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FOSS4G

Andrew Owen will represent the Nexus group at the FOSS4G (Free and Open Source Software
for Geospatial - North America 2013) conference happening in Minneapolis, May 22-24.

FOSS Experiences in Transportation and Land Use Research

Andrew Owen, University of Minnesota ­­ Nexus Research Group

The Nexus Research Group at the University of Minnesota focuses on understanding the intersections of transportation and land use. In this presentation, we will examine case studies of how open ­source geospatial software has fit into specific research projects. We will discuss why and how open­ source software was chosen, how it strengthened our research, what areas we see as most important for development, and offer suggestions for increasing the use of open­ source geospatial software in transportation and land use research. Over the past two years, we have begun incorporating open­ source geospatial data and analysis tools into a research workflow that had been dominated by commercial packages. Most significantly, we implemented an instance of OpenTripPlanner Analyst for calculation of transit travel time matrices, and deployed QGIS and PostGIS for data manipulation and analysis. The project achieved a completely open research workflow, though this brought both benefits and challenges. Strengths of open ­source software in this research context include cutting ­edge transit analysis tools, efficient parallel processing of large data sets, and default creation of open data formats. We hope that our experience will encourage research users to adopt open­ source geospatial research tools, and inspire developers to target enhancements that can specifically benefit research users.

Wired Autopia: The Next Big OS War Is In Your Dashboard :

"‘The theme I hear time and time again from every single one of our customers is you’ve got to help us move at the pace of consumer electronics,’ Derek Kuhn, vice president of sales and marketing for QNX Software Systems, told Wired. ‘It’s no longer acceptable to innovate at the pace of automotive.’"

Standards Wars in Transportation

If a standard is good, aren't two better?

Autoblog on the EV charging standards war: Why SAE Combo vs. CHAdeMO battle could be a big problem:

"... Japanese automakers like Nissan, Toyota and Mitsubishi are supporting the CHAdeMO standard, which was launched in 2010 and is used in 1,500 stations worldwide (all but 200 are in Japan). US and European automakers like BMW, General Motors, Ford and Volkswagen are instead standing behind the so-called SAE Combo standard, which was first demonstrated in May and is expected to debut by the end of the year. Combo supporters tout their standard as superior because, unlike CHAdeMO, it allows for one port to charge at both Level 2 and DC fast charge. CHAdeMO requires two different plugs. Earlier this month, SAE International finalized its so-called J1772 technical standards for Combo chargers.

The problem, as you might suspect, is that two competing systems, 'could be another roadblock to the introduction of electric vehicles, increasing consumer resistance. A scattering of incompatible charging stations compounds range anxiety with plug anxiety,' writes Automotive News. In other words, this is exactly not what plug-in vehicles need"

Meanwhile in Electronic Tolling Collection, Toll Road News reports: Kapsch declares E-ZPass IAG protocols open standard, and discusses sticker tags:

"2012-10-24: Kapsch which owns the intellectual property rights to the E-ZPass IAG electronic toll system through the 2010 purchase of Mark IV IVHS says it is renouncing any proprietary claims to the protocols. They should now be regarded as an open standard for others to use and compete with. They plan to publish the specifications and code so that anyone can build to it."

However that doesn't settle it, as there are other standards, like Sticker Tags about:

"We pressed several senior Kapsch officials - Georg Kapsch, Chris Murray, Erwin Toplak COO - on their view of 6C sticker tags as a route to US national interoperability.

They said that the key is multiprotocol readers. And they reiterated their view that active hard case, battery powered transponders represent a better business case for customers over the long run. "

My wallet

Shouldn't transit fare payment systems be standard and interchangeable by now.


- dml

Late last year I provoked a bit of a fury with Transportation costs too much and the main follow-up Is transport too expensive?

For the first time, I will briefly list all of the hypotheses in one post.

My coauthors (alphabetically) include John Bedell, Peter Gordon, Michael Iacono, David King, Dick Mudge, Randal O'Toole, Lisa Schweitzer, Stephen Smith, and others who posted anonymously. It goes without saying (which means it doesn't since I am saying it) that not everyone agrees with everything. At the bottom, I have grouped the causes into larger meta-causes where appropriate.

