Category Archives: transportation

Are we making a right turn at Albuquerque?

Watching the morning news shows today and it has been mentioned several times that the best run and largest supplier of vehicles in the world, Toyota, has not made a profit on the Prius! And of course many who are anti-green are chomping at the bit to mention this news, as hybrids and fuel efficient cars have been heralded by Schumer, Obama and others as the way out of the red abyss for the Big 3. So hold this thought a moment while a throw something else out there. I also heard in my morning fog before coffee saturated synapses began to fire that electric cars like the Volt will be the solution to our economic and environmental problems. Now hold on to these two sentiments as I throw one more at you. The Big Government spending plan coming in 2009 can’t get more than 100 Billion spent in the first year, and so many morning financial folks were favoring tax breaks as opposed to spending as stimulus, but the real issue in terms of stimulus is this, infrastructure. Infrastructure is being touted as the way for the Big Government to get its economy back ie tax revenues. But by infrastructure what they say is a means of adding value is to expand roads, highways, and bridges. There will likely be money for repairs, and likely money for sidewalks and transit. But what the proponents mean is spending projects on 20th Century infrastructure! Okay, so lets surmise here: fuel efficient cars are still not profitable and have other external costs to the environment such as the caustic process by which the batteries are made,and since we tax per gallon fuel, these cars pay less into the infrastructure pot; and of what infrastructure we we plan for it will be more of the same- roads, bridges and highways.

Might I humbly suggest that:
1. Big Government should use its purchasing power (government fleet vehicles) to demand the kind of vehicles it says we should have to improve the profitability and economy of scale for the Big 3.
2. Currently GM is a big player in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), we could be truly innovative in improving the transportation infrastructure from static and dumb to dynamic and smarter infrastructure that can improve traffic management, safety, and level of service (LOS).
3. Tax the sale of less fuel efficient cars/trucks to compensate for the external costs that are hard to capture through other means such as gas taxes.
4. Recoup much revenue by only allowing gas taxes to go into the Federal Highway Fund, rather than being a way to subsidize other government programs and agencies.
5. Automobiles (independent mobility) are not the only way to get people and goods around, the government could look to lead innovation in how we get people and goods around the country and be a model for states, we can work with he Big 3 and other manufacturers to accomplish this. Things to consider might be having high speed regional rail service, Personal Rapid Transit (PRT),and Rapid buses– all which requires technology and manufacturing and we could capitalize on our nation’s strengths while meeting transportation challenges.

One last thought, maybe we should plan our way out of the need for so many automobiles? Don’t get me wrong, I love my 69 Beetle and my Jeep, but I also hate commuting by car, enjoy walking and riding my bike. Anecdotaly I’ve noticed for myself (having grown up in Houston, lived in Phoenix, LA, and DFW) and others that once exposed to a lifestyle not completely dependent on automobiles (SF and Berkeley, although parts of Houston and DFW may qualify) that there are many advantages. The focus on innovation should be how to maximize the infrastructure we have (not to mention fix what is broke or breaking, would you add another room to your house if the foundation was cracked?), how to develop in a way that does not induce the demand for more of the same old infrastructure, American’s value choice and freedom, I have come to value the modal choice and freedom that came with living in places that allowed me to choose my mode of transport whether it was walking, biking, subway, bus, train, or my car. There is a value to having choice and an opportunity for entrepreneurs to innovate. But transportation can not be viewed as a separate system, but must be viewed as a part of a larger whole that also includes land use, environment, the economy, etc. Obama says he will bring change, so far it seems a little too much BAU.

It occurs to me that some might not get the reference to the right turn at Albuquerque, this is a Bugs Bunny reference for when he chases the Matador but loses sight of him and he thinks he’s gone the wrong way (he went right instead of left, no political connection is intended, implied or even applicable)

