Monday, December 17, 2007

World's First Ship Tunnel

According to Reuters, Kystverket, the Norwegian Coastal Administration has approved plans for the world's first shipping tunnel. Likely to cost around $310 million, the tunnel would span 1,700 metres (5,577 feet) across the base of the Stad peninsula. The tunnel is to be located well inland where the openings would be sheltered from the raging storms of the North Sea.

The Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal affairs could present the plan to parliament in 2009.

Friday, December 14, 2007

GPS Gets Handy

The Global Positioning System is becoming woven more and more into everyday life, and we could be on the brink of an explosion of new applications. GPS receivers are becoming lighter, more portable, more versatile and cheaper. Consequently they are moving off the dashboard and into the hands and pockets of pedestrians. An article in the current Economist outlines the rapid developments in portable GPS receivers and their uses.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

UPS Logistics

A post not wholly irrelevant to the holidays- NYTimes is currently reporting on logistics software being implemented by UPS. One major factor, the article explains, is the near-elimination of those costly, wasteful left-hand turn signals. The author explains:
Last year, according to Heather Robinson, a U.P.S. spokeswoman, the software helped the company shave 28.5 million miles off its delivery routes, which has resulted in savings of roughly three million gallons of gas and has reduced CO2 emissions by 31,000 metric tons. So what can Brown do for you? We can’t speak to how good or bad they are in the parcel-delivery world, but they won’t be clogging up the left-hand lane while they do their business.

Fast food - they mean it

You now get just 45 minutes to scoff your stuff at UK branches of MacDonalds. Surveillance cameras in the parking lots of drive-thru branches record license plates and the duration of one's stay. Stay for more than 45 minutes and a private enforcement agency will send a fine of £125 (yes, pounds sterling; about $250.) Stubborn types who refuse to pay up quickly find that the amount increases the longer they hold out. Read more in the UK's Guardian.

(But how can it take 45 minutes to put away a burger and fries? They must be doing something else in those parking lots. Blogging, maybe.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wired's Best & Worst Airport to Rail Connections

Alexander Lew compiled lists of the best and worst cities for airport to rail connections. The five best:
5. Chicago O'Hare for its connection to the Blue Line
4. Tokyo's Narita airport connections to its Narita Express and Keisei Skyliner trains.
3. London's Heathrow airport's BAA Heathrow Express.
2. Paris Charles de Gaulle's connections to the TGV.
1. And the most convenient is Hong Kong's Airport Express.

Unfortunate travelers may find themselves having to rely on public transportation at the following airports:
4. New York's JFK
3. Shanghai Pudong PVG
2. San Francisco SFO
1. Los Angeles LAX

Monday, December 03, 2007

Cool Traffic Modeling Program Says "Yes" to Congestion Pricing

SF City Planner, Billy Charleton, is interviewed on KQED Radio as he describes using SF Champ 3.0, an unusually sophisicated traffic modelling program which contains census data on 750,000 SF residents. In each scenario he runs, the simulation shows that traffic congestion is reduced with the introduction of congestion pricing. Critics of congestion pricing, however, point to London which charges about $16 to enter downtown during business hours. There, retail sales have declined since congestion pricing started.

Asha Weinstein Agrawal, of San Jose State's Dept. of Urban & Regional Planning, conducted a survey of 2700 California residents. 63 percent of respondents say that people with less fuel efficient vehicles should pay higher vehicle registration fees. This leads Agrawal to believe that people would be amenable to congestion pricing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Travelling for the Holidays?

(Photo courtesy of Näystin on Flickr.)

Do you have to travel for the holidays? Will your plans include driving to the airport to fly across the country? If so, John Van Horn at Parking Today's blog has offered up some airport parking tips:
  1. Take a cab or limo to the airport -- At the cost to park of $20 a day, if you are going more than four days, its probably cheaper to take a cab, both ways.

  2. Have a friend drop them off or pick them up.

  3. Reserve a space on line -- virtually all airports are represented at a number of sites -- Key in "Parking" on Google and see what pops up.

  4. Simply drive to the airport and park in an available space. My spies tell me that at virtually all airports there is parking available. It may not be the most convenient, but its there. Off airport parking is available, too. But its probably important to plan ahead and be sure you can find those little lots around the corner and down the block.

  5. Airport hotels are offering park/sleep/fly packages that let you come a day early, leave your car, stay overnight, and be well rested for your flight.

