Threat level color codes to be disbanded

http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/01/26/threat.level.system.change/?hpt=T1

The threat level orange nonsense is going … why isn’t it already gone, why does this take 3 months?

Anyway the system didn’t even follow the natural color code ROY G BIV , which even my three year old knows (and sings)

Who puts blue between green and yellow? It is like counting 1 2 3 5 4.

Nexus at Transportation Research Board conference #TRBUMN #TRBAM

From Sunday – Thursday of next week the Annual Transportation Research Board Conference will be held in Washington DC, spanning three large hotels. I and my colleagues will be there. The papers we are presenting are listed below, some papers are double-listed, i.e. they will be presented in brief (7 min) talks along with a poster. I hope to see many of you there. The only paper I am personally giving is on Value Capture, but given the schedule below, I will be found at the Hilton. In addition, there are various committee meetings I hope to see folks at.

St. Paul buys all-electric utility trucks, plans 24 charging stations

From the Pioneer Press St. Paul buys all-electric utility trucks, plans 24 charging stations
It is good to see electrification moving forward, but assuming a 6 year lifespan for the vehicles, the energy savings of $1300 / year * 6 years = $7800 seems to be less than the additional fixed cost of $38,800 (i.e. a Ford Transit Connect Electric at $60,000, while a Fort Transit Connect actually starts at about $21,200.) I was hoping the economics would be closer.
We probably should include the negative externalities avoided. The article reports Carbon emissions of 3.5 tons * 6 years = 21 tons. The market price of carbon is about $18.75/ton (14 Euros), so those savings (21 * 18.75 = $393) do not quite close the $38,800 gap.

St. Paul is getting EV-ready.
Mayor Chris Coleman will be joined today by Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and other leaders to display the Twin Cities’ first all-electric vehicle, one of three Ford utility vehicles St. Paul has purchased with federal and local dollars to use for its public works and parks departments.
The capital city also is planning to install 24 plug-in charging stations in downtown parking ramps and on the streets this spring. All but a few will be available to the public.
“We want people to know we’re getting ready,” said Anne Hunt, St. Paul’s sustainability coordinator, who oversees a number of federally funded initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and saving fuel costs. “If people are out there wondering if they should order a Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf, we want them to know that if they commute to the cities, or just come down for a Wild game, there will be options for them to plug in.”
The three St. Paul vehicles — Ford Transit Connect Electric — cost about $60,000 each and were chosen because the company gave assurances they would perform in Minnesota’s winters, Hunt said. St. Paul’s vehicles will be among the first in the country off a Michigan assembly plant as Ford rolls out the vehicles, which are marketed for commercial use.
The city estimates each vehicle would reduce annual carbon emissions by 3.5 tons and save $1,300 per year in fuel costs. Over a six-year period, the Transit Connect
is estimated to cost $1,800 in electricity.
Rybak drives a Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid that he had converted so its batteries can be recharged by plugging in, and both cities own gas-electric hybrids, but St. Paul’s Transit Connects will be the first all-electric vehicles for either city.
First National Bank recently installed plug-in charging stations in its parking ramp, but otherwise, the 24 new charging stations, which will accommodate both generally used charging configurations, will be the city’s first. Among the locations for the chargers will be RiverCentre/Xcel Energy Center parking ramps and areas around the Union Depot. Hunt said several private parking ramps have expressed interest in obtaining charging stations.
Stations also will be located along the route of the proposed Central Corridor light-rail line linking St. Paul and Minneapolis via University Avenue. Some of the charging stations will generate their electricity from solar panels.
Charging a vehicle won’t be free, nor will parking in front of a charger, Hunt said. Details are being worked out, but Hunt said there are plans for a smartphone app that would allow drivers to check availability of charging stations and reserve one.
In all, the vehicles and the charging stations are being paid for through a combination of sources, including $286,000 in federal stimulus money, $60,000 from St. Paul and a $60,000 grant from Xcel Energy’s Chairman’s Fund. The federal dollars are part of $2.8 million in stimulus money being spent on a host of St. Paul energy-related projects, ranging from LED streetlights to programs aimed at helping private industrial companies become more energy-efficient.
The Transit Connect purchases and charging station plan are part of a partnership called Drive Electric Minnesota, which includes a host of metro corporations, nonprofits and governments with the goal of installing electric-vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the metro area.

