Transportist: May 2020

Welcome to the latest issue of The Transportist, especially to our new readers. As always you can follow along at the  transportist.org or on Twitter Covid-19 retains its top spot in the armageddon-of-the-month rankings for three months running, after surpassing fires, and overtaking Middle East war.

Open Access Access Redux

  • We are pleased to announce that you can now download a PDF version of A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions from the University of Sydney eScholarship Repository. (Free)

    A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions

    A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions by David M. Levinson and David A. KingWhy should you read another book about transport and land use? This book differs in that we won’t focus on empirical arguments – we present political arguments. We argue the political aspects of transport policy shouldn’t be assumed away or treated as a nuisance. Political choices are the core reasons our cities look and function the way they do. There is no original sin that we can undo that will lead to utopian visions of urban life. The book begins by introducing and expanding on the idea of Accessibility. Then we proceed through several major parts: Infrastructure Preservation, Network Expansion, Cities, and Institutions. Infrastructure preservation concerns the relatively short-run issues of how to maintain and operate the existing surface transport system (roads and transit). Network expansion in contrast is a long-run problem, how to enlarge the network, or rather, why enlarging the network is now so difficult. Cities examines how we organize, regulate, and expand our cities to address the failures of transport policy, and falls into the time-frame of the very long-run, as property rights and land uses are often stickier than the concrete of the network is durable. In the part on Institutions we consider things that might at first blush appear to be short-run and malleable, are in fact very long-run. Institutions seem to outlast the infrastructure they manage. Many of the transport and land use problems we want to solve already have technical solutions. What these problems don’t have, and what we hope to contribute, are political solutions. We expect the audience for this book to be practitioners, planners, engineers, advocates, urbanists, students of transport, and fellow academics.

    URI

    https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/handle/2123/21629

    [That’s right, we made A Political Economy of Access a free download. Get your copy now. Read it. Make your students and friends and colleagues read it. No excuses. You have the time.]

Conferences

  • Bridging Transport Research – will be (and always has been) run entirely online. While original aimed at researchers from countries who could not travel for economic or political reasons to the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, that is now a much broader category of people, and will be held in August 2020. Papers are due May 15.

In happier matters, I am thinking about a Reviewers Guild to help break academics from their subservience to the for-profit journal publishing hegemony. An editable Google Doc is available to read at the link. Let me know if you are interested in participating.

Transportist Blog

Transport Findings

WalkSydney

News & Opinion

Interesting Research (by others)

Books

A Political Economy of Access – Open Access

We are pleased to announce that you can now download a PDF version of A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, and Institutions from the University of Sydney eScholarship Repository. (Free)

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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

book (PDF, 79.23MB)
Date
2019-03

Author

  • Levinson, David M.
  • King, David A.

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Why should you read another book about transport and land use? This book differs in that we won’t focus on empirical arguments – we present political arguments. We argue the political aspects of transport policy shouldn’t be assumed away or treated as a nuisance. Political choices are the core reasons our cities look and function the way they do. There is no original sin that we can undo that will lead to utopian visions of urban life. The book begins by introducing and expanding on the idea of Accessibility. Then we proceed through several major parts: Infrastructure Preservation, Network Expansion, Cities, and Institutions. Infrastructure preservation concerns the relatively short-run issues of how to maintain and operate the existing surface transport system (roads and transit). Network expansion in contrast is a long-run problem, how to enlarge the network, or rather, why enlarging the network is now so difficult. Cities examines how we organize, regulate, and expand our cities to address the failures of transport policy, and falls into the time-frame of the very long-run, as property rights and land uses are often stickier than the concrete of the network is durable. In the part on Institutions we consider things that might at first blush appear to be short-run and malleable, are in fact very long-run. Institutions seem to outlast the infrastructure they manage. Many of the transport and land use problems we want to solve already have technical solutions. What these problems don’t have, and what we hope to contribute, are political solutions. We expect the audience for this book to be practitioners, planners, engineers, advocates, urbanists, students of transport, and fellow academics.

