Archive for April, 2014

EZ-Pass is good for the environment

Such technology results in less pollution because cars drive right through toll plazas rather than stopping and starting. In one location within the study area, nitrogen oxide fell by 11 percent after the implementation of E-ZPass.

Obama Administration sends Transportation bill to Congress

For the first time, the Obama administration has proposed a substantive transportation plan.

The bill includes $206 billion for the highway system and road safety over its four year duration, and transit gets $72 billion. That brings the current 80-20 ration for highways and transit to something closer to 75-25. Rail — a new addition to the transportation bill — gets $19 billion, including nearly $5 billion annually for high-speed rail. The proposal also sets aside $9 billion for discretionary, competitive funding, including $5 billion for the popular TIGER grant project.

Increasing the transit funding ratio is a huge deal and suggests priority changes, even if they are slow to develop. Return On Investment is typically much greater for transit investment than it is for highway investment, so even small changes could lead to shifts in commuter habits and efficiencies of scale.

Solving Penn Station

Outstanding overview at Urbanophile on the current state of Penn Station and how to fix some of the problems it presents for commuters and the City.

Welcome to Comcast Country

If you have any doubts that the recent McCutcheon v. FEC decision was myopic in its holding, check out this NYT piece on Comcast’s lobbying efforts that have made them increasingly more powerful in US Politics.

“Good God!” Mr. Rendell recalled telling RCN, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “We have to tear up the streets so you can come in here and compete against one of our best corporate citizens?”

Mr. Rendell reportedly suggested that RCN move its headquarters to Philadelphia and “get involved” with the mayoral campaign of John F. Street, who later succeeded him in office. RCN executives donated, but Comcast gave more.

Politicians here express their corporate loyalty in the tribal terms typically reserved for the city’s professional sports teams. (In fact, the Philadelphia Flyers and their hockey arena are owned by Comcast-Spectacor.) But many customers in Philadelphia demur: Comcast service here is expensive and poor, as customers everywhere complain. The company consistently receives among the lowest ratings of any major cable TV or Internet service provider.

The thing that strikes me is just how benign each part of this process seems, but taken all together, especially with an ability to donate unlimited funds, is so obviously dangerous to a democracy.

The Koch’s destroy a transit project in Tennessee

The Koch Brothers, the Lannisters of U.S. Politics, just killed Nashville’s first transit project by passing a law that makes the planned project impossible to implement without significant change (that would require renewed approval from the Fed. and add years to the timeline). But why?

And sometimes, the Kochs do something that just seems like dickish villainy for the hell of it. Like, why is Americans for Prosperity lobbying hard against a mass transit project in Nashville, Tenn.?

Alex Pareene’s piece is worth a read. Exposes how completely disgusting the Koch’s groups are.

I can’t help but also think this is yet another example of how difficult it is for America to implement policy when one side completely opposes all solutions in the sector. How can there be real compromise when one side is coming to the table while the other completely destroys it?

Colbert to replace Letterman

I love Stephen Colbert. But I just don’t see him being anywhere near as good if he’s not in his satirical Colbert Report character.

Time and Money

Here is what I learned from 40 years of traveling: Of the two modes, it is far better to have more time than money.

Philly uses skyscraper to play Tetris

For the second year, a Drexel University professor, Frank Lee, utilized the side of a skyscraper this past weekend to play Tetris to ring in the opening of Philly Tech Week 2014.

This year’s performance, with over 1,400 LEDs may be deemed the world’s largest Tetris game by Guinness.

Another reason, in a long list, why Philadelphia is a totally underrated place to live.

Slice of Life #7: Pocket Knife with seafood utensils

Idea: A multi-function pocket knife with special tools for shucking oysters, cracking shells, meat pick, and bone tweezers. Perhaps even a shrimp deveiner. Would be perfect for summer outings.

We’re all looking at maps incorrectly

The Mercator map, the most prevalent map today, is grossly inaccurate, a result of transferring a curve to a flat surface. Added to things-I-did-not-know.