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Archive for the ‘Things I Didn’t Know’ Category

The Taking of Pelham’s Trees

Apparently this issue has been around awhile. From a letter to the New York Times, 1999:

To the Editor:

Re ”Drivers Fear Leafy Menace by the Side of the Road” (Sept. 19): Pelham Parkway is not a limited-access highway; it is a parkway, a road that connects Pelham Bay Park with Bronx Park. Coincidentally, it now connects the Bronx River Parkway with the Hutchinson River Parkway and the New England Thruway (I-95). It was designed for light pleasure traffic at speeds of 25 to 30 miles per hour, not 50 to 60 m.p.h.

When people fall asleep at the wheel, are cut off by another vehicle or seek to avoid an animal in the road and hit one of the trees transplanted from the subway construction on the Grand Concourse, it is not the fault of the tree, nor the design of the road. I would hate to see the trees removed simply because motorists are not observing the speed limit.

If the police would enforce the speed limit on Pelham Parkway, the city would make money on the road instead of spending it. If the road could have been redesigned, you could be sure the master builder (and destroyer) Robert Moses would have rebuilt it after his failure to complete the Sheridan Expressway, which would have been the main east-west roadway to compliment the Cross Bronx Expressway.

THOMAS VASTI JR.

Morris Park, Bronx

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Posted on Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 at 8:36 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
2 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Things I Didn’t Know

Robert Puentes notes:

While we often equate the interstates to long stretches of rural roads, more than half our interstate system mileage is in ‘urban’ areas. For that reason, a broad range of tolling strategies should be considered–not solely for revenue generation but for congestion and demand management strategies such as on beltways, downtown spurs and within mega regions.

Via an interesting discussion, at National Journal’s experts forum, of whether interstate highways should be tolled (and I’m with Puentes on that one).

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Posted on Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 at 8:04 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
2 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Things I Didn’t Know

An empty truck takes twice as long to stop as a full one. From 55 mph, a cargo-laden, 80,000-pound truck requires more than the length of a football field to stop on dry pavement. But the stopping distance doubles for an empty truck under the same conditions. “The braking systems on big rigs require both friction and traction,” explains Durant. “With an empty trailer, the braking capacity diminishes, and you lose traction. The rig could begin to bounce, or it might jackknife.

The whole piece, which contains a few other survival tips for driving among big rigs, is here.

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Posted on Monday, June 8th, 2009 at 9:30 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
5 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Things I Didn’t Know

Ramping up slowly here, folks, and it’s staggering how much happens in the world of traffic in a week — there are dozens of things I would have posted on, had my attentions not been elsewhere.

With Hummer on the verge of extinction, save for its purchase by some Chinese manufacturer looking for a new market niche for emerging oligarchs, I came across this piece by Salon on the rise and fall of America’s most unbeloved car brand. This bit struck me in particular:

Beginning in 1996, a series of tax laws combine to create large tax credits for certain Hummer buyers. By 2002, the New York Times reports that, thanks to changes in the tax code during the Bush administration, an eligible buyer can deduct $34,912 of the $48,800 base price of the Hummer.

God does that now seem like a piece of Bush-era lunacy (and keep in mind at the same time the deduction for hybrid vehicles was being capped and restricted). That whopping deduction supposedly reflected the Hummer’s role as a “light duty truck,” and hence a work vehicle for yeoman farmers and the like, though the only people I ever saw driving them looked dressed for nothing for labor intensive than a day on the links — and they were certainly never hauling anything beyond a pair of jet-skis or ATVs (and don’t get me started on those!). In retrospect they were the perfect emblem of the Bush interregnum, a totem of entitlement, profligacy, social and personal insecurity, militarism as a form of consumption, and absolute pretension — “all cattle and no hat.”

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Posted on Monday, May 11th, 2009 at 8:12 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
4 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Things I Didn’t Know

Via The Infrastructurist:

“A commonly cited statistic is that a 70 ton tractor trailer does as much damage to a roadway as 10,000 passenger cars.”

Could this be true? Roughly calculating that a 70-ton trailer would be 20 times the weight of the average car, it seems a mismatch, to say the least, that the damage done by the truck would be 10,000 times greater. Unless there is some serious non-linear action going on, some threshold of massive deterioration which trucks routinely cross — but then one wonders if the economics wouldn’t shake out towards building stronger roads, or making trucks smaller. One also wonders why tolls for trucks would be that much higher.