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A city of homebodies? How coronavirus will change Sydney

Andrew Taylor at the Fairfax newspapers wrote a piece: A city of homebodies? How coronavirus will change Sydney. I had some quotes:

Professor of transport engineering at the University of Sydney David Levinson said public transport services may be cut because more people work at home or are reluctant to board buses and trains. “Constructing protected lanes for bikes, e-bikes, scooters is likely to be accelerated to help serve the markets that were previously served by public transport,” he said.

and

Levinson said consumers were also becoming more accustomed to delivery: “This returns in many ways to how life was 100 years ago, when delivery and door-to-door sales were much more common.”

His questions in bold. My fuller comments below:

– I read that Sydney and Melbourne will be particularly hard hit by the shutdown of tourism, education, entertainment and hospitality. Do you agree these industries will be the hardest hit and how will that affect Sydney?

These sectors will obviously be hard hit, I don’t know about “hardest” without doing an analysis of the full economy.

Universities will lose many international students (who pay much more in tuition and fees than domestic students and thus help cross-subsidise the education of Australians) for a year, and perhaps longer if the reputational damage or air travel barriers sustain. No one is going to pay full tuition for an online experience, and we will see a race-to-the-bottom if we think we can sell our education product as online only, diminishing the great selling point which is the location within Australia.

China already sees this as an opportunity to retain more students domestically, and other countries are competing with Australia for these students.

– How will social distancing influence urban and building design? How we shop, go out, work?

Advocates are already pushing for wider footpaths, particularly in dense urban areas, especially near bus stops where people congregate. Similarly, because of the likely reticence to use public transport and increased work at home that will emerge in the aftermath, there may be some cutbacks to public transport service. Constructing protected lanes for bikes, e-bikes, scooters, etc. is likely to be (and should be) accelerated to help serve the markets that were previously served by public transport.

– Will the pandemic accelerate moves towards online retail and the death of brick and mortar shopping?

Yes. Some stores won’t survive the crisis and won’t be replaced. Consumer shopping patterns will become even more accustomed to delivery. This returns in many ways to how life was 100 years ago, when delivery and door-to-door sales were much more common.

– Property prices are the no 1 topic in Sydney. Will they fall sufficiently to make the city more affordable? Will apartment construction slow down?

To the extent that Australia constrains immigration through additional border protection, one of the major forces driving up the prices of new construction, the international market using property ownership in Australia as a way of securing capital away from their home governments and earning points towards immigration, will be tempered. This will happen with recession in any case, but travel controls will further reduce demand pressures.

– Will the city’s population growth slow?  Will the push towards more medium and high density continue? [Dense cities such as New York seem to have been affected more by coronavirus]

As above, at least a years worth of international growth will be forgone.

– Do you think ridership on public transport will drop and be replaced by cars, bicycles or less movement around the city?

Yes, yes, yes.

 

A broken Reddy-Go
A broken Reddy-Go

 

– How will increased surveillance affect city life?

– Will it lead to increased discrimination? And calls for less migration?

The tools of surveillance are historically the tools of oppression, and it can now be automated to a degree never before possible with cameras, face identification, and everyone carrying smartphones radiating bluetooth signals. Opening up the surveillance to the general public, not just selected state-appointed guardians, the idea David Brin refers to as Sousveillance or reciprocal accountability in his book The Transparent Society is one way of addressing the problem:  Who will guard the guards themselves?

– An increased focus on hygiene will surely occur. How will this manifest itself? Past pandemics saw slum areas cleared in inner-city Sydney for example.

I hope that people will now smell cleaner air and see bluer skies as evidence that current industrial and automobile-oriented social patterns have real consequences for public health, and what life could be like if actually cared about those things. People will probably wash their hands more too.

– Despite the high death toll, the Spanish flu did not appear to have a lasting effect on people’s lives. Why do you think the coronavirus will have a greater impact?

I don’t know that it will, and I wouldn’t assume the premise. The 1957-1958 pandemic (“Asian flu”)  was quickly forgotten in popular culture despite lots of deaths globally and a sharp recession. But those million deaths (more than covid-19 probably, and a much greater share of the population) greatly affected the lives of the friends and families.

