Archive for the ‘Etc.’ Category

Nimble Cities: Wrapping Up

All the votes have been tallied, the loose chads swept off the floor, and “Nimble Cities,” the latest in Slate’s “Hive” series, has drawn to a close.

Check it out here, and thanks to those of you who voted/submitted ideas.

Posted on Thursday, July 15th, 2010 at 1:05 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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‘Why not get a boat and come to Australia?’

OK, I’m coming by plane, but I couldn’t help but think of that Kinks song. But Antipodean readers who may be in Perth, Canberra, and possibly Sydney — I’ll be coming your way in late August/early September. But do drop a line if it seems our paths will cross, or if you have any recommendations for those towns.

Posted on Wednesday, July 14th, 2010 at 1:12 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Negative Energy and Road Crashes

Admittedly, when I think about pyramids and road safety, I tend to think of Heinrich’s triangle, or the so-called ‘incident pyramid.”

That phrase is taking on a whole new meaning in Nagpur, India, however.

Traffic officers in Nagpur, 870km west of Mumbai, have agreed to allow small pyramids to be placed at 10 accident-prone sites in the city to see if their claimed positive energy can reduce crashes.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Sahebrao Patil said the road safety initiative came about after a meeting with an expert in Vastu, an ancient Hindu system of construction which is similar to Chinese Feng Shui.

“He told me that he had placed a number of pyramids on roads outside the city and the results were excellent.The number of accidents reduced. He wanted to do it in the city, so I said, ‘OK, no problem’,” Mr Patil said.

“He’s going to be installing them in 10 spots. They won’t be on the road directly but at the corner of chowks (squares) or near traffic signals so they won’t obstruct traffic.”

While I personally have no belief in negative energy, reincarnation, the Rapture, etc. etc., I am interested in the possible “placebo” effects the pyramids may instill in those believing drivers who drive by — similar to what Freakonomics dubbed the “Hindu traffic nudge”; religious shrines erected at crash hotspots near Simla (a version of the crash memorials erected the world over). And, after all, things could hardly get worse on Indian roads — so what’s the harm in a little positive energy?

(thanks Alan)

Posted on Wednesday, July 14th, 2010 at 1:06 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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For Love Knows No Bounds of Age Nor Speed

Via the Herald Tribune (Australia):

AN elderly hoon driver has vowed to keep getting behind the wheel – even if her licence is revoked.

But police, who intercepted 81-year-old Judith Slade driving at 164km/h on Monday afternoon, will apply to have her grounded permanently.

(thanks Matthew)

Posted on Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 at 5:20 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Narrow Cars, Smart Buses, and Bike Centers at Transit Hubs

The three leading vote-getters at the Nimble Cities project, explained.

Posted on Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 at 5:04 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Conveyor City

Over at the Slate Nimble Cities project, I discuss the suggestion from a few readers to install moving walkways in cities (as it turns out, an old idea).

Posted on Monday, July 12th, 2010 at 7:11 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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“Leave Your Car in the Garage”

Trawling through some real estate brokerage sites, typically in fairly dense small towns and pre-war suburbs, a refrain keeps catching my eye: “Leave your car in the garage.” The listing will then note the proximity to trains, schools, etc. I’m not sure who first came up with this rallying cry — and based on what I’ve seen in some of these towns (pedestrians being mostly people moving to and from their cars) I wonder if it might be more real-estate bluster than anything else — i.e., the potential of walking is there, as is the potential for the great room to be great and the massive chef’s kitchen to produce fare worthy of Grant Achatz, but in the end this potential gives way to some real or imagined vehicular reality (I need to get groceries, it’s just easier). But I can’t say I’ve ever seen a real estate ad that promised: “Take your car out of the garage, often!”

Posted on Tuesday, July 6th, 2010 at 8:11 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Retrofitting Suburbia

I’m wondering if the new development pattern in the Lakewood scheme is having any effects on transportation (i.e., what’s the VMT of people living in Belmar versus others)? And on the subject don’t miss the National Academies podcast (and paper), “Driving and the Built Environment.”

(Thanks Michael)

Posted on Tuesday, July 6th, 2010 at 8:01 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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South Dakota v. Fifteen Impounded Cats

Via the Washington Times:

How many cats is a person legally allowed to let roam the inside of his or her car while they travel the country?

The South Dakota Supreme Court weighed in on that very issue last week, setting the bar somewhere below 15.

The state’s highest court ruled — in a case titled State of South Dakota v. Fifteen Impounded Cats — that a police officer acted correctly in August when he seized the aforementioned 15 felines from a vehicle belonging to Patricia Edwards.

Not every justice agreed.

Justice Severson also said state laws dictating no more than three people ride in the front seat of a car lest they interfere with the driver’s view or control did not apply to cats.

“Miss Edwards’ cats should be returned to her care,” he wrote.

