David King on Bridge Collapse Causes Train Wreck:
“A train derailed in New Jersey after the bridge it was crossing collapsed. Here is a CNN story. At this point no one knows if the bridge collapse was the cause of the derailment (or was there something with the train that caused the collapse), but will this event serve as a reminder than we tolerate catastrophic failures of our infrastructure far more commonly than most people think? I am not confident that knowledge of potential failure will spur action, nor am I very confident that actual failure will change priorities to fix our infrastructure first. It seems most likely that we will continue to tolerate occasional failure even though everybody knows this is the wrong way to go about things. Collective action problems are hard.“
Volk et al (2012) Traffic-Related Air Pollution, Particulate Matter, and AutismAir Pollution, Particulate Matter, and Autism:
“Context Autism is a heterogeneous disorder with genetic and environmental factors likely contributing to its origins. Examination of hazardous pollutants has suggested the importance of air toxics in the etiology of autism, yet little research has examined its association with local levels of air pollution using residence-specific exposure assignments.
Objective To examine the relationship between traffic-related air pollution, air quality, and autism.
Design This population-based case-control study includes data obtained from children with autism and control children with typical development who were enrolled in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment study in California. The mother’s address from the birth certificate and addresses reported from a residential history questionnaire were used to estimate exposure for each trimester of pregnancy and first year of life. Traffic-related air pollution was assigned to each location using a line-source air-quality dispersion model. Regional air pollutant measures were based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality System data. Logistic regression models compared estimated and measured pollutant levels for children with autism and for control children with typical development.
Setting Case-control study from California.
Participants A total of 279 children with autism and a total of 245 control children with typical development.
Main Outcome Measures Crude and multivariable adjusted odds ratios (AORs) for autism.
Results Children with autism were more likely to live at residences that had the highest quartile of exposure to traffic-related air pollution, during gestation (AOR, 1.98 [95% CI, 1.20-3.31]) and during the first year of life (AOR, 3.10 [95% CI, 1.76-5.57]), compared with control children. Regional exposure measures of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter less than 2.5 and 10 μm in diameter (PM2.5 and PM10) were also associated with autism during gestation (exposure to nitrogen dioxide: AOR, 1.81 [95% CI, 1.37-3.09]; exposure to PM2.5: AOR, 2.08 [95% CI, 1.93-2.25]; exposure to PM10: AOR, 2.17 [95% CI, 1.49-3.16) and during the first year of life (exposure to nitrogen dioxide: AOR, 2.06 [95% CI, 1.37-3.09]; exposure to PM2.5: AOR, 2.12 [95% CI, 1.45-3.10]; exposure to PM10: AOR, 2.14 [95% CI, 1.46-3.12]). All regional pollutant estimates were scaled to twice the standard deviation of the distribution for all pregnancy estimates.
Conclusions Exposure to traffic-related air pollution, nitrogen dioxide, PM2.5, and PM10 during pregnancy and during the first year of life was associated with autism. Further epidemiological and toxicological examinations of likely biological pathways will help determine whether these associations are causal.”
In general pollution has been going down in the US, and autism diagnosis has been going up. Some of that may be diagnosis issues (though the previously linked article suggests not). However, there is an interesting point, in the Volk article: “In addition, ultrafine particles (PM0.1) may penetrate cellular membranes.” As we filter larger and larger pollutants from the tailpipe, we may be making more small pollutants (One way to reduce measurable pollution particles is to make them smaller, so they are no longer measured). For instance the as wikipedia says about the Diesel Particulate Filter “maintenance free DPF break larger particles into smaller ones.”
WAMU reports @ Transportation Nation: Prediction: D.C. Area Highway and Transit Crowding Will Get Worse : ”
The Washington metropolitan region faces worsening traffic congestion and transit crowding as its population and job growth expand over the next three decades, according to a forecast released on Wednesday by a regional planning group.”
Another scare forecast from another Metropolitan Planning Organization. In general when reading these studies:
1. Will behavior not change in response to anything?
2. Will technology not change?
3. Will policy not change?
(On the positive side, they do use a 45-minute cumulative opportunity accessibility measure for transit).