– Will manufacturing make a comeback and what affect will this have?

I think most countries will try to build and maintain larger stockpiles of general purpose medicines, PPEs, etc. There might be selected demonstrations of doing domestic manufacture which is good for photo ops and newspaper articles, but it would have to be really significant to show up in the statistics. However to the extent that the world has become extremely dependent on China-based supply chains, I think there will be efforts to spatially diversify manufacturing, particularly to other low-income countries, or anywhere when it is robotics based.

The more general trend I think is the movement away from just-in-time economy and towards a more inventory-based system to improve reliability (at the expense of short-run efficiency). I think a lot of the shortages we have seen in markets to date has been the first thrust of that. If you lack confidence the stores will be open in a week or two, because of confusing messages from public officials, you will logically stockpile.

– The federal minister for regional health told me he thought regional areas might weather the pandemic better because they have less density and industries such as agriculture and mining are not as greatly affected. What do you think?

One really significant outbreaks in the US has been in South Dakota (pretty rural as US states go)  at a meat-packing plant. Most people in “rural” areas are not lone farmers milking cows and riding tractors.

#SpaceForHealth

I signed this, you should too:

Australian health and transport experts have today called on decision makers to enact urgent measures to support safe walking and cycling and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Letter here.

The Australian Government has recognised the importance of remaining physically active during the COVID-19 pandemic, and has listed exercise as one of four essential activities. As a result, many Australians have been getting active across the country by walking and cycling, but many areas lack sufficient space required to maintain critical physical separation.

Professor Rebecca Ivers, Head of School, Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales has a special interest in health and transport and says,

“Not only do we need Australians to stay active and healthy, we need to consider how they can continue to do this safely during an extended period of physical isolation,

“Keeping active now and as we begin to get back on our feet is hugely important for our mental and physical well-being,

“The continued crowding in popular walking spots could be addressed with simple, temporary changes where we all live,” Prof Ivers said.

Dr Ben Beck, from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University, has led the call from health and transport experts and is concerned for safety as our paths and cycleways are inadequate to handle the physical activity requirement during this crisis.

“In order to provide safe physical activity and social distancing for adults and children to exercise and move about their neighbourhoods, we need decision makers to enable rapid roll-out of social distancing infrastructure to support walking and cycling.

“We have seen numerous examples across the world of governments introducing reduced speed limits, widened footpaths, emergency cycle lanes and the closure of roads. As yet, we have not seen a similar response in Australia, and we need to act now,” Dr Beck said.

Experts also noted that safe cycling and walking will be imperative in reactivating our economy when social distancing measures are relaxed, enabling people to travel to work and school using transport modes that are both safe and healthy.

Join the conversation on social media under the hashtag #SpaceForHealth.

Media Release:

I’m going to Sydneyland

One day, the world will reopen, and people will again travel and want to see the sights. Some of them will come to Sydney.

SydneyHarbourBridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge

According to Australian Tourism  Statistics, during 2018 in Australia there were 8.5 million international visitors spending $43.9 billion over an average of 32 days. It generates 2.6% of GDP and 4.5% of employment Much if not most of that takes place in Sydney. This is one of Australia’s largest export industries, and despite the dollar signs in the eyes of the local capitalists, I don’t think it is maximised.

Disneyland

 

Scrooge McDuck represents the miserly side of capitalism.
Disney’s Scrooge McDuck represents the miserly side of capitalism.

Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom in Anaheim, California , one of many parks owned by The Walt Disney Company, saw 18.67 million visitors in 2018, similar to, but less than, a successful shopping mall (Mall of America gets 40 million visitors a year). Most, if not all, of those Disneyland visitors were single day (I am not clear how the accounting is done, but if I were them, like a transit agency I would be reporting turnstile entries rather than distinct people), and many were domestic, but nevertheless, Australia is a bigger tourist attraction than Disneyland.  Disneyland, like Germany, is divided into several lands:

  • Main Street USA
  • Adventureland
  • Fantasyland
  • Frontierland
  • New Orleans Square
  • Star Wars Galaxy Edge
  • Tomorrowland
  • Toon Town

Disneyland also sports an adjacent California Adventure Park with its own lands. Its sibling, Disneyworld, Florida features Hollywood Studio, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom parks in addition to the Magic Kingdom.

