Common Ground USA


Henry George
Henry George

Common Ground USA sends along the following announcement, which might of interest to value capture fans.

Help start a Twin Cities chapter of Common Ground USA, a nation-wide 501c3 group advocating “value capture” in public finance. To start a local chapter, 5 MN residents would need to pay the $36 annual Common Ground USA dues, but the chapter then is entitled to a $12/per member rebate. Chapters also get funding for start-up costs and $50 each year for holding an annual meeting. If you are interested in learning more, contact Rich Nymoen at RNymoen [at]

[I did not even know there was an advocacy group for value capture, which sounds great.]

Colored Buses

London Green Bus (Country Bus)
London Green Bus (Country Bus)

Wikipedia has a brief article on the history of Green Line Coaches
Rather than coloring each bus route (or BRT service) as Metro Transit is proposing, London and other cities color code buses based on the type of service. Green Line was service to the country (which was greener than the city, which retains its Red Buses).
We can imagine a system which the different services (express, local) received special branding rather than the Right-of-Way. As CityFix reports on Korea quoting John Calimente:

The bus re-brand certainly helped. Calimente explains what each of the colors mean:

  • Blue buses travel long distances on major arterial roads.
  • Green buses operate as feeder buses to the eight lines on the subway system.
  • Red buses are express routes with limited stops connecting major suburban towns to the central city.
  • Yellow buses are circular routes that travel between the major destinations in the central city.

The colors in Korea denote function, and are actually the color of the buses. This isn’t about way finding, for which colors are not terribly natural solutions, and lend themselves to problems if any complexity emerges.
London and New York, among others, don’t waste their time on color-coding lines. (i.e. it is the District Line, not the Green Line, because of history, even if it is confusing due to various splits.
We are throwing away 7 years of history (and natural way-finding) by renaming Hiawatha. Wouldn’t it be easier to rename Bottineau Blvd to Hiawatha Ave N and keep the LRT name? [I think the Bottineau name is fairly new in most parts, and most people seem to call it County 81.] Maybe we should call it Bottinwatha. (Okay, this is facetious, but the point remains).
We introduce more confusion if buses transfer from one BRT to another (as Brandon suggests the Red Line buses going on 62 to I-35W), or LRT vehicles don’t follow the color-coded right-of-way. DC is going through contortions now, with various train services not matching the color coded tracks. The service is the color, or the track? When they were identical, not an issue, now it is.

The Helicopter Anthropomorphic

Harold the Helicopter
Harold the Helicopter
Hector the Helicopter
Hector the Helicopter

Continuing our series about anthropomorphic vehicles, we must begin at the beginning, Sodor.
Harold the Helicopter is a character in the Railway Series books by the Rev. W. Awdry and Christopher Awdry and the television series Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.” “Harold is based on a Sikorsky S-55 helicopter.”
He is a bit snooty in the TV series (at least that is how George Carlin plays him), but turns out to be a fine chap and a good complement to the railways (i.e. he is more mobile, but of course cannot carry large loads economically).
My wife informed me about Budgie the Little Helicopter “On release of the first book, [Sarah] Ferguson [the Duchess of York] was forced to deny she’d copied the idea for the series from the earlier Hector the Helicopter book by A.W. Baldwin”. Her being a royal, and me being an anti-Monarchist, I want to believe she is guilty, but I really have no evidence, and how many anthropomorphic helicopter stories can there be (helicopter meets airplane – helicopter loses airplane (to that crime-fighting rapscallion Zeppelin the Blimp) – helicopter regains airplane, helicopter vs. nature, helicopter vs. himself, etc.)? This Hector the Helicopter is not to be confused with the Hector at, which is based at the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center. Budgie seems to be based on a Bell 206.

Budgie the Little Helicopter
Budgie the Little Helicopter

I have both Budgie and Hector on order at Amazon, and will report back on the plagiarism charge. I have not seen the TV series based on Budgie, which sadly is available only in VHS but not a modern format (nor apparently on BT – maybe I should have searched for helicopterz). Some YouTube clips are available, I share the intro below. (There are anthropomorphic airplanes on Budgie, so those can be added to the previous entry).

Linklist: September 12, 2011

Via Marginal Revolution: Monopoly Property Value Calculator Centives. Calculate the value of properties in the game of Monopoly. Cool for those of us in the Value Capture arena.

Steven Hauser: Transit Usability Articles An interesting set of links on usability on Metro Transit by someone who works at the U.

From Felix Salmon via Bruce Schneier (Schneier on Security): Moving 211 Tons of Gold: ”
The security problems associated with moving $12B in gold from London to Venezuela.

“It seems to me that Chávez has four main choices here. He can go the FT’s route, and just fly the gold to Caracas while insuring each shipment for its market value. He can go the Spanish route, and try to transport the gold himself, perhaps making use of the Venezuelan navy. He could attempt the mother of all repo transactions. Or he could get clever.
Which leaves one final alternative. Gold is fungible, and people are actually willing to pay a premium to buy gold which is sitting in the Bank of England’s ultra-secure vaults. So why bother transporting that gold at all? Venezuela could enter into an intercontinental repo transaction, where it sells its gold in the Bank of England to some counterparty, and then promises to buy it all back at a modest discount, on condition that it’s physically delivered to the Venezuelan central bank in Caracas. It would then be up to the counterparty to work out how to get 211 tons of gold to Caracas by a certain date. That gold could be sourced anywhere in the world, and transported in any conceivable manner — being much less predictable and transparent, those shipments would also be much harder to hijack.
But here’s one last idea: why doesn’t Chávez crowdsource the problem? He could simply open a gold window at the Banco Central de Venezuela, where anybody at all could deliver standard gold bars. In return, the central bank would transfer to that person an equal number of gold bars in the custody of the Bank of England, plus a modest bounty of say 2% — that’s over $15,000 per 400-ounce bar, at current rates.
It would take a little while, but eventually the gold would start trickling in: if you’re willing to pay a constant premium of 2% over the market price for a good, you can be sure that the good in question will ultimately find its way to your door.
Any other ideas?”

Environmental and Urban Economics: Travel by Bikes in Cities:

“Those who live closer to the city center and live in “environmentalist communities” are most likely to commute by bike. There is a network externality here. If more people in the community want to commute by bike, the local Mayor has a greater incentive to supply infrastructure to support this choice. As the Mayor invests public funds in improving biking as a commuting mode, more “bike types” will move to this city and more incumbent commuters will choose to commute by bike.
So, this is really a commons issue of reallocating land away from other uses towards being “bike friendly”. In China right now, the opposite trend is taking place. Public space that was used by bikes is now being grabbed by cars. Now , can’t “we all get along”? This is an open question given that cars and bikes move at different speeds and that the laws of physics are well understood.”

Marginal Revolution: Cities as hotels : “Earlier this year I posted about India’s private city, Gurgaon. Gurgaon has grown from nothing to a city of 1.5 million people in just 30 years and it has done so based almost entirely on the private provision of public goods, including transportation, utilities, and security.”