Portrait of the Modern Terrorist as an Idiot

A nice post by Bruce Schneir: Portrait of the Modern Terrorist as an Idiot
… Security is the enemy of efficiency.

Nightmare at Reagan National Airport: A Security Story to End all Security Stories

Nightmare at Reagan National Airport: A Security Story to End all Security Stories |
The story speaks for itself. One only hopes that the abuse of power sows the seeds of its own destruction.

A success we should build on

The London Green Belt has been in place since just before World War II when Patrick Abercrombie’s study recommended establishing a ring around the city which would remain unsuburbanized (one hesitates to say undeveloped, as farms are there). Now with the housing shortage, people are again suggesting the Green Belt is “a success we should build on”:

Build on the green belt, and build now-Comment-Columnists-Minette Marrin-TimesOnline
Back in the day, the solution was to build new towns outside the Green Belt. Gordon Brown is proposing more of these. Towns like Welwyn and Letchworth were built as Garden Cities by Ebenezer Howard, and, but, by design are relatively small (on the order of 33,000 residents for Letchworth, 55,000 for Welwyn Garden City). From my visits, they seem excellent places to live, though the scale may be slightly off outside the town center (the residential density is a bit low, creating excessive walking distances).
Stevenge, (population 80,000) a post-war new town, (built on a much older town) is very much like Columbia, with large elements of Radburn, many pedestrian tunnels to access the town center and train station. There are also traffic roundabouts everywhere, so cars need not stop at signals. I felt like I grew up here.
Milton Keynes (population 185,000) on the other hand is much larger, but terribly overscaled, with large gaps between the residential and downtown areas. This creates opportunites for infill, but in the meantime there is an excessive amount of surface parking in the town center. Unlike the other towns I named above, the shopping mall (the largest single level mall in the world?) is disconnected from the train station.
Despite its imperfections, this model of new towns has a number of advantages over just adding another suburb in the Green Belt. They provide (or at least can provide) a coherent center and place. By increasing “surface area” they reduce the distance between people and the countryside. Every development in the Green Belt makes existing Londers that much farther from the country.
Now, one might suggest if the Green Belt is to be preserved, it should be done the right way, by buying the land (or development rights), rather than by fiat or regulations. This certainly seems a better way of controlling the use of land if property rights are to be respected. But the point here isn’t about the mechanics of how land should be preserved, but about what constitutes a better urban form
A) A giant unbroken conurbation where rings of development are fully contiguous
B) A large conurbation with satellite cities.
The latter, while it might increase average distance to the center, decreases distance to the edge. It also provides more variety and differentiation of the bundle of attributes that we call property.
Perhaps the market should decide, but the market fails in providing numerous public goods (access to the countryside being an example), as some things are very difficult to establish easily enforceable rights for.

Simulating Skyways

Two new movies/simulations of the co-evolution of downtown Minneapolis and its skyways system have been postedhere
These are large movies (132 and 137 MB), so be forewarned.
These are based on research done by Michael Corbett as part of his MS classwork and Feng Xie as part of his PhD. The research paper underlying this can be found:
Evolution of the Second-Story City: Modeling the Growth of the Minneapolis
Skyway Network
to be presented at the upcoming World Conference on Transport Research in Berkeley.

Bloomberg does the hard sell

Mayor Bloomberg of New York is doing the hard sell to get congestion pricing approved, along with some help from FHWA (Mary Peters) Urban Partnership Agreement. The Selling of Congestion Pricing –
Everyone thinks the losers will be commuters priced off the roads. But consider the poor parking garage owner, who will now have to lower their rates to attract back customers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see parking prices drop almost as much as congestion charges rise, meaning only “through trips” (New Jersey to Brooklyn, Queens, or the rest of Long Island) would be truly priced off the road.

