The Automobile Anthropomorphic

Herbie the Love Bug appeared in quite a few films. While Herbie was good, Christine was less so, and is one of many possessed vehicles appearing in literature, film, and TV. The most famous is probably Butterfly Lightning McQueen. The headlights and radiator of the car are a natural anthropomorphizing feature as the eyes and mouth. Most such vehicles however lack the senses of smell and sound.
The movie Cars, and its knockoffs (e.g. Little Cars), and spin-offs (Cars Toons) dominate the animated genre. But they did not invent it.
Other shows with anthropomorphic vehicles include:

Sodor has a few off-track vehicles, mostly trucks and tractors, while Sir Topham Hatt’s car is not anthropomorphized. So nothing from the land of Thomas today.

Roary autobots LittleCars SpeedBuggy Cars Kitt Brum Herbie Christine

Linklist: May 31, 2012

KurzweilAI shows the press release from Volvo: Volvo’s autonomous cars travel 124 miles in Spain in ‘road train’

[This is interesting technology, I am glad they got it to work technically. I still want and expect autonomous robot cars.]

A podcast makes today’s Linklist: Horace Dediu on The Critical Path #40: Awaiting the Big Bang:

“This week, Horace follows up on his discussion of automobiles and road infrastructure by talking about how road networks were rebuilt in European countries to accommodate cycling. That leads to hints about the challenge of re-building energy infrastructure to support new power train technologies. Finally He and Dan also analyze comments made by Tim Cook at the recent D10 conference about Apple TV and disruption of the entertainment industry.”

Colin Harris @ streets.mn: Open Streets 2012 is Back:

“Following the inaugural Open Streets Minneapolis event in June of 2011, Minneapolis residents will have another opportunity to explore and enjoy their neighborhood streets without the presence of motorized traffic on June 10th, 2012.  Open Streets events (based on the Ciclovía from Bogotá, Colombia) bring together families and neighbors to bike, walk, socialize, play and shop in their communities in a safe, car-free environment.”

Using accessibility to evaluate future planning scenarios

HighwayTransitratio20mins

Recently published, and summarized in CTS Research E-News: Using accessibility to evaluate future planning scenarios:

“Understanding the interdependent relationship between transportation and land use is important for planning the future growth of cities. Recognizing how this relationship affects accessibility—the ability of people to reach the destinations that meet their needs and satisfy their wants—can help policymakers and planners make decisions that optimize a city’s efficiency, livability, and economic competitiveness.
In a study funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, researchers from the Department of Civil Engineering compared a set of planning scenarios for the Twin Cities metropolitan area using accessibility as a performance measure. Associate Professor David Levinson, undergraduate research assistant Paul Anderson, and graduate student Pavithra Parthasarathi used the scenarios to evaluate the accessibility of various land use and transportation network combinations.
The researchers analyzed the accessibility of 60 different scenarios, including combinations of six land-use scenarios and 10 highway and transit networks. The land-use scenarios included existing 2010 conditions, projected 2030 conditions, and various combinations of centralized and decentralized population and employment conditions.
Highway networks used in the scenarios included 2010 conditions, projected 2030 conditions, an ideal freeflow network with no congestion, and a hypothetical diamond lane network that added high-occupancy toll lanes to all freeways inside the I-494/694 beltway. Transit networks ranged from 2010 conditions to projected 2030 conditions to a ‘retro’ network that added all 1931 rapid transit streetcar routes to the 2030 network.
In terms of land use, results show that centralized employment and centralized population had the highest accessibility across all networks, resulting in more access to jobs and labor as well as shorter commute times. The researchers found that fully centralized growth produced about 20 to 25 percent more accessibility than the projected 2030 scenario, depending on the accompanying transportation network.
Of the transportation networks, the researchers found that the freeflow network had the highest accessibility—20 percent more than the projected 2030 network—followed by the diamond lane network.
At first, the researchers say, it would be easy to choose the land use and transportation network combination with the highest accessibility as the future planning goal. However, the scenario of centralized population and employment on a freeflow network—while ideal for accessibility—is not likely to be cost-effective or feasible under current conditions.
Instead, the researchers say, these study results could be used to help prioritize future investments and land-use strategies based on how accessibility-effective they are—how much accessibility they deliver per dollar of investment.
A final report on the project, Using Twin Cities Destinations and Their Accessibility as a Multimodal Planning Tool (MnDOT 2012-05), is available on the CTS website.”

