"I think one of the reasons why there is a resistance to otherwise nice things like local foods and bicycling concerns the often terminally joyless way their advocates present the Great Social Good that The Better People Who Do These Things create, unlike you, you indolent, planet-killing dolt."
July 2011 Archives
Having recently experienced a Minnesota state government shutdown (and on the verge of a federal one), we should draw some more fundamental lessons than the left vs. right politics are messed up, personalities affect outcomes, etc. These are all true given the structure of the game. Why must the game be structured this way?
We have over the past two centuries centralized government, removing functions from independent groups of individuals (charities, guilds, clubs, companies) and brought those functions into centralized government. (Well, several single centralized governments: national, state, local). There were reasons for all of these changes as they occurred, but the reasons at the time may or may not still apply. Sometimes the government service emerged from a central government when the economies of scale were large, sometimes the function is a result of state takeover of private institutions.
I propose the lesson to be learned is that, to avoid a total government shutdown, the government should not be totally central.
The budget should not be unitary, with all resources into a giant pot, where it is centrally allocated out to all functions. This structure makes the government fragile. A robust government should not shut down because of an impasse. Each department/division/agency should have its own revenue sources and its own expenditure authority, most of which are not subject to annual legislative approval. So for instance, the Department of Transportation has a gas tax and some miscellany. A transportation commission decides the expenditures and the revenues required to satisfy them, and with approval from a public utilities commission for any changes in rates, goes forth, and collects revenue and spends money as needed to provide services. This kind of DOT is not shut down because of a decision impasse in some other department.
Looking up the functions of state government, I found the list below of the Governor's Recommendations by agency. The shear number of agencies is almost enough to make one a (big 'L') Libertarian.
I believe many of these functions are important, and many of course are relatively small. In the small category, The Barber Board, for instance has $188,000 in expenses and $221,000 in revenue. But does barbering really require (a) state licensure (Matthew Yglesias has been doing a series mocking licensing requirements), and (b) state budgetary approval, i.e. shouldn't this be self-managing and autonomous, so it does not need to be on budget. Why should a profitable unit of state government be subject to shutdown? Can't the state just charter a Barber's Guild (Civil Engineer's Guild, etc.) and be done with it?
[We could then deregulate, and allow you to get your hair cut by someone not in the Barber's Guild, at your own risk of a bad haircut. Similarly (if not more controversially) with a Civil Engineer's Guild, where there would be a regulation for full disclosure so that the building would have to prominently identify the engineers and architects and who certified them. If insurance would not be given on buildings not designed by certified engineers, few would build, live in, or work in such buildings. If insurance is readily given, perhaps the certification is not deemed valuable.]
Many of these regulatory or service units are, or should be, self-funding, suggesting they need not be state agencies. Many of the "Boards" fall into this category.
DOT of course could break even with an appropriate user fees.
Corrections historically was a profitable agency, Stillwater wanted the prison back in Territorial days as the free labor helped the logging industry. I am not suggesting we recreate that, but if we reduced the number of prisoners by decriminalizing more drugs, e.g., and then managed the remainder, we might have companies bidding to operate prisons, rather than subsidizing it.
Police similarly could break-even on many crimes, misdemeanors and offenses, by charging appropriate fines. This might create perverse incentives if carried too far, fines could not be too high or the police would have no revenue due to no crime. But fines instead of, or in addition to, prison could be considered for more non-violent crimes. Other departments also have enforcement/fine characteristics (human rights, agriculture, commerce, labor and industry, etc.) which could be separated. An off-budget Board (appointed by the Governor with Legislative consent) would manage the revenue and expenditures, and would have authority over some revenue stream (e.g. licensing) (as authorized) until the authority was removed.
If we can separate the regulatory and redistributory functions, and rethink what is provided by government vs. what government wants to ensure is provided, we can have a robust network of separate, smaller institutions (public and private), and a minimal centralized structure that can be paralyzed at the whim of a few parties.
This is a blog post, not a thesis, so I won't go into every department and suggest how it could be given autonomy (revenue + authority), but many of these are self-apparent.