Of course most won't take this advice, and most main stream media won't print it. All those "one flight a decade" folks will jam the airport at the last minute, have far too much luggage, complain about just about everything, and actually be the cause of most late flights.

Cynic? Nope, just experienced.

The best solution - have Thanksgiving at your house and let the family come there.

Having Thanksgiving come to you can be convenient, though we here at the library understand that some people are going to travel in the next day or so to see relatives and eat lots of food.

There have been many developments in airport parking recently. Susan Shaheen of ITS Davis published a paper in 2005 entitled Smart Parking Management Field Test: A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District Parking Demonstration that explored using smart parking at BART stations and airports to increase efficiency.

Van Horn's list neglects the possible role of transit in getting travelers to their destination. As a recent BTS special report, Making Connections: Intermodal Links in the Public Transportation System, highlights- more and more airports are being serviced by transit agencies. You can avoid the parking lot all together and ride the bus or the train, saving yourself a headache.

Whatever your plans are for this holiday, be safe and have fun!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Time Change Leads To Accidents

The Toronto Star reports police in that city last monday kicked off their week-long "Smart Ped - Be Bright At Night" program in order to boost pedestrian and automobile safety. Similar safety campaigns held every November in Toronto are scheduled to coincide with the end of daylight savings time when police report a significant rise in the number of pedestrian/automobile collisions. Sgt. Allan Finlay explains that pedestrians and drivers haven't adjusted to the dark commute home.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Risk Compensation Rumble

The recent issue of "Status Report" (42:10, pp 6-8) from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a polemical article against "risk compensation" approaches to safety restraint legislation. In the article, "Risk Compensation Theory Keeps Popping Up Where It's Wholly Irrelevant," authors argue that the introduction of new safety features does not inherently alter driving behaviors for the worse. It is noted that, in response to a recent article on risk compensation in the statistical analysis journal "Significance,"
To believe [risk compensation concerning safety restraints in automobiles] you'd have to believe that people have a certain tolerance for risk and that their levels of risk are regulated by a homeostatic mechanism so that, if forced to "consume" more safety than they voluntarily would choose, people will balance the safety increase by taking more risk. It's a stretch, isn't it? (p 6)

The article being argued against, "Seat Belt Laws- Repeal Them?" (pdf format, requires subscription) is written by a professor emeritus from the geography department of UCL, John Adams. Prof. Adams explains that
"the evidence with respect to seat belts suggests that the law had no effect on total fatalities but was associated with a redistribution of danger from car occupants to pedestrians and cyclists. (p 89)

Finally, an article in Accident Analysis and Prevention presents some quantitative research on the matter (found here, in pdf and subscription required).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

11 Most Bicycle Friendly Cities

Wired Magazine reports that Virgin Vacations has put together a list of the 11 most bicycle friendly cities in the world.

  1. Amsterdam, Netherlands : see their Bike Dispenser
  2. Portland, Oregon : see a New York Times article on bicycle-friendly Portland
  3. Copenhagen, Denmark : see the Streetsblog Notes on biclycling in Copenhagen
  4. Boulder, Colorado : see the City of Boulder's bicycling transportation resources page
  5. Davis, California : see the League of American Bicyclists' extensive article on what makes Davis bicycle friendly
  6. Sandnes, Norway : see Marco Zanussi's profile on Sandnes Byke City (pdf)
  7. Trondheim, Norway : see the Trondheim bicycle hill-assist in action on YouTube
  8. San Francisco, California : get the 511 on bicycling in San Francisco
  9. Berlin, Germany : read the CBS News report on Berlin's bicycling boom
  10. Barcelona, Spain : see the Barcelona bicycling resources guide
  11. Basel, Switzerland : see stats and history of bicycling in Basel

The eleven cities were chosen based on "The Five Es" -- criteria drawn up by the League of American Bicyclists

  • ENGINEERING : facilities for accommodation of cyclists
  • EDUCATION : provision of funds for teaching safe cycling
  • ENCOURAGEMENT : how the community promotes and encourages bicycling
  • ENFORCEMENT : do bicycling laws exist and are they enforced
  • EVALUATION & PLANNING : is there a bicycle master plan

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Transportation Seminar and Cookie Time 9 November: A Macroscopic Approach to Urban Traffic

