Category Archives: Education

Introduction to Transportation Engineering: Videos now available

As long-time readers of this blog know, I teach CE3201: Introduction to Transportation Engineering. I have recorded short videos of key topics for the course (which I beta-tested earlier this year).

650px-MarketStreet

They are available on my YouTube channel. You can watch the whole thing (if you have a lot of time) or selected videos at this Playlist.

These lectures complement the open access wikibook Fundamentals of Transportation.

Email me if you are interested in the syllabus.

Junkets

The best investment we could make in improving transport and land use in the US is to take 15,000 transportation engineers, spend $3,000 apiece, and give them a week touring the Netherlands.

This would only cost $45M (well less than many interchanges), and would reap a huge amount of micro- and macro-benefits as the design choice set that was considered possible would increase greatly. If this only saved 8 lives, it would be worth it as a public investment.

We should have a similar program for city officials and planners. Sadly the term “junket” has been given a bad reputation. But some non-profit should be able to come up with resources, without trying to sell anything but the idea of looking at the world differently.

There is nothing better than seeing designs with your own eyes.

2014-06-24 at 08-05-18

The Chevy Vega

Wanting to Drive and Quality of Driving

The Chevy Vega
The Chevy Vega

Our society has undergone many subtle and not-so-subtle changes in the past few decades. Among those related to driving, safety, and perceived safety, I believe there have been lasting effects.

When I was growing up, and I went for a ride with my mom, I would sit in the front seat of the car. I would wear a seatbelt (a habit formed because of the seat-belt ignition interlock on our Chevy Vega preventing the engine from starting without seat belts (a one-year experiment reviled by the driving public). My children sit in the back seat because of the rise of so-called child safety seats and air bags.

When I was growing up, I would walk down the block alone in pre-school and Kindergarten, and around the neighborhood by 1st grade, and all over town by 3rd grade. I would ride the ColumBus by 4th grade with my Package Plan card (giving me free rides in on the system, a benefit which has since been removed). Today there is a movement for Free Range Kids because such freedom has diminished.

Practicing pop sociology, I attribute this decrease in children’s freedom to the Atlanta Child Murders, the Missing Kids on the back of Milk Boxes, Adam Walsh, and Amber Alerts, all which are making child kidnapping seem much more common than it was before or than it really is. Couple this with the decreased number of children per family, meaning children are less disposable than they once were.

Milk Carton Kids
Milk Carton Kids

Today’s kids sit in the back seat, have a much diminished range, are more likely to be driven by parent or school bus to their school.

Drivers from other countries in the US are often derided as poor quality. However, keep in mind, they grew up seldom riding in a car at all if ever, and thus never learned the tacit rules of driving that many Americans are accustomed to. Perhaps the driving tests in the US are insufficiently stringent, but there are many things one can learn about driving just be riding in the front seat of a car, which immigrants, and today’s kids, fail to experience.

VW Drivers Wanted
VW Drivers Wanted

The net is that when you go through life as a passenger rather than a driver, your motivation for driving is lower, since you are not modeling driving yourself as you would watching through the front windshield, and your quality of driving is lower since you lack experience. These two factors presumably feed on each other, as people like doing what they are good at. I posit this as one of a number of factors that has led to a significant decline per capita travel.