Carpools boon or boondoggle

Speed up car pool lanes, federal officials tell state [California] Nice quote from USC professor Peter Gordon: “There’s no evidence on the planet that car pool lanes have caused car pooling.”
A bit of hyperbole perhaps, certainly casual carpools because of the HOV lanes in San Francisco and Washington DC caused carpools (at the expense of public transportation no doubt), but nevertheless an important point about the futility of weak incentives. The problem is further exacerbated by the attempt to use these lanes to solve other social ills, namely pollution by using them as an incentive for hybrid cars.
One problem … one policy.

Butterflies and Beverages

Bruce Schneier’s Blog: Second Movie-Plot Threat Contest Winner aimed at forcing the TSA to ban something totally innocuous. (highly amusing).

Tickets before or after boarding?

From the Standard: No ticket, no excuse – train guards will show zero tolerance
South West Trains (my local railway in Putney and Barnes, with far better service than some of the lines in other regions) will no longer let passengers buy tickets on trains at reasonable prices.
This seems to be a policy aimed at causing needless delay and annoyance. At most there should be a somewhat higher price (not the outrageous “full fare” prices) for the convenience of paying onboard, rather than queueing (and perhaps missing the next train waiting in queue) to buy tickets. Happier passengers usually means more passengers.

Cutting corners

Whoops! Where did that railway line come from? … railway issues brochure with non-existent line. Marketing, cutting corners so to speak, inserted a route as a hypotenuse of the triangle between the thriving Cornwallian metropoli of Falmouth and Redruth.
This of course relates to how to represent services abstractly on maps. All maps are abstractions, some seem to cross an unwritten line.

Continue reading

Nightmare at Reagan National Airport: The TSA Strikes Back

Nightmare at National Airport — an update The TSA, rather than protecting its borders, would prefer to protects its ass. They have posted two videos and the official report of the incident.
Though Rashoman-like, the videos clarify nothing. The only question is whether Ms. Emmerson intentionally dumped her water (she clearly spilled it … intentionally?, “he informed the passenger that the child’s container was too big and would have to be poured out” … apparently she did so on the spot, which is probably inappropriate, though the guard did not provide a place to do so) and perhaps whether she tried to pull rank, though the videos have no sound, so this is quite unclear).
Still, it is clear the water was no threat, so why must it be disposed of.

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.