Google LatLong: Arterial traffic available on Google Maps

Arterial traffic available on Google Maps for selected cities (including Minneapolis).
It seems they are doing it from Google Maps for Mobile, and getting automatic feedback of location from GPS-enabled online users (and thereby deriving speed). Clearly this is a good thing for traffic data nerds, and critical mass for arterial travel times is a good thing, even if Google winds up being the dominant provider.

Maybe Pigs Can Fly

Our “classic” 1996 study on High Speed Rail is cited in Maybe Pigs Can Fly by Richard K. Green in Wall Street Pit.

“A couple of other points. I have yet to meet a transportation economist (and I talk to a fair number) who is thrilled by high-speed rail as a technology. John Kain was among the most rigorous and influential transportation economist of the past 50 years, and he was very skeptical about rail. I also think that we yet again have evidence that we don’t come even close to internalizing the social costs of automobiles, but I see no political will for really reducing our dependence on the auto, in part because most people love their cars (this is hardly unique to America). High speed rail also seems to me to be a way to redistribute income from lower income Americans to higher income Americans, because lower-income Americans will choose Southwest Airlines (which will be cheaper) when they need to travel from one city to another.”

State Seeks Stimulus Funds to Study High-Speed Rail

I am quoted in State Seeks Stimulus Funds To Study High-Speed Rail by Jamie Walden. The State in question is Arkansas. The route is Little Rock to Texarkana (ultimately to Dallas).

Flowers said the applications for a cut of the $8 billion allocated to a high-speed rail system by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 were due Monday. The government received applications for grants totaling more than $102 billion, he said.

The land rush is on, get your HSR application in the queue.

New UK high-speed rail plan unveiled

From the BBC New UK high-speed rail plan unveiled

The line would serve Birmingham and Manchester, getting passengers from Glasgow to London in just two hours and 16 minutes, the rail firm said.
It rejected several alternative routes, including the east of England.

Judging from the map (linked below), the architecture of the line is clearly to feed London, all of the ancillary cities are as if on a tree with the xylem and phloem oriented to London, it would not be terribly good for say Manchester to Edinburgh or Manchester to Birmingham.

“The firm said that the line would account for 43.7 million journeys per year by 2030, which would result in 3.8 million fewer vehicle journeys and fewer carbon dioxide emissions.”.

In other words, more 90% of the trips are switching from rail or air to HSR. Providing better rail service to existing rail passengers is a good thing, but CO2 is hardly a rationale (as more CO2 has to be used going faster than going slower if the electricity is from the same place … diesel to electric conversion is a separate matter).
Finally, the cost is esimated at $55B for 1500 miles of rail (presumably including triple or quadruple tracking in some sections. Planning will take 5 more years. It is hoped by the promoters the first section (London to Birmingham) will open in 2020. Speeds will max at 200 mph.

rail plan
Birmingham: 45mins, down from 1h 22mins
Liverpool: 1hr 23mins, down from 2hrs 8mins
Manchester: 1hr 6mins, down from 2hrs 7mins
Edinburgh: 2hrs 9mins, down from 4hrs 23mins
Glasgow: 2hrs 16mins, down from 4hrs 10 mins

Also see: London to Glasgow in five minutes, a video showing the West Coast Main Line (which this proposal seems to duplicate) and was recently modernized for 9 billion pounds.

Open House for Franklin Ave/East River Road Intersection | Bridgeland News

I attended the Open House for Franklin Ave/East River Road Intersection, where the County and consultants revealed their plans. These are described in the (what I thought was defunct) Bridgeland News article.
My views are here.
In short, instead of a Monderman-esque Shared Space, or even a roundabout, they are tweaking the signal timings and reconfiguring the approach lanes. The main change there is on the Franklin Avenue bridge, which will reduce to 1 lane in each direction on the west side, and flare to two lanes at the approach. This will no doubt improve things (in terms of vehicle delay from most approaches and pedestrian delay) over the baseline, and at least it is relatively cheap, but this, as they officials admit, is a short-term fix, and the intersection will need to be revisited post-Central Corridor.

Interview on High Speed Rail in Sekret Firmy

I have been interviewed (by email) by the Russian business magazine Sekret Firmy — which translates, not to Secret Firm, as you might think, but to Secrets of Business, which is a bit less spy-like. Since I don’t speak Russian, the questions were in English. I assume the author will translate. Below is the English interview. The interview questions are numbered (asked by reporter Dmitry Chernikov), my answers indented below.
1) Do you believe that high-speed rail (HSR) network is an effective way to solve world transportation problems – reduce CO2 emissions, reduce travel time and costs? Why?

Not in general. HSR serves intercity travel markets, most transportation problems in the developed world occur within cities, which HSR does not directly address. Resources spent on HSR cannot be spent on local transportation problems. Assuming the HSR system uses electricity, its pollution depends on what the electric generators are using, which may or may not be clean. HSR using dirty coal may be no better, and perhaps worse than modern hybrid-electric cars, it just depends on the case. HSR may reduce travel time in certain corridors. After accounting for capital costs of construction, it is rare that HSR will reduce costs.

