CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

Archive for November, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Photo by wa1den_b/Flickr
[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Thursday, November 27th, 2008 at 6:11 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
No Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

But They Are Safer Than Driving…

Are Private Jets Safer Than Commercial Airliners? The Big Three auto companies say they are.

From Slate.

For good work on driving versus flying see Michael Sivak.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Wednesday, November 26th, 2008 at 1:29 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
1 Comment. Click here to leave a comment.

No Improv Comedy Traffic School for You

The U.K., which already outpaces the U.S. on traffic safety, is getting serious:

“Motorists could face driving ban after two speeding tickets”

More here, here, and here.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Wednesday, November 26th, 2008 at 1:19 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
3 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Let the Bot Drive


Last week, at the ITS America conference in New York City, I finally got a chance to actually go for a ride-along in “Junior” (well, a clone anyway), the fully autonomous VW Passat designed by Sebastian Thrun and his colleagues at the Stanford Racing Team, which took second place in DARPA’s Urban Challenge. Mike Montemerlo, who appears in Traffic, was riding in the backseat, where he generated the visualization of our drive that I’ve posted above.

The trip, down an blockaded and empty Eleventh Avenue, just outside the Javits Center, was absolutely unnerving. With a researcher from Volkswagen sitting in the driver’s seat, just in case something went wrong (it didn’t), the car drove a pre-programmed route for ten minutes, stopping at stop signs, navigating around hazards, and whisking back and forth before the assembled crowd. Its behavior — i.e., waiting for another (autonomous) car to fully clear the intersection before proceeding — was arguably better than most of what passes for driving in New York City. What if a barrel suddenly flew into the road, I wanted to know. The car would stop, and then figure out a safe way around the hazard.

Junior lurched a bit here and there, particularly upon stopping and starting, but as Montemerlo noted, the robot was optimized for an autonomous race, without passenger comfort being a priority. But it was striking how quickly I adjusted to the experience, growing perhaps a bit too comfortable with the car’s steady hand, which leads me to believe a societal switch to autonomous driving (at least in certain environments) might not be as big a psychic hurdle as we imagine. Did driving in New York City have anything to teach Junior? Montemerlo noted that given the car’s usual home is Palo Alto, and is thus not so experienced with rain, the algorithms had to optimalized for the day’s wet streets. And again, the street was closed off — put it at the mouth of the Holland Tunnel on Friday afternoon and it might implode.

The concentric bands you see around the car in the video, by the way, are the what the Velodyne High-Definition Lidar is “seeing” as it sweeps, ten times a second, in a 360 degree rotation on the roof of the Passat. You can also make out a number of pedestrians walking here and there. Note also the “target acquisition” the car makes as it approaches the fixed objects. The red bands represent things in motion. It’s hard not to summon The Terminator or some such when watching the video, seeing the omniscient power of the car to detect the array of objects in its path, able to calculate speeds and distance with unerring accuracy, while at the same time not feeling compelled to talk on a cell-phone or fix its hair in the mirror. Drivers, we’ve been warned: This is like Big Blue on wheels.

(video courtesy of Mike Montemerlo)

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 at 1:09 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
3 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Honk If You Love to Read About Honking

Dave Johns explores the dark heart of honking — and imagines a world without it — over at Slate.

We chatted briefly about the piece, and I told him I was reluctantly “pro-horn,” though I do wonder if it shouldn’t be disabled while the car is not moving — or would some driver someday need that horn to warn someone who was approaching them at speed while they themselves were stuck there, helpless? But as he concludes (after not finding much hard data on the subject — welcome to my world!), it’s a people problem, not a technological problem.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 at 8:32 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
No Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Kids These Days

“Bus driver accused of braking hard to topple pupil.”

Not from The Onion.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 at 8:26 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
1 Comment. Click here to leave a comment.

Top 10

I’m delighted to note that Traffic has been named one of the “Top 10″ books of 2008 both by Planetizen and by Library Journal. Oh, and also one of the “Top 10″ Editor’s Picks (current events category) by Amazon. More to come, I hope!

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008 at 4:25 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
No Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Raymond Loewy on the Future of the Car

“The public may admire a corporation for its impressive size. Who in the United States doesn’t? But when a business, however gigantic, gets smug enough to believe that it is sufficient only to match competition on trivial points instead of leading competition in valid matters, that business is becoming vulnerable to public disfavor.”

