Uber’s self-driving car killed someone today

Uber’s self-driving car killed someone today. This is terrible tragedy, and in retrospect, it will probably be judged to have been preventible. Future versions of the software will better address the scenario that led to this crash. But mistakes are how people and systems learn, and someone was going to be the first. The victims are scarcely remembered.

A few key points.

  • The safety rate for Uber AVs collectively is now worse than that for human drivers (1.25 pedestrian deaths / 100MVMT) (MVMT = Million vehicle miles traveled) (Uber is at about 1 MVMT, Waymo at about 4MVMT). It will undoubtedly get better.
  • Don’t assume Uber AVs are the same as Waymo or others. Different software, vehicles, sensors, driving protocols, safety cultures. The stats for each will differ.
  • Also we need to see the full investigation (from NHTSA, NTSB).
    • How much victim blaming will there be?
    • Was it just sadly unavoidable?
    • Or was it preventable?
  • The opposition will use this to bang on against AVs while supporters will be quiet for a while.

Hopefully the developers learn something and this type of crash is rare. Other AV makers will take the scenario and run it through their own simulations and field tests.

Still the technology trajectory is strong, and even if the US slows down development, it’s a big world. China won’t slow down development.

How Railways Dealt With The First Notable Fatality:

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway killed former Leader of the House of Commons and cabinet member, William Huskisson during the opening day ceremonies. It was the UKs 2nd significant steam railway and the first that was opened with a big deal with   such publicity. We write in The Transportation Experience

On September 15, 1830, the opening ceremonies for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway were held. The Prime Minster (the Duke of Wellington), Cabinet members, Members of Parliament, and other assorted dignitaries were present. Among those were an MP from Liverpool, and a 60 year old former Leader of the House of Commons and cabinet member, William Huskisson. The dignitaries had been riding on a train pulled by one of Stephenson’s Rockets. Reports differ, but Lady Wilton, an observer on the same train wrote to Fanny Kimble:

The engine had stopped to take a supply of water, and several of the gentlemen in the directors’ carriage had jumped out to look about them. Lord Wilton, Count Bathany, Count Matuscenitz and Mr. Huskisson among the rest were standing talking in the middle of the road, when an engine on the other line, which was parading up and down merely to show its speed, was seen coming down upon them like lightening. The most active of those in peril sprang back into their seats; Lord Wilton saved his life only by rushing behind the Duke’s carriage, and Count Matuscenitz had but just leaped into it, with the engine all but touching his heels as he did so; while poor Mr. Huskisson, less active from the effects of age and ill-health, bewildered, too, by the frantic cries of `Stop the engine! Clear the track!’ that resounded on all sides, completely lost his head, looked helplessly to the right and left, and was instantaneously prostrated by the fatal machine, which dashed down like a thunderbolt upon him, and passed over his leg, smashing and mangling it in the most horrible way.

Stephenson personally helped Huskisson onto a locomotive and traversed 15 miles in 25 minutes (57.9 km/h) to receive medical attention in the nearby town of Eccles. But it was for nought. Huskisson amended his will and died within the hour. (Garfield)

This was not the first death by steam locomotive, it was at least the third, but it was still the most notable. Wikipedia notes

5 December 1821, when a carpenter, David Brook, was walking home from Leeds along the Middleton Railway in a blinding sleet storm. He failed to see or hear an approaching train … and was fatally injured.” — Richard Balkwill; John Marshall (1993). The Guinness Book of Railway Facts and Feats (6th ed.). Guinness. ISBN 0-85112-707-X.

According to parish council records, a woman in Eaglescliffe, Teesside, thought to be a blind beggar, was “killed by the steam machine on the railway” in 1827– “Corrections and clarifications.” The Guardian. 2008-06-21. Retrieved 2009-02-05.

Despite this inauspicious beginning, both passengers and freight services (the latter opened in 1831) were immediate successes.

Stealing the Presidency: A Scenario

It’s 1973, Spiro Agnew has just resigned as Vice President. Republican President Nixon appoints Gerald Ford as his replacement, but the Democratic Senate and House of Representatives, following the precedent set by future Republican Senate Leader, Mitch McConnell, refuses to hold hearings or consider the nomination, saying the next election is only 3 years away, and the voters should decide. A year later, President Nixon, refusing to resign, is instead impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate for crimes relating to the Watergate break-in. Speaker of the House Carl Albert assumes the role of Acting Presidency. He refuses to pardon Nixon, who serves time in jail. Albert is re-elected in a landslide in 1976.

