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Archive for May, 2012

You may remember Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas. He got international headlines for solving the problem of cars parking in the bike lane by running over them with a tank. His contribution has been recognized with the award of the 2011 Ig Nobel Peace Prize.

Highway engineers may also be interested to learn that John Senders of the University of Toronto won the Public Safety Prize for “conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him.”

There is a hilarious youtube video of the visor experiment. It is like that scene in Star Wars where Luke learns to use a light saber while wearing a blast helmet, only in this case it is a driver operating a motor vehicle.

Congratulations to both winners!

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The Rod Diridon Quote of the Day

For once I have to agree with Rod Diridon:

The South Bay’s Rod Diridon, who helped recruit Morales as a project board member two years ago, said Morales is a good fit now that the project is more “political than technical.”

Like other mega-projects, CHSRA decisionmaking is all political.

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Drunk Engineers

I’ve done some of my best work after slamming back a few. So I really don’t see what the problem is:

After reviewing our video, WSDOT Project Director Mike Cotten told me he doesn’t believe it shows any state workers drinking but he is concerned. Cotten says normally WSDOT and private contractors don’t share office space, but that it makes sense because of the complexity of the 520 project. But that raises another questions about people working on this complex project while drinking alcohol.

We asked if there a concern that complicated calculations might be done by people working under the influence? Cotten replied, “I think that’s something that we need to take a look at.”

 

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Cost of a New BART Railcar

With the custom rolling stock and 60% Buy-America requirement, BART’s purchase price for new rolling stock was a bit of a surprise. Bombardier’s winning bid was just $2.2 million per car. That is considerably less than the original estimate of over $3 million.

Ok 70% more expensive than a New York subway car, but this is BART after all…

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Carmageddon

Here is Carmageddon as envisioned in a General Motors commercial (or should I say Truckmageddon?). GM, which spent $4.5 billion on advertising last year, depicts gas-guzzling trucks as the only vehicle to survive the (oil) apocalypse.

In reality, the only functional transport will be the bicycle. Though GM seems to believe otherwise: the commercial opens with a shot a crushed bicycle.

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Well, LA Times reporter Ralph Vartabedian is at it again.

Last month he triggered a false alarm over high-speed rail operating costs. Now he has made new allegations over the “aggressive” construction schedule:

If California starts building a 130-mile segment of high-speed rail late this year as planned, it will enter into a risky race against a deadline set up under federal law. The bullet train track through the Central Valley would cost $6 billion and have to be completed by September 2017, or else potentially lose some of its federal funding. It would mean spending as much as $3.5 million every calendar day, holidays and weekends included — the fastest rate of transportation construction known in U.S. history, according to industry and academic experts.

This is nonsense. Compare to the recently completed TGV-Est line in France. It took the French 5 years to complete a 190-mile project. And that was the whole enchilada, including electrification and signalling. Here we are talking about 4 years to do the track-only portion of a 130-mile project.

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The Sierra Club website says all the right things about livable communities, but try telling that to the local Berkeley Chapter. For over a decade, the Berkeley Chapter (Northern Alameda Group) has opposed everything from bike lanes to infill development. The group even endorsed two BRT opponents for Berkeley City Council.

And now comes the West Berkeley Plan. It envisions mixed-use development, taking advantage of two AC Transit trunk lines. Again, the Sierra Club is against:

“To minimize conflict, to protect inhabitants from noise, odors and pollutants, and to retain and attract recycling/reuse activities, green collar and manufacturing jobs, residential development should not be permitted in the industrial zones of West Berkeley,” said Igor Tregub, speaking on behalf of the Sierra Club.

But proponents of the plan say detractors are creating a smoke screen that is obscuring reality. Housing and industry have coexisted in West Berkeley for decades. “If you look at how West Berkeley was created way back, it was all about housing next to industry, but it was smoke stack industry,” said Michael Goldin, a developer whose home and business, Swerve, is on Seventh Street. “It’s what the neighborhood has been since its inception.” Goldin thinks that the plan’s detractors are the same people who predicted a terrible outcome if Berkeley Bowl West was built. And those predictions proved wrong, he said. There is ample parking and the grocery store has become an integral part of the community.

These West Berkeley parcels are situated along the Bay waterfront. What kind of environmental group proposes using valuable waterfront property for polluting industry?

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