Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Welcome to the Fast Lane

Photo courtesy of Salon.com.

Have you heard the news? Transportation Secretary Mary Peters is the newest member of blogosphere with Welcome to the Fast Lane. Peters writes:
This new opportunity will allow me and others here at the Department to speak with you and engage in an earnest conversation about our nation’s transportation system…and, I hope, have a little fun while we’re doing it.
So go over there, subscribe to their RSS Feed, and let the U.S. Department of Transportation know your opinions!

14,218 Flights Over the U.S.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is a computer generated animated depiction of airline flights over the United States from late night March 19th to early morning March 21st 2005. The work was created by artist Aaron Koblin based on data collected from the Federal Aviation Administration. In the movie, a frame of which is seen here, the bright blob towards the lower left is Hawaii, the bright blob just upper left of center is Southern California, and the lines comming into frame from upper right are trans Atlantic flights. Several different methods for displaying this same set of air traffic data can be seen in Koblin's YouTube video. For the entire month of March 2005 the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports 996,240 revenue departures.

Friday, April 25, 2008

They might stop for this

Saw this mentioned on the Environmental Design Library's site. An interesting concept for a crosswalk signal that no-one could possibly fail to notice, from the designer Hanyoung Lee. It's a virtual wall composed of plasma laser beams containing images of people crossing. It seems it would be good at controlling pedestrians too.

Image source: Yanko Design.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In-Vehicle Alcohol Detectors for the Masses

The rate of repeat DWI offenses has been cut by over 40% in the U.S. and Canada by the use of ignition interlock devices. These are small, hand held breathalyzers that work in conjunction with an aftermarket ignition cut-off switch which allows a driver to start their car only if they pass their on-the-spot blood alcohol content test. 37 states now offer ignition interlocks as an alternative to license suspension for many DWI offenders.

The success of this program has prompted the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to explore the feasibility of alcohol detection systems for all cars. Such a system would need to be, according to the newly launched Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety website, "far less intrusive – they must not impede sober drivers from starting their vehicles. They would need to be capable of rapidly and accurately determining and measuring alcohol in the blood."

Sources: AutoWeek, 1 800 DWI LAWS.

Image: AutoWeek

Visualizing Bus Routes

Photo courtesy of R. Justin Stewart.

The most classic and oft cited visualization of a transit network is probably Beck's original map of the London Underground. Minnesota based artist R. Justin Stewart has a new piece that maps out the route and schedule of a Minneapolis bus line from 2 a.m. to 2 p.m., with distance as the horizontal axis and time as the vertical. Definitely a new way to look at transit networks.

Via VisualComplexity.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Berkeley Lecturer Emeritus W. Homburger in BDP

photo courtesy of ITS

W. Homburger's (Institute of Transportation Studies Lecturer Emeritus and former acting director) recent talk to the Berkeley City Commons Club was written up this week in the Berkeley Daily Planet. The topic concerned, among other things, the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
designed to ease traffic issues in the San Francisco Bay Area's East Bay (most notably, for Berkeley residents, eliminating a lane on Telegraph Avenue for BRT operations). Homburger is skeptical of this project, noting that, despite his general support for some associated measures,
AC Transit wants to spend capital funds, which is money with a ribbon-cutting at the end. [...] When’s the last time you saw a ribbon-cutting for maintaining a building?
Homburger goes on to explain that more robust support from local citizens is necessary for the proper implementation of such a system. He is not without his critics, however. A blog entitled Friends of BRT Blog has written a recent post criticizing some of Prof. Homburger's thoughts on BRT in the East Bay (which came in the form of another article in BDP). Charles Siegel, of the Berkeley-based Preservation Institute, explains in the blog post that
Homburger claims that "loss of a pair of lanes on Telegraph will increase congestion and the anger of residents on parallel streets where backups are already formidable." In reality, the BRT project would actually reduce, not increase, the number of cars entering the neighborhood.

For example, AC Transit analysis forecasts that the number of vehicles traffic crossing a line just north of Ashby Avenue stretching from Sacramento Street to College Avenue during the afternoon peak hour in 2025 would be 15,400 without BRT and 14,900 with BRT - a decrease of 500 cars. In addition, AC Transit could provide traffic calming devices to protect residents of streets near the BRT line.
Of course the East Bay BRT project is still in its planning stages, so no commitment has been made one way or another by AC Transit on the matter. Information on the proposal can be found here.

-J. Chipman