Jam-busting service on the road in many cities

Jam-busting service on the road in many cities

Drivers offered a route out of traffic snarl-ups as firms roll out new idea
BEIJING – With more Chinese people getting behind the wheel every day, traffic jams are a major headache in most cities but the gridlock has become an opportunity for some entrepreneurs who are offering an escape route – for a price.
Drivers who get stuck in traffic in some cities can now get on their mobile phones and call for a substitute to take their cars to their destinations while the frustrated drivers are whisked away on the back of a motorcycle.
“One important source of our customers is female drivers, some of whom feel physically uncomfortable if they wait in cars in traffic for too long,” said Huang Xizhong, manager of a company that offers the service in Wuhan, the capital of Central China’s Hubei province.
“Other customers are those with urgent dates or business meetings to go to, and those who have flights to catch and can’t afford to wait in a traffic jam for too long.”
Huang said he started offering the service last year after receiving a number of calls from people who were stuck in traffic.
The service has also hit the streets in Jinan, capital of East China’s Shandong province. There, drivers can be bailed out of a back-up for upwards of 400 yuan ($60), according to a report in Guangzhou Daily.
But some businesses that offer driving services in other cities are hesitating to jump on the bandwagon.
“There is a demand for the service, but it’s risky,” said a manager surnamed Zhang at a Beijing automobile service company.
Zhang said his employees would face hazards if he started to offer the service, such as having to drive motorcycles into crowded areas and carve their way through traffic, possibly on freeways, in order to pick up clients.
Under current traffic regulations, it is illegal for motorcyclists to use the freeway, he explained.
“As far as I know, no company in Beijing has started that kind of business,” Zhang added.
And while the idea has taken off elsewhere, car drivers in the capital have their reservations, saying they could not trust a stranger to look after their vehicles.
Lei Ting, an office worker with a multinational software company in Beijing, said: “I’d rather wait in my car in a traffic jam if I did not feel that the company or the driver was trustworthy.”
But as one of the world’s most congested cities, it’s easy to imagine that there will be room for such a service in the capital.
According to a global survey conducted by IBM last year, Beijing is tied with Mexico City as having the “world’s worst commute”. Some 84 percent of respondents said they spent an hour on the road each day on average in each direction.
In a major effort to tackle the gridlock in the capital, the municipal government launched a new set of traffic measures on Dec 23, including sharply limiting the number of new cars it will allow on city streets. In the coming year, the capital will only approve the registration of 240,000 new vehicles – about one-third of last year’s number.
The limitations in a city of more than 19 million residents sparked a frenzy of activity among would-be car buyers who scrambled to register their names with the online lottery system that will decide which residents will get to buy a new car.
Throughout China, congestion is becoming a major problem, not only in mega-cities such as Beijing and Shanghai but smaller ones and even some county seats in coastal provinces.
Cao Yin contributed to this story.

See also Marginal Revolution
P.S. IBM on world’s worst commute must be biased, since my guess is most travelers in Beijing do not use an automobile.

Chinese farmer gets life in prison for evading highway tolls

From Fox

Chinese farmer gets life for evading highway tolls
Jan 14, 2011 12:59 AM EST
A Chinese farmer has been sentenced to life in prison for avoiding highway tolls adding up to more than 3.5 million yuan ($530,000).
State media this week reported that a court in the central province of Henan sentenced Shi Jianfeng on Dec. 21 for fraud. He was also fined 2 million yuan ($302,000).
The news caused an uproar among some Chinese, who argued in online postings and commentaries that shorter sentences have been given out for the more serious crimes of rape or murder.
The outcry was so loud that the Intermediate People’s Court in the city of Pingdingshan held a news conference this week to defend its decision.
A report in the People’s Daily newspaper said Shi avoided paying tolls more than 2,300 times by using fake military license plates between May 2008 and January 2009 as he ran a business transporting gravel with his two vans.
Military vehicles don’t have to pay highway tolls.
The People’s Daily report cited prosecutors in the city of Pingdingshan.
With China’s state media tightly controlled by the government, some citizens pounce on stories that they feel illustrate injustice.
In this case, their complaints strayed beyond Shi’s case to popular complaints that highway toll fees are too high, especially for a farmer.
One legal expert said the severity of the sentence in Shi’s case comes from the fact that he faked military items, including uniforms.
“Based on the explanation, the court certainly can hand down such a sentence,” Qu Xinjiu, a law professor at China University of Political Sciences and Law, was quoted as saying by the English-language Global Times newspaper this week.
Other legals experts told state media they did not expect Shi would be able to pay his large fine.

Another brick in the wall for making road pricing acceptable.

Planning Curses

David Metz writes about a great paper by Bridget Rosewell Planning Curses

“Planning Curses
‘Planning Curses’ is the title of a paper by the economist Bridget Rosewell, published by think tank Policy Exchange, which challenges conventional approaches to justifying investment in infrastructure. Economic models are too complicated and have a poor track record; and welfare analysis as the basis for benefits means little to those affected by investments – for instance the notional travel time savings from transport investments.
Bridget Rosewell wants us to pursue projects on the basis of their contribution to the economy, not to ‘welfare’, with business cases which engage business; and to use long-term frameworks for thinking about the future, rather than plans or blue-prints.
A stimulating critique of the standard approach.”