The Big 3 vs Big Government

The Big 3 vs Big Government– ding ding ding
GM, Ford, and Chrysler (sigh)… I won’t go over so much of what you’ve already heard, but allow me as a car enthusiast (I’m not just a bike snob) and a proto-transportation-planner to offer a few thoughts:
1. All car/truck sales are down in the US for everyone not just the American manufacturers. I would say this has more to do with the recession, people’s insecurity about their jobs, and a shortage of credit.
2. To blame the Big 3 for being on the verge of failing seems unfair when compared to the treatment of Wall Street. Regarding the truck/SUV issue these vehicles were exempt from CAFÉ standards, if congress caved into the Big 3 lobbying efforts, seems disingenuous to turn around and criticize them as though congress had no hand in this.
3. Also, trucks/SUVs generally are more expensive so those vehicles and can absorb the legacy costs and afford to pay higher wages to build those vehicles, which is probably why a vehicle like the Pontiac Vibe is really a Toyota, that the PT Cruiser is more Mitsubishi than Chrysler, that Saturns are not from another planet, but from the Opel factories in Europe. We consumers have demanded trucks and SUVs and even the Japanese wanted in on the action and build full size versions, although some are assembled here in the South and Texas. When gas was cheap as it is now we didn’t demand fuel efficient vehicles and only whined about it when gas prices were high. Gas prices will go back up and above what we saw over the summer once the economy recovers globally.
4. But! But the Big 3 are guilty of not being innovative, of not being forward thinking of not developing a car we have to have, or as Friedman said, ‘didn’t know he wanted until he saw it’ referring the iPod. I fear the Big 3 will make the same old mistakes. I fear congress in it’s infinite lack of wisdom will seek to save us all. A car czar is a good idea. Unfortunately a realistic idea if we are not economic nationalists is to let them fail and be sold to the highest bidder. I’m sure many will say this is unpatriotic etc etc, and there would be a revolt against the buyers of our failed auto manufacturers, but they said that too when Honda put a motorcycle engine in a car and sold it like hotcakes here in the 70s (the first generation Civic), or when recently Nissan and Toyota began building full size trucks that the nay sayers said that full size trucks had a loyal following and would never work. Right or wrong, American’s like to spend money, but they like a good deal, I think more so than where it was made.
5. And “made” is a meaningless term in a global economy! Even your All American car might have tires from China, engine from Japan, battery from Mexico, wheels from Canada, rubber parts from Brazil, ECM (your cars brain) from Malaysia, etc. there is no “Made in America”. It might be assembled here, which means much of the tooling and machining is done elsewhere.
6. The argument for the need for manufacturing if we had not car plants to take over during a war assumes that: 1. Modern car plants are appropriate for the manufacturing of heavy vehicles like H1 armored Hummers, Tanks, etc. & 2. That we would have any qualms about taking over a plant on our soil, even if owned by a company owned of another country. I would suggest that the better plants for war time manufacturing would be in places where we build heavy equipment, tractors, 18wheelers, trains, etc. Not where we build the Chevy Cavalier, I mean Pontiac Cobalt.
7. A suggestion to the big 3, QUIT CLONING YOUR CARS!!! A ford Edge is a Mercury Mariner is a Mazda Tribute, can’t we just have one? The Dodge Caliber and the Jeep Patriot. The Pontiac Vibe and the Toyota Matrix or the Pontiac G5 and the Chevy Malibu, and so on and so on…
8. Government should create the demand they want to see, not by centralized control of policy by bureaucrats who know nothing about cars, but demand through government contracts the kind of cars you want. For example, the US Postal Service has 219,000 vehicles in their fleet, the government should offer contracts for vehicle types that achieve a certain fuel economy and emissions standard, if they create a great vehicle that people decide they want then it will be icing on the cake as the supply and demand were already covered by a government contract. Remember the Jeep CJ-5? It came from a defense contract and was built by several manufacturers and was viewed by the public as suck a thrifty utility vehicle it sold quite well, while the VW Beetle was the brain child of Hitler, it was still a good idea for a car and sold well here, non defense related hits would be the Mazda Miata, heck even the Yugo had its 15 minutes of fame. In short, it will be a disaster to let the Big 3 to do business as usual, but also equally disastrous if Congress thinks it can do better! Best to create the demand through government contracts for the types of vehicles the government says we should have, that should encourage some innovation without us being the first lab rats.
9. One final point, much of the improvements in fuel efficiency are lost to compensating for the increased weight that sound dampening materials for high speed driving, and all the weight from safety features. Maybe an economy car should be less safe, should trade off some weight for fuel economy, and if I an informed buyer would like to trade that off, why should the government intervene. The CRX HF got more than 50mpg stock on the highway! It also had a 1.3 liter engine and weighed under 2000 lbs. Any cars today get 50 mpg on gas that is not a hybrid that is offered here in the US? No I didn’t think so.
10. Okay I lied, one more last and final thought, for the billions of dollars to be spent to save the auto industry and the billions of dollars to be spent on infrastructure including repairs and improvements, is this what we really want? Maybe we should be manufacturing PRT systems and pods, maybe high speed trains, maybe light rail and rapid buses, and the entire infrastructure to support those forms of transportation not to mention good ole fashion walking and biking. Generally speaking BAU by the Big 3 and by Big Government is bad for America—m’kay.

Hours of Service (HOS) rule changes in Bush’s Midnight Rules

Bush has included in his Midnight Rules a change to the HOS for Truckers. The new rules would reverse the minimal gains made to promote a healthier and safer work environment for Truckers, as well as a safer driving environment for us all. The new rules would essentially drive down the effective hourly wages of Truckers as well.

http://ohsonline.com/Articles/2008/11/19-FMCSA-Finalizes-Hours-of-Service-Rule.aspx

Fight for your right to ride

I am starting to think that a problem for us cyclists is that we lack legitimacy as a viable means of transportation. To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield- “We don’t get no respect”. I think we are going to have to consider the idea of a bicycle registration fee.