The list of State Departments
- Administration Dept
- Agriculture Dept
- Commerce Dept
- Corrections Dept
- Education Dept
- Employment Economic Development Dept
- Health Dept
- Human Rights Department
- Human Services Dept
- Labor & Industry Dept
- Military Affairs Dept
- Natural Resources Dept
- Public Safety Dept
- Revenue Dept
- Transportation Dept
- Veterans Affairs Dept
- Accountancy Board
- Administration Dept
- Administrative Hearings
- Agriculture Dept
- Agriculture Utilization Research
- Amateur Sports Commission
- Animal Health Board
- Architecture, Engineering Board
- Arts Board
- Asian Pacific Council
- Attorney General
- Barber Board
- Behavioral Health & Therapy Board
- Black Minnesotans Council
- Campaign Finance & Public Disclosure Board
- Capitol Area Architect
- Chicano Latino Affairs Council
- Chiropractors Board
- Combative Sports Commission
- Commerce Dept
- Conservation Corps Minnesota
- Corrections Dept
- Cosmetology Board
- Court of Appeals
- Dentistry Board
- Dietetics & Nutrition Practice
- Disability Council
- Education Dept
- Emergency Medical Svcs Reg Board
- Employment Economic Development Dept
- Enterprise Technology, Office of
- Explore Minnesota Tourism
- Gambling Control Board
- Governor's Office
- Guardian Ad Litem Board
- Health Dept
- Higher Ed Facilities Authority
- Higher Education, Office of
- Historical Society
- Housing Finance Agency
- Human Rights Department
- Human Services Dept
- Humanities Center
- Indian Affairs Council
- Investment Board
- Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation
- Judicial Standards Board
- Labor & Industry Dept
- Legal Profession Boards
- Marriage & Family Therapy Board
- Mayo Medical School
- Mediation Services Bureau
- Medical Practice Board
- Metropolitan Council
- Military Affairs Dept
- Minn Management & Budget
- Minn State Academies
- Minn State Colleges & Universities
- Minn State Retirement System
- Natural Resources Dept
- Nursing Board
- Nursing Home Admin Board
- Ombud For Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities
- Ombudsperson for Families
- Optometry Board
- Peace Officers Board
- Perpich Center for Arts Education
- Pharmacy Board
- Physical Therapy Board
- Podiatry Board
- Pollution Control Agency
- Private Detective Board
- Psychology Board
- Public Defense Board
- Public Employees Retirement Association
- Public Facilities Authority
- Public Safety Dept
- Public Utilities Commission
- Racing Commission
- Revenue Dept
- Science Museum
- Science & Technology Authority
- Secretary of State
- Sentencing Guidelines Comm
- Social Work Board
- State Auditor
- Supreme Court
- State Taxes and Local Aids and Credits
- Tax Court
- Teachers Retirement Association
- Transportation Dept
- Trial Courts
- Uniform Laws Commission
- University of Minnesota
- Veterans Affairs Dept
- Veterinary Medicine Board
- Water & Soil Resources Board
- Workers Comp Court Of Appeals
- Zoological Board
The full list of state agencies
Mathematician and Transportation Historian Andrew Odlyzko has just released The collapse of the Railway Mania, the development of capital markets, and Robert Lucas Nash, a forgotten pioneer of accounting and financial analysis
Abstract: It is well known that the great Railway Mania in Britain in the 1840s had a great impact on accounting. This paper contributes a description and analysis of the events that led to the two main upheavals in accounting that took place then, and of the key role played by Robert Lucas Nash in those events. He was a pioneer in accounting and financial analysis, providing studies on the financial performance of railways that were more penetrating and systematic than those available to the public from any one else. His contemporaries credited him with precipitating a market crash that led to one of two dramatic changes in accounting practices that occurred in the late 1840s. Yet his contributions have been totally forgotten.
The collapse of the Railway Mania provides interesting perspectives on the development of capital markets. The accounting revolution was just one of the byproducts of the collision of investors’ rosy profit expectations with cold reality. Shareholders’ struggles to understand, or, more precisely, to avoid understanding, the inevitability of ruin, have many similarities to the events of recent financial crashes. The Railway Mania events thus provide cautionary notes on what even penetrating accounting and financial analysis reports can accomplish. Railway share price behavior suggests that Nash’s contributions had a much smaller effect than his contemporaries gave him credit for.
One of my favorite quotes (p.8), which is still applicable:
On another line, a shareholder complained that his company’s directors kept claiming construction costs were under control for three years, and then “the cloven hoof display[ed] itself” when it was revealed that costs were over 50% higher than projected. When sections of a line were opened for service, the standard claim that shareholders and the public heard was that “traffic had exceeded the most sanguine expectations of the directors,” and it often took years before it became clear this traffic fell far short of initial projections.
Strategic misrepresentation and optimism bias are not new phenomena.
BBC News reports: China: Bullet trains collide in Zhejiang province
At least 11 people have died and 89 people injured after two high-speed trains crashed into each other in eastern China, state media reports.
Two train coaches fell off a bridge after derailing close to Wenzhou in Zhejiang province.
Details are sketchy but Chinese media report that one of the trains came to a halt after being struck by lightning and was then hit by the second train.
Rescue workers are at the scene, near Shuangyu town in Wenzhou.
It is not known how many people were on the trains at the time, but Xinhua news agency says each carriage can carry 100 people.
Initial reports suggested one bullet train had derailed at about 2030 (1230 GMT) - the D3115 travelling from the provincial capital Hangzhou to Wenzhou.
But local television later said the first train had been forced to stop after losing power due to a lightning strike, and was then rear-ended by another train, causing two of its carriages to fall off the bridge.