Sydneyland

IMG_0641
Sydneyland’s Opera House functions like Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

Sydneyland is similarly divided into lands

  • Circular Quay and Opera-land
  • Shopping land: George Street and Pitt Street
  • The Domain / Botanical Gardens
  • Darling Harbour (Casinoland and Convention-zone)

In addition, there are some other nearby Parks that are elements of the greater Sydney amusement properties

The Opera House serves the function of the Princess’s Castle, though it is not quite visible from all the lands. Both have fireworks and entertainment for visitors.

Sydneyland vs. Disneyland

Sydneyland and Disneyland differ foremost in  urban embeddedness. Disneyland is situated as an isolated park in Anaheim within the Greater Los Angeles region. Sydneyland is enmeshed in the Sydney urban fabric, it’s part of a real, if a bit fantastical, city. The ownership and management of Disneyland is centralised. Although the transport links are fully public controlled, with private contractors, Sydneyland’s attractions are largely decentralised. That creates value, opening its creation beyond the cathedral of Disney Imagineering to a broader marketplace where individual entrepreneurs can create a more changing experience. But while the gain is creativity, there is a loss in synergy, of a central oversight that tries to capture positive externalities. Similarly there is no system-wide pass, cash is required for every attraction.

People work in Sydneyland for purposes other than immediate guests services. While tourism is a dominant feature of the economy, there are other aspects which have non-touristic functions interspersed among the various lands.

Disney has played with urban planning.  EPCOT was initially conceived as a real city, that is not how it was realised. Disney did ultimately construct the town of Celebration, Florida on its properties, but with a population of 7,500, it hardly compares with Sydney’s 5 million people, or even the City of Sydney’s 250,000. So Sydneyland restaurants and museums can serve locals as well as tourists. This provides some robustness.

Visitor Transport in Sydneyland

Visitors typically arrive in Sydney by boat or by air, both of which have good connections to the local network. Beyond walking, the primary tourist transport system in Sydneyland is the ferry and train services, along with special buses, though the ferry and train network fails to connect all the key destinations without the concomitant bus service, and transfers are required.

Gaps in the Sydneyland Experience

What’s missing from Sydneyland? The Sydneyland tourist experience would be much improved if many things that were once here were not removed. Sydney is too quick to abandon places and networks, abandonments which it may come to regret, which results from their decentralised decision-making and failure to maintain.

Restoration

Transport

The Sydney Monorail, c. 2000.
The Sydney Monorail, c. 2000.

  • Trams  provided connections between many of the scattered destinations in Inner Sydney. The system was designed for local residents, but one imagines today it would have evolved like Melbourne to have a large tourist market.  Sydney’s trams were removed in favour of buses by 1961, Melbourne didn’t make the same decision. New light rail lines have a different function, and are also much more expensive to construct.
  • The Sydneyland monorail was disabled last decade, rather than being expanded to fully cover Sydneyland. The network was too small to be effective and too expensive to be for anything other than a one-time ride. But the concept of an urban circulator geared toward visitors is not of itself unreasonable. Rather, the execution needs more thought.