KOSHER Transportation Funding

We need KOSHER Transportation Funding, Transportation legislation that prohibits pork. This New York Times article:
Campaign Funds for Alaskan; Road Aid to Florida describes the problem.
Local officials in Florida are receiving funds for a road they do not want, and are being blackmailed to accepting it with the threat they won’t get other funding. The reason, a local property developer contributed to Congressman Young’s campaign.
And the really strange thing is in the whole scheme of things, they did not give that much … something like $200,000 for Republicans in exchange for $91 million in
local road projects.
KOSHER: Keep Our State Highway Expenditures Rational.
Article reprinted below:
Campaign Funds for Alaskan; Road Aid to Florida
WASHINGTON, June 6 — It is no secret that campaign contributions sometimes lead to lucrative official favors. Rarely, though, are the tradeoffs quite as obvious as in the twisted case of Coconut Road.
The road, a stretch of pavement near Fort Myers, Fla., that touches five golf clubs on its way to the Gulf of Mexico, is the target of a $10 million earmark that appeared mysteriously in a 2006 transportation bill written by Representative Don Young, Republican of Alaska.
Mr. Young, who last year steered more than $200 million to a so-called bridge to nowhere reaching 80 people on Gravina Island, Alaska, has no constituents in Florida.
The Republican congressman whose district does include Coconut Road says he did not seek the money. County authorities have twice voted not to use it, until Mr. Young and the district congressman wrote letters warning that a refusal could jeopardize future federal money for the county.
The Coconut Road money is a boon, however, to Daniel J. Aronoff, a real estate developer who helped raise $40,000 for Mr. Young at the nearby Hyatt Coconut Point hotel days before he introduced the measure.
Mr. Aronoff owns as much as 4,000 acres along Coconut Road. The $10 million in federal money would pay for the first steps to connect the road to Interstate 75, multiplying the value of Mr. Aronoff’s land.
He did not return phone calls seeking comment. A consultant who helped push for the project spelled out why its supporters held the fund-raiser.
“We were looking for a lot of money,? said the consultant, Joe Mazurkiewicz. “We evidently made a very good impression on Congressman Young, and thanks to a lot of great work from Congressman Young, we got $81 million to expand Interstate 75 and $10 million for the Coconut Road interchange.?
Mr. Young’s role, first reported by The Naples Daily News, has escalated objections to the project. Environmentalists say the interchange would threaten wetlands. And a Republican commissioner of Lee County, Ray Judah, is campaigning against the interchange, calling it an example of Congressional corruption that is “a cancer on the federal government.?
“It would appear that Don Young was doing a favor for a major contributor,? Mr. Judah said.
The turmoil occurs at an awkward time for Mr. Young. A corruption scandal involving an Alaskan oil company has rattled the Republican Party in Alaska, and Mr. Young is among the biggest recipients of the company’s campaign donations.
One of his former top aides, Mark Zachares, has pleaded guilty to separate bribery charges involving the lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
House Republicans, meanwhile, are in a public relations battle with Democrats for the high ground on reforming “earmarks,? the pet projects that lawmakers tuck into spending bills behind closed doors.
As they have exploded in number for the last 12 years — the 2006 transportation bill included more than 6,300 projects worth more than $24 billion, the nonpartisan Taxpayers For Common Sense says — earmarks have proven ripe for cronyism, corruption and abuse. Though the House recently passed a rule requiring the disclosure of earmark sponsors, the flow does not appear to have slowed.
Until Democrats took control of Congress in January, Mr. Young was chairman of the Transportation Committee, and he and his staff distributed transportation earmarks to lawmakers seeking projects. Mr. Young may have first learned of Coconut Road on Feb. 17, 2005. That is when he flew to the region on a plane owned by Corporate Flight, a Waterford, Mich., charter company that is associated with the Aronoff family, which is based in nearby Bloomfield Hills, Mich. The Aronoffs are among the company’s biggest clients, said its general manager, Tom Hector.
Mr. Young’s re-election campaign reimbursed the company $3,422 for the flight, his campaign filings show.
At the invitation of the congressman from the district, Connie Mack, Mr. Young visited Florida Gulf Coast University for a meeting on the Interstate and other transportation questions. Afterward, Mr. Young went directly to the fund-raiser at the Hyatt Coconut Point.
His campaign records show that he received more than $40,000 in contributions on one day around that time, mostly from southwestern Florida developers and builders. Mr. Aronoff gave $500 to Mr. Young’s campaign and later gave $2,500 to Mr. Young’s Midnight Sun political action committee.
The invitations to the event listed as hosts Mr. Mack, a business group called the Southwest Florida Transportation Initiative that includes Mr. Aronoff’s company and two executives of other Florida developers.
Asked in a telephone interview who had organized the fund-raiser, Mr. Mazurkiewicz, the consultant, said he was then at another fund-raiser with a member of Mr. Mack’s staff who would know.
“Aronoff,? the staff member told Mr. Mazurkiewicz, within earshot of his mobile phone.
“Just some local businessmen,? Mr. Mazurkiewicz said into the phone. When pressed, he confirmed that the staff member had named Mr. Aronoff. Later, Mr. Mazurkiewicz called again to list the names on the invitation.
The Aronoffs, major Republican donors, gave more than $200,000 to Republican candidates and political committees in the 2006 election. Their business, the Landon Companies, is best known for building mobile-home parks. But it also operates a real estate development business in Florida.
Daniel Aronoff has taken over active management of the company from his father, Arnold Y. Aronoff, who had a checkered career in Florida real estate. In 1979, Arnold Aronoff was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to mail fraud in a scheme to sell Florida swampland at an inflated price.
When he was approached near the House floor by a reporter, Mr. Young responded with an obscene gesture.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Young, Meredith Kenny, initially said that Mr. Mack had requested the Coconut Road money. A spokesman for Mr. Mack, however, said he did not ask for the money. His chief of staff, Jeff Cohen, said Mr. Mack was surprised to find the project in the bill long after it had passed. “At the end of the day this thing got stuck in there unbeknownst to us and having nothing to do with us, other than it is our district,? Mr. Cohen said.
The plans for the earmark and the Aronoff land hit a roadblock when the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization voted twice last year to block a preliminary study for the interchange, mainly on environmental grounds. Studies by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Highway Administration have all warned that the proposed interchange could threaten wetlands.
But Mr. Young was evidently determined to see the interchange move forward. In a Jan. 23, 2006, letter to the chairman of the planning agency, Mr. Young warned that his committee would draft another bill taking away the $10 million if it was not used for the interchange.
On Jan. 31, Mr. Mack followed up with a letter warning that the rejection would “make it difficult for Southwest Florida to have future success in securing federal resources for other important projects.?
The planning organization subsequently reversed itself and approved an initial study of the proposed interchange. But the last election put more environmentalists on the county commission. Next month, county planners will again take up the question of what to do about Coconut Road.

