Archive for August 3rd, 2009

Why Johnny’s Bus Driver Can’t Use the Phone

Looking at this page of state-by-state laws on texting and various forms of phoning while driving, compiled by the Governors Highway Safety Association, I was intrigued to note a column reserved for the drivers of school buses, and that a number of states (16) have a law prohibiting them from any form of phone use — even when that state does not actually ban the use of a hand-held device. Only one state at the moment actually prohibits school bus drivers from texting while driving, an example of how quickly the technology and practice has arisen.

But the school bus driver distinction is an interesting one to me; are we saying that is not OK for the drivers of vehicles carrying our children to talk on the phone and drive, and if so, why? But if this is not OK, then why is it OK for the drivers of every other vehicle around that bus to be talking on the phone, and why is it OK for parents with their kids in the car to talk while on the phone? I think this ties in to a certain feeling we have about risk: We worry about being in someone else’s hands (even a school bus, statistically safer than private transportation), but maintain a feeling of what’s been called “the illusion of control” when we are the perceived masters of our own fate.

Posted on Monday, August 3rd, 2009 at 1:22 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Thank God for the Second Amendment

What if this guy had come up against this guy?

Posted on Monday, August 3rd, 2009 at 12:59 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Drive-Thru Restaurant

I just finished a curious sort of early 21st century meal. I received a Twitter update that the “Schnitzel and Things” truck was in nearby Brooklyn Heights, so I hopped on the bike, grabbed me some schnitzel (and some sides), and returned home.

I wonder if this sort of trip (particularly non-motorized) is even captured by transportation planners; i.e., do “mobile food trucks” appear in Trip Generation or Parking Generation? (though the latter is probably moot in this regard as I’m not sure how many New Yorkers drive to the mobile food truck, though I’m sure they do for those Korean tacos in L.A.). More broadly, this food-transportation nexus is worthy of further study — it is, after all, one of the key reasons people leave the house. What do these invisible networks look like, how many food deliveries are made every night by NYC’s mobile army of deliverymen? I’m not sure if it matches in efficiency or intricacy the legendary dabbawala, or “tiffin wallahs” of India (particularly Mumbai).

Posted on Monday, August 3rd, 2009 at 12:07 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Citizen Traffic Control

Reader David notes that when bottlenecks develop at intersections in Ghana, or traffic grows abnormally congested, it’s not uncommon for people to spontaneously take matters into their own hands. The video is of an American friend (perhaps the advertised ‘D.J. Mayonnaise Hands’?) of his who decided to pitch in; I’m not sure he’s accomplishing much, traffic-wise, but I’d give his technique an ‘A.’

Posted on Monday, August 3rd, 2009 at 9:10 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Kafka at the Post Office

Off topic here, I know, but just briefly: At my local Post Office on Friday, the one with the reliably epic lines and the smudged plexiglass bulletproof windows (through which you struggle to hear the clerk), a woman ahead of me purchased a $25 money order, which evidently needed to be mailed to the state court system by a certain date to avoid some kind of fine.

So she requested that the clerk postmark the letter, to prove that she had dropped it off that day. “We don’t do postmarks,” the clerk said. I did a mental double-take. Don’t do postmarks? What’s the Post Office for? You can get insurance, delivery confirmation, tracking — but you can’t a postmark? The woman was as perplexed as I was. It seemed the letters were postmarked at a different facility. There may be logic in this, but how difficult would it to be to stamp the odd letter or two when so requested?

“You need to get a ‘Certificate of Mailing,’ ” the clerk said. “It’s $1.50.”

A small sum, perhaps, though probably not to the woman ahead of me.

Posted on Monday, August 3rd, 2009 at 9:02 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Your Speed

Reader Jay sends in a link to this interesting take on the traditional “your speed is” feedback signs (“speed trailers” as they are sometimes called). From what information I can find they seem to be the work of the ad agency Cramer-Krasselt, possibly for the Wisconsin town of Elm Grove, but I’m not sure if it’s a print PSA or if these signs have actually appeared on the side of the road. Has anyone actually seen them?

Posted on Monday, August 3rd, 2009 at 6:54 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



August 2009

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