Attractions

  • History: Historical buildings. Sydney then and now (book) and Facebook group show many sites where buildings were lost and replaced with something inferior. While restoring many of those older architectural structures that have been replaced is a big ask, preserving what remains should be a higher priority.
  • Living History: A full-fledged history park, perhaps like Old Sydneytown, but better located, to help assuage the parents that the trip to Sydneyland is educational, and not simply entertainment. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia is a model. (There is Australiana Pioneer Village, which I have not yet visited so cannot assess)
  • Food: A good food market, like the Haymarket’s Paddy’s Market might have been. This could be revised on the lines of Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market.
  • Rides: Sydney once had Wonderland Sydney in the western region, as well as O’Neill’s Adventureland. There are proposals for new amusement parks, but nothing concrete.
  • Entertainment Film: A studio tour, transforming Fox Studios, now accessible by light rail, and the adjacent area into more than just a sterile Entertainment Quarter site for those attending stadium events. Imagine a Mad Max: Fury Road themed ride, or entering the Matrix (filmed in Sydney). (a Studio Tour for Fox’s Back Lot is not a new idea either, Fox had a theme park from 1999-2001). [Of course there is a Warner Bros Movie World in the Gold Coast, but that’s pretty far from Sydney]
  • Entertainment Games: SegaWorld – themed on everyone’s favourite Hedgehog, Sonic, located in Darling Harbour
  • Animals: A world-class aquarium [Seaworld in Gold Coast doesn’t count, nor does SeaLife]
  • Animals: A ‘safari tour’, though hopefully with a more Marsupial theme, as people probably don’t come to Australia for an African Lion Safari.  (The Safari started as a home for Bullen’s circus animals apparently).
  • Exhibits: A  Garden Palace, which Sydney once had for the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition, before it was burned down, coincidentally? destroying public records along the way.
  • Nightlife: Shows and drinks and things that take place after dark. People always seem to be saying it used to be better in their youth.

Expanding Sydneyland

But in addition to wishing that what was taken away was instead preserved or will now be restored, we might also think about what never was but should be. Copying other cities is a cheap way to get some attractions, but the real question is what can be done that would make Sydneyland more unique, not just another homogenised tourburb in the world vacation system.

Transport

Unlike me, most people don’t come to a city for its transport in general, a few distinct icons, like San Francisco’s Cable Cars exempted. But they stay and return if the transport system is interesting and convenient. From the tourist perspective, the most glaring gap is easy service by Train to Bondi Beach. A local circulator bringing White Bay, Darling Harbour, and Circular Quay is also an obvious gap, and some have proposed a gondola, which we would all ride once, but this seems less efficient then rebooting the Monorail, and perhaps the Metro West line stations at the Bays Precinct, Pyrmont and Barangaroo will fit the bill. The mode that will make people happiest is undoubtedly ferry though. Most cities don’t have good ferry systems, and people like being on the water. The ride itself is an attraction.  It is well within Sydney’s grasp to have a more efficient ferry system that turns boats around quicker and serves more destinations at a higher frequency.

A decent shared bike/e-bike and scooter system coupled with a comprehensive network of separated and protected bike paths will also enable many tourists to get between attractions independently and happily. The city and region need to be more ambitious on this front.

Attractions

While Disneyland is short of land, Disneyworld has planned for the future, and has plenty of expansion opportunities. Sydneyland too is readily expanded. The most obvious target area is around Glebe Island and White Bay, which can easily be plugged into the Ferry and Metro networks. DisneySea in Tokyo can be a model for this. In fact the DisneyWharf at Sydney Harbour proposal, more like Florida’s Celebration, considered this site and would have been open to the public without a gate, though individual elements would of course been charged for. White Bay has a Cruise Terminal now, but not much is walkable from the site, and it is not as desirable as the Cruise Terminal at Circular Quay (which is great for the tourists, but less attractive for everyone else). The government has tried to pitch this site for corporate headquarters, but no one has bitten yet.

Woolloomooloo Bay, with the naval base protecting us from a Japanese invasion looks like another site for potential addition to the Sydneyland core economy. What the appropriate feature for this site remains to be seen, but undoubtedly there is always room for more casinos.

The various islands in the Harbour could also feature nice attractions. It has been proposed (and rejected) to turn Cockatoo Island into an art precinct.

Sydney also should have a first-rate transport museum. The Tramway museum is a bit remote and under-developed, but has a nice collection of rolling stock. The Sydney Bus Museum is excellent, and is adjacent to a bus depot in Leichhardt, but still a bit obscure. The State Train Museum is in Thirlmere and requires a bus transfer to reach by public transport. The Powerhouse, named because it was a Powerhouse, an energy generating building for Sydney trains, combines transport (including rail, aviation, and space, among others) and fashion (under the guise of technology), and a few other bits and bobs, but is being dismantled and reassembled for Parramatta, apparently, as part of a redevelopment opportunity. The Nautical Museum in Darling Harbour is really nice as well, and perhaps most oriented toward tourists. This should be systematically rethought.

