Northstar Shutdown Due to Derailment

Bus Driver Dude says: Northstar Shutdown Due to Derailment (Heavy rains last night (really heavy) led to a BNSF derailment).

(Via Mulad.)

County wheelage tax might pay for a new bridge in Minneapolis | StarTribune.com

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).

Google Killed Map Traffic Estimates Because It Just Didn’t Work

From Gizmodo: Google Killed Map Traffic Estimates Because It Just Didn’t Work

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.
See:

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.