This week's talk, given by CEE PhD student Nikolas Geroliminis (CV in pdf format), approaches a description of vehicular movement in urban areas on a macroscopic scale. Geroliminis has formed his conclusions using both simulation and real data from metropolitan areas (here is a link to a 4-hour simulation by Geroliminis and Prof. Daganzo). Here is the abstract:
Various theories have been proposed to describe vehicular traffic movement in cities on an aggregate level. They fall short to create a macroscopic model with variable inputs and outputs that could describe a rush hour dynamically. My dissertation work shows that a Macroscopic Fundamental Diagram (MFD) relating production (the product of average flow and network length) and accumulation (the product of average density and network length) exists for neighborhoods of cities in the order of 5-10km2. It also demonstrates that conditional on accumulation large networks behave predictably and independently of their Origin-Destination tables. These results are based on analysis using simulation of large scale city networks and real data from urban metropolitan areas. The real experiment uses a combination of fixed detectors and floating vehicle probes as sensors. The analysis also reveals a fixed relation between the space-mean flows on the whole network and the trip completion rates, which dynamically measure accessibility. This work also demonstrates that the dynamics of the rush hour can be predicted quite accurately without the knowledge of disaggregated data. This MFD is applied to develop perimeter control strategies based on neighborhood accumulation and speeds and improve accessibility without the uncertainty inherent in today’s forecast-based approaches. The looking-for-parking phenomenon that extends the average trip length is also integrated in the dynamics of the rush hour

The seminar will be in 240 Bechtel at 4:00 and will be preceded by Cookie Time in the ITS Library (4th Floor McLaughlin) at 3:30. Please Note: Cookie Time will still be held regardless of other ITS closures for Veterans' Day

New SWARM Report Does Not Concern Honey

A new study out of Portland State University ITS (TRB paper found here in doc format) discusses the efficacy of the System-Wide Adaptive Ramp Metering (SWARM) system in the Portland, Oregon area. SWARM replaces older fixed-rate metering systems that remain static regardless of the prevailing traffic conditions. This means SWARM should be sensitive to both regular fluctuations as well as non-recurrent changes. Wikipedia has a reasonable sketch of ramp metering here. Here is the abstract:
A System-Wide Adaptive Ramp Metering (SWARM) system is being implemented in the Portland metropolitan area, replacing the previous pre-timed ramp-metering system. SWARM has been deployed on six major corridors and operates during the morning and afternoon peak hours. This study entails a “before” and “after” evaluation of the benefit of the new SWARM system as compared to the pre-timed system using the existing data, surveillance and communications infrastructure. In particular, the objective of this study is to quantify the system-wide benefits in terms of savings in delay, emissions and fuel consumption, and safety improvements on and off the freeway due to the implementation of the SWARM system. A pilot study was conducted for two weeks on a 7-mile freeway corridor in an attempt to develop a strategic design for the future regional-level study. This paper discusses the selection process of the study corridor, experimental design, and the results that were obtained from the pilot study.

Caltrans has also implemented such a system (pdf format) in the Los Angeles area in 2000 and earlier (in pdf, see pages 12-13 for an overview of the Irvine SWARM).

Monday, November 05, 2007

Menus Online!

Northwestern University's Library has announced today the launch of a Web site of 381 airline menus from the 1950s to the present, at, reproduced in their entirety in high resolution. The "Clug Calypso" menu pictured at right is from a 1968 Air Canada flight to the Bahamas.

According to Northwestern's Wendy Leopold,

In 1966, a passenger flying BOAC economy class from London to Tel Aviv enjoyed a lunch of foie gras, fresh Scotch salmon, salad, cheese, fruit and coffee, followed by afternoon tea. And one had only to ask for a complimentary Martini -- sweet or dry -- and free in-flight cigarettes in plain or filter tip.

TWA travelers flying first class from London to Chicago that year chose their cocktails, whiskies, highballs or champagne from a menu in the form of a scroll that doubled as a souvenir. Their dinner of curried squab chicken or Maine lobster Newburg began with fresh Malossol caviar, and was capped off with assorted French cheeses, pastries or ice creams. Diners with less rarified tastes could substitute a hot dog and malted milk.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Major EIS collection now searchable in TRIS

The Northwestern University Transportation Library (NUTL) has provided the Transportation Research Board (TRB) with more than 19,000 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) bibliographic records for the Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS) database, creating one of the world’s largest publicly accessible collections of environmental impact statements.