The ethnic suburbs of Sydney are great, and not really well marketed to those from outside. While as customers we don’t want our favourite local places overwhelmed with tourist buses, I am sure the vendors would like more business. And if you are spending on average a month in Australia, more time in these suburbs seems appropriate. A food tour of Sydney should definitely take you out of the CBD.

John Cornell and Paul Hogan, mates
John Cornell and Paul Hogan, mates

The Statue of Liberty, facing New York City, was a gift of the French. Their two other core values: Égalité and Fraternité, should similarly be located at the entrepôt of other world cities. While Australia, like many places struggles with equality, the value of mateship, or fraternité, is central. A giant statue of Fraternité in Sydney Harbour would help cement Sydney’s position among the great cities. I imagine it would be a statue of John Cornell and Paul Hogan, but perhaps there are better sets of mates, like Burke and Wills (though that ended badly) or Bennelong and Phillip.


Notes

  • Disneyland, California is used as the example here, obviously different parks have some differences in their land, embeddedness, and so on.

I watched all six Terminator movies so you don’t have to.

Come With Me If You Want To Live.

Terminator1984movieposter
The Terminator

I watched all six Terminator movies so you don’t have to. [some spoilers]

These movies have two important ideas: Time Travel and AI Foom – the AI (Artificial Intelligence) very quickly improving their own capabilities and becoming extremely powerful, once it surpasses some critical point. (See the AI-Foom Debate  by Robin Hanson and Eliezer Yudkowsky)

Time travel is just silly of course, and generally is an unfortunately bolt-on (see what happened to Star Trek, e.g.). Much worse than the idea of hyperdrives. However it is necessary for Terminator (1).  Nevertheless, it leads to the other movies becoming a hot mess of ret-con.

AI-Foom is a more important idea, since it could happen that a sentient AI `takes off’ quickly and decides humans are a threat. (Skynet/Genisys/Legion are all versions of this in the Terminator series). Though far from #1 on my list of global problems, it’s on the list.

It didn’t happen in 1997, or 2003, or 2017 in our timeline, but that’s due to the efforts of Sarah Connor and others to delay its emergence, at great personal sacrifice, including the death of Sarah, John, Kyle, depending on the timeline.

The question is, in a world without time travel that upends everything, how do we prevent this version of AI-Foom, the emergence of sentient evil Artificial General Intelligence, from being connected into military systems and launching rockets, given the governments we have, and their general technological ignorance?

The movies also had the opportunity to ask why Skynet saw humans as a threat, and whether humans really were worth saving, but these deeper questions are not asked. Spielberg or Lucas or Rian Johnson could have done so much better with this material.

Unfortunately, the movies don’t investigate that, and instead rely on knowledge about the future, time travel, and lots of explosions to stop this. This is entertaining, but like the last 3 Star Wars movies (Ep. VII, VIII, IX), lost the deeper philosophical thread of the franchise.

Terminators 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 are all basically the same, a Terminator is sent back in time to change the time-line and prevent Skynet (etc.) from being stopped by a plucky band of humans, usually led by John Connor (or in Dark Fate, the female protagonist, Dani Ramos)

Terminator Salvation (4) is set in the post-apocalypse (after Skynet won at the end of Rise of the Machines). Props to the creators for trying to change the formula, but mis-executed.

But it was confusing because the two main young white guys looked too similar.  Christian Bale is John Connor, Sam Worthington is cyborg Marcus Wright. As Tina Turner said, “We don’t need another hero”.  This is why females all have different hair styles or colors in movies, (as did Han Solo and Luke Skywalker) … so the audience can tell them apart.

The Terminator movies have been steadily slipping at the Box Office since 2.