Posted on Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 at 9:44 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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What Child Restraints Used to Look Like

As I recently transferred the infant rear-facing car seat from my car to that of my in-laws, my father-in-law, noting my exasperated straining and stretching, gazed wistfully into the distance and said something along the lines of, ‘we used to just stick ’em in the back seat.’

This is not to say there weren’t crude, biomechanically dubious predecessors of the modern infant car seat: Before there was the LATCH system, before there was the backseat rear-facing Snugride, before there were three-point harnesses, there was the… Kiddee Drivette! (with its ‘not noisy’ horn). Not sure about that ‘educational’ bit though.

From AskMeFi, via Things.

Posted on Monday, June 28th, 2010 at 5:32 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Nimble Cities

It’s early days over at Nimble Cities, but the ideas are coming in fast and furious (click here to see the most popular so far).

There’s some good proposals already, a mix of pragmatism and futurism, wild-eyed rants and thoughtfully considered suggestions. One thing I’m not seeing a lot of though is already existing ideas, in cities around the world, that should be extended to other metropoles. But I trust these will emerge as ideas and voting continues.

Posted on Wednesday, June 16th, 2010 at 10:23 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Market in Lucky License Plates

Via Vaughan Bell, a study from Travis Ng and colleagues examines the the economic effects of superstition on Hong Kong roads:

Controlling for visual factors that affect price (for example, plates with fewer digits are more sought-after) Ng’s team found that an ordinary 4-digit plate with one extra lucky ‘8’ was sold 63.5 per cent higher on average. An extra unlucky ‘4’ by contrast diminished the average 4-digit plate value by 11 per cent. These effects aren’t trivial. Replacing the ‘7’ in a standard 4-digit plate with an ‘8’ would boost its value by roughly $400.

Posted on Monday, June 14th, 2010 at 10:25 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Texting While Flying

Australian officials investigating reports that pilot for ozzie budget airliner Jetstar was texting “just before his aircraft was forced to pull out of a landing at Changi Airport in Singapore.”

(thanks Kent)

Posted on Monday, June 14th, 2010 at 9:37 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Mixed Media: Transportation

I’ve got a roundup, in the new issue of Sierra magazine, of the transpo related things that have caught my eye lately. NB: I was limited to 1000 words, so there were many other books, blogs, films, etc. I would have mentioned, and probably already have here.

Posted on Monday, June 14th, 2010 at 8:12 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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One Way to Eliminate the ‘Free Rider’ Problem

Just stop charging. Geoff Manaugh notes:

“AT&T is launching a free wi-fi network for its customers in New York City’s Times Square,” Business Insider explained last week. “This will take a load off AT&T’s battered 3G network, by pushing peoples’ email, web, and app traffic onto wi-fi and off of 3G. And it should speed up downloads for AT&T customers in the area.” I’m reminded of Charles Komanoff’s proposed transportation policy changes for New York City, in which bus rides would always be offered free of charge, “because the time saved when passengers aren’t fumbling for change more than makes up for the lost fare revenue.” In other words, both cases suggest that offering certain urban services for free, at moments of high-intensity usage, often makes much better financial sense than charging for everything, all the time.

The flipside, of course, is that elsewhere, for the heaviest users (the so-called ‘data hogs’), AT&T is upping the pricing; and this too is the converse of Komanoff’s proposal — charging “road hogs” more for using the most network bandwidth at the most congested times.

Posted on Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 at 9:30 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Hit the North

Heading up to Canada soon for the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals Conference; looking forward to meeting any readers there.

Posted on Friday, June 4th, 2010 at 10:13 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Perhaps It Was Sudden Unintended Acceleration?

More aerial traffic than usual at DFW. All kinds of cognitive dissonance on the part of the driver going on in the police report.

(headlight flash to Tommy)

Posted on Friday, June 4th, 2010 at 7:44 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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1.86 MPH: the World’s Lowest Speed Limit (for now)

Reader Tomer, writing from Israel and responding to my query as to the World’s Slowest Speed Limit (some readers had sent in signs advising 3 MPH), sends in this contender, which at 3 KPH puts us at 1.86 MPH — a conundrum, of course, as the needle on most speedos won’t even faithfully register that low a velocity.

Posted on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010 at 6:35 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Tragedy of the Commons: PCH Edition

Those wonderfully scenic, empty drives you see in car commercials? Don’t forget the small words at the bottom: “Closed course.” The reality, as described by an auto journo out in search of a good stretch to unwind a Porsche, is more often like this.

(thanks Ed)

Posted on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010 at 6:28 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Man Who Cycled the Americas

One of those minor irritants about living in the U.S., apart from the increasing prevalent of hipsters with pit bulls on my local streets (“there are no bad breeds, only bad owners,” yeah, still, you ever hear of a fatal pug attack?) is lack of easy access to things on the BBC. Like this. I mean, we can’t even watch the preview videos?

Posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 at 12:02 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:

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



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