This didn’t happen of course. But it could have, and something like it could still. It would not necessarily be a bad thing, but it’s not really what the founders envisioned, and surely there is a better way. The US Constitution is in some senses a great document, it has preserved a democrat-ish government for over two centuries, the longest in the world depending on how you count democrat-ish. But it is also deeply flawed in many ways, and it’s in some ways surprising there has only been one civil war given the structural weaknesses. The notion of checks-and-balances is great, until it leads to gridlock, which is fine, until it would actually be useful for the government to do something.

According to the Economist Democracy Index, at least 20 countries are more democratic than the US. Some of them because they have better people, perhaps, who behave in more democratic ways, but mostly because that have better institutions and constitutions that encourage and allow people to behave better.

The US should seriously consider constitutional changes to reform the institutions. There are so many issues (I have some pet solutions in parentheses), a few are listed below:

  • Imperial Presidency. (This is up to Congress and the Courts in large part, but there are Constitutional reforms that can reign it in — see below.).
  • Lack of Independent Attorney General and Treasury. (Like many if not all states, the AG and Treasurer should be independent of the Executive. Each should get more of the cabinet.)
  • Bizarre Electoral College rules (Just make Congress the Electoral College, and eliminate the so-called “popular election” of the President, it would be a huge leap forward toward a Parliamentary-style democracy with a minimal change to the actual Constitution).
  • Unrepresentative Senate. (If it can’t be strictly proportional for political reasons, then each state should still get a minimum of 2, but then each 3.2 million people gets an additional senator, who would still be elected statewide. Essentially this doubles the size, but the new members are all proportional to population.) (Alternatively, each State automatically gets 1 Senator, and 1 more for every 6.4 million people, if the desire to keep the Senate at a more manageable 100 Senators is preferred, or 1 per state + 1 for every 2 states + 1 per 4.8M if we like Dunlop’s Number of 150 Members).
  • Winner-Take-All Seats  (Move to proportional representation for the House of Representatives, there are many models, including multi-member seats)
  • A Duopoly of Parties (Move to ranked choice voting, so third party votes are less wasted)
  • Gerrymandering (Boundaries of districts should aim to be convex and minimize their perimeter.)
  • Voter Suppression (Instead have mandatory voting)
  • Political Gridlock (Reforming the Electoral College at least aligns the President and Congress for the first 2 years of the term. Reducing Impeachment/Conviction requirements to simple majority in each house (respectively) after 2 years might solve the rest. If the Senate and House are held by different parties, it still can’t happen for solely political reasons, and wrongful impeachment of a popular leader could be punished by voters at the next election.)
  • Campaign Finance (All political spending should be accompanied by a full disclosure of the funding source.)

In practice this many reforms could only be achieved with a Constitutional Convention, and everyone is afraid to do that since the first one was so successful at overturning what went before. But really, if it were so bad, the reforms would not be subsequently adopted by three-fourths of the states.

I have steered clear of substantive issues (gun control, abortion, budgets) which should be dealt with politically, and instead focused on process issues which the political system cannot easily self-regulate.

Spatiotemporal Traffic Forecasting: Review and Proposed Directions


Abstract: This paper systematically reviews studies that forecast short-term traffic conditions using spatial dependence between links. We extract and synthesise 130 research papers, considering two perspectives: (1) methodological framework and (2) methods for capturing spatial information. Spatial information boosts the accuracy of prediction, particularly in congested traffic regimes and for longer horizons. Machine learning methods, which have attracted more attention in recent years, outperform the naïve statistical methods such as historical average and exponential smoothing. However, there is no guarantee of superiority when machine learning methods are compared with advanced statistical methods such as spatiotemporal autoregressive integrated moving average. As for the spatial dependency detection, a large gulf exists between the realistic spatial dependence of traffic links on a real network and the studied networks as follows: (1) studies capture spatial dependency of either adjacent or distant upstream and downstream links with the study link, (2) the spatially relevant links are selected either by prejudgment or by correlation-coefficient analysis, and (3) studies develop forecasting methods in a corridor test sample, where all links are connected sequentially together, assume a similarity between the behaviour of both parallel and adjacent links, and overlook the competitive nature of traffic links.