2) What do you think about lifestyle changes surrounding HSR? Some experts think that road-based transportation infrastructure promotes sprawling, low density, segregated land uses and large houses that use more energy per capita. And HSR infrastructure presents quite the opposite?

People seldom choose locations based on their intercity transportation access, which most people use infrequently, rather they will locate in relation to the activities (especially jobs) that they pursue daily. Whether that is road-based or rail-based depends on the local configuration of the network, not its intercity access. To the extent HSR gets used on a daily basis, by making remote areas more accessible than they were previously, encourages development on previously undeveloped land.

3) Is HSR a competitor to air industry?

Yes, in heavily used linear corridors (e.g. Tokyo – Osaka, New York – Washington) at the right distance, HSR can out-compete Air in terms of point-to-point travel times after accounting for access times and delay. There are limited number of corridors where HSR will provide more cost-effective service than Air, typically in higher density regions.

4) If HSR isn’t good or sufficient way to change the current situation, what can be alternative?

It depends on what the problem is. Is it congestion, environmental impacts, lack of access, crumbling infrastructure … ? Most transportation problems are urban, and HSR does not help much, aside from making some remote areas part of the urban region. For intercity passenger travel, in certain corridors HSR makes sense, but in others bus, air, or even auto are more cost effective.

5) Are there good examples of solving traffic problems, that can be the images of the future transportation system?

In terms of urban congestion, road pricing promises to be successful, examples include the congestion charge in London, Stockholm, and Singapore. This faces some political resistance, but will ultimately be adopted if people are serious about raising funds and managing congestion. In terms of pollution, a shift of the vehicle fleet first to hybrid (such as the Toyota Prius) and then electric vehicles will help shift the pollution problem back to power plants, which are more easily regulated. In terms of access, that can be facilitated by good land use planning and charging development the full cost for the public services they demand (water, sewer, local roads).

Follow-up Questions:
6) So, if I get your message correct, there is no big change in future in intercity transportation, just because there is no need for that. But the urban transportation does need changes. At the same time, it seems to be not realistic that government will practice road pricing, cause so many people will be against that step. And electric vehicles are still so unpopular among drivers. What do you think about perspective of real reforms in urban traffic?

I am not saying people won’t build HSR, just that it is not the best way to spend scarce resources. Electric vehicles, espeically hybrids are gaining in popularity, I would bet within 10 years, more than half of all new cars sold in the US will be hybrid electric or electric. Pricing will be more difficult, but in the US, something will have to replace the gas tax once the fleet shifts to electric, as the gas tax is the primary source of road funding in the US (this is not generally true worldwide I don’t think).
What other types of real reforms are you thinking of, certainly some lanes can be designated to be bus-only, and areas of cities can become car-free, but those are relatively marginal shifts for western cities.

7) “areas of cities can become car-free, but those are relatively marginal shifts for western cities” – you mean car-free areas will be only in western cities (and that’s why marginal) or car-free zone will play marginal role in the western cities?

The latter, there may of course be car free zone in non-western cities as well, but in western cities they will be marginal because most areas will still have access by auto.

Designing and Assessing a Teaching Laboratory for an Integrated Land Use and Transportation Course.

Recently published:
King, David, Kevin Krizek, and David Levinson (2008) Designing and Assessing a Teaching Laboratory for an Integrated Land Use and Transportation Course. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board #2046 pp 85-93 [doi]

The intersection of land use and transportation policy is becoming an increasingly important focus for all urban planners. This focus, however, challenges the academic community to design effective courses that teach the concepts and professional skills required for professional experience. Integrated land use and transportation courses should engage students to develop interdisciplinary skills while becoming familiar with, for example, travel behavior and zoning policies. Laboratory
courses (or segments of courses) as part of graduate curricula provide platforms to further emphasize skills. A common pedagogy problem is devising laboratory assignments that are integrative, cumulative, practical, and interesting for students. Furthermore, laboratory projects should introduce students to real-world problems and techniques while exploring broad planning themes. This paper presents uses four years of laboratory segments from a land use-transportation course (LUTC) at the University of Minnesota to evaluate the needs and results of practitioner-oriented
land use and transportation planning education. The laboratory used group projects where students proposed integrated developments using air rights above existing (and sunken) urban freeways in the Twin Cities. The projects provided a practitioner-oriented project through a collaborative and reflexive learning process. This article describes the completed projects, as well as the technical skills, integrated approach and visionary planning necessary for successful execution. The students addressed complicated problems associated with large-scale development by researching neighborhood demographics, characteristics, and pertinent regulations. They used their research to analyze traffic impacts, propose zoning regulations, and outline costs and benefits from their proposal using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), statistical analyses, assessor data and traffic engineering manuals. Using the completed student projects and comparisons with other land use-transportation course and laboratory projects the authors demonstrate how these laboratory components serve multiple pedagogy goals.
Keywords: Air Rights, Transportation-Land Use Planning, Education