NUTL's EIS collection includes about 80 percent of all the EISs issued by US federal agencies since 1969 and is the largest EIS collection in the United States. It has more than 19,150 titles, including draft statements, final reports, findings of no significant impact, records of decisions, supplementary reports, and maps. A small EIS collection from state departments of transportation and non-US government agencies is also maintained.

The TRIS database is the largest and most comprehensive bibliographic resource on transportation information. TRIS is produced and maintained by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies with sponsorship by State DOTs, the various administrations at the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other sponsors of TRB's core technical activities.

EIS volumes found in TRIS can be borrowed by contacting NUTL's Interlibrary Loan unit.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Meet FlexZipcar

The carshare business continues to burgeon, with over thirty companies operating across the USA by now. Possible good news for members of Flexcar and Zipcar is today's announcement that the two organizations are to merge. The new company will operate under the Zipcar brand. More information at the Zipcar press page.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Minnesota Selects New Bridge Design

After Minnesota DOT's selection of a new design for the I-35W bridge, NPR's David Malakoff brings our attention to an interesting 2003* ASCE paper by Wardhana and Hadipriono which analyzed over 500 bridge failures in the U.S. and determined that most are caused by floods. Malakoff has also compiled a list of notable bridge disasters (find more bridge disasters here). From just our current decade we have:
  • 2007: A truck packed with passengers and merchandise overloads a bridge in the West Africa's Republic of Guinea, causing it to collapse, killing 65 people.
  • 2006: Bridge collapse in Quebec, Canada kills five.
  • 2005: A flood washes away a rail bridge in India, killing 114.
  • 2005: A highway bridge under construction in southern Spain collapses, killing six.
  • 2002: A barge hits a 500-foot section of a bridge spanning the Arkansas River in Webbers Falls, causing it to collapse, killing 14 people.
  • 2001: A bridge collapses in Lisbon, Portugal, causing a tour bus to plunge into a river, killing more than 50.

* Malakoff cites the study as "2005," but your humble blogger believes this to be a typo.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Transportation Seminar and Cookie Time 25 October: Smart Parking

Ohh Hello! Please join us in the ITS Library this Friday at 3:30 for our weekly 'Cookie Time.' This week our lecture, beginning at 4:00, is called "Transit-Based Smart Parking in the U.S.: An Evaluation of the San Francisco Bay Area Field Test" and is presented by Dr. Susan Shaheen of UC Berkeley as well as ITS Davis' Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC).
Rising demand for parking at suburban transit stations, such as the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District in California, necessitates strategies to manage traveler demand. To better manage parking supply, researchers implemented a smart parking field test at the Rockridge BART station from 2004 to 2006 to evaluate the effects of smart parking technologies (changeable message signs (CMSs), Internet reservations and billing, mobile phone and personal digital assistant communications, and a wireless parking lot counting system) on transit ridership and response to service pricing. Researchers employed expert interviews, Internet surveys, focus groups, and parking reservation data to conduct this analysis. This presentation provides an overview of the project, behavioral effects of the field test, and lessons learned.

The talk will be held in 240 Bechtel as usual.

Criminals, the Clean Air Act, and Cognition

Slashdot points to a New York Times article addressing a possible link between the decrease in violent crimes in the 1990s and the Clean Air Act. This link has been investigated in a recent paper by Amherst College professor Jessica Wolpaw Reyes in her paper "Environmental Policy as Social Policy? The Impact of Childhood Lead Exposure on Crime." The Times article discusses Reyes findings:
After moving out of an old townhouse in Boston when her first child was born in 2000, Reyes started looking into the effects of lead poisoning. She learned that even low levels of lead can cause brain damage that makes children less intelligent and, in some cases, more impulsive and aggressive. She also discovered that the main source of lead in the air and water had not been paint but rather leaded gasoline — until it was phased out in the 1970s and ’80s by the Clean Air Act, which took blood levels of lead for all Americans down to a fraction of what they had been. “Putting the two together,” she says, “it seemed that this big change in people’s exposure to lead might have led to some big changes in behavior.