Postdoctoral Research Associate in Transport – Closing date: 11:30pm, Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Postdoctoral Research Associate in Transport

School of Civil Engineering

Faculty of Engineering and IT

Reference no. 779/0417B

  • Join an organisation that encourages progressive thinking
  • Be valued for your exceptional knowledge and experience in Transport Networks
  • Full-time fixed-term for 3 years, remuneration package: $106k (which includes base salary, leave loading and up to 17% superannuation) 

About the opportunity

Applications are invited for the appointment of one Postdoctoral Research Associate (Level A) in the School of Civil Engineering, within the Faculty of Engineering and IT at the University of Sydney. The position will support the research and leadership of School of Civil Engineering in the newly launched Transport Engineering program.


The successful applicant(s) will help build the new research group headed by Professor David Levinson to further the analysis of Transport Networks, understand the relationships between Transport Networks and Land Use, and consider the implications of changing Transport Technologies on optimal Network Structure.


About you

The University values courage and creativity; openness and engagement; inclusion and diversity; and respect and integrity. As such, we see the importance in recruiting talent aligned to these values in the pursuit of research excellence. We are looking for a Postdoctoral Research Associate who:


  • Holds a PhD in civil engineering, or related fields
  • Has published ground-breaking research in the area of transport networks, geo-spatial analysis, and/or econometrics in high quality international journals
  • Possesses strong communications skills as the position requires liaising with government and industry stakeholders.

About us
We are undergoing significant transformative change which brings opportunity for innovation, progressive thinking, breaking with convention, challenging the status quo, and improving the world around us.

Since our inception 160 years ago, the University of Sydney has led to improve the world around us. We believe in education for all and that effective leadership makes lives better. These same values are reflected in our approach to diversity and inclusion, and underpin our long-term strategy for growth. We’re Australia’s first university and have an outstanding global reputation for academic and research excellence. Across 9 campuses, we employ over 7600 academic and non-academic staff who support over 47,000 students.


The University of Sydney encourages part-time and flexible working arrangements, which will be considered for this role.


For more information about the position, or if you require reasonable adjustment or support filling out this application, please contact Emmen Saeed, Recruitment Partner, on emmen.saeed@sydney.edu.au

If you would like to learn more, please refer to the Candidate Information Pack for the position description and further details.


To be considered for this position it is essential that you address the online selection criteria. For guidance on how to apply visit: How to apply for an advertised position.


Closing date: 11:30pm 27 March 2018

The University of Sydney is committed to diversity and social inclusion. Applications from people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; equity target groups including women, people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTIQ; and people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, are encouraged.


If we think your skills are needed in other areas of the University, we will be sure to contact you about other opportunities.


The University reserves the right not to proceed with any appointment.

Candidate Information Pack

Selection Criteria

How to apply:

Normalizing Citations – Beyond the H-index

The proper metric for an academic’s influence on the academic world of academic publishing is academic citations. An academic might make many (say 100) small contributions, each cited a small number (say 10) of times, or one contribution cited widely (say 1000) times. Neither is inherently superior, despite claims to the contrary, a

Citation needed. Source: Unknown.
Citation needed. Source: Unknown.

nd for the academic in question, it was probably easier to write one widely cited piece than 100 smaller ones, but that was unpredictable at the time.

Academic citations are cumulative distribution function, they can never go down (they can with retractions, but we will neglect that). So by this measure on average senior academics appear more influential than younger academics, which they of course are. But this is not a useful measure for filtering prospective candidates for hiring and promotion, which is why these metrics exist, to sort people based on productivity and establish a social hierarchy.

So to begin, we have two corrections to make. First, senior academics have more opportunities to write papers. A junior academic simply has not had the cumulative time to author 100 papers. Second, the senior academic’s papers have had more time to accumulate citations. So I suggest dividing total citations by Years^2 to account for these two temporal accumulating factors.

But which “Years”? Years since terminal degree? — This favors the young who start publishing before their degree. Years since they began their degree? Almost no one has any paper in year 1 of their graduate career. So we can estimate and split the difference and say years since graduation with terminal degree +2, on the theory that by the time you graduate you should have had at least 3 papers, and that means you started about 2 years before graduation. Still this is highly sensitive to assumptions for younger academics, it will wash out for the older academics. Domains will vary of course in terms of publishing culture.

