Free parking not actually free

Tyler Cowen writes in the NYTimes

The subsidies are largely invisible to drivers who park their cars — and thus free or cheap parking spaces feel like natural outcomes of the market, or perhaps even an entitlement. Yet the law is allocating this land rather than letting market prices adjudicate whether we need more parking, and whether that parking should be free. We end up overusing land for cars — and overusing cars too. You don’t have to hate sprawl, or automobiles, to want to stop subsidizing that way of life.

Free parking not actually free

Stupid Ford Focus Commercial

This guy in the Ford Focus commercial who says something like, “If I say, to my friends, give me $5 gas, they think they’re giving me a fair amount, but really they’re giving me way more than I need.” That kid’s an asshole. Why don’t you ask for the amount you need as opposed to seeing your friends as ATM machines. If they wanted to convey that it uses less gas than people think, why didn’t they just have him say, “When I drive and my friends give me money for gas, they give me $5 and it’s too much. I tell them sometimes, but not all the time.”

Why do they want to make Ford Focus drivers look like people who knowingy take advantage of their friends?

Stupid Ford Focus Commercial

European Road Trains

I don’t know exactly how the Sarte GPS-based road trains make driving safer, lower gas usage, or make travel more efficient, but it sure is fun to imagine all of the things that could go wrong! This seems like a much better idea if the lead car is somehow not controlled by a human.

road_train1_466-1258087251-1258136785

One of the keys to the study is finding a way to make travel more efficient and lower gas usage without spending the treasury on putting sensors in roads, or creating an entirely new standard of equipment. Also, using a lead vehicle that could take control of the vehicles behind – cars, trucks or buses – makes Sartre much more flexible since it can travel on any highway.

Thanks, Dave.

European Road Trains

Fake Traffic Explained

I’ve written before about “Fake Traffic” and a developed theory called “The Wave Theory of Traffic” and I’m happy once again to write that scientists have used math and science to prove that ‘Phantom’ Traffic Jams exist and they’re working to mitigate them.

The MIT team found speed, traffic density and other factors can determine conditions that will lead to a jamiton and how quickly it will spread. Once the jam forms, the researchers say, drivers have no choice but to wait for it to clear. The new model could lead to roads designed with sufficient capacity to keep traffic density below the point at which a jamiton can form.

Via Boing Boing.

Fake Traffic Explained

When a Giant Falls

Kottke has helpfully rounded up 13 articles about why GM failed including this one:

Seven reasons GM is headed to bankruptcy, Sharon Silke Carty, USA Today:

When GM realized how fast 1990s buyers were switching to trucks as personal transportation, it overreacted, pouring time and money into SUVs and pickups at the expense of car development. The result: As long ago as 2000, Wall Street was warning that GM could be overcommitted to trucks and wind up out of phase if the pendulum of buyer preference swung back to cars. Once consumer tastes began changing, the market was awash in new truck models, and profits were sapped by discounts needed to keep sales boiling.

When a Giant Falls

Smart Cars Parked Sideways on Newbury St

I love this picture of ticketed Smart Cars parked on Newbury St perpendicular to the street instead of parallel. Since I first saw Smart Cars in Berlin, I had been wondering how parking authorities would address the innovative parking possibilities offered by tiny cars. So far, Boston isn’t reacting too well.

Smart Cars parked the wrong way on street.jpg

I guess it comes down to the question of whether, when parking at a meter, you are paying for a right to park, or for the use of the space. If it’s for the use of space, then you should be able to fit as many cars as you can into the space. If it’s for the right to park on the street, well, then you’re just going to keep getting tickets if you try to double up.

Via URwingman.

Smart Cars Parked Sideways on Newbury St

The Wave Theory of Traffic

While driving in the US is down a little bit, traffic and congestion is down a lot.

[T]raffic congestion is subject to a tipping point–what economists call non-linearities. Add an additional car to a crowded road at rush hour, and traffic slows down a bit, and then the “carrying capacity” of the road declines. Traffic engineers estimate that most roads carry their maximum throughput — number of vehicles per hour at about 40 miles per hour — so as traffic slows below that speed, the road actually loses capacity and goes slower and slower, producing a traffic jam.

When we were touring we were incessantly sitting in traffic, usually at 6 PM when we were late for load in or at 3 AM when we were driving at night to avoid traffic. The guys up front staring blankly out the windshield at the cars and trucks snaking in the distance, the crushing reality of the digital clock cutting short soundcheck and possibly dinner. The guys in the back were only mildly aware that we weren’t moving, knowing that while we should be somewhere by now, we weren’t, and it only really mattered if we missed dinner, anyway.

Once in a while, there would be a pileup or emergency vehicles or construction. But more frequently, we’d be sitting in brutal, mind numbing traffic, and all of a sudden, it would clear up and we’d be moving again. We called this phenomenon “Fake Traffic” and eventually worked out a complicated and detailed Wave Theory of Traffic. And now, via Matthew Yglesias, CEOs for Cities have gotten to the bottom of this theory for us. Thank you CEOs for Cities!

The Wave Theory of Traffic

Eric Massa – Fuel Cell Fail

Eric Massa wanted to drive a hydrogen fuel cell car from NY to his swearing in in DC. Hydrogen fuel cell cars go 200 miles on a charge, but DC is 300 miles from his district. Shades of Auto CEOs taking private jets to Congress to ask for help. FAIL:

Massa drove one fuel cell car while a hybrid SUV [Chevy Tahoe] towing an additional SUV followed along. Once he got half way, he switched to new fuel cell car [which I assume was towed to the half way point sometime earlier so that it would be waiting for the environmentally-conscious congressman]. The empty fuel cell was then towed back by the first SUV. As he continued on his journey, the second SUV followed. Once Massa arrived in DC, the second SUV then towed the second fuel cell car back to NY.

(Via Boing Boing)

Eric Massa – Fuel Cell Fail