Terminator: Dark Fate (6) did badly, so much that there might not be a (7) or (8) (which seem to have been planned). This  isn’t surprising considering

  1. It has a female-dominated cast in a movie aimed for 12-year old boys,
  2. It starts off in Mexico City and in Spanish in a movie aimed for 12-year old American boys. While not as daring as the Star Wars Holiday Special, which starts off in the Wookie language for 20 minutes, Americans are allergic to subtitles.

Dark Fate has a major scene at a border crossing facility outside Laredo. It didn’t make any overt political statements though it had the opportunity to.

Given it was already sacrificing core markets (12-year old boys) (as if Hollywood did not learn from the new Ghostbusters (2016) about action films and boys) it should have gone all in.

A more general problem is that the characters for John Connor and Kyle Reese are played by different actors in many of the movies. (And there was a different young Sarah Connor in the TV series and later in  Terminator Genesys (5) (Lena Headey and Emilia Clarke, respectively for Game of Thrones fans) Over 35 years, some of this is inevitable, but it messes up the continuity.

Most of the films are set in California, especially Los Angeles, though some in San Francisco, and the final in Texas as well. In 1984’s Terminator, the pollution was much, much worse than in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Of course post-apocalyptic California is a bit worse in other ways. The general urban landscape remains similar.

The maturation of Arnold Schwarzenegger as an actor, and the Terminator as a character is notable. From a killing machine in 1, by 2 he is a protector, and in 6 is an up-standing, humane member of his community. The other Skynet creations = increasingly sophisticated killers.

I Probably should also comment on the evolution of Sarah Connor herself. She goes from “Damsel in Distress” at the outset of Terminator 1, to being an action hero lead by the second movie and thereafter.

The evolution of technology is also notable. In Terminator, Skynet is envisioned as a mainframe, but in the later films, it is a distributed network (5), Genisys (a new global OS like Siri or Alexa) and Legion (in response to the human’s attempting to nuke the mainframe) (6)

It would be nice to see a recut of the whole series reducing the nonsense, as has been done with the SW Prequels and the Hobbit.

Ranking

If you can watch only one, watch the first one. My rankings are below:

Terminator Series Ranked 1>2>6>3>5>4

Where:

  1. The Terminator (1984)
  2. Terminator 2 Judgment Day (1991)
  3. Terminator 3 Rise of The Machines (2003)
  4. Terminator Salvation (2009)
  5. Terminator Genisys (2015)
  6. Terminator Dark Fate (2019)

I’ll be back

To be clear, I did not watch the TV series, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, though I have been advised it is good.

The Car should be Safe, Legal, and Rare

As Bill Clinton said about abortion, we should advocate for cities where the automobile is safe, legal, and rare.

The car should be safe, both in the sense of minimising the consequences of the short-term crashes that auto drivers inflict on everyone else, and in eliminating the longer-term environmental outcomes and health effects resulting from tailpipe and other pollutants generated by cars. The recent lockdowns have demonstrated in many cities the improvement of air quality associated with the absence of cars.

The car should be legal, given it is safe. There are times and places for cars, for instance places poorly served by other modes, where multiple people are traveling in the vehicle, where things need to carried, and for people with mobility restrictions.

And the car should be rare. It should not be used as the first choice for most trips, and if it is, it represents a failure of urban planning and transport economics. People should be incentivised to align their locational decisions about home and work and other frequent activities with socially-beneficial transport choices like walking and biking and public transport.

We cannot truck with those absolutists who would ban the car everywhere all the time, the car has its place; but we also cannot abide the current state, where cars are allowed almost everywhere almost all the time. Many cities are now closing more and more streets to cars and through traffic to enable social distancing for those afoot. Let’s hope those changes are a lasting legacy, demonstrating a silver lining to this period.

67: Micromobility Infrastructure – challenges and opportunities with The Transportist, Professor David Levinson

Before the dark times, I recorded the Micromobility Podcast with Oliver Bruce, which has just been released.

This week Oliver interviews David Levinson, professor at the University of Sydneyimage-asset.jpeg and popular blogger at transportist.org. David is not new to the world of talking about transport and disruptive innovation, having joined Horace on Asymcar in 2013. He brings a tempered view to the benefits and challenges of micromobility, including around infrastructure and the decision making timeframes that it typically has.