There are other problems, for instance, co-authorship. At the extreme, all 108 billion people who ever lived have contributed fractionally to every paper, but they don’t all get co-authorship (except on experimental physics papers). But someone who puts all of their PhDs on all of their group’s papers is gaming the system to the detriment of those who assign more individually authored papers. So each citation should be divided by the fraction of authorship that the academic in question deserves. While this is impossible to assess, (promotion files sometimes ask for percentages on co-authored papers, but this is never systematically estimated or consistent). Computing an average dividing by the number of authors on the paper is a good surrogate.

I am not in this business of bibliometrics, I will leave that to others. But hopefully someone in the industry (Scopus, Web of Science, Google Scholar) can run the proposed corrections on these databases and produce a normalized citation measure as a standard output.

How traffic signals work: Some terms


Traffic engineers have developed terminology to aid in communication

The ‘approach’ is the set of lanes that are coming into a particular intersection, from a given direction. So, there might be an eastbound approach of traffic that is moving in the easterly direction.  A ‘cycle’ is the complete amount of time that it takes to go from a red light to a red light. We think of it as a clock. ‘Cycle length’  is the amount of time it takes to complete a cycle, measured in seconds.  A ‘phase’ is part of a cycle that is allocated to a particular movement, which receives the right-of-way. There might be multiple movements that receive right-of-way simultaneously, as long as they are not conflicting.  The northbound and southbound movements might both get the green light at the same time. They’re on the same phase, and they’re not conflicting.

“What do you do with right (left – in right hand drive countries) turns?” Do you give them a separate phase? Or do they share the phase? If they share the phase, then it becomes more complicated. There are many possible patterns, from which traffic engineers aim to select the ‘optimal,’ but that depends on the objectives and conditions.

There are ‘movements’. ‘Protected’ movements have right-of-way, and don’t have to yield to any other conflicting movements,  opposing vehicles, or to pedestrians. The ‘permitted’ movement is most common for right turns (in left-hand drive countries like Australia), for instance when making a turn without a green arrow, the driver has the permission to make that movement, so long as it is safe, but is not protected by a red light in the conflicting direction. Left turns are also permitted if there are no conflicting pedestrians or bicyclists.

‘Lost time’ occurs at the start of the phase because the first car has to accelerate from a dead stop, which takes some time: drivers first perceive the green signal, then check to make sure the intersection is clear, and then accelerate from a stop. So the speed at which that first (and second, and third) car goes through the intersection is slower than subsequent vehicles. There is also lost time at the end of the phase as some drivers are reluctant to go through on an amber (yellow) signal. There is also an ‘all red’ phase in some places to make sure the intersection is fully cleared of vehicles and pedestrians.

How much time is spent at traffic signals?

While working on another piece, I came upon the question of how much time is spent at traffic lights, for which there is not a well-sourced answer. I posted to Twitter and got some useful replies.

With that and some additional digging, I attempt to answer the question.

As the saying goes: Your Mileage May Vary. This depends on your origin and destination and path and mode and time of day and local traffic signal policies and street design. Tom VanVuren notes: “Much of the impact is in slow moving queues, rather than waiting for the signal cycle to complete. I expect you can make this number smaller than 10% (time at the stop line) or larger than 50% (time affected by traffic lights).” For simplicity, I am considering vehicles that would be stopped if they could either move at the desired speed or must stop (i.e. they are subject to “vertical” or “stacking” queues), but clearly measurement will depend on assumption. Still, there must be a system average. I had heard the number 20% bandied about, which feels right, but let’s first begin with some thought experiment, then look for some empirical results. We take different modes in turn.

A signalized but porkchop-islanded crosswalk at a Free Left (Free Right for those in the right-side drive countries). Notice the pedestrian light is red (don't walk) but the pedestrians cross anyway. If the free left is not eliminated in a more comprehensive redesign, it could easily be de-signaled and the crosswalk raised, so pedestrians dominate, and cars travel when they can.
Pedestrian Crossing at Broadway and City Road, Sydney. Pedestrians crossing against the light.

Motor Vehicles

Thought Experiments

Thought Experiment 1 A

Imagine an urban grid.

