Archive for May, 2010

Illegal Trafficking in Arizona

You see, Arizona really is concerned about privacy issues.

Citing the Constitution, that’s a nice touch — how much you wanna bet the biggest opponents of red light cameras are the biggest supporters of Arizona’s unconstitutional immigration law?

Posted on Monday, May 10th, 2010 at 10:55 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Selfish Routing, NBA Style

I wasn’t able to get up to the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this year (though I wanted to, particularly as there were guys from Chelsea and Manchester United there), but as Traffic had both the Braess Paradox and Tim Roughgarden’s book The Price of Anarchy as touchstones, I was intrigued by a presentation from Brian Skinner, a physics professor at the University of Minnesota, which draws some parallels between network (in)efficiencies in roads and the running of successful basketball plays. The video above gives a short description but there’s more on offer at the paper (behind a pay wall):

Optimizing the performance of a basketball offense may be viewed as a network problem, wherein each play represents a “pathway” through which the ball and players may move from origin (the in-bounds pass) to goal (the basket). Effective field goal percentages from the resulting shot attempts can be used to characterize the efficiency of each pathway. Inspired by recent discussions of the “price of anarchy” in traffic networks, this paper makes a formal analogy between a basketball offense and a simplified traffic network. The analysis suggests that there may be a significant difference between taking the highest-percentage shot each time down the court and playing the most efficient possible game. There may also be an analogue of Braess’s Paradox in basketball, such that removing a key player from a team can result in the improvement of the team’s offensive efficiency.

(horn honk to The Transportationist)

Posted on Friday, May 7th, 2010 at 4:20 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Girls Against Boys

Random fact of the day, via the WSJ:

State Farm, the nation’s largest insurance company, says that currently its auto coverage premiums for teenage boys are about 40% higher than for girls. In 1985, that gap was about 61%, says Vicki Harper, a spokeswoman for State Farm, which has more than 42 million auto policies. Most girls still get a break on premiums, she says, but “their premium rates reflect there isn’t as much of a difference as the rate for a teenage boy.”

Posted on Thursday, May 6th, 2010 at 8:40 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Yield, Schmield

When I first glanced at the headline, “GPD tracks percent of cars yielding to pedestrians,” I thought, in my jet-lagged haze, wow, here’s a study comparing GDP rates to pedestrian yielding, and I wondered, what’s the correlation — higher GDP means more driving, more exuberant driving, less yielding to pedestrians? A new kind of Smeed curve?

But it’s actually the Gainesville Police Department that’s been trying to make things better for those on foot — and, say it again, everyone’s a pedestrian, even if just leaving one’s car — and I was particularly intrigued by the updated feedback signs (pictured above).

Needless to say, 52% is pretty pathetic.

Posted on Thursday, May 6th, 2010 at 8:10 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Copenhagenize Shanghai

I’m in Shanghai at the moment, hence the gap in communication. Yesterday I trekked out to the World Expo (the typically anodyne theme: “Better City, Better Life”), a frenzied display of national industry, easy-to-digest cultural narratives, and pinpoint logistics (all those teams of marching soldiers, all those Disney style queue management systems). I began with the choreographed uplift of the USA and finished, reeling from the sun, with an earnest summation, from some rump sub-deputy minister, of all that Turkmenistan, that curious Caspian outpost rich in natural resources and the government corruption that goes along with it, had to offer (in short, architecturally decadent monuments, nice rugs, and pipelines — miles of pipelines; and now, Air Turkmenistan).

Where most countries went with grand, overarching messages of prowess, benevolence, and inclusivity, the day’s most rewarding experience had to go to the Danish pavilion, designed by Bjarke Ingels (who’ve interviewed several times in the past). Rather than overwhelm with several dozen messages, the approach at the Danish pavilion was simple: A white circular building, with perforated brise soleil style apertures, housing a white corkscrew ramp, rising from a pool containing Copenhagen’s famous Little Mermaid, up which one could walk — or, as pictured above, cycle (and that’s me, rather baking in the Shanghai sun) — along the way picking up a few discrete messages comparing Denmark and China across various indices. The whole way up, meanwhile, a long curving bench ran along the edge of the bike path, so people could sit, drink a Carlsberg, and watch the bike and pedestrian traffic go by, much like in Copenhagen itself (and I know Mikael from Copenhagenize will object to the helmets accompanying the bikes, but they were very nice helmets). It was charmingly low-key (yet somehow dramatic at the same time) and a more purely enjoyable experience than the multimedia fireworks going on elsewhere. I was wishing I could take the bike with me when I left — the Oman pavilion, so close on the map, was endlessly far away.

Posted on Monday, May 3rd, 2010 at 7:00 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 Transport column to me at:

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage:

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency:

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau:

Order Traffic from:

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Traffic UK
Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from

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

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



May 2010

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