"D" trains are the first generation of bullet trains in China, with an average speed of just short of 100mph (160km/h).
I suspect at least one official will get executed over this. High Speed Trains should not collide. Japan has had approximately 0 deaths due to these kinds of failures (excluding suicide) in 50 years of Shinkansen operation.
Phil sends along this funny sign from FAIL Blog: Lane Closed to Ease Congestion
The comments have a plausible explanation. There is debate about whether to force merges at the farthest upstream point, (before the queue starts, so that everyone is orderly) or at the farthest downstream point (to allow people exiting upstream of the bottleneck to have a shorter wait) and have a zipper merge. The answer is probably it depends.
This is discussed in a Times article
An agency spokesman insisted that the traffic would be worse with the lane open. “It may sound barmy but in fact it makes a lot of sense because, if it was left open, traffic from the two lanes would have to merge into one at the top.
“This causes a lot of aggro and a lot of stopping and starting which has been shown to delay traffic even more.”
Kenya has ambitious plans to build a modern railway that could be a catalyst for transforming East Africa.
A major part of the project involves upgrading the existing line between Mombasa on the Indian Ocean to the shores of Lake Victoria - the route once dubbed the "lunatic line" because of the high cost of building it - both in terms of money and human life.
The upgrade in Kenya will cost between $3bn to $5bn (£1.8bn to £3bn).
Mugo Kibati of Kenya's Vision 2030, an ambitious development plan for Kenya that aims to see annual growth rates of 10% over the next 20 years, said the new railway would play a key role in bringing that about.
Privately (and/or foreign, in this case Chinese) funded new railways are completely appropriate in "developing" countries, building them is how they replace the "ing" with "ed".
But what happens when the railroad goes bankrupt? The foreign capitalists (communist/capitalists) lose their stock, but the railroad remains in place, definitely a good thing for the locals. (Now, why would you, or the Chinese, invest in such a thing, that is the difficult question).
North St. Paul has added its own twist to a metro area street-construction plan.
The city has taken the national "Complete Streets" initiative - a set of policies calling for better-designed and usually narrower roads - a step further by adding eco-friendly elements such as trees and rainwater gardens to the design.
Advocates hope North St. Paul's plan, dubbed "Living Streets," will prevent polluted runoff from entering storm drains, create safer streets and make neighborhoods more attractive - all at less cost to the city.
Traditionally, "streets were looked at very narrowly as places for travel," City Manager Wally Wysopal said. "Now we realize we need to look at their impact for overall environmental concerns."
If "living streets" is going to become a movement, it should get a domain like livingstreets.org or livingstreets.com , the first is held by squatters, the second by an individual advocate. livingstreets.org.uk is a pedestrian charity, close but not quite.
Tyler Cowen on The economics of the Michelin Guide
Michelin stresses though that when taken together, the maps, guides and digital businesses are profitable. But the losses incurred by the red books have become such a concern that Michelin has turned to outside consultants. Accenture looked last year at three different scenarios for the red books, including outright closure.
The nuclear option was quickly rejected, partly in recognition of the undoubted brand value of the guide but also because of the political impossibility in France of such drastic action. However, Accenture warned that to carry on with things as they are today would mean yearly losses at the guide hitting €19m by 2015, representing a cumulative loss of €70m over the next four years.
The thinking seems to be that Michelin would do well to seek a share of the good fortune that its awards bestow on restaurants, possibly by creating a “red book” website that provides paid-for links for those establishments with Michelin stars and allows users to make online reservations.
See article in the Financial Times
Better news for devotees of the red book’s star-system is found in a separate internal study carried out for those now running the company, who wanted to know just how much all that Guide Michelin publicity was worth to the bread and butter business of selling tyres. The study shows that the presence of Guide Michelin in a country means people are up to 3 per cent more likely to buy its tyres. With €5bn of tyre sales in the first three months of this year alone, these are figures to be taken seriously. Certainly, defenders of the faith are eager to stress the huge amount of “buzz” every time a guide is launched or Michelin starts covering a new city.
Strib writes: County wheelage tax might pay for a new bridge in Minneapolis :
Hennepin County will consider reviving a wheelage tax it hasn't used since 1975 to pay down debt on the Lowry Avenue Bridge.
Hennepin County could bring back a tax it hasn't used in 36 years to help pay its share of the Lowry Avenue Bridge, now under construction in northeast Minneapolis.
It's called a wheelage tax, and it's collected from vehicle owners in five of the seven metro-area counties able to impose it under state law. Only Ramsey and Hennepin don't have it.
That could change Tuesday, when the Hennepin County Board will take up a resolution by Commissioner Peter McLaughlin to charge $5 per vehicle (except motorcycles and some trailers) starting next year.
The $4 million that the wheelage tax would generate annually would be used to pay down most of the county's $51.7 million debt on the bridge, slated to be finished next summer.