Anyone see any real data?

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Posted on Friday, April 24th, 2009 at 4:53 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
15 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Things I Didn’t Know

Photo by Hidesax/Flickr

I just came across this kernel about Tokyo, a city I’m always plotting to return to:

“The elevated expressways make it possible to traverse the city by car, but the average speed is only 15 km/h. That is if you have a car, because anyone who wants one has to prove they have their own parking space. Parking on the street is forbidden, and with an average street breadth of 4 m, often quite impossible.”

This comes from the book Mobility: A Room with a View, the catalog to the 2003 International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam (OK, so I’m slow getting to it), which I picked up not long ago at the bookstore of the Canadian Centre for Architecture (along with William Stout in San Francisco, one of the world’s best shops of that theme). It’s a mishmash, like all catalogs, but for mobility types there’s much on offer, including an essay on the aesthetic mandates for the autobahn during the Third Reich and an essay with the incredibly tempting title “The History of French Motorway Design.”

But back to Tokyo; I’d be curious to know more about the parking legislation. When did it pass? Was it a result of the narrow streets, or some other force? Has the law influenced urban form, vis a vis house construction? Are there more parking garages per capita in Tokyo than elsewhere?

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Posted on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 at 7:20 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
3 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Things I Didn’t Know

Via the WSJ:

Regulatory policy and practice, however, aren’t global. U.S. government crash standards, for example, require car makers to take into consideration the potential harm to passengers who aren’t wearing seat belts when designing the crash-safety features of their cars. European governments assume that everyone riding in a car is wearing a belt — a standard that’s easier and less costly for car makers to meet.

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Posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 at 6:42 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
1 Comment. Click here to leave a comment.

Things I Didn’t Know

Via Harper’s Index:

Hours during which Rio de Janeiro drivers may legally run red lights in order to avoid being carjacked: 10 P.M. — 5 A.M.

Traffic is now available in Brazil, though I do not discuss the above.

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Posted on Monday, March 16th, 2009 at 1:55 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
1 Comment. Click here to leave a comment.

Things I Didn’t Know

According to the Federal Highway Administration, Angelenos drive 23 miles per resident per day. This ranks the Los Angeles metro area 21st highest among the largest 37 cities. The champions (or losers) are probably Houston, followed by Jacksonville and Orlando, all of which are over 30 miles per day. New Yorkers drive the fewest miles (17 VMT per resident per day), thanks in large part to relatively high transit ridership and lots of walking trips.

This comes from Eric Morris’ final entry in his counterintuitive traffic quiz, dedicated to shattering all myths of Los Angeles mobility.

He goes on:

Despite our reputation, we Angelenos don’t exhibit any particularly great predilection for freeway travel either. Los Angeles ranks 14th out of the 37 largest metro areas in terms of highway miles driven per resident per day. To be sure, this is above the median, but it hardly points to the sort of unique freeway fetish Angelenos are accused of harboring.

But before you go toss that copy of L.A Story in the trash, on one important measure, L.A. is right where you’d expect, however: America’s worst congestion.

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Posted on Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 at 3:34 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
3 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Things I Didn’t Know

A new and occasional series of traffic facts that were novel to me.

I was in lovely Savannah, Georgia, yesterday at a AAA safety conference. I heard many interesting things (and managed to sneak out for some quick BBQ at Wall’s, a great place hidden in a house in an alley that I hadn’t been to in years and was worried may have closed in the intervening time).

One random fact I heard that was new to me was that Massachusetts has the lowest seat-belt wearing rate in the country. Somehow I had imagined some Western state (or maybe Alaska) would take top crown, not a relatively wealthy state with a concentration of high-tech and academia. Of course, the irony here is that Massachusetts, per mile, has the lowest fatality rate in the country — a fact that surely has to do with density (not so many chances to get in trouble, and lots of nearby trauma centers).

I’m not sure whether this is some expression of Emersonian self-reliance (neighboring New Hampshire is, of course, famously resistant to safety laws — “Live Free And/Or Die” is how someone put it). The reality, though, is that this non-seat-belt-wearing is actually not so self-reliant; this study shows the medical burden the state assumes in treating the unbelted occupants of cars in crashes. They also note, “Additionally, research has shown that the costs of unbelted injuries are 25% higher than belted injuries, and unbelted occupants are more likely to be Medicaid patients.”

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Posted on Friday, March 6th, 2009 at 10:21 am 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

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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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