Linklist: May 30, 2012

Reason: Lessons From the United Fruit Company – Reason.com discusses the new book by Rich Cohen, The Fish That Ate The Whale: The Life And Times Of America’s Banana King.:

“There is the efficiency. Zemurray got started in the banana business by figuring out how to distribute ‘ripes,’ the freckled bananas that were thrown away as useless discards before Zemurray figured out the logistics of fast-moving rail distribution.”

[United Fruit was also one of the early investors in RCA, as they held key radio patents, which were crucial for banana distribution.]

NY Times: As Apps Move Into Cars, So Do More Distractions

[All the more reason to take the driver out of the loop]

Tim Lee @ Ars: Four signs America’s broadband policy is failing

[He discovers networks with high fixed costs are not inherently competitive]

Bryan Caplan @ Econlog: A Signaling Theory of Suboptimal Telecommuting, :

“A fascinating senior paper by Georgetown undergraduate Alexander Clark suggests that the answer is yes.  Clark’s story: Workers physically commute for signaling reasons.  Employers can monitor your productivity better when you actually come to the office.  Workers who telecommute put themselves on the slow track to success – if they can even get hired in the first place.  To bolster this thesis, Clark analyzes the American Time Use Survey using the employer learning-statistical discrimination (EL-SD) framework.  He finds that the labor market does indeed take longer to reward telecommuters for their hard-to-observe abilities.  “

[Not only does telecommuting signal sloth, there is at least one survey cited which shows telecommuters don't work as many hours per day.]

Linklist: May 24, 2012

LA Times: Plan for, autonomous, or self-driving cars passes California senate hurdle.

From JW: Green Car Congress: Google’s technology campaign for autonomous driving:

“Search engine giant Google is looking for partners within in the auto industry to help launch one of the most significant applications of artificial technology over the next several years, the self-driving car.
In a keynote address to the SAE 2012 World Congress on 25 April 2012, Anthony Levandowski, Business Lead for Google’s Self Driving Car Project provided an overview of Google’s autonomous vehicle program and requested that the auto industry partner with Google on the implementation. (Levandowski joined Google in 2007 to launch StreetView—Google Maps with Street View lets you explore places around the world through 360-degree street-level imagery.)

We’re not perfect; the technology is nowhere near ready. We want to set expectations low but we want to encourage dialogue on how we want to move the technology forward.
—Anthony Levandowski

‘For some, driving is a distraction.’
—Allen Taub, former GM VP, Global R&D

Levandowski shared that 32,788 people were killed in the US last year in auto accidents and 90% of those accidents were related to human error. Multi-tasking while driving is only increasing to the extent that people view driving as the distraction. Twenty percent of the food consumed in America is eaten in cars. Google believes that a future state with having computers drive cars can ‘remove a gigantic chunk’ of the US fatalities.
Approximately 1.5 million people/year are killed in auto accidents globally. Google is involved because the company has a strong technical legacy and the company likes to take on problems where the ‘solutions have a high impact on humanity that involve challenging technical problems’.
In addition to the safety impact, Google believes your brain should be able to engage in activities other than driving.

It is a bug, not a feature, that you need to drive all of the time…What if I gave you a pill that allows you to get 10% longer life without any side effects …given how much time we spend in a car, a self driving car is that pill.
—Anthony Levandowski”

SA: Why America’s Love Affair with Cars Is No Accident: Scientific American:

“The change in American public opinion from thinking of cars as wildly dangerous vehicles to having a ‘love affair with the automobile’ was no accident. Instead, it reflected a serious push by the car industry to change people’s psychology. Automobiles had to win the battle for hearts and minds before they could take over streets where people had once swarmed.”