The arguments against have been that many of us pay fees for the cars we own and why does that not cover our usage as cyclists. Agreed. That raising the cost of owning a bicycle may discourage cycling. It depends.

I think we could agree on a nominal registration fee. Also a Texas “Share the Road” license plate proceeds directed to cycling infrastructure.

The main point is that to legitimize the bicycle we will have to treat it as the legitimate form of transportation it is, and not a novelty.

In other news…

I can sympathize with the cyclist. I have been run down, bumped, clipped, etc. by vehicles. I also drive, a lot more than I ride for “trips”. But drivers really need to get over themselves and share the road. But cyclists need to keep it cool and not make our image worse in the eyes of drivers. In Texas where I live it is constitutional law that bikes have the same rights to State roads and highways.

The running tally of wins in the cyclist vs vehicle…

Cyclists- 1

Vehicles- lost count

http://www.citynews.ca/news/news_18576.aspx

Nominal Mass Part 3: Map Maker, map maker, make me a map

Well no visuals yet. Still collecting GIS data. I am now restructuring my project around identifying recreational cycling routes and proposing some ideas for other routes in the future for greater connectivity. I noticed there are several main utility power lines with lots of right of way. Now to find out who owns it and if it is even a possibility that in the future a hike and bike trail could be placed there. NCTCOG has some ideas about where the routes should be but I can’t read the maps in their report http://www.nctcog.org/trans/sustdev/bikeped/Pedestrian_Bicycle_System_AHedits_July07.pdf

And their Velo Website is not clear. They have funded on and off street facilities as bike/pedestrian? huh? First of all bikes and pedestrians really don’t mix that well. Secondly, what facilities? the street? I have not seen anything in Arlington other than .5 miles bike lane on Pecan and the hike and bike along Green Oaks.

http://www.dfwmaps.com/index.asp?mapTheme=dfwmaps&mapOption=pedestrian&BPTRAILS=on

Also we need to quit lumping walking and biking together on the sidewalks and in the collected data

http://www.nctcog.org/trans/data/census/bike_walk.pdf

At any rate, I hope to finish collecting data soon, identify the routes, ride them, identify proposed routes, compare mine to the NCTCOG and Arlington and see what’s what.

Most Stupidest Bike Lane

This was sent to me by AOS (thanks), I guess the one by my UTA campus is longer, when I have a chance I’ll try to get a measurement.

http://www.slatev.com/player.html?id=1475273846

Nominal Mass Part 2: ‘to ride or to drive that is the question…’

Well I used my Garmin Edge 305 GPS/cyclometer and my camera and went out for a two hour ride today and documented some of the cycling challenges.

Below is a link to the ground I covered.

http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=gmotfkwexrpuqueo

BTW if you want to convert data from a Garmin Edge 305 suitable for GIS or Google Earth you need to download a communicator from Garmin for your device, and go to http://www.gpsies.com and use their converter and you can download all kinds of files. I downloaded an EXCEL file, and I hope to use it for creating shp files for my project. [update it worked- hoo ray!]

A few observations:

North Arlington is hilly, that’s good for cycling enthusiasts looking for a workout, but not for novices and commuters.

Downtown Arlington is flat, that is good for commuters. It is very commercial, lots of used car lots and repair shops. Its also a little sketchy in some parts, such as dogs wandering around and some people who I don’t feel comfortable around on my overpriced bike and holding camera gear worth even more, so…

Fielder sucks!!!! I am comfy with traffic, but people really are not expecting a bike in “their” lane. I had one guy from the solace of his pick up truck yell out his window “faggot”- he must be a people person. Fielder also smelled of sewage near Randol Mil, but at least that masked the smell of diesel and 10% ethanol, and the one car that seriously need new rings or a valve job! Blue smoke is not cool!!!

Davis and Bowen are much better routes from UTA Blvd to the North towards Green Oaks.

To drive, or to ride, that is the question…

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Fielder, north of Randol Mill, not a great path at 5pm

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Fielder, just south of Green Oaks, not much traffic, but the rolling hills are too much for commuters

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The beginning of the 1/2 mile of marked bike lanes in Arlington, this is on Pecan street between UTA Blvd and Mitchell. It’s flat, but given the crime on campus, I would not really want to ride my bike there. I did, but I was uneasy about it.

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If you want to avoid the train, this is between Main and Division on West

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This is a “roadie”, notice the skinny tires. This is on Green Oaks on the hike and bike trail- very nice…

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Stopped to drink while on the bike lane on Pecan. Notice the compass to keep from getting lost, its also a bell! So I can “ding ding ding” to get people’s attention. I thought of getting a cow bell and tying it to my saddle,

since sometimes I feel to lazy to ding the bell.

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