In other news, violence is up among the 5-12 year old suburban child demographic.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Walking on air

How do you like being able to walk over a busy road, or to cross a river at a convenient location, or even to traverse a deep canyon on a springy (but safe) bridge span? has a slide-show essay featuring some beautiful footbridges.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Green Aviation Fuel on the Horizon

News@Princeton is reporting today that a Princeton University research team is working on developing an environmentally friendly jet fuel. The team, led by Professor Fred Dryer will creade a jet fuel combustion simulator with funding from the U.S. Air Force, and a grant from NetJets will study development of near-zero net greenhouse gas emission jet fuels.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

TSA Trouble!

USA Today is today reporting on a recent report from the TSA describing the state of the United States' airport screening. There are good omens for advocates of privatization:
At Chicago O'Hare International Airport, screeners missed about 60% of hidden bomb materials that were packed in everyday carry-ons — including toiletry kits, briefcases and CD players. San Francisco International Airport screeners, who work for a private company instead of the TSA, missed about 20% of the bombs, the report shows. The TSA ran about 70 tests at Los Angeles, 75 at Chicago and 145 at San Francisco.

Maybe this will excite ol' Kip into the voyeuristic project hinted at a week earlier in the same newspaper.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Greenhouse Gasses: Are They All Ours?

According to California state law, carbon emissions must be cut to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. As of yet we have had no way to determine how much of California's pollution originates within the state, nor any way to determine how much of the local pollution is generated by combustion or by rotting vegitation. Now two scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are beginning a unique experiment to monitor greenhouse gasses above San Francisco from Sutro Tower.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

New life for old shipping containers

The great English DJ John Peel once considered buying a used shipping container for underground storage of some of his vast record collection. (Instead he adopted a more conventional storage solution.) Other uses of old containers have recently emerged, including use as market stalls and housing. Links to many such projects can be found at Shipping Container Architecture.

The image (from boingboing) shows student housing in Amsterdam, constructed from containers.

Airbus A380

The Economist has a briefing on the Airbus A380, the giant passenger aircraft from Europe that seems set to upset current patterns of air travel. These things will soon be landing regularly at San Francisco International Airport.

(Image from the Economist)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Transportation Seminar and Cookie Time 12 October: Newtons and Neural Networks

This weeks talk, upon our 3:30 'Cookie Time,' is presented by PATH researcher Xiao-Yun Lu. The paper has something to do with logit models, mathematics, and neural networks. I'll let the abstract do the talking:
This seminar is to discuss the representability of discrete logit-type models including multinomial logit and nested logit model from a mathematical approach instead of a statistical approach by Prof. D. McFadden. It is shown that the logit-type models can be reconstructed from mathematical approximation theory with sigmoidal functions widely used in Neural Network modeling without the basic assumptions such as IIA and iid, and the distribution (or density) function of the unobserved portion of utility. This explains mathematically why logit-type models can approximate the choice probability function to some accuracy. It is hoped that this may suggest the way to improve the accuracy in model specification for logit type models.

Please come by for some snacks beforehand.


Both NPR and the prestigious New York Times are reporting today on the new six month delay for Boeing's new 787 'Dreamliner' aircraft. Boeing's original announcement is here. This new delay supplements a host of other concerns, as outlined in the Times article:
Earlier this year, Boeing warned that a worldwide shortage of fasteners that hold the plane’s fuselage, wing and tail sections together was slowing down assembly of the first test aircraft. Last month, the company said that in addition to the fastener shortage, Boeing and its production partners had run into unanticipated snags involving the availability of certain specialized parts for the plane as well as the programming of its flight-control software. Mike Bair, general manager of the 787 program, conceded at the time that these problems had added “increased risk” that there would be delivery delays.

Could Dan Rather's spurious reporting record on George Bush's sterling past finally be vindicated through his predicted failure of the Dreamliner's fuselage?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Chilean Commuters Sue Over Transit System

Local transit in the Chilean city of Santiago underwent a major overhaul in the past year. The 3,000 private bus companies that competed for passengers over the past 17 years have been consolidated into just 10 companies under the new transit system, Transantiago. The new system add hours to the average commute time and has cost thousands of people their jobs as a result of getting them to work late. President Michele Bachelet has issued a formal apology to the people of Santiago for the debacle of Transantiago. Kirsten Sehnbruch, a scholar at Berkeley's Center for Latin American Studies, explores the implications of Transantiago for Bachelet's presidency in a recent paper.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Founder of Ryanair passes on

The career of Irish airline tycoon Tony Ryan, founder of the low-cost passenger airline Ryanair is recounted in an obituary in London's Independent newspaper. Probably Ireland's most successful entrepreneur, Ryan revolutionized the European airline industry and made his country an important player in commercial aviation.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I'm From the Future

An article today from the Washington Post describes a new infrared system for applications in High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. It explains that
The lanes are billed as the salvation of the suffering commuter. Solo drivers will be able to buy their way around congestion, while carpoolers will ride free. But the lanes' success hinges on finding a way to differentiate between paying and nonpaying customers without stopping every vehicle to count heads.
The system automagically detects the number of passengers in passing vehicles by bouncing infrared waves off of their skin. This marks a departure from computer vision-based approaches for detection in similar circumstances (for example, automated pedestrian detection).