Journal of Transport and Land Use.

We are pleased to announce the Journal of Transport and Land Use.
What, you ask? Another journal amidst an already overcrowded field?
Yes, we respond enthusiastically! Several journals touch on the interaction of transport and land use; however, they do so peripherally. This new venue puts both transport and land use front and center. We seek to be the leading outlet for research at the interdisciplinary intersection of these two domains, including work from the domains of engineering, planning, modeling, behavior, economics, geography, regional science, sociology, architecture and design, network science, and complex systems.
The Journal of Transport and Land Use (JTLU) will be peer-reviewed, web-based, open-content, subscription-free, and free to contribute. All of this is enabled by support from the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota, where the journal will be housed. The advantages of this new journal and new process are several:
1. With a rigorous peer-review process, only quality papers that meet scientific standards will be published within the journal.
2. By being web-based (and web-only), we reduce costs significantly compared with paper journals. Web-based publication allows a much faster turnaround time than paper publication. Our goal is six weeks between submission and first reviews returned to the author. Being web-based also allows the inclusion of full color graphics and multi-media content, and the inclusion of datasets with the publication.
3. By being open-content, papers published in JTLU can be freely distributed (with attribution), increasing the value of papers published in the journal, and increasing their likelihood of being used in course readers and being read by the public.
4. By being subscription-free, we overcome a fundamental problem of today’s expensive journals published by for-profit publishers, which many libraries can no longer subscribe to.
5. By being free-to-contribute, we overcome the burden of the open-content journals that charge the authors to publish their paper.
We are now soliciting papers covering topics at the intersection of transport and land use. Details about the journal, its editorial process, and paper submission can be found at the journal’s website http://www.jtlu.org .
If you are interested in organizing a special issue, please contact one of the editors.
There will be a meeting at the World Conference on Transport Research in Berkeley to discuss the journal, contact the editors for details.
We look forward to any comments, questions, or suggestions you may have.
David Levinson and Kevin Krizek
David Levinson
Richard P. Braun/CTS Chair in Transportation Engineering
Director Networks, Economics, and Urban Systems (Nexus) Research Group
University of Minnesota (612) 625-6354
Kevin J. Krizek
Associate Professor, Urban Planning & Civil Engineering
University of Minnesota (612) 625 – 7318

