Email bankruptcy?

From Stuff:”>
Under siege, users declare ‘email bankruptcy’ -
Users overwhelmed by their incoming email (underwhelming in their ability to manage time?) are just dumping their inbox.
It would be nice if we could do that in transportation … a queue forming at an intersection, we will just delete all the cars and start again.

Helpful Distortion

A nice discussion at 37 signals about the use of abstraction vs. realism on subway maps, looking in particular at maps of London’s (which is highly abstract) and New York’s (which is more realistic) standard subway maps.Helpful distortion at NYC & London subway maps
It is not obvious that one is inherently better than the other for all purposes. As noted earlier on the post about Could you walk it quicker, the London map imposes huge distortions. On the other hand, the more complicated the map, the more that is required to be filtered, arguing for more rather than less abstraction.
The specialist publisher Capital Transport has put out a number of books about the history of the Underground, and its maps, which are quite interesting.

Some good news out of California

From Today’s LA Times: High-speed train line plan may be derailed
The article suggests cutting the authority from 300 staff with 75 consulting firms under contract (of which 100 must be PR and survey firms) to 6 staff. I hope this is true, it would save the taxpayers of California a fortune on a boondoggle.
Though the article notes the line would “zip” passengers from LA to SF in 2.5 hours, this is only downtown LA and a few select stations to downtown SF (and a few select stations), unless you live on top of the stations, the access costs remain. Since one can drive the corridor in 6 hours or so, and fly it in an hour (plus 2-3 hours of access), the gains are marginal over driving (plus I need to rent a car at the other end) and negative over flying.
Furthermore, the idea that the private sector would pony up 20 billion to invest in the line is I suspect ludicrous, just look at the disaster the Public Private Partnership has been on the London Underground. One hopes (for the sake of the shareholders) firms would not be so daft as to pour good money after bad on the hopes of making money on this train.
California is not Europe and it is not Japan, and rail doesn’t turn a real profit there either.

Power companies and eminent domain

From today’s Washington Post: Power Companies’ Reach May Expand
The key issues:
1) Federal vs. state authority
2) Granting private for-profit power companies the “power” of eminent domain to condemn private property owned by others.
In general, the United *States* probably needs a more robust electrical grid, but the federal government is not the right agent to bring this about, and private firms should not be given eminent domain powers without strong local oversight. But a free market does not exist today in electric power distribution, so the situation is quite distorted already.

U.S. Employees Selling Transit Passes Illegally, Investigators Say

From today’s New York Times: U.S. Employees Selling Transit Passes Illegally, Investigators Say .
The federal government, to provide incentives for its employees to take transit, has given them a subsidy of transit passes. Instead of paying their employees more dollars (a currency in fact produced by the US government) and letting them make their own transportation decisions, or charging more for alternatives (on parking generally owned by the US government), it attempted to impose an alternative currency, and is outraged, outraged I say, that people have attempted to perform currency exchange, economic arbitrage between the subsidy and money for them that is more useful.
This is what you get for trying to direct human behavior .. performing “social engineering” as the term is used in Minnesota.
The report was apparently requested by Republican Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, who is apparently upset at government employees using the market system.
Coleman should instead be pleased at how well the federal employees understand markets and are willing to cut through red tape.

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