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Identifying Research Needs

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) has announced the availability of a new database designed to help researchers in the transportation community identify where their expertise and resources are most needed. The Research Needs Statements (RNS) Database serves as a central location for the storing, searching, and sharing of approximately transportation research needs statements that have been prepared and approved by 125 of TRB’s technical activities standing committees. Information in the database can be accessed in two ways, either by browsing through subject categories or committees, or by searching in an “advance search” format and specifying a title, index terms, committee, or subject category. Check out the RNS Database to learn how you might be able to more effectively contribute to research.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bus Rapid Transit explained

The proposed East Bay Bus Rapid Transit program has attracted much comment in the local media, some of it ill-informed or hostile. (Why are so many people in "progressive" Berkeley scared of change and opposed to making life better for non-drivers?)

Wolf Homburger, a professor emeritus at ITS Berkeley, brings some measured judgment to this imbroglio, explaining how BRT works and what it entails for the region in Commentary: An Analysis of Bus Rapid Transit in the Berkeley Daily Planet.

(Image from AC Transit)

How parking raises the cost on everything

Critical thinking about the national obsession with providing parking space for private vehicles has been going on for several years, and is now beginning to attract attention beyond the academic world. An article in, We Paved Paradise, reports on the findings of several city planning experts, including ITS UCLA's Donald Shoup, author of "The high cost of free parking."

(Image from

Monday, October 01, 2007

2007 Hybrid Truck Users Forum

PACCAR and Eaton Corporation hosted this year's Hybrid Truck Users Forum which took place at Seattle's Qwest Field Event Center on September 20th and 21st. According to Peterbilt's General Manager and PACCAR Vice President, Bill Jackson, "Our medium duty hybrid vehicles currently in operation throughout North America are performing extremely well, with customers reporting a significant savings in fuel economy of up to 40 percent." The fuel economy of heavy-duty hybrids is expected to reach 7% on the road and up to 90% at idle.
CALSTART, the event's organizer, describes the HTUF as "a national, multi-year, user-driven program to assist the commercialization of heavy-duty hybrid technologies."

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The "ITSL Roadshow"

The week of September 24 saw members of the ITS Library take to the road to spread the word. First off was Kendra Levine, visiting ITS Irvine on Tuesday the 25th to speak about the Library and its outreach services, followed next day by a visit to ITS UCLA to address new students at its Fall Orientation. While in the neighborhood she called in on our friend Matt Barrett, director of the MTA Library in downtown Los Angeles.

Meanwhile on Wednesday the 26th, John Gallwey traveled to speak at the Fall Orientation for new graduate students at ITS Davis. Recent circumstances had deprived him of a car so he journeyed by train. This proved so pleasant that he resolved, after years of driving between the Bay Area and Davis, to use this mode for future trips.

Lastly and by no means least, Library Director Rita Evans was in Sacramento on Thursday the 27th to speak at the Informational Resources For Transportation Research workshop at Caltrans headquarters. Her co-presenters at this program for Caltrans engineers were Susan Haake, director of the Caltrans Library and Laura Melendy, director of the ITS Technology Transfer Program.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Catch a ride in a Cybercar

Tired of driving the same old way? Want a new form of mobility that bridges the gap between an automobile and public transportation? Can you envision yourself in a cybercar? See what the Europeans are doing ... and will it ever catch on in the U.S.?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Germany Greenlights Maglev

Germany's rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, and the state of Bavaria have signed an agreement with Transrapid -- a consortium of Siemens and ThyssenKrupp -- to build a magnetic levitation railway. The new maglev, the first regular maglev service outside of China, is estimated to cost $2.6 billion.

