantial but so are the costs of improved security. Careful policy appraisal can help make good use of scarce resources.

Network Structure and Travel


Congratulations to soon to be Dr. Pavithra Parthasarathi, who recently was awarded the 2011 John S Adams Award for Excellence in Transportation Research and Education, and who successfully defended her Ph.D. Thesis "Network Structure and Travel" (a draft of which is linked) on May 5, 2011. She accepted a job with the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO) in Norfolk, VA, starting May 16th.


Changing the design aspects of urban form is a positive approach to improving transportation. Land use and urban design strategies have been proposed to not only to bring about changes in travel behavior but as a way of providing a better quality of life to the residents. While the research on the relationship between urban form and travel behavior has been pretty extensive, there is a clear gap in the explicit consideration of the underlying transportation network, even though researchers acknowledge its importance. This dissertation aims to continue on the research interest in understanding travel behavior while explicitly accounting for the underlying transportation network structure.

Transportation networks have an underlying structure, defined by the layout, arrangement and the connectivity of the individual network elements, namely the road segments and their intersections. The differences in network structure exist among and between networks. This dissertation argues that travelers perceive and respond to these differences in underlying network structure and complexity, resulting in differences in observed travel patterns. This hypothesized relationship between network structure and travel is analyzed in this dissertation using individual and aggregate level travel and network data from metropolitan regions across the U.S. Various measures of network structure, compiled from existing sources, are used to quantify the structure of street networks. The relation between these quantitative measures and travel is then identified using econometric models.

The underlying principle of this research is that while the transportation network is not the only indicator of urban form and travel, an understanding of the transportation network structure will provide a good framework for understanding and designing cities. The importance of such an understanding is critical due to the long term and irreversible nature of transportation network decisions. The comprehensive analyses presented in this dissertation provide a clear understanding of the role of network design in influencing travel.

(In Soviet Russia, the Bus Rides You).

From the report, by RTL, "In some Russian cities, shuttle buses are involved in half of all traffic crashes."

A recent Op-Ed in the Pioneer Press: Kane, Quimby: Shift gears to ease traffic congestion in the Twin Cities mentions the Access to Destinations research.

By Matt Kane and Charlie Quimby Updated: 04/20/2011 06:30:48 PM CDT

Minnesota is shifting gears in its approach to Twin Cities traffic congestion — a smart move given the limited impact of road-building on congestion, public-sector budget constraints, and the area's surprisingly good travel times compared to other major metro areas.

State and metro-area transportation plans now aim less at free-flow traffic conditions at all times on busy highways and more at better access to where people want to be. This approach emphasizes alternatives beyond the traditional long drive to work - meaning, for example, that travelers may take a shorter car trip to a nearby destination, a smooth transit ride down the MnPASS freeway lane, a work commute timed for off-peak hours, or even virtual travel from home to work via the Internet.

The shift in emphasis lines up well with a number of realities.

The first reality is that congestion has grown worse despite the fact that the region is already home to more highway miles per capita than most comparable metro areas. This is due in large part to the iron law of congestion: An expanded highway reverts to its previous level of congestion as it attracts new travelers and those formerly discouraged from using the route. The added lanes can handle more travelers, but congestion continues.

The second is fiscal. A 2007 study from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Met Council estimated that more than $40 billion in government funds would be needed to 'solve' metro-area congestion by 2030 through major roadway expansions and related improvements — an amount that would require a $2-a-gallon increase if the revenues were to come solely from the gas tax.

A third factor is that Twin Cities travel time on average is not so bad, when the goal is reframed away from congestion during the trip to reaching the trip's end point. When we crunched the numbers, we found that the 13-county Minneapolis-St. Paul region ranks second among the nation's 25 largest metropolitan areas for its short average travel time to work — a much better showing than expected given our population size.

And recent University of Minnesota research finds that despite congestion, the ease of reaching destinations in the Twin Cities has improved. Access can be easier despite clogged roadways if the target locations are close by and reachable via short commutes by car, transit, biking and walking.

The Metropolitan Council's recent transportation plan says flat out that, because of constraints, highway system expansion will not eliminate congestion in the Twin Cities area or even significantly reduce it. Consequently, that plan dropped mention of a dozen big-ticket highway expansion projects. And Mn/DOT's plan also moves the Twin Cities further away from 'attempting to build its way out of congestion by adding more highway lanes.'

This shift in our approach to congestion better aligns transportation policy with the ends (our destinations), rather than the means (the travel).

While congestion is annoying, it comes with the territory in successful metro areas. A large number of people going places is a sign of a vibrant economy.