That’s from a piece by industrial designer Raymond Loewy (who worked outside the Big Three), published in the April, 1955 issue of The Atlantic.

He makes a number of interesting prophecies about the car in America, most of which have come true (e.g., “Semiautomatic driving will become the rule. Driving will be easier—therefore more relaxing; therefore more dangerous.”)

Interestingly, he was well off on one point: “In fifty years, even if the rate of fatal accidents declines (as it does annually, based on the number of miles traveled), we may expect as many as 120,000 killed annually. Obviously, something will have to be done about this, by driver education—the biggest factor—and by the automotive industry itself.”

He apparently wasn’t listening to Smeed. I suspect the safety gains have more to do with the cars themselves than with driver education.

Piece is after the jump… (more…)

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008 at 4:15 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
2 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Cognitive Dissonance and Congestion Pricing

Reading this bit of the Janette Sadik-Khan profile in the American Prospect, which contained a line that, intentionally or not, described a certain inevitability towards congestion pricing…

“…Sadik-Khan sees the initial rejection of congestion pricing as an opportunity. “You know, no big idea happens in New York the first time around,” she says. “It is almost a benefit that congestion pricing didn’t pass, because now we are able to get all these pieces in place prior to the start of pricing…”

…had me in mind of a paper I had recently read, “Reactance or acceptance? Reactions towards the introduction of road pricing,” by Jens Schade & Markus Bauma, at the Technische Universität Dresden, Traffic and Transportation Psychology, in Dresden, Germany; the paper was submitted to the journal Transportation Research.

The researchers wanted to know, in light of the fact that road pricing schemes to date have been implemented without majority support ahead of time: “How will persons and in particular concerned car drivers react to the (planned) introduction of road pricing? Either, will persons respond with even stronger negative attitudes, rejection or reactance towards such proposals or will they adapt to the new situation and develop actually more positive attitudes because they have to accept the inevitable?”

They pointed to the case of Oslo: “In the year before the implementation of the Oslo toll ring, 70% of the city’s population were negative towards the toll ring. When the system had been operative for one year this opposition had been reduced to 64 %. In 1998 this figure was 54 %. The share being very negative has decreased from 40 to 17 % during the same period. The share being positive to the toll system has steadily increased during the period, from 30% before the toll system opened to 46 % in 1998.”

The answer could be, of course, that residents were seeing a benefit from the plan, and hence the opposition had dropped. But they wondered if there were other psychological mechanisms at work, so they conducted a series of interviews with German drivers, in which they varied, in their questions, the seeming likelihood of congestion pricing being approved. They found that drivers were less likely to oppose pricing the more imminent its adoption seemed. “In addition,” they wrote, “they perceive only weak social norms against the toll and they state lower negative emotions like anger.” The drivers were, the researchers suggested, trying to reduce their levels of cognitive dissonance: “Dissonance theory postulates that when there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviours (dissonance), people are motivated to reduce or to eliminate the dissonance because these inconsistencies cause discomfort.”

As an aside, I had the sense something similar was happening in the last weeks of the presidential campaign. As the Obama victory began to seem more and more inevitable, people who may have been firmly opposed or undecided suddenly shifted positions, either to match their attitudes with a seeming majority or because they did not want to seem left behind in some process of historical transformation (even in liberal Brooklyn I felt like I only really began to see a proliferation of Obama bumper stickers in the last weeks, or even after, the election).

I’m not sure how this finding can be applied in any meaningful way to policy; some polls, of course, have found that a majority of New Yorkers already support pricing.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008 at 4:05 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
4 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Car Face Revisited

Via Things (and from here) comes this delightful set of photographs from Vladimir Nikolic in which he apes the “expressions” of a range of cars. The anthropomorphic (N.B., I can never say that word again without thinking of the hilarious job interview scene in Saxondale, the brilliant show with Steve Coogan as a former rock roadie turned exterminator that’s unfortunately not out stateside) nature of cars is really brought into high (comic) relief by Nikolic.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Friday, November 21st, 2008 at 1:22 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
2 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

“JAGU VS SCION VS RANGER VS VAN”: The Secret Window Onto California Traffic Life

Photo by Kris Kros/Flickr

I have an admittedly strange fascination with the California Highway Patrol’s “Traffic Incident Information Page.