Monday, September 24, 2007

38 Gallons of Fuel Wasted Sitting In Traffic

That's the nationwide average -- 38 gallons -- of wasted fuel per driver stuck in traffic each year. This is according to the Texas Transportation Institute's recently released 2007 Annual Urban Mobility Report. The average for San Jose drivers is 54 gallons per year. The study's authors, Tim Lomax and David Schrank, estimate that traffic congestion cost the U.S. $78 billion annually from 4.2 billion hours in lost productivity and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Transportation Seminar and Cookie Time: Freeway Congestion is Not So Good

After this week's Cookie Time, from 3:30 to 4:00 in the ITS Library, the Transportation Seminar will commence in the Bechtel Engineering Center, Room 240. We will be regaled this week with a talk, Freeway Congestion, Ramp Metering, and Tolls, given by Prof. Pravin Varaiya. The abstract-
The Cell Transmission Model of a freeway with multiple origins and destinations is used to compare four schemes to reduce freeway congestion: (R) ramp control only; (T) one lane is tolled and ramps are uncontrolled; (B) bottlenecks are tolled and ramps are uncontrolled; (RB) ramps are controlled and bottlenecks are tolled. In the base case no ramps are metered and there are no tolls. It is found that (T) is inefficient and likely to leave all travelers worse off than in the base case; (R), (B) and (RB) can achieve efficient freeway utilization; (B) can eliminate queues, but has adverse spatial and equity side effects; (RB) minimizes these side effects. (RB) is likely to be much less costly to implement and maintain than (T) or (B).

Prof. Varaiya holds the Nortel Networks Distinguished Professorship in our very own Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. Having previously taught also in the Department of Economics and heading the PATH program, he currently studies communication networks, transportation, and hybrid systems. If you miss this talk you will definitely look like a sucker.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Rather Than Dream, Rather Says Dreamliner a Disaster

Dan Rather is making a splash this week with an expose on the composite materials used in the fuselage of the new Boeing Dreamliner due out in 2008. Rather explains in the article that
One of the selling points of the new 787 is lower maintenance costs. Because the composite airframe won't corrode or rust, Boeing says the maintenance costs will be cut by thirty percent. They also say that detailed visual inspections on a periodic basis should be sufficient to detect serious damage to the composite material.

In a move questioning the embattled Rather, 'Wired Blog' contributor Aaron Rowe submits this criticism (found here)
While there is a lot of weight behind the argument that composite materials are not as well-studied as aircraft aluminum, the reasoning behind the flurry of recent articles may be faulty. First off, if a plane crashes, the composite frame will definitely not be the only source of toxic fumes. Second, high performance composites have been used in fighter aircraft and for years. Sports cars, race cars, and train cars made from composite materials have endured fantastic crashes. Claims that the impact toughness of carbon fiber is inadequate may be premature.

Rather's supremely ridiculous speculations on the military career of President and Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush may have prompted some of Rowe's questions about the reporter's legitimacy. In a move highlighting Rowe's journalistic prowess, he cites a manufacturer of composite planes who says that there is "no reason to believe that composites cannot be made every bit as strong as aluminum." Everyone knows that the most reliable source on a product is the one who stands to make the greatest profit from its sale.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Parking for Desperate Housewives

Some people don't like the idea of parking in spaces marked "Parking for Desperate Housewives." A new form of advertising is spreading across Southern California parking lots and my soon be making money for parking lot owners all over the country.

Monday, September 17, 2007

FasTrak is the fastest ... not always

SF Chronicle sleuths Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross uncover a shocking truth behind the FasTrak-only lanes at Bay Area toll plazas. The success of the FasTrak program -- up to 4000 new users per day -- has led to some backups rivaling the combo FasTrak/Cash lanes.

Friday, September 14, 2007

“Shared Space” – Can roads be safer without traffic signals?

According to a recent article from Reuters, the town of Bohmte, Germany, will abandon its usage of traffic lights and stop signs in its downtown area in an attempt to improve road safety. Bohmte is not alone in its efforts. The “Shared Space” concept, developed by Hans Monderman, a Dutch traffic specialist, is being fulfilled in seven pilot projects across the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, the U.K., and Belgium. In the U.S., officials in West Palm Beach, Florida, have been successful in slowing down traffic and reducing accidents by also following the concept.

The Shared Space philosophy embraces the goal of creating more space for human beings by allowing motorists and pedestrians to share equal rights of way. Wide boulevards previously designed to only accommodate motor vehicles are being converted into narrow streets with widened sidewalks.