McLaughlin said that the new tax revenue would replace the property taxes now used to finance the bridge. If the board approves the wheelage tax, he said, the property tax levy would be reduced by a corresponding amount.
"Historically, we haven't used debt backed by property taxes to pay for roads. We've used gas taxes and user fees like that," he said. "Property taxes are not how we ought to be subsidizing roads.""
OK, user fees are best of all, wheelage taxes are better than sales or income taxes, and property taxes are not as good as Transportation Utility Fees or Land Value Taxes, but if accessibility increases property value, property taxes are not an unreasonable place to start for paying for roads.
The article does mention that "Minus administrative payments, the tax would generate a little more than $4 million.", I assume it is collected by the state with annual vehicle registration. I would hate for there to be a new tax collection infrastructure for this.
Also, why aren't bicycles assessed (at half rate since they have only two wheels)? (Yes that was rhetorical).
If you're wondering how road traffic's gonna slow you today, don't turn to Google Maps anymore—the site's killed its estimates. Not because it wasn't popular. It turns out those road calculations didn't exactly correlate to, you know, reality.
The Atlantic describes the discovery of perturbed Maps users, who complained to Google when they noticed the change. Its answer?[W]e have decided that our information systems behind this feature were not as good as they could be. Therefore, we have taken this offline and are currently working to come up with a better, more accurate solution. We are always working to bring you the best Google Maps experience with updates like these!"Translation: traffic didn't work. And as the Atlantic's Nicholas Jackson asks, how could Google be sucking down so much locational data from Android drivers and be botching it to the point that they pulled it down entirely? [The Atlantic]"
A big defeat for the biggest information provider. But using in-vehicle GPS on mobile phones as a probe is coming, and will eventually get it right (approximately, if lagged). The problem of course is that traffic is dynamic, and even a 5 minute lag will be quite off if there is an incident or something non-steady state. However as a signal of whether things are normal, it probably works.
- Levinson, David (2002) The Economics of Traveler Information from Probes. Public Works Management and Policy 6(4) pp 241-250 (April)
Information provision is probably best for what an individual will not know from routine behavior—random incidents and unfamiliar territory. The qualitative conclusion that incidents and the unexpected are where the greatest gains from traveler information are to be found reinforces the results from our simulations. Those models show that a low level of probes can provide useful information by rapidly detecting incidents, whereas a much greater number is needed to provide any gains from recurring congestion.
From Global Urbanist ... London's useless bus route 'spider maps' due for an overhaul
A take down of London's bus maps. (But at least they have maps, all we get are useless signs at most of our bus stops).
(Via Human Transit.)
There is as far as I know one transportation test network archive, sponsored by Hillel Bar-Gera. We have put a set of 16 test networks up at the
AP tells us: Study: Long commutes could fatigue airline pilots :
One in five airline pilots lives at least 750 miles from work, according to a study by scientific advisers to the government, raising concerns that long commutes to airports could lead to fatigue in the cockpit.
I hope they are not driving to the airport every day, 10 hours each way at 75 MPH, it would only leave them 4 hours for work and none for sleep.
Competition emerged Tuesday in the debate over a new St. Croix River bridge near Stillwater.
The new Sensible Stillwater Bridge coalition, referring to the longtime $690 million bridge proposal as a "boondoggle," unveiled plans at an afternoon news conference for a lower and slower bridge at less than half that cost. The narrower three-lane bridge would angle from south of Stillwater, at Oak Park Heights, to where the Stillwater Lift Bridge meets the Wisconsin side of the river.
1. Just for the record, despite the presser this afternoon, this is not a new proposal. The image differs only slightly from this 2003 image :
We can play one of those kids games, spot the differences. The arch is further east. There is a traffic circle/roundabout control, and some forking of the bridge on the west side, but the angle and the two landing points are the same as was proposed a long time ago judging from my scientific analysis of the watercolor engineering diagrams. That does not make it a bad proposal, and perhaps the coalition is new, but the proposal is not.
2. They are proposing a "3 - lane bridge", which implies 36 feet wide at 12 foot lanes given modern standards for new construction (not including the shoulders that MnDOT will insist on). But at 9 foot lanes, this 36 feet could be almost instantly transformed into four lanes. 9 foot lanes are outrageous you say, but remember, in 10 to 20 years, vehicle lane departure control will be significantly better (we are on the inexorable path towards robot cars), meaning lanes need not be much wider than the vehicles themselves. Even traffic engineers are becoming cool with narrowing lanes today (though not to 9 ft).
At worst, drivers will slow down by 5 miles an hour on their path. So for being slowed down on 2 miles, instead of it taking 2 minutes that bit might take 2 minutes and 10 seconds. Instead of the 20 mile trip taking 20 min, it will take 20 min and 10 sec. Again not a meaningful difference.
