Archive for May, 2014

What the hell?

A judge sentenced a Hawaii man to one year of probation and a $200 fine for making his son walk a mile home from school as a form of discipline.

Judge Kathleen Watanabe called the punishment “old-school” and no longer appropriate, the Garden Island newspaper reported Thursday.

Robert Demond of Kilauea said he picked up his son from school and asked about a matter that had been brought to his attention. When the son didn’t respond, Demond made him walk home to think about his actions.

Demond was also ordered to attend a parenting class after being convicted of endangering the welfare of a minor, a misdemeanor. Demond pleaded no contest and said he would handle the situation differently now after the case went through two courts.

Demond told Watanabe in court on Wednesday that he didn’t think the punishment was morally wrong or criminal. He said it was a common form of punishment when he was growing up.

Watanabe said times are different today, given child predators and traffic.

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Is there anything Buy-America can’t screw up? An Italian company won the bid for its diagonal elevators, but the “performance specifications” were written to favor American subcontractors:

Project administrators preferred that the software and other components come from American companies with whom they were more familiar. (The authority said its contractors, not the agency itself, made these decisions after being presented with performance specifications.)

The controller was made on Long Island. The speed governors, or limiters, came from Ohio. Other pieces, like buttons and speakers, were manufactured in Queens. “It’s like if Ferrari would be instructed to put in a Chevy engine and a Ford transmission,” said Charley Hart, the project manager for Kone, the company overseeing the elevator and escalator installation. “Yes, it can be done. But it’s a challenge.”

The elevator and its assorted pieces passed tests separately, and other construction appeared to be moving apace. Publicly, officials said they remained on track for a Bloomberg-era start date. But when the parts were integrated for the July test, the system failed. Mr. Horodniceanu has taken to calling the elevator his “mutt,” for its hodgepodge pedigree.

Even if they get the elevator working, I wouldn’t feel safe riding it.

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Milwaukee Interspacial

Milwaukee is finally getting around to rebuilding its decrepit train station. Because it is new construction, the station will have to provide level-platform boarding to comply with ADA. And here is the kludge for meeting the requirement:

The present plan for the boarding platform is definitely not the one the department started off with, Boardman said, but it does achieve level boarding — meaning the train doors open, and passengers can exit without going down any steps.

“In the end, we were able to keep large portions of the design the same, but we did end up with platforms with multiple heights,” Boardman said. “It’s not what we envisioned when we started.”

The challenge was that the trains had different boarding heights. Equipment for Amtrak’s Hiawatha service, which runs between Milwaukee and Chicago, is different from its Empire Builder Service, which run through Milwaukee to the Twin Cities. The new platform design accommodates both by having a platform height in the middle that’s different from the ends.

How did this situation come about? It wasn’t just an historical accident, but a combination of bad planning and bad politics.

In 2009, Wisconsin received an $810 million “high-speed” rail grant to upgrade the Hiawatha line to 110 mph. The money was to pay for new trains and a revamped Milwaukee station. With new trains and a new station, what better opportunity to examine level-platform boarding? However, planners ignored the issue because Federal regulations (at that time) did not require it.

Then Scott Walker won election to Governor, and refused the HSR grant money. With the grant money gone, Wisconsin taxpayers were on the hook to pay for the station re-build.

Meanwhile, the FRA adopted level-platform boarding rules. Wisconsin appealed to the FRA for a special waiver, arguing that work on the station pre-dated the rule change — but the FRA was obviously in no mood to do them any favors. And so we end up with a sub-optimal design that has to accommodate antiquated rolling stock.





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Between the years 2001 and 2012, automobile fatalities were reduced by more than half in the EU:

Figures from the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), a non-governmental body, found more than 12,000 people were killed in cars in 2012 in the European Union and neighbouring Switzerland, the latest available figures, less than half the 28,000 deaths seen in 2001.

The council, in its report on Tuesday, credited stricter safety measures for the improvement.

Spain and Latvia stand out for the most progress, cutting the number of deaths by two-thirds from 2001 to 2012, but other nations still have bad records. The worst is Poland, where 11 people are killed in cars per billion kilometres travelled, compared with only around 2 in Britain, the Netherlands and Switzerland, according to the ETSC.

According to the report, the large reduction in fatalities was mainly a result of new modern highways that replaced rural roads. Advances in automobile technology and improved enforcement were other factors. The ETSC had little to say about promoting alternatives to driving, though it does mention that non-motorized road users had very little safety improvement.

The 2012 EU population was 508 million, vs. 313 million in the US. In 2012, the US had 33,561 traffic fatalities vs 12,000 in the EU.


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You would think 7 DUI’s and a 100 mph high-speed chase would earn some serious jail time for this asshole:

Angry protesters are promising to march on the Thurston County courthouse on Friday to voice their outrage that a drunk driver who led police on a dangerous high speed chase got off with no jail time.

The protesters say the rules are different for rich people when it comes to jail time for DUI offenders.

A Thurston County judge sentenced Shaun Goodman to just a year of work release for the Dec. 29 drunk driving episode.

In that incident, Goodman led police on a chase through downtown Olympia at top speeds of 100 mph. The chase ended when he crashed his 2000 Ferrari F360 into a parked car and a home. His blood alcohol measured 0.16, twice the Washington state threshold for drunken driving. During the chase, a passenger in Goodman’s vehicle begged him to stop. The passenger later jumped out when the Ferrari slowed down at an intersection.

Goodman eventually pleaded guilty to felony eluding a police officer and DUI, and the judge sentenced him this week to a year of work release, with no jail time.

Some have called this another case of affluenza, an alternate standard of justice for rich people. I would disagree — his sentence is actually not atypical for DUI. Unless there is a fatality, a DUI conviction mostly involves fines (which are no big deal if you are wealthy).

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God I Hate TV News

Bike-to-Work day adding to congestion!?



(Posted in the Reddit bicycling forum)

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Cost Of A New MBTA Subway Car

The MBTA has budgeted $1.3-1.5 billion to purchase 226 railcars for the Red and Orange lines. If you do the math, that is over $5.75 million apiece!

Why so much? Because Gov. Patrick insists they be assembled in Massachusetts — even though the State has no passenger railcar industry:

Gov. Deval Patrick expressed his preference Thursday that whichever company gets the $1.5 billion contract to build new Red Line and Orange Line cars for the MBTA that the cars be assembled in Western Massachusetts.

The factory could have 150 to 300 employees.

“As governor, I have to love the whole state,” said Patrick during a meeting with the editorial board of MassLive.com and The Republican editorial board . But Patrick said he would like to see the cars assembled in Western Massachusetts. He added though, that he is “agnostic” about which city in the region would get the project.

“That’s why it is important that the decision is made while I’m still in office,” said Patrick, whose term ends at the end of the year.

The Governor seems to have learned nothing from the recent Hyundai-Rotem debacle. As you may recall, the MBTA had Hyundai set up a special factory to manufacture some commuter railcars, Those railcars turned out to be very expensive and unreliable. And now they are going to use the same approach for the subway car order.

And even looking at this as a jobs program (instead of transit project), the cost-benefit is horrible. Massachusetts will pay at least $3 million extra per railcar, which works out to $2 million per employee.

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