Connectivity and Class

While in London, we live here . As you can see this Council Estate (Ranelagh Estate) was constructed in the 1950s as a cul-de-sac at the end of Sefton Street. To the north are playing fields in Barnes, the west is Putney Commons, to the Northwest is the Thames River, and to the East is the rest of Putney. You see some tennis courts on the east side of the image off Stockhurst Close, next to the tennis court, obscured by tree cover, is a playground for small children, ideal for Benjamin (age 2.5). These are just a short distance away … if I were a bird.
Unfortunately, I am a pedestrian, which means I need to walk down Sefton to Lower Richmond Road and back up Danemere Street to Ashlone to access this particular playground. It is not a bad walk, but it is about 3 x longer than a straight line path.
Why is there no direct connection? Note that the development on Stockhurst Close was developed in the 1980s or 1990s and should thus been approved with fairly cognizant planners who should have ensured at least inter-neighborhood pedestrian connectivity.
On the front of my building is a sign “No Access to Thames”. I am not clear if this is intended to be a feature (don’t park here if you want to get to the Thames for a walk or to watch the Races) or a signal that people who live on Estates don’t deserve access to the River the way people who paid far more to live on Danemere or Ashlone do.
Just as Stockhurst Close does not provide access to Horne Way, there is another route, a pedestrian path between Pentlow and Danemere connecting the estate to Lower Richmond (which was probably once a driveway to access the estate), which is a quite lovely long park, surrounded by walls on both sides, with no connection to (or from) Pentlow or Danemere.
Having grown up in suburban Columbia, Maryland, fences and walls are strange, but this solid barrier preventing access is very strange, a corridor for the lower classes so they don’t interfere with their betters? In Columbia the homes would just back onto the trail so residents could access the park.
I mentioned the sign “No Access to Thames”. The sign is not strictly true, if one leaves the estate through a gate to the west you can access the Putney Commons, and if you turn north, you can access a nice unpaved pedestrian path along Beverly Brook (running in the trees between the northern part of Horne Way and the southern part of the Barnes playing fields). This winds its way to the Thames, and you can approach the playground there. This is not terribly well-marked, and is about as long as the more urban path along Lower Richmond, but locals know about it. (I discovered it after a few months).
Finally, if I think the Putney playground is too exclusive, I can walk across Putney Commons to Barnes Common (to the west, and there is a playground in Barnes tucked away hidden from the street, behind parking lots, playing fields and tennis courts ( here.
This is in another borough (Richmond upon Thames), supported by their taxes, making me (or Benjamin) a free-rider, as there are no longer inter-borough tolls (see Chapter 2), and the playground is free (though in principle excludable because their is a gate, the collection costs of charging for the playground probably outweigh the revenue.
Ahmed El-Geneidy and I have a recent working paper on Network Circuity and the Location of Home and Work. This paper deals with the question more macroscopically, at the metropolitan level. It turns out people arrange their home and work location to reduce circuity (so they can get more space for the minute of commuting).

New York Gets Decent Street Furniture

New York Gets Decent Street Furniture (TreeHugger)
I don’t especially like the aesthetic, but new is better than old for this sort of thing.