Archive for January 8th, 2009

Freeing Up ‘Freeways’

Over at Freakonomics, UCLA’s Eric Morris lays out the rational arguments for variable road tolling (a subject that people tend to get pretty irrational about). I wonder if we should drop all reference to pricing/tolls/charges and simply call such things part of the “smart grid” (and there are a lot of interesting comparisons to be drawn between transportation and this emerging concept from the world of energy).

This bit about California’s S.R. 91 caught my eye:

By pricing to keep traffic speeds at 45 m.p.h. or a bit higher, the toll lanes will work with maximum efficiency. They’ll move a lot more cars through than they did when they were congested. During the peak periods on SR 91, the toll lanes handle 40 percent of the traffic despite the fact that they constitute only one-third of the road surface.So the toll lanes will actually ease the burden on the free lanes, hence the benefit even to those who never choose to pay.

Posted on Thursday, January 8th, 2009 at 6:05 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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TRB On Monday

Like many of the people I interviewed for Traffic, I too shall be at the Transportation Research Board meetings next week. I’ll be doing an “informal conversation” on Monday evening — a bit like bringing coals to Newcastle, IMHO, but I’m delighted in any case to be at the traffic geek’s paradise that is TRB.

If you’re at TRB, stop by during or after — the details are as follows:

Monday, January 12, 2009, 5:45pm- 7:15pm, Marriott, Salon 3
“Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)”: A
Conversation with Author Tom Vanderbilt Paul P. Jovanis, Pennsylvania
State University, presiding Sponsored by Safety – Section (ANB00)

Posted on Thursday, January 8th, 2009 at 5:54 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Pedestrian Feedback

From a fascinating exchange between Carlo Ratti and Steve Strogatz in the new issue of Seed, I found this bit particularly curious:

“SS: What I’m worried about is exactly what you put your finger on, feedback loops. In the world of dynamical systems, from a mathematical standpoint, feedback loops, especially in complex systems, can be really scary. Because of their unintended consequences. They can create all the beauty and richness in the world around us as well as unforeseen horrors. Just to take a super simple example of what I’m thinking of here, look at the Millennium Bridge in London: one of the world’s thinnest foot bridges and a very elegant structure. All the architects agreed that it was gorgeous, but it looked like it wanted to vibrate, like it was practically a guitar string strung across the Thames River. And on opening day when people walked across the bridge it wobbled a little bit. Which then fed to the people, and made them tend to synchronize their footfalls with the bridge’s motion, which made the bridge’s motion worse. None of this was supposed to happen. This was not built in.”

Posted on Thursday, January 8th, 2009 at 5:45 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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On the Other Hand, Cycle Lanes Are Vital to National Security

From the Croydon Guardian:

Andrew Pelling, MP for Central Croydon, was searched by police officers who thought he might be a terrorist, despite him showing his House of Commons pass when they asked for identification.

Mr Pelling had been taking pictures of the cycle lane at the junction of Addiscombe Road and Cherry Orchard Road and said his motive was to highlight the “long-neglected bicycle and pedestrian route”, which had been of concern to his constituents.

Posted on Thursday, January 8th, 2009 at 8:47 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:

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:

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

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



January 2009

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