For the uninitiated, the page essentially displays the raw data coming in from CHP units in the field (or via the calls that dispatchers receive) as they respond to a staggering variety of traffic “incidents” across the state’s vast network of highways — debris on the roadway (8:21AM LARGE PAPER ROLL IN # 2), vehicle fires, crashes, stalled cars, etc. They are read by traffic reporters, among others, not to mention the curious sorts (did I just implicate myself?) who spend their free time listening to police-band radio.

The entries have a telegraphic brevity, filled with curious abbreviations and numerical incident codes — many of which are beyond me — and fragments (e.g., “5:54AM BIG RIG VS PK TK”; i.e., a tractor-trailer collided with a pickup truck — no injuries, thankfully, but note the almost confrontational gloss the “vs” puts on it), and there is a kind of poetry of economy in the language. If Beckett were out driving the 405, he might appreciate reports like this as a kind of avant-garde literary form:

6:06AM PRTYS NOW IN OWN VEHS // NO LONGER LL W/ RP #2
6:06AM RP ADVS HE IS BACK IN VEH IN CD / SAG D
6:05AM RP RAN ACROSS FRWY BACK TO CD TO HIS VEH /// SAG D
6:02AM RP ADVSING PRTY IN SIL TOYT RAN HIM OFF RDWY // ALSO SLAMMED ON BRAKES
6:01AM 1039 SJSO
6:00AM MAR LANDCRUISER IN CD // SIL TOYT ON RHS
5:58AM POSS HV // MAR LANDCRUISER VS SIL TOYT

Sometimes one wants to imagine an entire story behind the staccato details that churn across the transom; there are the occasional mentions, for example, of someone walking down the middle of a freeway (e.g., this morning, “8:36AM STUMBLING AROUND; WALKING IN NB LANES”) — how did they get there? how did they get to that point in their life where they got to the middle of that freeway? Reading a batch of these in a row — a sort of urgent Dow Jones data-feed from that great bustling market of highway traffic — you can begin to appreciate the sheer drama of a typical day on Californian roads. There are tales of loss, tales of heroism, tales of the mundane, and, sometimes, tales of darkly absurdist comedy. What are we to make, for example, of this episode, sent to me by a traffic reporter:

ADDITIONAL DETAILS
5:33PM VEH IS A BLU HOND ACC, FACING SIDEWAYS IN LANES, VEH WAS TRYING TO MAKE A UTURN WHEN PASS FELL OUT OF VEH
5:32PM NEG TC
5:32PM WHEN THE VEH WENT AROUND THE CORNER // THE PASS JUST FELL OUT OF THE PASSENGER SIDE
5:31PM VEH IS STILL THERE // RED IN COLOR // UNK WHAT TYPE
5:31PM PASS FELL OUT OF VEH // HAD BEER IN HER HAND WHEN SHE FELL OUT OF THE VEH

One reason the CHP incident page so inherently fascinates me, as a reader of police procedurals, is that they too are written in the curious form police language. As with the above entry, it combines an exacting investigatory feel (the strange details like the “beer in her hand”; or in another entry, “WILL BE POSS HIT AND RUN, SIL SPORTS CAR, PLATE LAYING ON DASHBOARD, YPUNG MALE DRIVER, L/S TWD HACIENDA,” that ‘plate lying on dashboard’ is a somehow sordid detail out of Ross MacDonald) with a kind of sober professionalism in the face of the most astonishing events (like someone falling out of the car with a beer in her hand). Just the facts, m’am.

I’m not sure if any screenplay ideas (or kernels) have ever been hatched from the CHP site (e.g., the car dealer who was run over by the car stolen from his own lot), but just watching the events unfold is to feel as if one is in the midst of a great narrative, driven by a sense of palpable urgency — for these dispatches can not only be crucial to someone’s life, but crucial to the flow of the highway. The “animal on the road” (typically dogs, often labs, and it’s really rather shocking how often it occurs — one thinks that dog owners, like drivers, should be licensed) that comes across in a CHP incident can disrupt the flow of thousands of lives.

Like on the internet itself, the first draft of the first draft of history, sometimes the information that comes across doesn’t hold up to further scrutiny. Take, for example, this grisly announcement that appeared one day:

ADDITIONAL DETAILS
12:11AM - 1039 LAFD 82
12:11AM - BLKING #2 3 LNS
12:11AM - POSS BODY ON THE RDWY SHOES / TORSO AND IS BEING RUN OVER

Horrifying, but, it turned out, not true — it was, rather, some piece of debris (and how many times have we struggled to make out, moving at high speed, some piece of detritus on the asphalt, ghoulishly conjuring a body that turns out to be a rolled-up carpet). Much of the information is like this, fleeting, grasping for details, and, often, merely a “phantom incident,” a bit of “noise” flicking the seismographic needle but not registering. But the reader barely has time to fill in the missing details in their head before another incident refreshes its way into view.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Friday, November 21st, 2008 at 10:39 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
1 Comment. Click here to leave a comment.