Mike Spack vs. ITE: Why does the Institute of Transportation Engineers exist? 10 Ideas for Big Changes. See his post for the list.
I am disappointed Mike took down his spreadsheet, though I understand why. If he were at a University, they wouldn’t dare. Frankly, the ITE trip generation data is mostly like a telephone book and can’t be copyrighted, though its specific presentation (and maybe the regressions, though those seem pretty damn uncreative to me) can be. An analysis of that data is certainly fair game. An alternative though would be to set up a Trip Generation Wiki or Google Docs which is open, letting people upload their own data and updating the regressions automatically (since it is a pretty trivial spreadsheet operation).
I am thinking of unjoining ITE, my last professional organization (I quit APA a long time ago due to their profit-maximizing behavior since I gained nothing from the organization and they wanted a non-trivial share of my salary) over their heavy-handed, anti-public, guild-like behavior. If Mike were President, I would reconsider. The backwardness of ITE is one of many reasons Traffic Engineers are becoming increasingly unpopular.
Via MD: Dumb Ways to Die . The most popular rail safety video, ever.
Bill Garrison and I are completing the second edition of The Transportation Experience (first edition here), and are looking for people who are willing to read part or all of the manuscript (~750 pages + notes and references) and give us comments in the next few weeks. If you are interested and willing to review a pre-print, email me and I can send you something.
The Transportationist made Kottke’s blog: What sort of town is Richard Scarry’s Busytown?:
” From a planning and transportation professional, a deconstruction of Busytown, the fictional town that features in many of Richard Scarry’s children’s books, including What Do People Do All Day?, Busy, Busy Town, and my personal favorite, Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.
“Scarry moved to Switzerland in 1968, and if nothing else, Swiss architecture permeates the old town center of What Do People Do All Day. The Town Hall of Busytown on the cover is nothing if not Tudor. There is a small gate through which a small car is driving. Something to note about the vehicles in Busytown is that they are all just the right size for the number of passengers they carry. The Bus on the cover is full, with a hanger-on. The taxi holds one driver in the front and one passenger in the rear. The police officer (Seargant Murphy) is riding a motorcycle. When he has a passenger, the motorcycle always has a sidecar. Similarly, each window in town has someone in it, sometimes more than one person. Of course, this is a busy town, so the activity makes sense. The cover of this includes the grocery store, butcher, and baker (no supermarkets in 1968 Busytown), one block in front of Town Hall. One thing to note about the Butcher is that he is a pig, and clearly butchering sausages.
New Yorker on Self-driving vehicles and ethics: Google’s Driver-less Car and Morality:
“‘Ethical subroutines’ may sound like science fiction, but once upon a time, so did self-driving cars.”
In the end, “preservation of the driver” is where we will land, as there will never be consensus on ethics (this has been going round and round for thousands of years), but there is a consensus on the ethic of self-preservation. Hopefully this will be a rare occurrence.
Determining the strategy for self-preservation will inevitably be easier than determining the strategy for what others are doing, as the others (a crowd of people, other cars) is much less predictable. If everyone assume the other will do self-preservation, that is more stable than me trying to predict what you will do to avoid hitting me while you try to predict what I will do, ad infinitum. In short, if I assume self-preservation on your part and you assume it on my part, we are likely better off than if we assume possible altruism on each other’s part. This might not always be the case though.
Imagine a scenario two cars driving fast around a narrow curve on the side of a mountain which don’t detect each other until two late. The best standard routine is for both cars to swerve to their right (or their left, but everyone must agree). If one swerves right and the other left, they collide and kill everyone involved. If I anticipate you will try to be self-preserving, and I am self-preserving, we can call the same (standard) sub-routine. But if on the left is a cliff (down) and the right is a relatively flat piece of land, we might see both altruistic cars going off the cliff, or both selfish cars swerving to the flatland, both scenarios killing everyone. But if both have a standard routine, we can save at least one of the cars. The scenarios are endless.
Marginal Revolution discusses as well.