  1. Standards have risen [Smith's Man of System].
  2. Principal-agent problem.
  3. Thin markets.
  4. There are in-sufficient economies of scale (Excess Bespoke Design).
  5. Projects are scoped wrong.
  6. Benefits are concentrated, costs are diffuse [Logic of Collective Action].
  7. Decision-makers are remote [Fatal Conceit].
  8. No one actually does B/C analysis.
  9. The highest demand areas for maintenance and new stock occur in places that are expensive.
  10. Project creep.
  11. Envy is a much bigger problem in public works than in personal life.
  12. Benefit cost is only as good as the integrity of the data and the analysts.
  13. Federal funds favor capital-heavy technologies and investments.
  14. Design for forecast.
  15. Planners and engineers are paid as percentage of total project cost [Principal-Agent Problem].
  16. Materials are scarcer (and thus more expensive).
  17. Regulations like ADA and environmental protection are driving up costs.
  18. Formula spending reduces the incentive or need to worry much about costs. This is obviously related to many of the other hypotheses already considered but I think deserves it's own number.
  19. The State Aid system and associated standards.
  20. Stop/start investment.
  21. Poor commissioning. 
  22. "Starchitecture",
  23. Separation of design and build.
  24. Doing construction on facilities still in operation.
  25. Union work rules (not wages)that inhibit productivity gains through new technologies.
  26. Fragmented governance leads to large and meandering projects rather than centralized projects. Politicians have to "share the wealth" of projects. This is perhaps a cause of "project creep."
  27. Environmental Impact Statements (Reports) lead to "lock-in"
  28. Public-private partnerships trade additional up front costs for faster construction.
  29. Open government/costs of democracy.
  30. Climate change adaptation is increasing the costs of projects.
  31.  Ratchet Effect.
  32. Baumol's cost disease.
  33. Transit investment isn't realizing any productivity gains from labor.
  34. Utility works are uncharged.
  35. Experience and Competence.
  36. Ethos, training and prestige.
  37. Government power.
  38. Legal system.
  39. Lack of user fee funding.

Some other points:

1. Standards arguably includes 14, 17, 19, 21, 24, 27, 29, 30,

4. Insufficient scale economies, there is some relationship to 1, since bespoke probably means higher quality (better local fitting).

5. Scoping, includes 10, 14, 22, 26


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).

Mike on Traffic argues:

Minnesota Standards Should Change from 12 Foot Lane Widths to 11 Foot Lane Widths : ""

"Narrowing roads results in shorter crossing distances and reduced traffic speeds. This improves the environment for pedestrians and bicyclists. The research also points to 11 foot lanes being as safe as 12 foot lanes (according to NCHRP Project 17-26). A big reason is that motorists drive more cautiously in narrower lanes. Narrower lanes would have reduced the numerous speeding complaints I received from residents during my tenure in Maple Grove. A quick check of MnDOT's website shows there are 290,588 lane miles in Minnesota. Assuming we trimmed one foot off each lane, that would equate to 35,222 acres (55 square miles) of less pavement (assuming all of the roads are paved). To put that in perspective, the city of Minneapolis is 58.4 square miles including the lakes and rivers. Imagine the economic and environmental benefits of shifting the standard by one foot. Why would this decision take 2+ years of study? The rules should be re-written to make 10 foot lanes allowable in urban settings, 11 foot lanes the standard across the state, and 12 foot lanes allowed if justified through a variance process."

map-japan-power-300.gif
From NPR Blackouts That Could Continue For Years

... The problem is these rolling blackouts could continue for many months -- even years.

"This is a real problem for those factories which need uninterrupted supplies," says professor Tatsuo Hatta, president of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. He says the situation might cause some companies to move.

"It's clear that from their viewpoint they'd better move their plant to the western part of Japan where electricity is plenty."

It might seem much easier to send the surplus power from one side of Japan to the other to ease the blackouts. But that's harder than you might think, Hatta says.

"One major problem is that the east and west of Japan have different electric cycles and the capacity of the connectors are very much limited," he says.

That's partly an accident of history. Eastern Japan followed the German model and has a 50-cycle electrical power grid. The western part of Japan used the American model and has a 60-cycle grid. Transferring power from one grid to another requires a very expensive facility. And there are only three connections between eastern and western Japan. [ed. note wikipedia says 4] That bottleneck means the power transfer is just a trickle, even during this national emergency. Creating more capacity would take years. ...

Somewhere along the way, you would have thought, they would have standardized on one frequency or another (e.g. after World War II), but standards have strong lock-in, even in a defeated country. Apparently in the US, Southern California Edison did not convert to 60 Hz (from 50 Hz) until 1948.

Choosing a single standard increases economies of scale, has network effects, and improves redundancy (unless the standard itself fails for some reason).

As my students know, I like metric, so I am saddened by this in the NY Times: Dropping Kilometers From Highway's Signs Divides Arizona

Distance along I-19 is measured in kilometers, just as it is in Mexico. That means highway markers advise that there are three kilometers until the next gas station, four until the next rest stop, seven until the next desert town.

But the distinctive signs' days may be, well, numbered.

The Arizona Department of Transportation says the 400 signs along the I-19's 100 kilometers are too old and need to be replaced. The new signs, officials say, would be like all the others in the state and would indicate distance in miles. Exit numbers would be reconfigured as well.


I have nothing against dual units (putting miles below km to help the British tourists out), but a full-scale conversion seems foolish and expensive, and why need exits be changed, km gives you the opportunity for more integer exit signs, while with miles, you might need an a, b, c suffix to the exit if there are a cluster of off-ramps.

Speaking of standardization ... I am not much for MS products, but this seems genuinely useful: Microsoft tech allows sticking batteries in any way you want

Microsoft announced a hardware solution that will allow users of portable devices -- digital cameras, flashlights, remote controls, toys, you name it -- to insert their batteries in any direction. Compatible with AA and AAA cells, among others, the patented "InstaLoad" technology does not require special electronics or circuitry, the company claims.

Now if they could solve the drive on the left/drive on the right problem, they will have made a major contribution.

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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