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Archive for January 15th, 2009

Slim-ulus

Kazys Varnelis (via bldgblog) runs the stimulus numbers (his comments are in italics):

Modernize Roads, Bridges, Transit and Waterways: To build a 21st century economy, we must engage contractors across the nation to create jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads, and bridges, modernize public buildings, and put people to work cleaning our air, water and land.

· $30 billion for highway construction;

· $31 billion to modernize federal and other public infrastructure with investments that lead to long term energy cost savings;

· $19 billion for clean water, flood control, and environmental restoration investments;

· $10 billion for transit and rail to reduce traffic congestion and gas consumption.

Here is the meat of the proposals for infrastructure…and it’s pretty lean. $30 billion is less than one year’s expenditure on highways. $10 billion for transit and rail isn’t that much when just one crucial project, the Trans-Hudson Tunnel, is slated to cost $9 billion.

Reading the expanded version of the memo, things start to look positively grim.

· Upgrades and Repair: $2 billion to modernize existing transit systems, including renovations to stations, security systems, computers, equipment, structures, signals, and communications. Funds will be distributed through the existing formula. The repair backlog is nearly $50 billion.

· Amtrak and Intercity Passenger Rail Construction Grants: $1.1 billion to improve the speed and capacity of intercity passenger rail service. The Department of Transportation’s Inspector General estimates the North East Corridor alone has a backlog of over $10 billion.

· Airport Improvement Grants: $3 billion for airport improvement projects that will improve safety and reduce congestion. An estimated $41 billion in eligible airport infrastructure projects are needed between 2007-2011.

Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2009 at 5:03 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Smart Grids, Smart Roads

Last week Business Week was asking people, myself included, what advice they had for the new President vis a vis infrastructure and the stimulus package.

I said this:

“The Interstate Highway System was a marvel, but we don’t need another. By all means, fix the existing traffic infrastructure — roads, bridges, bottlenecks. But heedlessly laying more asphalt is a retrograde approach that rewards a counterproductive quest towards mobility for mobility’s sake. Instead of building new roads — which encourage unsustainable development patterns, more vehicular traffic, and are often only fully occupied at a few peak periods — we need to emphasize transit, but also smarter roads: Sensors that detect “non-recurring” traffic disruptions (the cause of an estimated one-third of traffic delays), intelligent traffic signals and variable speed limits and that react to changing conditions, systems that allow “hard shoulders” to be converted into extra traffic lanes, and real-time, occupancy-based tolling and parking programs.”

I was reminded of this when I read, in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, an op-ed by IBM’s Samuel J. Palmisano.

He wrote: “Smarter infrastructure is by far our best path to creating new jobs and stimulating growth. We at IBM were asked to map this out by President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, and our research shows that a $30 billion stimulus investment in just three areas — smart grids, health-care IT and broadband — could yield almost one million new jobs within one year. That’s possible because these kinds of infrastructure have significantly greater economic and societal multiplier effects than traditional infrastructure like bridges and highways.”

I was particularly interested in the next graph, and, as a thought experiment, try replacing the word ‘power’ with ‘travel’ (as in car travel):

“Our power grids are the largest remaining artifact of the Industrial Age, and they’re due for a smart upgrade. Using broadband data streams, digital sensors and advanced analytics, demand can be understood in real time. Utilities can source and manage power more intelligently, helping to bring renewable sources onto the grid. And consumers could understand the variable cost of power and alter their behavior accordingly. A smarter utility network could also handle the growing demand for hybrid and electric cars. Today’s utility grid would struggle to manage this burden.”

The idea of electric cars becoming part of a utility’s grid is an interesting one — in essence, then, congestion pricing would be the same thing as charging more when electrical usage surges. Of course, up to this point, most driving has been “too cheap to meter.” (or is that ramp-meter?)

Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2009 at 4:50 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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“A Depraved Indifference to Human Life”

Required viewing for all drivers, via Streetsblog. I’m amazed at the way the defense attorney invokes Jeffrey Dahmer as the standard of a “murderer” — as if that crime somehow extends only to rampant, psychotic serial killers. Indeed, there is a risk in how drunk drivers are often portrayed, a subject I’ll return to in a later post: Presenting them as marginal social reprobates (and not, say, first-time offenders straight out of college) may encourage us to think that our own drinking and driving is something apart, something we can manage, something that would not end the same way.

Note that the presence of the DriveCam camera (a technology I describe in the book, though for its driver feedback properties) aided in the crash investigation.

Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2009 at 1:56 pm 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 Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau: rhspeakers@randomhouse.com.

Order Traffic from:

Amazon | B&N | Borders
Random House | Powell’s

U.S. Paperback UK Paperback
Traffic UK
Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from Amazon.co.uk.

For UK publicity enquiries please contact Rosie Glaisher at Penguin.

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
Toronto

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
BoingBoing.com “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

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

 

 

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