Richard Nelson

Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Yobs on bikes

In cycling on 2010 September 19 Sunday at 23:35:43

Love that briticism. Anyway, hilarity ensues when two young guests of the Barton Moss Secure Care Centre (like that euphemism?) in Eccles, Lancashire, use the occasion of a cycling proficiency test to flee lawful custody. The Sun’s man-in-a-pub version is here.


Rob Ford’s “Transportation Plan that makes sense for Toronto”

In cycling, Toronto politics on 2010 September 8 Wednesday at 19:35:09

The (so far) leading candidate for Mayor of Toronto has unveiled his plan for transport.

Before I offer a brief critique, I should say that I’ve said in earlier posts: Toronto has a weak-mayor constitution. The mayor can only enact policy if he has the support of 28 other councillors. Rob Ford or George Smitherman or anyone can promise anything he or she likes—but it will not happen thus until a majority of Council approve. The other set of constraints is that transit is semi-independent of City Council, and is bound by a web of cost-charing agreements with senior governments.

Ford’s plan is (like most manifesti) more emotional than technical: “For seven years [i.e., while David Miller was Mayor], City Hall has tackled Gridlock by declaring war on cars in Toronto.” (Note the odd capitalization.) In response, Ford will return cars to their rightful place in the city’s scheme of transport—i.e., at the apex.

One of his key planks is to cancel the Transit City programme and indeed to “remov[e] some streetcar[ line]s [from] downtown arterial streets”—streets unnamed, but there are only four (King, Queen, Dundas, and College-Carlton-Gerrard). Instead of streetcars, we’ll see clean buses and a $4-billion programme of subway expansion. The animus toward streetcars seem very much a motorist’s: they’re big, slow-ish, and get in the way of a motorist trying to go a little faster; that they are equivalent to eighty cars at rush hour is easy to forget.

With respect to my favourite topic, Ford uses the code words quite well: “Toronto’s cyclists & pedestrians deserve safe, enjoyable options whether they’re going to work, keeping fit or having fun.” This might seem ad hominem but isn’t meant thus: neither Ford nor his brother (who manages Rob’s campaign) looks like someone who gives much thought to self-powered recreation. Cyclists and pedestrians are they,  not us. Practically every person in Toronto is a pedestrian at one time or another—even Councillor Ford; and half or so of Toronto adult residents bike occasionally; there’s no recognition of that in Ford’s transport plan.

His bicycle trail programme is directly taken from James Alcock’s Web site (he’s credited). The local club of the Canadian Automobile Association issued its own manifesto about ten years ago using the same maps. Its key characteristic is that cyclists are to be shunted off streets onto parks and particularly into ravines and power-line rights of way.

In other news, George Smitherman’s conspiracy-theorist brother is standing for Council but supporting Ford for Mayor.

Update: George Smitherman responds to Ford’s transport programme.

Their first objective was getting into The Toronto Star

In Toronto politics on 2010 September 7 Tuesday at 09:45:45

Mission accomplished. Quixotic potato salad: wonder if it was vegan.

“Misidentification and the Court System”

In notes and observations on 2010 September 7 Tuesday at 00:14:33

As he says, chilling, though perhaps not surprising.

“David Kelly: the rise of a conspiracy theory”

In culture, notes and observations, politics on 2010 September 6 Monday at 17:52:05

A lengthy blog post by Richard Webster on the hypothesis that David Kelly was murdered rather than self-murdered, on the medical evidence against that hypothesis, and on the role of the media (particularly the Daily Mail) in promoting or contesting the hypothesis. This last made me think of Nancy Nall’s recent post, quoting Roger Ebert, on the “strategic silence” that permits folks to believe the oddest things about Barrack Obama. I particularly liked this paragraph from Webster:

A more imaginative and more economical solution, appropriate to these straitened times, would be for a campaign of disinformation to be met by a campaign of information. The climate in which it has become acceptable to advance implausible and sometimes bizarre theories about the death of Dr Kelly is one which has been created, very largely, by irresponsible journalism. That climate could very easily be reversed if a concerted effort was made by newspaper editors and broadcasters to replace one-sided campaigning with informed debate.

“Two-Way Street”

In culture, cycling on 2010 September 6 Monday at 12:04:31

I’ve wondered about this myself. (From the September 2010 issue of The Atlantic.)

“Debt load weighs on Alameda Corridor”

In economics, notes and observations on 2010 September 4 Saturday at 22:32:10

This article from The Los Angeles Times gives a pretty fair view of my most important client, the Alameda Corridor Transportation Agency. The Corridor was originally intended to smooth transit of intermodal containers from tidewater to the two big railyards east of downtown Los Angeles. As the article says, the rise of “transloading” facilities inland has diverted traffic not so much from rail as from the Corridor. The tariff that underpins the Corridor was written before transloading became a notable factor in overseas trade.

As an aside, one thing the article gets wrong is that comment about “lighter” containers. Most maritime goods are carried in containers 8 feet wide, 8½ feet tall, and 40 feet long—yielding 2720 ft³. Intra-continental trade, whether by road or rail, can be carried in containers still 8 feet wide but 9½ feet tall, and 53 feet long, i.e., with a volume 48% greater at 4028 ft³.

Transloading is typically taking goods from particular production locations (e.g., Barbie dolls from factory X, women’s shorts from factory Y) carried in containers directly from those locations, and putting them in containers bound for particular consumption locations (e.g., some Barbie dolls and some shorts in the same container, bound for a Wal-mart in the Kansas City suburbs).

Probably the only real “solution” (if such it be) is to encourage the construction of transloading facilities very close to tidewater—which means in Wilmington and western Long Beach—so that it would be economical to “dray” the containers to the facilities, and then take them by train to their inland destinations. This would have the incidental effect of reducing the truck traffic on the Long Beach Freeway (I-710), one of the festering political issues of Los Angeles County. (The ports, to their credit, have been investigating more innovative—some might say wild—ideas for moving containers inland. Although taken individually they may seem candidates for the Golden Fleece Award, I take them more as relatively inexpensive investments in bread cast upon the [almost literal] water—rather like the projects of the Long Range Foundation in Heinlein’s Time for the Stars.)

More from the Lululemon Athletica corporate blog on goal-setting

In time utilization on 2010 September 4 Saturday at 21:44:57


“What are your secret goals?”

Tropical Storm Earl

In family on 2010 September 4 Saturday at 18:04:09

Earl has been demoted from Hurricane to Tropical Storm, and has made landfall on Nova Scotia. My sister in West St Andrews reports that they’re ready for several days without power, if need be. I’m thinking of them.

Air Show cancelled

In information on 2010 September 4 Saturday at 17:54:23

So it says here.

UPDATE: It was because the water was so choppy, first responders didn’t feel they could react fast enough. It should carry on Sunday and Monday, though.