Sign of Confusion

As reported by the Austin-American Statesman, an Austin, Tx., woman went to court over receiving a ticket for making a right turn that, based on the signage, appeared legal.

It wasn’t quite the case of Bill Clinton and “what is the definition of is,” but the case got into some pretty fine-grained legal analysis:

“Gilchrist asked for and was granted a jury trial on May 20 to fight her $185 ticket. Scott Cunningham, a TxDOT traffic engineer, said he testified before the jury that the placement of the state’s traffic sign on Lakeline Boulevard was misleading. A prosecutor argued that the straight arrow painted on the lane itself, along with the presence of the traffic island, was evidence enough that the lane was not a turn lane. Cunningham said state law dictates that traffic signs take precedence over anything painted in a roadway.

(Thanks David!)

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2008 at 3:57 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
4 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

A Trucker Says Goodbye to the Road

From an interesting piece in the Australian Herald Sun:

“The reason I finally quit the job I loved – driving big trucks – was that I didn’t want to kill someone. I realised that times have changed and the dangers were too great.

I realised, to my horror, that I could be held responsible for the death of someone else, just because another driver had not been paying enough attention on the road. It can happen just like that.”

Full story here or after the jump.

(more…)

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 at 12:16 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
No Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

The Hazards of Silence

There have been any number of studies — the work of Warren Brodsky, for example — investigating the potentially harmful effects of driving while listening to loud music (particularly of a certain tempo).

But a new paper by Mark Horswill and Annaliese M Plooy, at the University of Queensland, “Auditory feedback influences driving speeds,” published in the latest edition of Perception, talks about the risk of a car being too quiet.

As any reader of car reviews will note, reduced “cabin noise” is always seen as a positive feature. Reduced noise is thought to mean more “comfort” for the driver, though there are more spurious reasons being put forth; Horswill quotes one automotive engineer who notes that “automobiles will have to become significantly quieter, keeping the noise out so passengers inside can enjoy the latest advances in communications and entertainment technologies.” (that’s right, cars are now intended to be rolling phone booths!)

The problem is that noise — road noise, engine noise, etc. — acts as a form of feedback, helping to increase the driver’s situational awareness (described by Neville Moray as “shorthand for keeping track of what’s going on around you in a complex, dynamic environment”).

In his study, Horswill had drivers look at a variety of filmed driving scenes, which were played at a variety of different speeds and under different levels of audio “stimulus.” He found that ” reducing noise made vehicle speeds appear slower than they were.” When the decibel level was reduced by 5, the drivers thought they were moving 5 kph slower than they really were. You may be thinking that people can simply use the speedometer as the more accurate form of feedback, but previous studies have found people consult their speedometers rather rarely (“approximately 12 times over the course of a 6.4 mile, or 10.2 km, route” — this during a trial whose very task was to keep a set speed). The difference in speed may also seem minor, but given that small increases in speed at higher speed led to much higher increases in crash risk and damage, this may not be as minor as it seems.

An observation once made in another paper (“The ironies of vehicle feedback in car design,” in Ergonomics by Guy Walker, et al.), that “drivers’ self-awareness of the state of their own situational awareness appears to be very poor,” also seems to apply in this case: Drivers did not realize how the lack of auditory cues was influencing their own perception. To be cue-less is to be clue-less.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 at 10:45 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
1 Comment. Click here to leave a comment.

Pay-As-You-Drive Driving

The case has been made for the benefits (lower miles driven, more equitable pricing) of pay-as-you-drive insurance (“Pay-As-You-Drive Auto Insurance: A Simple Way to Reduce Driving-Related Harms and Increase Equity,” by Jason E. Bordoff and Pascal J. Noel of Brookings; report here).

But one thing some of you may not know about, and which I was reminded about it by a notice to this event, tomorrow in D.C., is that the Netherlands, by 2016, aims to have the entire country wired for a radical new policy, as described by this report: “a price per kilometre on all roads for all distances travelled in the Netherlands, differentiating by environmental characteristics, time and place, abolition of the motor vehicle tax (MRB) and all or part of the tax on passenger cars and motorcycles (BPM).”