We will in the not distant future be able to squeeze more capacity out of all of our roads and bridge (if the pavements and structures will allow us). This means over most of its life (1) it won't do a whole lot to slow growth in Wisconsin compared to the bigger bridge proposal, and (2) you don't need the bigger bridge to have growth in Wisconsin.
This presupposes this bridge comes along with a limited access if not grade separated highway between Wisconsin and Minnesota, which it seems to, depending on what happens to Wisconsin State Highway 64, and from my periodic sojourns through beautiful downtown Houlton, this seems an easily solved problem. The Stillwater side is / can be fully limited access with this design.
Of course the larger bridge proposal could then be easily reconfigured to 6 lanes I suspect, but the demand may not be there. So my view is the capacity reduction on this is largely not meaningful over the relevant timeframe 2015-2065. We need to be planning for a world with narrower lanes, and more capacity in the same footprint.
3. Because it is a smaller bridge, it should save money, but we would need to see the DOT cost estimates before we can be sure we compare apples to apples.
4. This brings more traffic closer to the river than the other plans (e.g. Alt B) (assuming identical traffic levels), as traffic runs next to the river before crossing, and then stays near the river on the Wisconsin side. I am no expert on water pollution, but that bit seems not so good.
5. MnDOT should invest in watercolor artists.
6. This proposal should not simply be brushed aside as Not Invented Here. The objective is maximizing Benefits / Costs. Whatever proposal does that should be selected. I mean, who wants an Insensible Bridge.
Induced demand works in the airline sector too ... FT.com sez: (registration reqd) BAA cuts Heathrow growth forecasts: "Heathrow’s owners have lowered their long-term passenger growth forecasts for Europe’s busiest airport to account for the UK government’s ban on a third runway and the prospect of oil prices staying high for longer."
FT does not provide a link to the actual growth forecasts, which would have been useful.
Zhang, Lei (2010) Do Freeway Traffic Management Strategies Exacerbate Urban Sprawl? The Case of Ramp Metering Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. #2174 pp.99-109.
The impact of highway capacity expansion on urban land use has been studied extensively. With the shift of transportation investment priorities from major capacity expansion projects to operational improvements, it has become increasingly important to understand the impact of transportation control measures such as traffic management and pricing on location choices. This paper explores the impact of traffic management strategies on land use patterns using the example of ramp metering. A regression-based transportation model is employed to capture changes in accessibility due to ramp metering on a highway network. A land use change indicator model then estimates how employment and residential density distributions shift in response to changing accessibility in several stylized urban areas with various initial land use patterns (e.g., monocentric and polycentric cities). Ramp metering is shown to improve accessibility in a nonuniform fashion. The resulting land use changes depend on the existing land use conditions. In monocentric cities, ramp metering exacerbates urban sprawl by encouraging residents to live further away from their workplaces, which produces avoidable excess travel. In polycentric cities with both nondominant central business districts and secondary employment centers, ramp metering actually encourages residents to relocate to areas near existing employment centers and therefore serves as an antisprawl measure. The weakest impact of ramp metering on land use is observed when an urban area has a perfect job-housing balance. Other interesting findings suggest that by making downtown areas more accessible, ramp metering may help revitalize declining city centers in congested cities and that business location decisions are not significantly affected by ramp metering.
The first version of this paper was written by Lei as a term paper for one of my classes (I think PA8202: Networks and Places). Unfortunately it is behind a paywall (TRR should be set free, just as other National Academies publications have been), though I am sure the author will happily share a copy.
Their website says:
Our community has grown a lot since the early founding days of the 1940’s, but the foundation laid by the early visionaries remains vibrant today in neighborhoods all across the community. Their goal of creating a cooperative spirit is still seen today in the only municipal gas utility in the metro area, providing natural gas service to residents while supporting community services rather than investors.
Every community has challenges and while our city is fully built out so facing no new development, we continue working hard to protect and preserve our natural environment, support and sustain our high quality schools, and maintain our streets and other infrastructure. We’re fortunate to have so many talented people involved in our Parks, Planning and Utilities Commissions, and to have citizens with a strong sense of volunteerism and civility.
In 1945, while lying in the shade of the trees at the picnic ground at Golden Lake after swimming V.S. Petersen sat up and announced "I have an idea".
V.S. Petersen found two men sympathetic to cooperative notions. They were Thomas Ellerbe, head of the engineering and architecture firm that did the Ramsey County Courthouse in St. Paul, and Paul Steenberg. Steenberg was president of Steenberg Construction Company that had built the Coffman Memorial Union at the University of Minnesota.
In May of 1946 the cooperative village of 1,203 acres was announced "to unite the habitation benefits of a functional and contemporary community with the economic advantages of a consumer's cooperative." Each home would front a park or a walkway. There would be adult education, nurseries, educational and recreational activities; and the commercial facilities and services would be owned cooperatively, as would the municipal utilities. The minimum housing costs within 3 specified areas were set at $4,000, $6,000, and $8,000. The maximum for a house was set at $20,000. Each buyer had to purchase at least one share in the cooperative, @ $100 per share.
