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Hillary Clinton was in Flint today for a campaign rally on lead poisoning. It calls to mind this infamous speech, where she drew comparisons between video games and lead poisoning. Who knew Grand Theft Auto was as dangerous as lead pipes?

Japan National Police have released traffic fatality and injury data for 2015:

The number of deaths caused by traffic accidents in 2015 rose by four from the previous year to 4,117, up for the first time in 15 years, the National Police Agency said Monday.

An NPA official attributed the rise to the growing population of elderly people, who have a higher mortality rate in the event of an accident.

The data mean that the government failed to achieve its target of reducing the annual traffic death toll to 3,000 or less by 2015, which was set under the basic plan for traffic safety covering fiscal 2011 to 2015.

Even though they did not reach their goal, the progress is still quite impressive. Imagine if the US had achieved this kind of reduction:

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As Metrolink lurches from crisis to crisis, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry:

“We knew we were going to have a rough year,” said Gary Lettengarver, chief operating officer for Metrolink. “Conflicts with freight trains plus track construction were problems. And we’re learning to use positive train control. This is a technology no one really knows about.

Good Lord. PTC is a critical safety system — and nobody knows how it works?

Last year, Metrolink became the first commuter railroad in the nation to implement so-called PTC. Rail officials said they are still fine-tuning the system to prevent it from unnecessarily stopping trains — a problem that resulted in 613 delays. Resetting the onboard equipment, they add, takes up to 20 minutes.

“We are one of the first railroads in the world to have positive train control,” said Art Leahy, Metrolink’s chief executive. “We have a learning curve, and we’ve had to debug the system.”

Leahy must have been living under a rock for the past 15 years, if he really believes Metrolink was the first railroad in the world to install PTC.

Adding to the delays, officials said, were unwarranted activations of positive train control, mechanical problems, operational issues and the use of slow freight locomotives to replace all 57 of Metrolink’s cab cars at the front of trains. After the Metrolink crash in February 2015 near Oxnard, the railroad decided to remove its cab cars from the lead position because of concerns about substandard front-end deflectors that are designed to keep debris and wreckage from getting under the wheels. Rail officials said the large freight locomotives were used on the line for only 10 days in December. They proved slower than passenger engines, and their size, plus the added cars, increased the length of trains, complicating the unloading of passengers because they were too big for station platforms.

As discussed previously, the defective cab cars was a self-inflicted problem. Instead of using service-proven rolling stock, the agency went with a untested design that obviously needs a lot of debugging.

Metrolink officials said they are dealing with the delays and have created a team to visit commuter railroads elsewhere in the U.S. to study how they prevent and cope with late trains.

Oh, great. So they are going to fix the problems by sending staff off on junkets to observe other crappy Amurican commuter railroads.

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Articulated trains (also known as open-gangway cars) have become ubiquitous on metro systems outside the US. And now, finally, they may be coming to New York:

This week, the authority released an image of the model, known as an open gangway plan, delighting train aficionados who had wondered when the idea would arrive in New York City. The model has already appeared in systems in Paris, Toronto and other cities.

The cars are still years away here: The authority could award a contract as early as next year to build 10 of them, and they would not be delivered until at least 2020, or later, officials said. But their inclusion in a presentation to the authority’s board members brought to life an idea that has been debated for years.

Open gangway subway cars — similar in concept to accordion-style buses — could have several benefits, officials said, including a greater capacity for riders. In Toronto, officials have said the model allowed them to increase capacity by up to 10 percent, and some riders there have praised the new layout.

Articulated trains provide an easy way to expand capacity. Given their peak-hour capacity problems, it is disappointing that neither BART nor Washington Metro would even study the idea of articulated cars for their new fleet orders.

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In 2012, the Sierra Club published a very nice toolkit called Employee Commuting: Best PracticeOne of the sections covered employee shuttles, specifically mentioning Google Bus as a Best Practice.

However, the local San Francisco Chapter of the Sierra Club is apparently unaware of this. The group has come out against the use of employer shuttles — once again showing that a local group can take positions completely against the official policies of the national organization:

These companies offer as a perk to their employees living in San Francisco free transportation to and from their jobs. Meanwhile, the shuttle companies pay a revenue-neutral fee of $3.67 per stop per day to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Tech companies get tax write-offs for providing free transportation to employees.

And yet, no environmental impact report has been done on this private transportation system with the potential for unlimited growth, unlimited interference with Muni, unlimited demographic disruption and unknown air quality impacts.

By all acccounts, the San Francisco tech shuttle program has been wildly successful. An SFMTA study found that 45% of riders did not own cars, and 45% of those cited the employer shuttle as the reason for not owning a car. Furthermore, 47% of riders said they would switch back to car commuting if the shuttle service were discontinued.

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Friday Night Videos

Hope you’re enjoying your Volkswagens London:

London has already breached annual pollution limits just one week into 2016, and only weeks after the government published its plans to clean up the UK’s air.

At 7am on Friday, Putney High Street in West London breached annual limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a toxic gas produced by diesel vehicles that has been linked to respiratory and heart problems.

Under EU rules, sites are only allowed to breach hourly limits of 200 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre of air 18 times in a year, but this morning Putney broke that limit for the 19th time. Chelsea and Kensington is expected to do the same later today.

Attention on the harm caused to human health by NO2 came to the fore last year when it was revealed that VW had cheated NO2 emissions tests in the US, with the scandal affecting 1.2m diesel cars in the UK. Next week, VW UK bosses will be quizzed by MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee on diesel pollution and what they are doing to make cleaner cars.

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