[Peter Norton’s Fighting Traffic is well worth reading.

The Monorail Anthropomorphic

lachende_schwebebahn

K.L writes:

I know from reading your blog that you are a bit keen on anthropomorphized transportation. This week I stumbled upon an old cartoon celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wuppertal Schwebebahn from 1951. The “Laughing Schwebebahn” is not only smiling, but it also has wings. It’s from Das Beste von der Schwebebahn in 50 Jahren (http://www.worldcat.org/title/beste-von-der-schwebebahn-in-50-jahren/oclc/8757312).

See wikipedia for more.
I am guessing this category (anthropomorphic monorails) is smaller than others, but please send in any other examples.

The Future of Greater MSP’s Cultural and Physical Environment

I get to talk about Flying Cars and Transportation Technology for about 8 seconds in this 3:40 Greater MSP video: The Future of Greater MSP’s Cultural and Physical Environment

(Just don’t call it the Twin Cities anymore)
((The interview was ~ 30 minutes, I talked about lots of other cool things as well, they just survive on the cutting room floor))

Linklist: May 22, 2012

NYT: Big Data Troves Stay Forbidden:

” In the future, he said, the conference should not accept papers from authors who did not make their data public. He was greeted by applause from the audience.
In February, Dr. Huberman had published a letter in the journal Nature warning that privately held data was threatening the very basis of scientific research. ‘If another set of data does not validate results obtained with private data,’ he asked, ‘how do we know if it is because they are not universal or the authors made a mistake?'”

In the “be careful what you wish for department” … NYT: George Lucas’s Plans in Marin:

“But after spending years and millions of dollars, Mr. Lucas abruptly canceled plans recently for the third, and most likely last, major expansion, citing community opposition. An emotional statement posted online said Lucasfilm would build instead in a place ‘that sees us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire.’
If the announcement took Marin by surprise, it was nothing compared with what came next. Mr. Lucas said he would sell the land to a developer to bring ‘low income housing’ here.”

TOLLROADSnews: Traffic congestion dropped off 30% in 2011 INRIX says – weak economy, higher gas prices :

“2011 saw a dramatic drop in traffic congestion in the US – 30% fewer hours wasted in congested traffic according to INRIX, the nation’s leading provider of traffic data. The 2011 improvement is only outmatched in the years since INRIX has been measuring congestion by the financial crisis year of 2008, when congestion dropped 34%. In 2009 congestion was up 1% and 2010 saw a 10% regrowth of congestion.

[I call 'Bullshit'. There may have been a methodological problem they are calling a trend.]

Wired: SpaceX In Orbit – Successful Launch of Falcon 9 Rocket :

“CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — The second time’s the charm for SpaceX. This morning at 3:44 a.m. EDT the company’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral. After a faulty valve led to an aborted launch on Saturday, today’s successful flight marks the third of the Falcon 9 rocket, the second flight of the Dragon capsule, and the first flight for a commercial spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS).”

Kottke: Douche parking: “I can’t tell if the app featured in this video is imaginary or not, but it’s a great theoretical solution to the problem of douche parking. Douche parking is basically parking like a douche, and is way more prevalent in Russia than in the US. The Village feels publicly shaming is the best way to deal with douches. Unfortunately, one trait of douches is an inability to be shamed.”

Matt Kahn @ Environmental and Urban Economics: New UCLA Research Suggests that Men Should Not Bike:

“A study by researchers at the UCLA School of Nursing has found that serious male cyclists may experience hormonal imbalances that could affect their reproductive health. “

Cross-subsidies | streets.mn

Cross-posted from streets.mn: Cross-subsidies:

“We subsidize transit to spur development. We subsidize development to spur transit ridership.”

Cross-subsidies

 

We subsidize transit to spur development.

We subsidize development to spur transit ridership.

We cannot make up our minds whether we want development to drive transit use, or we want transit use to increase development. Advocates would say we want both to create transit-served high density communities because of all the good that it brings.