In essence, this system shifts the standard all-you-can-eat Las Vegas buffet that is automobile ownership (in essence, once you’ve paid for the car, you’re free to unthinkingly chow down on as many lane-miles as you’d like) to an a la carte system in which you will be charged for every nibble you take off the mobility menu. The lighter eaters will no longer be subsidizing the road hogs.

This will be, among many other things, a fascinating social experiment writ large, with no small amount of room for possible unintended consequences, which are all addressed (if not exactly solved) in the report.

For example, there’s the idea of “diversion effects”:

“Differentiation by time and place can have unwanted diversion effects. The rate system and suitable measures, such as applying time and place differentiation on evasive routes, prevent unwanted diversion effects. Because there is no actual experience with the effects and communicability of the effect of such differentiation, it is important to start simply. For example, at the start of the price per kilometre, there will be a small number of rate levels, national time windows and a limited number of locations.”

What about foreign cars?
“In principle, non-residents driving a passenger vehicle in the Netherlands with a foreign registration (mostly tourists) participate in the price per kilometre. The feasibility of participation by these road users will be explored at a later stage.”

Paradoxically there will be more cars…
“As a result of converting fixed burdens to a price per kilometre, the purchase price of new cars decreases and, depending on the configuration of the price per kilometre, the tipping point between
petrol and diesel cars. This causes the size of the fleet to increase. The way that the environmental component of the fixed burdens is variabilised in a rate per kilometre in the investigated variants results in changes in the composition of the fleet; the fleet becomes heavier and newer and there are more diesels. This occurs in all investigated variants.”

But congestion is reduced…
“In all variants investigated, congestion on the road network is strongly reduced. The decrease in vehicle loss hours is 20 to 60%. Even a price per kilometre without differentiation by time and place contributes to a reduction in congestion. Note that this refers to structural congestion. Total congestion reduction is lower because the price per kilometre does not affect incidental congestion (for example, as a result of a lorry tipping over and other accidents).

And the privacy question…
“A system that can, in principle, locate a vehicle everywhere and at all times presents privacy aspects, whether desired or not. Two variants of the vehicle equipment are relevant to the privacy discussion:
− Detailed movement information is converted to levy information in the vehicle equipment. Only the driver/registration holder has access to his or her movement data. This is a strong guarantee of
privacy. The drawback to this solution is that software management may be complex.
− Detailed movement information is converted in the back office. The guarantees are obtained through measures such as pseudonymisation and job separation. The party processing the movement data into data for invoicing cannot make a connection to a registration or physical person. The party sending the invoices has no access to the detailed movement data either. In this solution, it is important for the wall between positions/organisations to be set up such that no identities can be linked to movement data.”

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 at 10:00 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
4 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Twice the Volume, One Third the Space

From Jan Gehl’s new report on New York City (via Streetsblog), this graph nicely depicts the typical (mis)allocation of New York City’s public space. We need hardly point out the glaring gap in negative externalities as well.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Monday, November 17th, 2008 at 1:59 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
2 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

(mis)Leading Pedestrian Interval

I just came across an article in the ITE Journal that speaks to some of the difficulties transportation engineers face in trying to manage and provide for varying modes of travel, particularly in environments where one mode dominates.

The article, “Trial Implementation of a Leading Pedestrian Interval: Lessons Learned,” by Sarah M.L. Hubbard, Darcy M. Bullock, and John H. Thai, describes the installation of an LPI (that’s where pedestrians get the “Walk Man” a bit before drivers get the green, so that “peds” can establish their presence in the crosswalk, and also be more visible) in Anaheim, California, near Disneyland.

While LPIs, at least in urban environments, have been found to be beneficial to pedestrians, at this location, the authors found, “the incidence of pedestrian compromise on the curb was found to be higher with the LPI signal timing than with concurrent signal timing for both low right-turn demand and high right-turn demand conditions.” In other words, things got worse for pedestrians with the LPI.

The culprit, they found, seemed to be the ability for drivers to make a right turn on red (yes, the only cultural advantage of California). “Drivers waiting to turn right at the red light are often watching for a gap in the oncoming traffic and may be unaware that the adjacent pedestrians have a WALK indication.” (One could get rid of the ROTR, of course, but that would, as the authors note, may cut right-turn capacity and could “actually reduce the service for pedestrians if drivers tend to accept smaller gaps between pedestrians and drive more aggressively as the v/c ratio for the right-turn movement increases” — in other words, the idiot factor may go up).

