How do Roads Spread AIDS in Africa? A Critique of the Received Policy Wisdom

Interesting study (the downsides of accessibility):

How do Roads Spread AIDS in Africa? A Critique of the Received Policy Wisdom
Date: 2009-11
By: Djemaï, Elodie
This paper empirically analyzes the influence of road proximity on HIV-infection using geographical data on road infrastructure and the Demographic and Health Surveys collected in six African countries. Firstly we show that living in proximity to a major road increases the individual risk of infection. This observed relationship is found to be sensitive to the use of the road and to be robust after correcting for potential selection bias related to the non random placement of people. Secondly, our findings reveal that road infrastructure improves the level of HIV/AIDS-knowledge and facilitates access to condoms, providing no support to the hypothesis that HIV-infection is purely due to ignorance and misfortune. Thirdly, we find that the increased risk of infection is driven by a higher likelihood of engaging in casual sexual partnerships that more than offsets the effect of the increased use of condoms.
Keywords: HIV/AIDS epidemic, spatial inequalities, risk taking
JEL: I10

Archive Gallery: Cities of the Future

Via David Brin, Popular Science has an Archive Gallery: Cities of the Future which shows the future of cities through the eyes of the techno-optimists of Popular Science magazine. While none have come to pass exactly, in a sense, they are almost all here, examples below. This reinforces the William Gibson quote “The future is already here – it is just unevenly distributed. ” …
Image 1: Exurbia
Image 2: Paris: La Defense
Image 3: Urban Highways
Image 4: Underground City Montreal
Image 5: Elevated Urban Highways (again)
Image 6: Brasilia
Image 7: International Space Station
Image 8: Biosphere (okay, we don’t really have domed cities)
Image 9: Mars (okay, we don’t really have a Mars colony yet)
Image 10: Masdar

Electric Car Bills on the Hill: 10 Things You Should Know

From earth2tech: Electric Car Bills on the Hill: 10 Things You Should Know

The Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010, introduced in Congress this week, has a simple goal to electrify half of all cars and trucks on U.S. roads by 2030, and a basic strategy: focus the might of the federal government on a small number of pilot communities around the country, subsidizing the buildout of charging infrastructure and purchase of electric vehicles.

Generally, electrification is a good idea (as opposed to fossil fuels) as it is easier to control the environmental effects of energy production if they are at single points. It also enables more easily switching between fuels without having to modify 200 m vehicles, that is it is a more general technology. However, half the cars by 2030 seems singularly unambitious, how about half of all new cars by 2020 being electric, fuel cell, or hybrid, and almost all new cars by 2030?

Battery innovators: The Senate version proposes $1.5 billion for research aimed at delivering a battery that can go 500 miles on a single charge. The Senate also proposes establishing a $10 million prize for whoever delivers a commercially viable battery with those specs.

Somehow I think the $10 million prize will have a greater return on investment than the $1.5 billion in federal research. How about upping the prize (or establishing many prizes) and let the market fund the research with the hope of payoff.

High-speed rail saves time, but price gives pause

From Global Times in China (via XC) High-speed rail saves time, but price gives pause

“High-speed rails are actually making losses right now,” said Sun Zhang, a professor with the Urban Rail & Railway Engineering Department of Shanghai-based Tongji University. “The high ticket price is surely a reason for the loss. At present, most Chinese people want to save money rather than save time.”
High-speed railway should learn from airlines and offer discounts during periods of lower ridership and to those who place early orders, said Mao Shoulong , a professor at Renmin University of China.

The quest to design a better stop sign

Tom Vanderbilt in Slate Magazine writes about The quest to design a better stop sign.

[T]rying to improve driver behavior through better signage is as futile as fighting illiteracy with better fonts.

Engineers really need to learn about risk compensation.
Not all safety improvements are futile, but there is a response, so drivers who are protected use some of the safety improvement to behave in a riskier way, as in the video below. This does not imply they necessarily die.

Traffic Paint Shortage Threatens Roadwork: FTA Commissioner Advocates Paint

The NY Times says: Traffic Paint Shortage Threatens Roadwork

The scarcity stems in large part from the shortage of an obscure chemical compound called methyl methacrylate, one of the key ingredients in roadworthy paint, which must be sturdy, long-lasting and reflective. A major producer of the compound, Dow Construction Chemicals, had production problems this year at a plant in Deer Park, Tex.

I hope this does not set back the plans of FTA … Peter Rogoff, who recently said

Supporters of public transit must be willing to share some simple truths that folks don’t want to hear. One is this — Paint is cheap, rails systems are extremely expensive.
Yes, transit riders often want to go by rail. But it turns out you can entice even diehard rail riders onto a bus, if you call it a “special” bus and just paint it a different color than the rest of the fleet.
Once you’ve got special buses, it turns out that busways are cheap. Take that paint can and paint a designated bus lane on the street system. Throw in signal preemption, and you can move a lot of people at very little cost compared to rail.