  • Assume 10 signalized intersections per km.
  • Assume a travel speed of 60 km/h when in motion. (This is probably too high with so many intersections and no platooning, but we are imagining here that you would not be stopping.)
  • Time to traverse 1 km=1 minute + signal delay.  (Some of the distance traversal time overlaps some of the signal delay time, but we will imagine a stacking queue, rather than one that has physical distance for simplicity, we can correct this later if it matters.)
  • Assume each intersection has only 2 phases.
  • Assume fixed time signals at each intersection evenly distributing green time between N/S and E/W directions.  So red time = 1/2 cycle length.
  • Assume 1 minute cycle length
  • If a vehicle stops, it waits 1/2 red time.
  • Vehicles obey traffic signals.
  • Assume no platooning.

This means that the average vehicle will stop at 5 intersections for 15 seconds each = 2.5 minutes (vs. 1  minute in motion time). In this case, 2.5/3.5 minutes (or 5/7 or 71.4%) is spent waiting at signals.

Thought Experiment 1 B

In contrast.

  • Assume near perfect platooning.

In this case, the vehicle will stop at 1 intersection per km, for 15 seconds = 15 seconds. In this case 0.25/1.25 = 20% of the time is spent waiting at signals.


Now, not all travel takes place on an urban grid.

  • Assume 25% of travel is on limited access roads (this is approximately true in the US),  75% on non-limited access roads.

With perfect platooning on the grid, and 25% off-grid, then 15% of travel time is intersection delay with near perfect platooning.

Clearly in practice platooning is far from perfect. My guess is the green wave breaks down after one or two intersections during peak times, but can survive well in the off-peak. As a rule of thumb, about ~10% of travel is in the peak hour, ~30% peak period. ~60% AM + PM Peak.


GPS Studies

Eric Fischer of MapBox was kind enough to offer to run this question on their open traffic data. The results are not yet in. I will update when they are.

Arterial Travel Time Studies

There are a variety of Arterial Travel Time studies for specific corridors, but nothing that is universally generalizable.  (And logically where people do arterial travel time studies, there is a congestion problem, otherwise why study it.)

I recall that in my childhood, I did a study in Montgomery County, Maryland using such data (from 1987 traffic counts and a floating car study published by Douglas and Douglas), I did not actually compute the percentage, but fortunately I reported enough data that allows me to compute the percentage now. (The sample is of course biased to what is measured). For the average arterial link, the speed was

 Variable Inside the Beltway  Outside the Beltway
 Speed (km/h) 34.88  41.60
 Length (km)  0.46  0.72
 Time (min)  0.792  1.04
 Downstream Delay (min)  0.27  0.24
 Percentage of Signal Delay  25%  18.75%

Which is consistent with expectations that signals are more significant in more urbanized areas (inside the beltway is basically Bethesda and Silver Spring, MD), and with our general estimates. Now of course the speed here is impacted by downstream signals, and so is lower than the speed limit and certainly lower than the free-flow speed sans-signals. More details are in the paper.

Engine Idling Studies

Moaz Ahmed pointed me to a Vehicle Idling Study by Natural Resources Canada.

The percent of time of vehicle idling ranged from 20-25%. (Not all vehicle idling is at signalized intersections).

(Engine idling of course burns fuel without doing work, so if the engine is going to be idling for an extended period, it would save fuel (and reduce air pollution) to turn it off. Turning the engine on and off also has costs, so the estimate was if idling was going to be longer than 10 seconds, it uses more fuel, but considering other wear and tear costs, the recommended threshold is if idling is longer than 60 seconds, then turn off the engine.  But at a signalized intersection, how will vehicles know how long they will wait? Smart traffic signals with connected vehicles could provide this, but now they don’t. Eventually this will be moot with a full electric vehicle fleet. Until that time, it matters. I suspect given the longevity and sluggishness of the traffic control sector, smart signals informing trucks will not be widely or systematically deployed before trucks are electrified.)


Now as noted above, Your Mileage May Vary. If you are a pedestrian, you are unlikely to hit a greenwave designed for cars, though of course your travel speed is slower is well. So redoing the Thought Experiment

Thought Experiment 2

Imagine an urban grid.