Still, traffic delays cost the economy and undermine the public's return on investment from highways. So how can we slow the growth of congestion to get more out of our existing transportation infrastructure?

Here are four proven approaches that don't rely simply on laying more asphalt:

Managing the highway system using metered ramps at freeway entrances, rapid response to traffic accidents, real-time information on expressway signs, managed and priced highway lanes (used now for MnPASS lanes on I-394 and I-35W), and, when necessary, lower-cost but high-impact highway construction projects.

Easing demand by shifting away from solo commutes and travel during peak drive time or by getting out of the car altogether and working from home, for example. Both expected increases in gas prices and continued congestion will likely encourage these actions by travelers.

Banking more on transit, biking and walking to keep off our roads those cars that could otherwise push a crowded-but-flowing lane into gridlock. Transit carries more people per vehicle in less space and in this way increases thoroughfare capacity.

Smarter land use - More compact and mixed-use development allows people to reach destinations without driving cars for long distances or without driving at all. And the concentration of jobs sites in certain areas - think downtowns - makes cost-effective transit possible.

We can't let congestion throttle the region's productivity. Smarter investments in transportation help spur economic growth for the state and expand prosperity for Minnesotans.

Whatever we do will cost money - and require revenues. But we can better target construction projects and use these strategies to better manage, use and maintain the road system we have.

Matt Kane is the director of policy and research and Charlie Quimby is a communications fellow at Growth & Justice, a St. Paul-based progressive think tank, which recently released a report on 'Shifting Gears to Ease Congestion: Improving Travel and Travel Choices in the Twin Cities.'"

(Via .)

The 31st North American Conference of the Council of Georgist Organizations: "The Henry George Theorem at Work" will be held August 2-6, 2011 in Bloomington, Minnesota.

For those interested in the ideas of Henry George, or in innovative ways to tie the financing of public sector to value created by the public sector, including the Land Value Tax, this is an important event. We wrote about George in Planning for Place and Plexus.

Box 13.4 Henry George’s single (land) tax

Men did not make the earth . . . It is the value of the improvement only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property . . . Every proprietor owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds. (Thomas Paine, Agrarian Justice, paragraphs 11 to 15)
A tax upon ground-rents would not raise the rents of houses. It would fall altogether upon the owner of the ground-rent. (Adam Smith)

According to his granddaughter, actress and choreographer Agnes DeMille, Henry George was, at his death in 1897, the third most famous man in America, behind only Thomas Edison and Mark Twain. Over 100,000 people attended his funeral in New York. George was a political figure, a two-time mayoral candidate in New York (dying just four days before the election on his second bid), a newspaper publisher, and an economist. Born in 1839, he was in California during the gold rush and the railroad boom. He noted how railroads drove up land value and rents at a rate faster than wages.

He proposed in his best-selling economic tract Progress and Poverty that:

We should satisfy the law of justice, we should meet all economic requirements, by at one stroke abolishing all private titles, declaring all land public property, and letting it out to the highest bidders in lots to suit, under such conditions as would sacredly guard the private right to improvements. Thus we should secure, in a more complex state of society, the same equality of rights that in a ruder state were secured by equal partitions of the soil and, by giving the use of the land to whoever could procure the most from it, we should secure the greatest production.

These views do not make George a “communist,” though some have dubbed his ideas “commonism” because the land is held in common. In modern language, his most famous proposal is that of a single tax on land. The idea is simple in its core, but is easily confused with other concepts due to the complexity of modern tax codes. First, it is a single tax, so no other tax would be required. Second, it is a tax on land, not property. So the question of “What is land?” should be answered. Land is, in short, nature’s bounty; it includes geographic spaces, but also mineral deposits, natural resources, and the electromagnetic spectrum. It is what would exist without labor. The value of land, particularly the value of geographic spaces, does depend on labor and what is done with other geographic spaces. A square meter of land in downtown Tokyo may be worth a square kilometer (or more) in Alaska. Most of the value of that square meter of Tokyo, however, is due not to the improvements by its owner, but rather to the accessibility to the land, which is created by everyone else in society.

Taxing land based on the land value, rather than the property value, encourages full development of the land. The property tax discourages development of land, since all improvements are taxed. This helps result in an urban form of surface parking lots in big cities rather than developed land. The property tax also encourages leap- frog development in the suburbs. In contrast a land tax would apply the same tax to a parcel whether or not it were developed, thereby encouraging development to help pay the tax. This land value tax (LVT) is the current incarnation of the Georgist proposals. It is currently used in Singapore, Hong Kong, Estonia, and Taiwan, though not as the only tax.

