Archive for November 6th, 2008

L.A. ‘Traffic Hackers’ Plead Guilty

Readers of Traffic (the Los Angeles bits) may remember my brief encounter with Kartik Patel, the L.A. DOT engineer I interviewed on “Oscar Night” in the city’s traffic bunker. He was later accused, with another engineer, of tampering with the traffic lights during an ongoing labor action.

News comes from the LA Times that Mr. Patel and Gabriel Murillo have “pleaded guilty to a single felony count of illegally accessing a city computer connected to the center.”

I liked Mr. Patel when I met him, so I’m admittedly pleased that he didn’t appear to get a more severe penalty (at one point the DHS had been called in):

“Under the plea deal, sentencing will be delayed one year, said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. The two must pay full restitution, serve 120 days in jail or complete 240 hours of work with Caltrans or other community service, and must have their computers at home and work monitored.

Defense attorney James Blatt, the lawyer for Murillo, said today that his client had been an exceptional employee and that the matter should have been handled administratively. He noted that despite pleading guilty to a felony, both men would be sentenced to one misdemeanor count and that after a brief period of probation, both sides would dismiss the count and expunge their criminal record.

“This was an emotional collective-bargaining strike situation,” Blatt said. “This should have been handled administratively. Mr. Murillo and Mr. Patel are outstanding citizens and have devoted a significant part of their professional lives to transportation safety in Los Angeles County.”

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2008 at 7:06 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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My old pal Roadguy wrote recently about a curious parking-garage pricing structure in Minneapolis:

“$2 for the first 20 minutes, a whopping $12 for the next 20 minutes, then $2 for every 20 minutes after that, with a daily maximum of $23. But if you’re in before 9 a.m. and you leave after noon, you pay eight bucks.”

Parking pricing, which in New York City can seem capricious and non-transparent, deserves its own chapter in economics textbooks — is there anything comparable? (OK, I suppose there’s plenty of things, daily versus weekly rates at hotels, for example). My bet here is that given that it’s across from a court house, the garage receives a lot of people coming in for short visits (renew licenses, etc.). Those people are in a hurry and probably not in the mood to shop around. You can further imagine that, under normal bureaucratic conditions, there’s no way you’re getting in and out from your car and back in less than 20 minutes. So you hit that ‘sweet’ spot of the next 20 minutes (perhaps the garage has ascertained the average visit is around an hour). To stop short of outright highway robbery they probably ease off after that, but the damage has been done. Perhaps the people who arrive before 9 a.m. and leave after noon are the daily commuters, and perhaps they wouldn’t use the garage if they had to pay the short-term rates. Any other thoughts?

There’s an interesting discussion of parking pricing structures over at Marginal Revolution. I like the Occam’s razor approach that one poster suggests: “Isn’t there a much easier explanation–third-degree price discrimination? People who want to park for short period have inelastic demand and as a result they end up paying higher price.”

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2008 at 4:28 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Cycles in London’s Bus Lanes

On the cycling theme for a moment, I’m wondering what the thinking is out there about London’s trial for motorcycles in the bus lanes (where pedal cyclists currently dwell). We’ll have to wait and see the results of the trial, but it brings up some interesting inter-modal issues. Will this really pose no risk to cyclists, as TFL claims, or would that risk be smaller than the risk posed to motorcyclists by cars? What about the increased emissions in the path of cyclists? Is there sort of thing standard elsewhere? How well do pedal and motor cycles intermingle — what about speed differences (motorcycles tend to attract much more risk-seeking users, at higher speeds, with predictable results)?

On the last point, did you know more U.S. Marines have been killed on motorcycles in the past 12 months than in Iraq?

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2008 at 12:41 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Stop and Roll

A reader from D.C. writes with the news that there is some very initial exploration of a “stop and roll”-style ordinance, a la Idaho, that would allow cyclists to essentially treat signalized intersections as stop signs as “yield” signs.

I know that San Francisco (whose landscape is more akin to D.C. than Idaho) has been batting the idea around, but does anyone else know of any initiatives out there have been successful, or any studies that show the effects of such a law in Idaho or elsewhere?

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2008 at 12:16 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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“The Heavy Stuff”

I know we shouldn’t expect too much from outlets like AOL News, but note how this story replicates the classic cultural construct that “drunk driving is a horrible crime” and “speeding is OK and just something for the police to make money off of…”

After discussing how fines are rising for first-time speeding infractions, the article notes:

“Now, for the heavy stuff: drunken driving, known as DUI or DWI depending on your state.”

Speed, presumably, is the light stuff, the frothy romantic-comedy if you will in the pantheon of traffic safety, as compared to the dark tragedy of drunk driving. How light? This from NHTSA: “Annually, about 32 percent of all fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes were speeding-related, i.e., at least one of the drivers involved in the crash exceeded the posted speed limit or was driving too fast for the prevailing conditions.”

Not to mention things like the vast, exponential increase in chance of pedestrian death as speeds move from 20 mph to 30 mph.

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2008 at 11:17 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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One Car Company That’s Doing Really Well

Mattel, makers of “Hot Wheels” (I was more of a Matchbox guy myself), is now worth more than GM, reports Newsweek.

Key surreal quote: “As the stock market melted down, he still paid $13,000 for a rare “overchromed” Ford T-bird from the original Hot Wheels catalog. “I’ve looked over my portfolio and I’m down in everything except Hot Wheels,” he says.”

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2008 at 10:58 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



November 2008

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