Specifically, we dig into:

  • David’s background and research into toll roads, travel behaviour and urban form.
  • Whether David considers micromobilty a substantial new innovation in transport.
  • Constraints around deployment of larger vehicle fleets.
  • The challenges around parking, NIMBY-ism and political will in reallocating street space.
  • Comparable histories of new vehicle technologies making it into cities.
  • The intersection of political capital/structures and the likelihood of rollouts of specific transport infrastructure
  • The fundamental challenges with micromobility infrastructure – heft, vehicle density and decision-making timeframes
  • Examples of cities that have more proactively built infrastructure for micromobility, and historical examples of how companies have garnered community support to lobby for new infrastructure.

It’s a great episode, if nothing else because it lays out the challenges/opportunities to widespread adoption of micromobility in sober terms.

You can follow Oliver Bruce on Twitter.

The 30-Minute City: A Review

Tom van Vuren reviewed my recent book, the The 30-Minute City in Transport Reviews. I abstract some of it here.

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The 30-Minute City: Designing for Access

The author describes the book as a fast read. He is right – it is written in a very straight-forward style, avoids jargon and as such, I think it would be enjoyed by practitioners, first-degree students and even those with just a general interest in transport planning and accessibility. This is the fifth book published by Network Design Lab in David Levinson’s Access series.

Much of the book describes ways in which a 30-minute city may be created; and as Levinson says, “we do not require autonomous vehicles, hyperloops, drones, trackless trams, micromobility, or multi-copters, even if we eventually see such things widely deployed”. After the introductory chapters, chapters 3 to 10 provide practical examples of how accessibility has been eroded and conversely, how it can be improved by interventions that can be copied from elsewhere.

I was particularly taken by Chapter 3 on Traffic Signals. Through a simple example, Levinson illustrates that in a typical urban environment pedestrians lose 25%–30% of their effective speed because of traffic signals that are coordinated for cars, reducing their accessibility to jobs and other opportunities in a 30-minute walk space by almost half. He also offers solutions that can be implemented immediately. Essential reading for all practising signal engineers!

Another excellent illustration is given in Chapter 8 on Interfaces. The design of a station can have a big impact on accessibility. Through another Sydney example, he explains how saving just 75 seconds entering and leaving a train station can improve accessibility by 8%, for example by increasing the number or relocation of entries and exits, or changing the interfacing with buses.

In his last Chapter Levinson makes a plea for a new profession, Urban Operations – people engaged in improving today’s city, not just planning for tomorrow, but optimising for the system as a whole, using resources on-hand. As he says: “we have enough problems today. We also have solutions available to us today and we don’t implement them”.

Levinson’s arguments around urban restoration and retrofitting deserve a space in all transport planning courses. He makes a strong case to always consider the era during which an urban area evolved when developing solutions to address currently experienced traffic problems. Levinson advocates to restore what worked at that time (such as trams in historic centres of the early twentieth century), but not to try and impose such solutions in locations that were built for the motorcar in the fifties and sixties. The latter can only be retrofitted, at a cost and not necessarily effectively. In terms of retrofitting, Levinson provides a telling example of the temporary land-banking in urban at grade parking lots and concludes wistfully that unfortunately, temporary is often indefinite.

I enjoyed this book for two reasons: As a dyed-in-the-wool, it challenged me to think differently about what transport planning and traffic engineering should really achieve. Secondly, Levinson peppers his text with memorable one-liners and inventive terms: who had heard of gradial before? Two noticeable examples that I might use myself:

  • Gradial, or the unreasonable network – Embedded infrastructure cannot adapt much to the world around it. But if it were optimal for the world in which it was designed, it is unlikely to be optimal as that world changes. The network, designed for a given technology, is very hard to adapt to a different technology. Instead, we expect the world to adapt to the infrastructure. And
  • There are many techniques for making the most popular mode, the automobile, greener. We need to think more about making the greenest modes much more popular.

As would be expected, the book finishes with an extensive and useful bibliography.