What goes unsaid here, but what I think is a more general underlying factor, is the sort of larger modal blindness that seems to occur in more suburbanized areas, like the one in which the trial was conducted. Judging by the photos in the article, the major flow street has at least four lanes in each direction, and presumably some rather high speeds. The overwhelming feel of such environments is that they are made for cars; and indeed are filled with cars, to the extent that drivers become rather programmed to looking out for the things that are important to them as drivers — lights, stripes, other cars. Pedestrians waiting to cross at a major intersections may be the victims of a kind of blindness by the drivers — either an actual kind of “attentional blindness” (they’re not looking for pedestrians so they don’t see pedestrians), or a kind of cultural blindness by which pedestrians are marginalized, and lose the rights that have been extended to them (though the number of “crosswalk” stings going across in urban areas across the U.S. should reveal this is by no means a suburban problem). I’ve noticed in Manhattan that some of the worst places to navigate on foot are near any of the bridge or tunnel entrances — either vehicles are still used to being in less pedestrian heavy environments, or their proximity to “escaping from New York” leads to a kind of animalistic imperative in which the only consideration becomes getting that many inches closer to the tunnel — woe to the person who has to cross on foot in one of these situations.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Monday, November 17th, 2008 at 1:44 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
4 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

You Can’t Dig Your Way Out of Congestion?

The Boston Globe reports that post-Big Dig, bottlenecks in the Boston region, while lessened downtown, have been shifted outward — perhaps a result of more people now choosing to drive through the center of town.

It also notes:

“The cause of the delays on highways that lead into the Big Dig is, perhaps not surprising: more cars and trucks. On I-93 north of the city, for example, 202,000 motor vehicles drive past Roosevelt Circle in Medford, 38,000 more than in 1987, a 23 percent increase, according to state data.”

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Monday, November 17th, 2008 at 8:01 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
1 Comment. Click here to leave a comment.

Driving While Male

Quality Planning, whose research shows up a bit in Traffic, has released a new study which shows that “male drivers are cited for reckless driving 3.41 times more than women.”

The data was derived thusly:

“Quality Planning said it analyzed 12 months’ of 2007 policyholder information for U.S. drivers, comparing the number of moving and nonmoving violations for both men and women. Overall, the data shows that men are much more likely to receive a traffic citation than women, and that this difference in driving behavior is consistent across all age groups.”

Men do drive more miles, of course, and I’m not sure if this was corrected for in some way (women may drive recklessly but their exposure is lower, so less chance of being caught; or maybe male traffic cops really are less likely to issue tickets to women — after all, as this study by Michael Makowsky and Thomas Strattman found, “ceteris parabis, young females have the lowest probability of receiving a speeding ticket”), but the gender difference seems much larger in any case than any mileage discrepancy.

Two other points worth noting:

“The resulting accidents caused by men lead to more expensive claims than those caused by women.”

“Women drivers were also about 27 percent less likely than men to be found at fault (1-49 percent negligent) when involved in an accident, according to the company.”

(Tap of the horn to UC-Berkeley’s Traffic Safety Center)

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Saturday, November 15th, 2008 at 2:55 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
1 Comment. Click here to leave a comment.

Selfish Commuting, Redux

Networks guru Anna Nagurney (my kind host yesterday at Amherst), lends a valuable historical perspective in a letter in the Economist, in response to their article on routing inefficiencies in road networks.


SIR – It may be of interest to your readers to know that it was actually economists who first figured out that an individual’s selfish behaviour when selecting an optimal travel route would yield different traffic flows and times than if one were to assign flows in a centralised manner to try and minimise the cost to society (“Queuing conundrums”, September 13th). Arthur Pigou wrote “The Economics of Welfare” in 1920, by which time he was well aware of the distinction between different traffic behaviours.

Curiously, traffic and queuing problems keep on getting (re)discovered by different disciplines; now it seems to be the turn of the physicists.

Anna Nagurney
Director
Virtual Centre for Supernetworks
Isenberg School of Management
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, Massachusetts”

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Saturday, November 15th, 2008 at 2:35 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
2 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.
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

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
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

 

 

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Twitter
November 2008
M T W T F S S
« Oct   Dec »
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930