Archive for February 24th, 2009

Merge Overkill

The Oregonian’s Joseph Rose is wished dead by an irate reader after discussing the potential benefits of “late merging.”

This made me all nostalgic as it was this kind of vitriol that launched me on the Traffic road: How could this simple activity stir such passion? While I am delighted to see the issue receiving further elaboration and exploration, I should only clarify here that I was not advocating a Universal Late Merge plan. There are circumstances where this behavior would actually make things worse. But the point was more that in certain scenarios, it would work better (better traffic flow, shorter queues, etc.), and that of course it would be better if drivers were instructed what to do — so as to not set off anger against the minority late merger position by early merge vigilantes — and then, having been instructed as how to properly merge, people then actually left these old prejudices behind (which trials have shown does not always happen).

But this is admittedly complex, for what makes late merging a better overall system for some highway segment may depend on a change to a certain level of congestion (in which case you’d need real-time ‘dynamic’ signage announcing the late merge), or it may depend on the number of lanes on the highway, or it may depend on the volume of trucks on a particular ‘facility.’ The correct cure depends on the set of symptoms.

Posted on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 at 3:53 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Survival Car

Paul Collins, one of those writers whose name always arouses my interest in a table of contents, revisits the seminal days of car safety with an appreciation of Liberty Mutual and Cornell University’s open-source “Survival Car” in the latest New Scientist.

Edward Dye, director of Cornell’s crash injury project, noted that the design philosophy behind the car was the same as that for packaging any delicate object for shipping: “Use a strong packing case, fasten lid securely, pack tightly, and remove hard objects from the padding.” A conventional if sleek-looking saloon, the Survival Car sported a decidedly futuristic interior. Bucket “capsule seats” were firmly mounted to withstand a force of more than 2 tonnes, each featuring an integral head rest and roll bar and, of course, seat belts. The driver sat in the middle, with the passengers behind. Gone was the spear-like steering column and out went the lethal radio and heater knobs. In their place was an extraordinary hydraulic rudder control – a floor-mounted housing between the driver’s knees, with two stubby handles projecting out from the sides – and a padded dash with rounded and recessed knobs.

This proved a bit too radical — and expensive as it wasn’t a standard production car — so the team went back and overhauled a 1960 Chevrolet Bel-Air with inexpensive safety features.

American car firms were still not interested. A safe vehicle like the Survival Car was “completely unrealistic”, proclaimed John Gordon, president of General Motors. “This company is run by salesmen not engineers,” an engineer at Ford observed later. “The priority is styling, not safety.”

What happened next has become all too familiar. Spurning the opportunity presented to them, American car makers watched as others forged ahead. The first car on American roads to embody the Survival Car ideal was not from Detroit but from Solihull in the English midlands. It was the Rover P6 2000 of 1963, whose seat belts, thick padding, safer steering wheel and crumple zones moved consumer campaigner Ralph Nader to declare it “probably the safest car now available for general sale”.

Posted on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 at 8:15 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Slow Traffic

Latest victim of the slumping economy, reports the Guardian: Sat-nav makers.

Posted on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 at 7:55 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.

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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



February 2009

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