  • Assume 10 signalized intersections per km.
  • Assume a travel speed of 6 km/h when in motion. (this is a bit on the high side, average pedestrian speed is closer to 5 km/h)
  • Time to traverse 1 km=10 minutes + signal delay.  (Some of the distance traversal time overlaps some of the signal delay time, but we will imagine a vertical stacking queue, rather than one that has physical distance for simplicity, this is a much better assumption for pedestrians than vehicles.)
  • Assume each intersection has only 2 phases.
  • Assume fixed time signals at each intersection evenly distributing green time between N/S and E/W directions.  So red time = 1/2 cycle length.
  • Assume 1 minute cycle length
  • If a pedestrian stops, she waits 1/2 red time. (That is the “walk” phase for pedestrians is as long as the green phase for cars. Strictly speaking this is not true, it is more true in cities with narrow streets than it is in suburban environments with wide streets, as narrow streets can be crossed more quickly, so the amount of “walk” time allocated can be most of the phase. This is certainly not true in Sydney, where the “walk” phase is cut short so turning cars have fewer conflicts with late pedestrians.)
  • Pedestrians obey traffic lights.  (This is not as good an assumption as vehicles obey signals, pedestrian signal violation is probably higher. This is not a moral judgment one way or the other, people tend to obey authority, even when authority abuses power.)
  • Assume no platooning. (This is probably too severe, a quick pedestrian with some signal coordination can probably make a couple of lights in a row).

Here the average pedestrian will stop at 5 intersections for 15 seconds each = 2.5 minutes (vs. 10  minute in-motion time). In this case, 2.5/(2.5+10) minutes (or 20%) is spent waiting at signals. Now, this number is probably true for more pedestrians than the vehicle delay estimate is for vehicles, since pedestrians are more likely to be found on an urban grid and less in a suburban or limited access environment. (Self-selection at work).


If you are a bicyclist, you are unlikely to hit a greenwave designed for cars unless you travel at exactly an integer fraction (1/1, 1/2, 1/3) of the green wave, as your travel speed is slower is well. So redoing the Thought Experiment

Thought Experiment 3

Imagine an urban grid.

  • Assume 10 signalized intersections per km.
  • Assume a travel speed of  20 km/h when in motion. (This is a typical for experienced riders). Time to traverse 1 km=3 minutes + signal delay. (Assume a stacking queue)
  • Assume each intersection has only 2 phases.
  • Assume fixed time signals at each intersection evenly distributing green time between N/S and E/W directions.  So red time = 1/2 cycle length.
  • Assume 1 minute cycle length
  • If a bicyclist stops, she waits 1/2 red time. (That is the ‘bike’ phase for bicyclists is as long as the green phase for cars.)
  • Bicyclists obey traffic lights.  (This is not as good an assumption as ‘motor vehicles obey signals’, bicyclists signal violation is probably higher.)
  • Assume no platooning. (This is probably too severe, a quick bicyclists with some signal coordination can probably make a couple of lights in a row).

In this case the average bicyclists will stop at 5 intersections for 15 seconds each = 2.5 minutes (vs. 3  minute in-motion time). In this case, 2.5/(3+2.5) minutes (or 45%) is spent waiting at signals in an urban environment.

Strava Data

Strava, an app for tracking bicyclists and runners can produce some useful data. Andrew Hsu, e.g., reports “28 mile bike commute. 1:30-ish moving time. 10-15 minutes waiting at lights.” From this, for him, we estimate 15 / (15+90) = 14%. To be clear, 1:30 is an extreme commute. I don’t have access to the full database, and obviously this is biased by the nature of the trip.


Alejandro Tirachini produced an estimate of travel time for buses finds delay at traffic signals (in suburban Blacktown, Sydney, NSW) is 10-13% of total time.

The Transportist: March 2018

Welcome to the March 2018 issue of The Transportist, especially to our new readers. As always you can follow along at the blog or on Twitter.

Thank you to all who purchased Elements of Access. Copies are still available.

Book: Metropolitan Transport and Land Use

As cities around the globe respond to rapid technological changes and political pressures, coordinated transport and land use planning is an often targeted aim.
Metropolitan Transport and Land Use, the second edition of Planning for Place and Plexus, provides unique and updated perspectives on metropolitan transport networks and land use planning, challenging current planning strategies, offering frameworks to understand and evaluate policy, and suggesting alternative solutions.
The book includes current and cutting-edge theory, findings, and recommendations which are cleverly illustrated throughout using international examples. This revised work continues to serve as a valuable resource for students, researchers, practitioners, and policy advisors working across transport, land use, and planning.