If an owner decided to sell their home, the development association held the first option to buy. The terms were decided by a three-member panel representing the association, the owner and a neutral party. The developers anticipated construction of 500 homes in the first two years, and that it would take five years to complete the total project. The 3 developers planned to turn over control of the development to the homeowners upon completion. For every 500 homes sold, one of the sponsors' three votes would be transferred to the residents.
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I did not know until recently about the: City of North Oaks:
"Located in the Twin Cities, just northeast of St. Paul, Minnesota, North Oaks is a unique suburban community. With a rich history and emphasis on retaining the natural environment, North Oaks celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2006.
Approximately 4500 residents call North Oaks home. Because residents' properties extend to halfway across the road, all residential roads in the City are private and for the use of North Oaks residents and their invited guests only.
The City owns no property. With residents owning the roads, the North Oaks Home Owners' Association owns the park and recreation areas and trails throughout the City.
This website is run by the City of North Oaks and serves as a major communications tool for the entire community. Here you can find information about the operation of our local government, homeowner's associations, community news, promotion of local events and answers to many frequently asked questions. "
I would visit, but I would not be allowed in, unless someone scores me an invite. I wonder if their international roughness index is better or worse than similarly situated suburban subdivisions.
(Via Bruce Benson.)
Mashable reports: 'Up to' 25% of Accidents Are Associated With Gadgets ['scare quotes' added by me -- dml]:
"A new study from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) highlights the impact that cellphones and other gadgets can have on car crashes. According to the study, as many as 25% of U.S. car crashes are associated with drivers distracted by a cellphone or gadget.
Produced using a grant from State Farm, the GHSA report, titled Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do [PDF] looks at the main external driver distractions. Not surprisingly, talking on cellphones, fiddling with gadgets and texting while driving are some of the most common driver distractions.
After reading the 50-page document, it’s clear that this study contains as many certainties as uncertainties. As GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha says in a statement, “Much of the research is incomplete or contradictory. Clearly, more studies need to be done addressing both the scope of the problem and how to effectively address it.”
Still, one certainty is that cellphone usage increases the risk of crashing and texting is likely more dangerous than using a cellphone.
Understanding that drivers who text or talk on the phone are more likely to get into car crashes than those who don’t, what can be done to decrease these distractions?
Unfortunately, the GHSA study is inconclusive on the effects of both texting bans and public service announcement campaigns for distracted driving.
From the report:Laws banning hand-held cellphone use reduced use by about half when they were first implemented. Hand-held cellphone use increased subsequently but the laws appear to have had some long-term effect."
A high-visibility cellphone and texting law enforcement campaign reduced cellphone use immediately after the campaign. Longer term effects are not yet known.
There is no evidence that cellphone or texting bans have reduced crashes.
Still, the GHSA encourages states to pass more bans of driving while texting and while talking on cellphones — hands-free or not.
The headline number seems far too high to me, but if even close to true, imagine the progress we would have made on fatalities if we were as gadgetless as we were about 15 years ago. (I know, crashes != fatalities). A 25% reduction would amount to about 100,000 fatalities over a decade. Of course cell phones save lives too, due to much faster response rates. All in all, one more reason to take the driver out of the loop and legalize robot cars.
The Hill reports: Dems slam House GOP transportation bill proposal .
USA Today says: TSA warns airlines of explosive implants in people's bodies : ""
A reader submits this: BBC News says China's record-breaking Jiaozhou bridge 'is safe'.
Here the 'scare quotes' are entirely appropriate.
The chief engineer of the world's longest sea-bridge, in China, has denied claims that its construction was rushed to allow it to open on schedule.
Shao Xinpeng told state media that the Jiaozhou bridge, opened last Thursday, was safe and ready for traffic.
Chinese media reported finding incomplete crash-barriers, missing lighting and loose nuts on guard-rails.
Reports blamed workers' haste to finish the bridge in time for the Communist Party's 90th anniversary.
In a report earlier this week, a journalist from the state-run CCTV news channel unscrewed pieces of the guard-rails and showed that the lighting system was not working properly.
Construction workers told CCTV that it would take two months before finishing all of the projects related to the bridge.
But Mr Shao said the problems highlighted in the reports were not major.
"The status of secondary features does not affect the main project or the opening of the bridge," he told the state-run Xinhua news agency.
He added that the lighting system was only aesthetic.
The structure spans 42.4km (26.3 miles), connecting the eastern coastal city of Qingdao to the suburb of Huangdao, in Jiaozhou Bay.
State media say the bridge passed construction tests last Monday and it opened to traffic on Thursday.
It is 4km longer than the previous world record-holder, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in the US state of Louisiana.
