Archive for October 10th, 2008

Driving Debt

Apropos of an earlier post here noting this startling statistic, via Harper’s — “Percentage of U.S. homeowners who reported last year that they had bought a car using a home-equity loan: 27” — I was interested in Katherine Kersten’s comments here about the origins of consumer debt:

“In 1909, Henry Ford created the Model T, offering mobility, convenience and liberation beyond Americans’ wildest dreams. Everybody wanted one. But even after production improvements brought the price down, the Model T cost $345 — a budget-breaker for most Americans.

Ford had manufactured, for the first time, “a mass-produced consumer’s item that cost between 10 and 20 percent of a family’s annual income,” writes historian Daniel Boorstin in “The Americans: The Democratic Experience.”

“Ford was a staunch advocate of frugality and prudence. He maintained that folks should scrimp and save until they had enough cash to buy a car. But other business operators had bolder, if not better, ideas. They quickly concocted the consumer “installment plan” — a form of financing previously used only to purchase real estate.

In 1923, U.S. manufacturers sold more than 3.5 million passenger cars, according to Boorstin. About 80 percent were purchased on some kind of time-payment plan.

Installment plans spread quickly in the decades that followed, enabling Americans to acquire desirable items from refrigerators to power boats.”

Posted on Friday, October 10th, 2008 at 9:39 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Human Drama of the Railways

If I can go multi-modal for a moment, I’ve got a piece in the current Metropolis (here or text after the jump) that looks at a new show at Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum, Art in the Age of Steam: Europe, America and the Railway, 1830–1960, in the context of the current state of rail.

Here’s a transpo teaser:

“One of the reasons rail travel can feel outdated is that journey times are often of the last century—or worse. The Brattleboro Reformer notes that in 1938 one could travel the Connecticut Yankee (one of a number of options) from Brattleboro, Vermont, to New York in four hours and 42 minutes. Today, there’s only one train, and it takes around six hours—when it’s on schedule, which about 75 percent of the time it’s not.”

Posted on Friday, October 10th, 2008 at 9:21 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Transport column to me at:

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Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013 “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Grand Rapids MI



October 2008

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