Transportist Posts

Transport News







SVs/Taxis/Car Sharing


Intercity Rail

Land Use








Now available:

Nothing in cities makes sense except in the light of accessibility. Transport cannot be understood without reference to the location of activities (land use), and vice versa. To understand one requires understanding the other. However, for a variety of historical reasons, transport and land use are quite divorced in practice. Typical transport engineers only touch land use planning courses once at most, and only then if they attend graduate school. Land use planners understand transport the way everyone does, from the perspective of the traveler, not of the system, and are seldom exposed to transport aside from, at best, a lone course in graduate school. This text aims to bridge the chasm, helping engineers understand the elements of access that are associated not only with traffic, but also with human behavior and activity location, and helping planners understand the technology underlying transport engineering, the processes, equations, and logic that make up the transport half of the accessibility measure. It aims to help both communicate accessibility to the public.


Still available …
In this book we propose the welcome notion that traffic—as most people have come to know it—is ending and why. We depict a transport context in most communities where new opportunities are created by the collision of slow, medium, and fast moving technologies. We then unfold a framework to think more broadly about concepts of transport and accessibility. In this framework, transport systems are being augmented with a range of information technologies; it invokes fresh flows of goods and information. We discuss large scale trends that are revolutionizing the transport landscape: electrification, automation, the sharing economy, and big data. Based on all of this, the final chapters offer strategies to shape the future of infrastructure needs and priorities.

On the Second Amendment and the Right of Revolution

There are several reasons some people in the United States support the private ownership of guns. School shootings and the rest are unfortunate collateral damage of ensuring the principle of individual arms can be readily obtained.

Flintolock musket

The Second Amendment confusingly says

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

It is not clear on what arms people can have. Almost everyone agrees people should be allowed to have knives and muskets. Almost everyone also agrees no private nuclear bombs. I like the idea that original intent of the word “arms” means that no weapons invented since 1789 are implicitly constitutionally covered. The current interpretation of the second amendment is a modern one.

In addition to the “well regulated militia” rationale, there are other reasons people might want guns, including:

  • Personal Self-defense
  • Hunting
  • Committing crimes (some of which is self-defense while doing illegal things)
  • Over-throwing a `tyrannical’ government (which also relates in part to self-defense when rebelling against a well-armed opponent, as well as offense against the same opponent). This is also known as the “right of revolution.” It is discussed in this Federalist article.

I believe most gun supporters are, in fact, though most won’t admit it, about the last point. That is, their minds foresee a dystopian outcome when a fascist (or communist, but same thing) comes to power and must be resisted by weapons that have yet to be confiscated by a weak liberal regime.

The Civil War is a morally repugnant example of this kind of resistance, in that case by a south defending slavery; but one can equally imagine a world where a slightly less demographically and economically powerful  north was resisting imposition of slavery  by the southern states.

Or, their mind foresees the US being invaded by a foreign (or alien) army which somehow the military was unable defeat. Having grown up in the 1980s and seeing Red Dawn and V, I have some empathy for that view in principle. In practice, not so much.

Yet, if you are right wing, and believe the previous administration was the illegitimate dystopia that fuels your nightmares, where was your uprising? I missed it. If you are truly anti-fascist, where is your uprising now? You, gun-owners of America, are as well-armed as any citizenry in history. The US government’s ICE brown shirts are taking people from their homes and deporting them. Police officers are systematically killing people of color. And gun owners are not systematically challenging them. Hmm. Oh, I missed the part that it was the right of revolution for white people.

Which leads me to the conclusion that over-throwing the US government with the citizenry’s privately owned weapons is just not going to happen. Which means, we can strike the justification of needing guns for keeping the government in check. At this point in history, the US government can keep the populace in check, even if armed. At best you can take someone out before being killed yourself. You will not actually win.

The counter-argument is that it is the well-armed citizenry that is keeping the government in check, and thereby keeps it from confiscating guns (and eliminating other freedoms, but those are secondary to the guns). But if that were true, they wouldn’t be worried about the government confiscating guns. The reasoning is circular. The reason to have guns is to keep the government from confiscating your guns. If the government could confiscate your guns at any time with a change in legislation, the guns aren’t actually buying you your freedom. Instead it is that the government cannot effectively act without the consent of the governed.

Since the ‘committing crimes’ is also not really a good reason to keep guns, and ‘hunting’ doesn’t require sophisticated weapons, and ‘personal self-defense’ with guns is only necessary because everyone else also has guns and may be committing crimes, the US should just throw in the towel and follow the civilized world, or even Australia, and more significantly reduce access to firearms.