There are also disputes about this being the longest bridge over water in the world, since it is curved, while the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is straight, and so goes over a longer body of water. Wikipedia writes "There is no standard way to measure the total length of a bridge. Some bridges are measured from the beginning of the entrance ramp to the end of the exit ramp. Some are measured from shoreline to shoreline. Yet others are the length of the total construction involved in building the bridge. Since there is no standard, no ranking of a bridge should be assumed because of its position in the list. " Also note many bridges are longer (and in China) but not over water.
A reader sends this along ....Green Roads Construction: Are Contractors Our Roadblock?
The article argues in favor of green construction techniques, (construction results in a great deal of CO2 emissions, e.g.) and suggests the barrier is the cost-plus contracting system found in many places which rewards contractors for higher costs. An excerpt below:
"The lone region that’s scrapped “cost-plus” contracting, North Carolina, is indicative of the untapped potential of green construction. Instead of awarding contractors on a cost-plus basis, North Carolina has established road performance criteria. That means contractors in North Carolina have to bear the cost of asphalt themselves and can use any method available to them as long as they meet the standards set forth by the engineer.“What [we] need to do is say, ‘Roads need to be paved to this standard, give me the least cost contract.’ Let the contractor take up the risk of the asphalt. If they think they can do it and meet the standard through hot in-place recycling, they’ll do it. They may make more profits in the process, but that is what you want – you want to incentivize more sustainable roads.” – Hadi Dowlatabadi
And guess, what? North Carolina has the lowest cost of road construction in all of North America. Coincidentally, it’s also home to the highest amount of hot in-place recycling. Consider this, in British Columbia it costs $25/square meter to build a road; in North Carolina it costs roughly $19/square meter. It’s no surprise that these lower costs result in higher profits without the need to use more asphalt."
An interactive county to county map of who calls where on the AT&T network. Familiar conceptually to the gravity model (though they don't seem to weight it by number of opportunities).
Reason Foundation blog endorses Land Value Capture and Market-Based Transportation Funding
Sam Staley writes:
I've thought for a while that "value capture"--taxing the increase in property value due to public investment in infrastructure--should be used more widely as an alternative to using income taxes, sales taxes, or other general forms of taxation to fund transportation infrastructure. Property taxes achieve this to some degree, but real value capture would ensure only the properties that directly benefit from the spending actually pay for it; it would minimize redistribution of income to subsidize spending on the project. So, in theory at least, value capture retains the basic principles of a user fee, although a more appropriate term would be beneficiary fee.
I also believe that value capture, as an alternative to tapping into general taxes, has the benefit of creating more transparency and accountability in selecting and managing public projects. If spending has tangible benefits, then private property owners and investors would step up to the plate and voluntarily underwrite at least a portion of the costs.
We recently completed a report for Brookings on Value Capture: Access for Value: Financing Transportation Through Land Value Capture, as well as another report for the Minnesota State Legislature: Value Capture for Transportation Finance.
In what is locally referred to as Carmageddon:
Chaos is expected to descend on Los Angeles on July 16, when a 10-mile stretch of I-405, a major highway running through the center of town that carries an average of 500,000 cars on a summer weekend, shuts down for more than two days.
But KABC, the local flagship station for ABC, sees the closure as an opportunity to experiment with technology tools as its plans to report on the mess as it unfolds. The station has partnered with Waze, an Israeli technology company that makes a navigation app for smartphones, to give drivers a real-time picture of what is happening on the roads.
Waze’s app tracks the movement of each of its users to get a sense of traffic, and then directs them to quicker routes based on the data it collects. The company says it has 180,000 users in the Los Angeles area.
The Hill says Ron Paul proposes to Abolish TSA , including privatizing airport security.
“If the perpetrators were a gang of criminals, their headquarters would be raided by SWAT teams and armed federal agents," he continued. "Unfortunately in this case, the perpetrators are armed federal agents."
Paul said he was introducing a bill called the "American Traveler Dignity Act," which he said would force TSA employees to follow existing laws against inappropriate physical contact.
The Economist leads me to London Tubemap - A new angle on the London Underground which contains another proposed revision to the famous Beck map, with somewhat more geographic accuracy, though retaining stylization, but with 30 and 60 degree angles, rather than just 45 degrees. Buckminster Fuller might approve.
The NY Times reports New Mileage Rules Debated by Carmakers and White House: "
The administration is proposing regulations that will require new American cars and trucks to attain an average of as much as 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025, roughly double the current level. That would require increases in fuel efficiency of nearly 5 percent a year from 2017 to 2025.
The standard would put domestic vehicle fuel efficiency on a par with that in Europe, China and Japan, saving consumers billions of dollars at the pump and creating for the first time a truly global automobile market.
The automakers say the standard is technically achievable. But they warn that it will cost billions of dollars to develop the vehicles, and they express doubt that consumers will accept the smaller, lighter — and in some cases, more expensive — cars that result."