Monderman touches upon his somewhat radical approach to traffic calming where he explains that roads that may appear to be more dangerous are in fact safer.

An entry in Wikipedia further discusses the objectives, practice, and the pros and cons of a traffic engineering philosophy that suggests that pedestrians and drivers can indeed occupy road space in a more compatible manner. This unconventional approach to driving behavior, road design and road architecture, may one day make, at least in certain areas, traffic signs and signals obsolete.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

U.S. Senate Approves of Some Things, Disapproves of Others

Yesterday the United States Senate passed a transportation spending bill that will now be returned to the House of Representatives for approval. The bill was passed without a proposed waiver of Davis-Bacon Act, a law that requires fair wages for federally-funded public works projects, for bridge renovation projects. The bill has added US$1 billion for such projects in an amendment to an earlier version. Funding was also augmented for the I-35W bridge due to efforts by the junior senator from Minnesota.

50 Worst Cars of All Time

LA Times columnist Dan Neil devotes special attention to each and every one of his fifty selections for the worst automobiles ever built in his article for

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Transportation Seminar and Cookie Hour: Big Rigs Gone Automatic

This week's Transportation Seminar features ITS Berkeley alum, Dr. Jacob Tsao, who now teaches at Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering . He'll discuss current research in automated trailer steering. Triple trailer trucks, such as the one shown above, now operate in 20 states in the U.S. Problems with safety and inefficiency due to improper tracking can be reduced or eliminated with automated trailer steering. Improving Safety of Large-Truck Operations with Automated Trailer Steering For Fuel Efficiency,Emission Reduction and Productivity examines the fuel efficiency and sustainability of truck automation.

Energy and environmental concerns have led to much attention on fuel efficiency and sustainable development. A class of large trucks called “longer combination vehicles” (LCVs) currently operates on designated highways in 20 states of the US. Although they provide high fuel efficiency and productivity, they also pose safety and infrastructure hazards. A major source of such hazards is off-tracking – the phenomenon that the rear wheels of a truck do not follow the track of the front wheels. A major category of LCVs is the Triple, consisting of a tractor and three 28-foot trailers, and some Triples also suffer from continuous sideway sway while cruising on the highway. We propose the concept of automated trailer steering to overcome these problems. Vehicle-dynamics models and steering algorithms have been developed. Computer simulation suggests that off-tracking can be virtually eliminated; it also provides a clue for the reason of the continuous sway of some Triples. Systems issues about expanding current LCV operations will be discussed as well as a new mode of freight transportation enabled by automated trailer steering – Short Trailer Combination Vehicles (STCVs).

The Transportation Seminar will be in 240 Bechtel from 4:00-5:00 PM. Cookie Hour precedes the seminar in the ITS Library, 412 McLaughlin Hall, from 3:30-4:00 PM.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A New Way To Push Tin

The Daily Cal reports that ITS Berkeley a grant from NASA to improve the nation's air traffic control system. From the article:

The campus Institute of Transportation Studies will receive $502,000 for each of two years to evaluate possible methods of relieving the nation’s overburdened aviation system.

Mark Hansen, professor of civil and environmental engineering, will be the principal investigator for the project, along with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Maryland, College Park.

Hansen said that currently air traffic controllers are often unable to predict exact arrival times of aircraft, leading to delays and causing aircraft to circle above airports because of traffic backup on the ground.

“We are studying a new case in which each airplane arrives at the airport at a specific time,” Hansen said.

There have been many criticisms of the current air traffic control system: It's out dated because they still use strips of paper (ACM, registration required). It's overburdened. Some also say the current system can be unsafe.

In response, the FAA has announced the launch of a GPS based air traffic control system. A GPS based system is certainly safer than a Buddhist based system.

Some new and old wonders

The current issue of the Economist's Technology Quarterly contains some interesting items on innovations in transportation, including German research in small hovercraft, news of a sea-going automobile, and the story of the introduction of electric buses in London a century ago.

(Picture courtesy of The Economist)

Monday, September 10, 2007

BART: 35 Years of Service

This week BART celebrates the 35th anniversary of their train service. What would the San Francisco Bay Area be like without BART? Smog ridden and painfully congested? BART has previously been named one of the Top 10 public works projects of the century as well as great planning disaster. Happy birthday, BART!