But if the transportation-land use cross-dependency is so strong, why do we need to subsidize both sides of the equation? If you subsidized transit to get the positive externalities which are beneficial to development, it might make sense (e.g. maybe transit is undersupplied because the private sector cannot capture the positive externalities due to transaction costs and prohibitions on value capture). If even after subsidizing transit, and there is still not enough demand for private development to proceed without subsidy, maybe you are trying to stimulate development in the wrong place.

Flowchart
What positive eternality is the private sector development producing which justifies subsidy? The best I can figure is transit ridership. (Which isn’t really a positive externality, but might lower the average cost of transit, which is often dominated by high fixed costs, and slightly reduce the negative externalities of other modes.) And we want transit riders and service to justify private development?

I believe that the transportation-land use system acts as a positive feedback system (but a self-limiting one), in the high growth phase of development, transportation investment does drive land development, and land development can induce construction of infrastructure. We have saturated this effect in many places, so the effects of additional accessibility are now quite small on mature networks. The marginal benefits of new infrastructure may no longer outweigh the marginal costs.

The beauty of a positive feedback system is that it takes off on its own, without interference. The subsidy is an indicator the economics of the positive feedback system are not there. The evidence is that there were such effects historically, see the Special Issue of JTLU on the Coevolution of Transport and Land Use for examples, as well as papers cited therein.

Advocates would again say: but you need to prime the pump. To which I respond, we have primed the pump for almost 40 years in the US, with a large share federal capital surface transportation funds going to transit systems that now collectively serve 1.5 percent of all person trips (according to summaries of the NHTS by Polzin and Chu).

To provide some recent evidence, federal capital expenditures on transit in 2008 (from2010 Conditions and Performance Report, the most recent available) was $6,400,000,000, of which 76.4% was on rail. Federal capital expenditures on highways in 2008 was $34,300,000,000. Transit’s share of federal surface transportation capital expenditures in 2008 was thus 16 percent.

This is not to say any transportation subsidies are inherently justified or unjustified. (That is for another post). It is just to point out that there has been massive transit investment over a period of decades far out of proportion to the relative demand for transit, and that investment has done almost nothing to boost transit’s market share (or ridership), almost nothing to stimulate development, i.e. nothing to “prime the pump”. And if 40 years of sustained investment won’t do it, it seems reasonable to suppose another 40 years won’t do it either.

The reason for this is simple. Transit is not perceived as a better mode for 98.5 percent of trips than something else. It is not faster and/or it is not higher quality and/or it is not less expensive in out-of-pocket terms. It once was, before today’s competing modes had matured, before different land use patterns locked-in.

There are things we can do to make transit better. (And there are certainly things we can and should do to make other modes less attractive, like internalizing negative externalities with better pricing). I think it is technically and economically (though not politically) feasible to double (or even quadruple) transit ridership nationally. But spending scarce resources to subsidize private development to produce transit riders while we simultaneously subsidize transit service to induce private development is not the path to increase in ridership. It just gets us lost.

When transit was on the upsurge from 1880 to 1920, its competitor was walking and horse. It outperformed both. The US was growing fast, and it grew around new transit lines. But with the advent of automobility, paved roads, large lots and thus increased distances between homes, the suburbanization of retail to serve new suburban residences, and then suburbanization of employment, and then new highways to serve these new markets, those advantages withered.

Remember, the built form of the 1880s-1920s still mostly exists, and transit market share is low even there, where it could be much higher. We don’t necessarily need more development in those areas, certainly not development requiring subsidy. We need the residents and workers in those areas to want to take transit more. It already has the potential to be a decent choice, since the land use pattern was constructed with transit as the preferred mode.

We spend too much capital trying unsuccessfully to convince people with better choices to use transit. We don’t spend enough on those without good alternatives and who might travel more or farther, or those where transit is actually competitive, where the built environment still resembles transit’s glory years of the early 1920s.

Instead of requiring the public to subsidize land development near transit, transit shouldcreate value for land development that can be captured to help pay its capital costs. If a new route doesn’t create enough value to cover its costs or generate land price appreciation, maybe we should spend finite transit-supportive resources somewhere that does.