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Archive for February 6th, 2009

Rental Cars and Romantic Comedies

I was intrigued by this anecdote from Stephen Baker’s new book The Numerati:

“What is it about romantic-movie lovers?” Morgan asks, as we sit in his New York office on a darkening summer afternoon. The advertising entrepreneur is flush with details about our ramblings online. He can trace the patterns of our migrations, as if we were swallows or humpback whales, while we move from site to site. Recently he’s become intrigued by the people who click most often on an ad for car rentals. Among them, the largest group had paid a visit to online obituary listings. That makes sense, he says, over the patter of rain against the windows. “Someone dies, so you fly to the funeral and rent a car.” But it’s the second-largest group that has Morgan scratching his head. Romantic-movie lovers. For some reason Morgan can’t fathom, loads of them seem drawn to a banner ad for Alamo Rent A Car.

The reason is later revealed:

I ask him about the correlation he told me about earlier, the one between romantic-movie fans and Alamo Rent A Car. It takes a moment for him to recall it. “Oh yeah. They were off the charts.” Did his researchers, I ask, ever come up with an explanation for it. He nods. “It had to do with weekends. It was Alamo ads promoting “escapes” that attracted the attention of these web surfers, he says. The romantic-movie fans booked leisure rentals, largely for weekend getaways. Perhaps they wanted to act out the kind of scenes that drew them to the cinema. Banners for weekday rentals apparently left them cold.”

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Posted on Friday, February 6th, 2009 at 4:08 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Long-Term Parking

Via the Times:

For many expatriate workers in Dubai it was the ultimate symbol of their tax-free wealth: a luxurious car that few could have afforded on the money they earned at home.

Now, faced with crippling debts as a result of their high living and Dubai’s fading fortunes, many expatriates are abandoning their cars at the airport and fleeing home rather than risk jail for defaulting on loans.

Police have found more than 3,000 cars outside Dubai’s international airport in recent months. Most of the cars – four-wheel drives, saloons and “a few” Mercedes – had keys left in the ignition.

Some had used-to-the-limit credit cards in the glove box. Others had notes of apology attached to the windscreen.

“Every day we find more and more cars,” said one senior airport security official, who did not want to be named. “Christmas was the worst – we found more than two dozen on a single day.

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Posted on Friday, February 6th, 2009 at 10:46 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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A Fine Line

I’m all for stiffer traffic penalties — and much of Costa Rica’s new law is commendable (and tries to treat the corruption issue) — but I did find a particularly curious bit of fine print:

“Other controversial measures include an $82 fine for a taxi or bus driver who insults his passengers.”

One wonders where something like this comes from — is there a rampant plague of offensive bus/taxi drivers? What constitutes an insult (do we know one when we hear one)? Who exactly will decide to declare a citation (maybe armed ‘bus marshals’?) And why $82? (in the U.S. you’d have to tack on a few thousand bucks for emotional pain and suffering).

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Posted on Friday, February 6th, 2009 at 9:26 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Enjambment

One of the interesting and rewarding things about putting a book into the world is to witness the myriad and often unexpected ways people engage with it. For example, Jelani Greenidge wonders about the spiritual issues the book, in his opinion, raises — and of course even the Vatican’s Pontifical Council has weighed in on the problems of driver savagery.

Michael Giberson, meanwhile, delightfully salvages a moment of poetry of which I was not even aware.

He writes:

I found a sentence (p. 126) to read nicely as a bit of traffic poetry (I’ve broken the prose sentence into three lines, in the manner of most poetry):

Or the hiccup in heavy traffic that passes through you

might be the echo of someone who, forward in space

and backward in time, did something as simple as change lanes.

He then elaborates:

I particularly like the way the meter has a sort of pulsing flow through the lines until you reach the last two words, which to my ear must both be stressed. A spondee, in poetic terms, that brings the flow of the sentence to a halt, while echoing the “hiccup” at the beginning of the first line.

You might also note the manner in which the syntactic unit “forward in space and backward in time” is broken over two lines, a poetic device called enjambment, which seems appropriate for this found poem about a hiccup in heavy traffic.

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Posted on Friday, February 6th, 2009 at 9:15 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Price of Anarchy Redux

This piece, on the clash between individual routing action and overall network efficiency, generated a ton of discussion of the blogosphere (which tended to treat it as an entirely novel discovery). In an “erratum” published in the latest Physical Review Letters, the authors acknowledge some previously unacknowledged predecessors (e.g., J.G. Wardrop) to their research:

“After the Letter was published, it was suggested that we provide a few additional references about social optima and Nash equilibria in transportation science. The importance of optimum and equilibrium traffic led Wardrop to postulate them as fundamental principles in 1952 [1]. Four years later, equilibrium conditions were described mathematically by Beckmann et al. [2]; see Ref. [3] for a retrospective. An English translation of Braess’s classic paper [4] on paradoxes in equilibrium traffic, together with accompanying comments [5], was published in 2005.

We thank L. S. Nagurney and A. Nagurney for informing us about these publications.

[1] J. G. Wardrop, in Proc. Inst. Civ. Eng., 2 1, 325 (1952).
[2] M. J. Beckmann, C. B. McGuire, and C. B. Winsten, Studies in the Economics of Transportation (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1956).
[3] D. E. Boyce, H. S. Mahmassani, and A. Nagurney, Papers Reg. Sci. 1 (2005) 85.
[4] D. Braess, A. Nagurney, and T. Wakolbinger, Transp. Sci. 39, 446, (2005).
[5] A. Nagurney and D. Boyce, Transp. Sci. 39, 443 (2005).

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Posted on Friday, February 6th, 2009 at 9:03 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 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

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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

 

 

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