University of Minnesota new (draft) Master Plan

Just released, the Regent’s Draft of the 2009 University of Minnesota Master Plan: Capital Planning and Project Management, University of Minnesota: Twin Cities
(I co-chaired the transportation advisory group, though did not write the document).
The relevant transportation section is here (17 MB pdf)

Green Hills endangered

From NYT: In Renewed Hard Times, New Deal Architecture Faces Bulldozer
Green Hills, one of the New Deal new towns, is starting to see demolitions. Columbia, Maryland, much more recent, has already seen some. The balance between cities as living organisms and cities as historic monuments has to be drawn.

Hacking an Electronic Road Sign

On Bruce Schneier Hacking an Electronic Road Sign. Now maybe someone can change the “Suspicious Activity Call 911” signs near the MSP Airport and this parody of a police state.

LaHood: No ‘boondoggles’ in stimulus: The Swamp

From The Swamp and CNN LaHood: No ‘boondoggles’ in stimulus

Evidence on economy

From TrafficWorld.Com
U.S. Air Cargo Falls 17 Percent

A collapse in trans-Pacific trade pushed cargo traffic for U.S. airlines down 17 percent in December, leading American carriers with their worst year for freight since 2001.

Class 8 Orders Drop 12 Percent

Total net orders for class 8 vehicles from all heavy truck manufacturers in North America dropped 12 percent in January, said an industry preliminary report.
Last month was the weakest January in the 30 years records have been kept, according to FTR Associates. The data includes the United States, Canada, Mexico and exports.
Net orders were down 66 percent from January 2008. Final data for January 2009 will be available from FTR later this month.

Traffic World OnLine – Rail & Intermodal

U.S. rail traffic fell 17.3 percent in the fourth week of 2009. Carloads were off 18.4 percent while intermodal loadings fell 16 percent. The Association of American Railroads estimated ton-miles decreased from 33.6 billion a year ago to 27.8 billion in the week ending Jan. 31.

Port Container Traffic Fell 8 Percent

U.S. ports surveyed handled 1.06 million TEU in December, the last month for which actual numbers are available. That was down 13.9 percent from November and 17.2 percent from December 2007, and made December the 18th month in a row to see a year-over-year decline. The last month to see a year-over-year increase was July 2007, when the 1.44 million TEU moved through the ports was up 3.4 percent from July 2006.

Ads for old news

On today’s New York Times, an ad:

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What is wrong with this picture? I seem to have read that Obama has been inaugurated and all? (I realize the 2008 Minnesota Senate election is not resolved)
I assume this is evidence that the Old York Times is not selling advertising, and therefore is likely to be losing money.

What is wrong with this picture

From WaPo Reduced Rail Hours Among Possible Cuts
And, from December 2008,
New Ridership Record Shows U.S. Still Lured to Mass Transit
More demand and a large fixed cost, low variable cost operation should lead to low marginal costs per additional rider and more revenue. External factors (more demand, declining petroleum costs) should make the deal even easier. WMATA raised fares last year.
Why can’t WMATA make the math work? Is there a management problem?

Save our Starbucks

From the Pioneer Press: Customers plan ‘Save our Starbucks’ rally in Stillwater

The company released this statement this afternoon in response to a Pioneer Press inquiry about the rally:
“Our Stillwater location is scheduled to close. The lease was set to expire on this store at the end of February, and we decided not to renew it. We are humbled by the support we’ve received from our partners and customers regarding the closure of this store. We recognize the impact this has on the community, and we value the feedback that we have received from our customers.”

That frappe has power. This vignette says something about the addictive qualities of caffeine, but more about what is important to some people of Stillwater.
Even in Stillwater, home of large homes, from the article: “The coffee shop has become a second home to a lot of people”; or as planners might say, a third place.

Beyond “Shovel Ready”

A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions by David M. Levinson and David A. King
A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions by David M. Levinson and David A. King

I’m quoted in Popular Mechanics today in an article by Erik Sofge Shovel-Ready Projects Show Shortsighted Thinking – Why Shovel-Ready Infrastructure is Wrong (Right Now)

… The programs that would meet the bill’s 90-day restriction are, for the most part, an unappealing mix of projects that were either shelved after being fully designed and engineered, and have since become outmoded or irrelevant, or projects with limited scope and ambition. No one’s building a smart electric grid or revamping a water system on 90 days notice. The best example of a shovel-ready project, and what engineers believe could become the biggest recipient of the transportation-related portion of the bill’s funding, is road resurfacing—important maintenance work, but not a meaningful way to rein in a national infrastructure crisis. “In developing countries, there are roads that are so bad, they create congestion, because drivers are constantly forced to slow down,? says David Levinson, an associate professor in the University of Minnesota’s civil engineering department. “That’s not the case here. If the road’s a little bit rougher, drivers will feel it, but that’s not going to cause you to go any slower. So the economic benefit of those projects is pretty low.?
That might be acceptable to people focused purely on fostering rapid job growth‹but, ironically, such stimulus spending could fall short on that measure, as well. “In the 1930s, when you were literally building with shovels, that might have made sense. That was largely unskilled labor. Today, it’s blue collar, but it’s not unskilled,? Levinson says. “The guy brushing the asphalt back and forth is unskilled, but the guy operating the steamroller isn’t. And there’s an assumption out there that construction workers are interchangeable between residential and highway projects. But a carpenter isn’t a whole lot of help in building a road.?