This idea, however, is not as radical as it seems; four Nobel-laureate economists urged Mikhail Gorbachev to adopt the land tax in 1990 as the Soviet Union was turning away from communism. Modern Georgists generally favor movement towards a single tax, but recognize the political impossibility of an overnight change, especially one which would eliminate not only property taxes but also sales and income taxes. The idea is illustrated in Figure 13.7.

This policy would be in stark contrast to tax increment financing. Instead of subsidizing firms to develop fully, they would be taxed as if they were fully developed, and thus would it be more expensive if they don’t.


Beyond the Beyond (Bruce Sterling) reports on Architecture Fiction: Pixel City - Procedurally generated city. I want to live here.

Some literature on procedurally generated networks (this city seems to be on a grid):

  • Guoning Chen, Gregory Esch, Peter Wonka, Pascal Mu ̈ller, Eugene Zhang (2008) "Interactive Procedural Street Modeling"

    This paper addresses the problem of interactively modeling large street networks. We introduce an intuitive and flexible modeling framework in which a user can create a street network from scratch or modify an existing street network. This is achieved through designing an underlying tensor field and editing the graph representing the street network. The framework is intuitive because it uses tensor fields to guide the generation of a street network. The framework is flexible because it allows the user to combine var- ious global and local modeling operations such as brush strokes, smoothing, constraints, noise and rotation fields. Our results will show street networks and three-dimensional urban geometry of high visual quality.

  • Carlos A. Vanegas, Daniel G. Aliaga, Bedrich Benes and Paul Waddell (2009) "Visualization of Simulated Urban Spaces: Inferring Parameterized Generation of Streets, Parcels, and Aerial Imagery". IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON VISUALIZATION AND COMPUTER GRAPHICS, VOL. 15, NO. 3, MAY/JUNE 2009.

    Urban simulation models and their visualization are used to help regional planning agencies evaluate alternative transportation investments, land use regulations, and environmental protection policies. Typical urban simulations provide spatially distributed data about a number of inhabitants, land prices, traffic, and other variables. In this article, we build on a synergy of urban simulation, urban visualization, and computer graphics to automatically infer an urban layout for any time step of the simulation sequence. In addition to standard visualization tools, our method gathers data of the original street network, parcels, and aerial imagery and uses the available simulation results to infer changes to the original urban layout. Our method produces a new and plausible layout for the simulation results. In contrast with previous work, our approach automatically updates the layout based on changes in the simulation data and, thus, can scale to a large simulation over many years. The method in this article offers a substantial step forward in building integrated visualization and behavioral simulation systems for use in community visioning, planning, and policy analysis. We demonstrate our method on several real cases using a 200-Gbyte database for a 16,300-km2 area surrounding Seattle.

  • Chao Yang, Peng Zeng and Yi Wang (2010) "Modeling the Evolution of Urban Road Networks: A case study on Pudong New Area in Shanghai" 2010 International Conference on Intelligent Computation Technology and Automation.

    Based on complex network theory, this paper proposes a topological evolution model for urban road network. The model also considers the external factors that affect network growth such as population density and economic index, which makes it flexible to adjust the influencing factors while for different types of networks. Furthermore, it’s feasible
    to visualize the differences with the real data in ArcGIS. Then, a case study of road network in Shanghai Pudong New Area is given, several common indicators are calculated. The results show good agreement between real data and model to verify the model is correct and valid.

Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America - Brookings Institution


Against the backdrop of rising gas prices, growing suburban poverty, continued sprawl and uneven transit availability in cities and suburbs, the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings will release a first-of-its-kind analysis that shows how transit systems link workers to jobs in metropolitan America. The analysis informs critical policy and investment decisions at a time of scarce public and private resources. Vice President and Director of Metropolitan Policy Bruce Katz will moderate a dialogue with U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Event Information

When Thursday, May 12, 2011 9:30 AM to 12:15 PM

Where Falk Auditorium The Brookings Institution 1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW Washington, DC

I reviewed an earlier draft of this report, and the research in here is important in advancing consistent measures of transit accessibility across cities. This will be a baseline on which other metropolitan comparisons of accessibility can be compared.


Dlr history map




London Reconnections discusses possible extensions to the Docklands Light Railway, shown in the figure. The official version is here: DLR - Development Projects - The future of DLR - Where we go Next

The privately operated (under franchise agreement) DLR opened in 1987, after 3 years of construction and just a few years after conception (in 1982 according to TfL (though antecedents can be seen as early as the 1973 Docklands Study, according to the London Dockland Development Corporation) ), to serve the emerging Docklands regeneration project centered at Canary Wharf.