Consumers will accept it if that is what is offered, i.e. if all automakers have to produce this at a price to move (i.e. hiking the price of poor fuel economy vehicles to shift the demand curve), the CAFE standards will have achieved their end. Why we can't just raise the gas tax to achieve the same ends and be done with it remains something I cannot fathom (yes I know politicians don't like to raise taxes, but this is implicitly a tax, and surely people complain about regulation with the same frequency they complain about taxes - you could return the money to taxpayers somehow and bill it as a credit). Anyway the article suggests this will result in a 50% Hybrid fleet, which seems perfectly plausible, especially since we are talking 14 years from now. Until the recent downtick in hybrid sales, we were well on our way to that mark.
The LA Times reports: Airport security: Frequent fliers would pay for faster airport security checks - latimes.com:
"U.S. air travelers already pay to check bags and buy onboard snacks, among other charges. But would they pay to avoid those long airport security lines?
A sizable chunk of them would, according to a recent survey by the U.S. Travel Assn., the nationwide trade group that has been pushing the idea of a fee-based plan to unclog the gridlock at the country's airports.
The survey of 1,007 Americans found that 45% of those questioned would be either "very" or "somewhat" likely to pay an annual fee of up to $150 to undergo a government background check to speed through a new, faster airport security line."
Security lines have been less painful of late, so I really, really doubt that 45% random Americans would actually pay an ANNUAL fee of $150 to save 10 or 15 minutes two or four times per year. (The average American flies about once a year, though I am sure jet-setting readers of this blog are exceptional in that regard) But I am sure that it would be worth it for those who travel on 2 or more flights per month.
The Washington Post reports on NextGen:
New air guidance system threatened with delays : "Now the Obama administration has embarked on the single most ambitious and expensive
national transportation project since completion of the interstate highway system: a program called the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).
The NextGen concept sounds simple: Replace an air traffic system based on 60-year-old radar with a satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) network that would be far more versatile and efficient. In reality, it is an extraordinarily complex undertaking, threatened with delay by airline fears that the government will not deliver the system in time to justify their expenditures.
NextGen demands the largest investment ever made in civil aviation: between $29 billion and $42 billion for equipment, software and training by 2025. The cost would be shared by a federal government struggling with budget constraints and an airline industry that has been drained by years of recession and high fuel prices. Those tensions over funding threaten to slow the launch of NextGen, despite near-universal support for the program, and delays could prove costly."
Via Good, Physorg reports on a recent paper: City dwellers produce as much CO2 as countryside people do: study:
"Most previous studies have indicated that people in cities have a smaller carbon footprint than people who live in the country. By using more complex methods of analysis than in the past, scientists at Aalto University in Finland have discovered that people's carbon emissions are practically the same in the city and in the rural areas. More than anything else, CO2 emissions that cause climate change are dependent upon how much goods and services people consume, not where they live."
Full article Jukka Heinonen and Seppo Junnila (2011) Implications of urban structure on carbon consumption in metropolitan areas Environ. Res. Lett. 6 (January-March 2011) 014018
If you buy Life-Cycle Analysis, this is one strike against sanctimonious urbanites in the GHG blame game.
From MSNBC: Power-grid experiment could confuse clocks
A yearlong experiment with America's electric grid could mess up traffic lights, security systems and some computers — and make plug-in clocks and appliances like programmable coffeemakers run up to 20 minutes fast.
"A lot of people are going to have things break and they're not going to know why," said Demetrios Matsakis, head of the time service department at the U.S. Naval Observatory, one of two official timekeeping agencies in the federal government.
Since 1930, electric clocks have kept time based on the rate of the electrical current that powers them. If the current slips off its usual rate, clocks run a little fast or slow. Power companies now take steps to correct it and keep the frequency of the current — and the time — as precise as possible.
The group that oversees the U.S. power grid is proposing an experiment that would allow more frequency variation than it does now without corrections, according to a company presentation obtained by The Associated Press.
I have long thought there should be a time stamp on the electric grid power signal, something quite small, but that could be read as embedded information (some highly non-random sequence) from modulation of the phase or frequency of the AC cycle. Other means for synchronizing clocks rely on other networks (internet, GPS, radio, etc.), some old discussion here. This is similar to the idea of powerline modems, but not nearly as sophisticated (i.e. I just want a time signal).
A new paper by Haugen et al.: Proximity, accessibility and choice: A matter of taste or condition? suggests that in Sweden, accessibility has increased between 1995 and 2005.
Drawing on a combination of register data and travel survey data, this research explores changes in the accessibility to different amenities for the Swedish population between 1995 and 2005, as well as the reasons behind the changes: redistribution of either amenities or the population. Overall, proximity has increased concerning most of the amenities during the period. However, despite decreasing ‘potential’ distances, actual travel distances are growing longer due to, for example, an increasing selectivity in preferences. An analysis of the acces- sibility development for service amenities shows that restructuring within the service sector is the main cause of the changes, and to a lesser extent population redistribution.
This is consistent with our results for the Twin Cities.