From the Strib: Nick Coleman: Let’s call ’em ‘faith-based bridges’ — pray you get across
Coleman (Nick) gets it right.

Germany to build maglev railway

From the Beeb: Germany to build maglev railway
“The 1.85bn-euro ($2.6bn; ¬£1.3bn) project had faced financing problems.
However, the Bavarian state government said it had signed an agreement with rail operator Deutsche Bahn and industrial consortium Transrapid that includes the developers of the train – Siemens and ThyssenKrupp.”
Well if someone had to do it, I am glad it isn’t us. I suspect this is another in a long line of transportation white elephants. Part of a successful investment strategy is not only picking winners but culling losers. $2.6B for an airport access link that will shave a few minutes off the line haul time to downtown (and only downtown) hardly seems the best of investments.

‘After bridge fall, engineers worry about undue alarm”

After bridge fall, engineers worry about undue alarm
“State highway officials around the country want the government to stop scaring the public by using dire-sounding phrases such as “structurally deficient” and “fracture critical” to describe bridges in need of repairs.”
Perhaps they forgot a bridge fell down. This occurred in part because there was *not* enough attention to bridges. Perhaps scarier terms are useful here. Certainly the real problems should rank worse than the non-problems, but the previous problem of under-investment has not suddenly disappeared. As the average age of bridges increases, the likelihood of collapse also increases in the absence of rehabilitation.
Modeling themselves on car dealers “”Car dealers no longer have ‘used’ cars. They instead switched to ‘previously owned.’ Can’t we similarly come up with nomenclature that is less of an issue?” Minnesota said in its response.” is hardly reassuring. People hardly hold car dealers in high regard.

Zipcar Take 3

I used the Zipcar for the 3rd time this morning. The second time was a week ago. We had a problem, the zipcard could not unlock the zipcar (Element Estelle) (all cars are alliteratively named for their models.
Fortunately when I called, they were able to unlock the adjacent car for me (Matrix McKenna), which I then took with only a few minute delay. Today I signed up for the second car (the Matrix), figuring it worked last time and the first did not. That was a wise choice, as someone else had reserved the other car this morning and had exactly the same problem I did previously, his card could not unlock Element Estelle. I realize Zipcar will do something for you (I am not clear what they will do), but this is a bad sign in general. Of my four interactions with zipcars, (three of my own and one observed for the other poor soul), two did not work correctly.

Congestion worsens, here and around the nation

Texas Transportation Institute is out with its mostly annual Urban Mobility Indicators report, I got my 15 seconds of fame on KARE-11 talking about it … Congestion worsens, here and around the nation. (Fox 9 called for an interview several hours later, but they wanted to do it outside, in the rain, and I begged off).
Of course, congestion is just the symptom, the real question is accessibility, and TTI does not track that.

Political Economy at Any Speed: What Determines Traffic Citations?

Via Peter Gordon, from New York Times: Welcome, Stranger. Here’s a Speeding Ticket.
… ” Michael D. Makowsky, a doctoral student in economics, and Thomas Stratmann, an economics professor, both at George Mason University, studied the issue in a recent paper, ”Political Economy at Any Speed: What Determines Traffic Citations?”
They examined every warning and citation written by police officers in all of Massachusetts, excluding Boston, during a two-month period in 2001 — over 60,000 in all. Their conclusion wasn’t shocking to an economist: money matters, even in traffic violations. They found a statistical link between a town’s finances and the likelihood that its police officers would issue a speeding ticket. The details are a little sticky, but they show that tickets were issued more often in places that were short on cash, and that out-of-towners received tickets more often than drivers with local addresses.” …
(original paper by Makowsky and Stratmann available here)
So this paper provides some more evidence of tax exporting in transportation finance, a favorite topic of mine since my dissertation “On Whom The Toll Falls”, extended in the book Financing Transportation Networks
More importantly, it is one less paper I have to write, it has on been my ‘to do’ list since my dissertation, but I never had the time to get together the data.
One could extend this work by looking at the location of “speed traps”, where the hypothesis would be these are at the edge of town, and thus more likely to nab out-of-town drivers than in the middle of town (assuming imports=exports, and no through trips, 50% of all travelers at the edge of town are from out-of-town, a smaller percentage of travelers inside town are out-of-town; if there are through trips, then more than 50% of travelers at the edge are non-resident, while again a smaller number of internal trips are non-resident).

Always mind the bollards

Video from Manchester Evening News: Always mind the bollards!
A nice visualization of the lastest traffic management technology in Europe. Clearly not fool-proof.

Garrison: Increasing the Flexibility of Legacy Systems

Bill Garrison gave the 2007 Anderson Distinguished Lecture in Applied Geography, in which he gave a talk on “Increasing the Flexibility of Legacy Systems”, a topic dear to his heart. The proceedings, excellently prepared, also provide some background on Garrison, and the Legacy has provided, both to Geography and Transportation.
Well worth the read if you feel transportation is stuck, and no real progress is being made.
— dml

Canada’s Crumbling Infrastructure

From CBC (via Zvi) Montreal mayor wants inspection reports for private buildings. It seems our neighbor to the north has crumbling infrastructure too. This is somehow reassuring (if it can happen to Canada it can happen anywhere, so it’s not anything “we” did or didn’t do), on the other hand it suggests there is no easy example to point to, if only we did like “so and so” we wouldn’t have these problems.
Awareness of crumbling infrastructure is like a virus (whether the infrastructure itself is crumbling because of some contagion would be an interesting scientific hypothesis, but doubtful).