Containerization of shipping changed the nature of the industry, which migrated in the 1960s and 70s from London to Felixstowe. The Docklands development replaced the newly abandoned shipping docks in East London with an emerging financial center, an American-like downtown for London. Almost immediately upon opening, construction started on extensions. Success begat success, and proposals and funding for extensions to this new, Docklands-centered automated public-transport technology continued to flow in. As can be seen from the top map, extensions continue to be proposed, notably to Charing Cross. The early DLR segments took advantage of abandoned railway lines, and while not a green-field, it was a relatively open brown-field canvas on which to work.

The planning for the Jubilee Line, then the "Fleet Line" (after Fleet Street and the River Fleet), apparently began around 1965. The first section opened in 1979, two years after the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth for which it was named. The line temporarily terminated at Charing Cross station, as shown in the poster. It was to continue eastwards, along Fleet Street.

In 1999 the Jubilee Line was extended to Canary Wharf as well, but this eastward extension resulted in the abandonment of the then 20-year old extension to Charing Cross, as a new routing split from the old in Green Park. The decision to do this can be seen as early as the 1990 Jubilee Line Extension options map. At this point the expensive Charing Cross station was just over 10 years old. Stations are often more expensive (and require more tunneling volume) than the lines which they connect, so this is a major rethink, not some temporary train halt which was subsequently bypassed. Jubilee Line Extension is said to have cost 3.5 billion pounds, which delayed other significant potential construction projects, such as Crossrail and the Chelsea-Hackney line.

There are several points to be made about this:

  • No one in the 1970s anticipated abandoning the Jubilee line portion of Charing Cross station, certainly not so soon after construction.

  • No one in the 1970s (or 1980s or 1990s) anticipated that the DLR might one day reoccupy Charing Cross station, or even construct such a large cross-London network centered on the Docklands. (I did see speculation about this in the first decade of the 2000s). While the Underground system is centered on the Square Mile of the City of London, with many branches and a Circle Line, DLR has a new hub, with a new technology, that inter-connects with the old at several key stations, and if the extensions are built, at several more.

  • In order to build anything, you must have a vision. Rarely does construction start without a fixed end point in mind (this is not SimCity) That construction once made is largely irreversible, though it may be abandoned, and it provides opportunities for reuse, it creates "facts on the ground" that are hard to undo. The City of London street network is a perfect example. Even after the Great Fire of 1666 or the bombings of World War II, it greatly resembles the facts on the ground at the time of William the Conqueror.

  • In order to move forward, you must be willing to abandon old visions. The DLR and Jubilee Line Extensions were new visions, built on top of (and beneath) old constructions, not old visions. They were even willing to abandon one major fact on the ground (Charing Cross station) so as not to be wed to a vision that no longer worked.

  • Facts on the ground create new constraints, new opportunities, new ways of looking at the world. There are many possible lines in a network, but only a few can actually be built. We are far from "optimal", and I suspect we always will be, but we need to consider what is the best decision given the world as it exists, not the world as it might be according to some plan.

We ought not be too locked into our plans, we forego many opportunities by clinging to the zombie maps of long-dead officials.

Britain from Above


BBC's Britain from Above (presented by Andrew Marr) is a nice "about Britain" series (see Coast and Great British Railway Journeys for other examples), whose theme is taking a look at Britain from an aerial perspective.

The first (and best) episode features 24 hours in the Day of Britain, and has dynamic mappings of lots of GPS logs from planes, trucks, ships, etc., which are just too cool for words. The bit about how the end of Eastenders causes a power-surge as everyone simultaneous boils a pot of tea, and the stress that causes the managers of the electric grid, who need to import electrons from France, is just one of those things you never think about, especially in the US. (I have seen stories about water pressure drops at half-time of important sports events).

There are also really nice pieces comparing aerial footage from just after World War II with what is there now, matching the shots exactly so they can be faded in and out.

BBC says it is all available, (if a bit decontextualized), on the website, I saw the full episodes in HD.

I wish we had this show in the US.

Lawrence Lessig talks about The Architecture of Access to Scientific Knowledge arguing academic journals should be freely accessible by the general public, not just the academic elites. We of course already believe this, which is why we launched the Free, Open Content Journal of Transport and Land Use.

Further, the evidence is that open access journals have a citation advantage (Swan "The Open Access citation advantage").

The Architecture of Access to Scientific Knowledge from lessig on Vimeo.

(Via Kelly Clifton.)

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

View David Levinson's profile on LinkedIn

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