Friday, December 5, 2008
A possible compromise position for DC streetcars is to use electrical power storage with charging umbrellas and a diesel or turbine engine. This is an engineering task. DDOT does have engineers, doesn't it?
I'm wondering, have they panicked (unnecessarily) about the Democrats' recent victory? Some perspective is needed: this was just one of dozens of American elections. Things can change rapidly in 2 or 4 years and bring the Republicans back to power. The past election is not the Revolution of 1800 or the 1860 or 1932 elections. All of these had unusually powerful effects on American politics.
Monday, November 24, 2008
The big question is what took the Democrats so long? They could have always designated an independent as the second Democratic candidate.
The next big question is how to fix it? Two methods come to mind. The first is the Japanese method for multimember districts: give voters only one vote. The problem is that doesn't work for the same reason. The Democrats can nominate two candidates, divide D.C. into two halves and instruct voters in each half to vote for that half's candidate. Thus, the Democrats can hold the two cities. The other alternative is for each party to designate an at-large candidate. Then, the two parties receiving the highest number of votes for all other council seats receive one vote each. In a city dominated by one party, this will have the desired effect of placing a minority party member on the City Council. If the city becomes politically competitive, the effect is a wash, as the balance between the two parties will not be affected.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
DDOT also assumed away the problem of the ban on overhead wires. Not every light rail line can go on abandoned railroad tracks. In fact, one of the illustrations shows overhead lines on a street. Let's face it, the overhead line ban is not going away. Moreover, given improvements in power storage technology, it may be possible to avoid them completely by having quick charges from short overhead lines integrated into stations.
So, DDOT has to go back to the drawing board. First, it has to find a way to get the CSX right-of-way. Eminent domain is a possibility that hasn't been tried. This may be difficult, as railroads are generally accorded strong property rights. You can't do a lot of things to railroads that you can do to other properties. Still, the line is abandoned, which is the argument that DC will have to use. Second, DC has to solve the overhead wire problem. By doing so, it can reduce construction costs and set an example for other cities to emulate. The Anacostia LRT can be used as a test bed.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
- Lots of experts who had some idea of what they were talking about.
- Actual votes displayed, both online and on TV.
- Lots of data.
- A good explanation of the early returns in Virginia and how McCain was not doing as well as Bush in 2004.
- Lots of useless or redundant data. Many of the items displayed had common explanations. For example, in one state, only conservatives and Republicans favored McCain, while all other demographics favored Obama. The simple explanation is that conservative Republicans are a minority in the state and in all of the demographics shown.
- Geographic data not displayed geographically. Several data items were by state, but arrayed by strength along the red-blue axis. Maps would have been far more helpful. They could have zoomed in on some state, while showing the neighbors, if desired. The maps would have, at once, conveyed all of the information.
- No scales on the "bar" graphs. Presumably, longer red bars meant greater percentages for McCain. Likewise, longer blue bars meant greater percentages for Obama. However, I have no idea what those percentages were.
- The reporter present in the studio as a "hologram". This really an exercise in gee-whiz virtual technology that produced no benefit over a remote. Don't for one moment think that Wolf Blitzer was speaking to the "hologram". He was looking at a monitor the whole time.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
• Seated – 25
• Wheelchair – 2
• Total – 27
• Standing - ?
- Length: 34 feet, 2-1/4 inches
- Speed: 47 mph
- Maximum grade: 12.5%
- Range between recharges "under typical urban conditions": 124 mi
- Has air conditioning
- Unknown (to me) whether it has heat
- "1 minute of charge = 1 kilometre" (0.62 mi)
- Charger voltage: 386 V
- Charger power: 70 kW
- Battery temperature: 270° C (518° F)
- Cost of first bus: $US 460,000 (as of 9/21/08)
This is really second-generation technology. The exciting part lies in what could be done with third-generation battery or supercapacitor technology.
Still, I stand by my verdict that push polling should end - it's destroying legitimate surveys. It's really a kind of Prisoners' Dilemma problem. We all would be better off if push polling ended. However, it is against the interest of any individual push pollster to cease. So, we will be stuck with them until the survey business crashes. :-(
Friday, September 12, 2008
BTW, the phone number on the caller ID was spoofed: 323-763-8732. I called back to find it not in service.
Friday, September 5, 2008
First question of session:
Alexandria, VA: Why has the slowdown on the Blue/Yellow Lines between Braddock Road and Nat'l Airport not been publicized? When will service return to normal? Another communications failure has befallen Metro.
Reply: Hi Alexandria! As you most likely are aware, we often have speed restrictions in place after conducting major track work. This is to ensure that the new trackbed, which was just installed over the Labor Day Weekend, has settled and is safe for trains to ride on at full speed. The speed restriction means that the trains are moving slower through the stretch of track that was replaced. It?s not actually delaying anyone?s trips.
Let's see. The Blue/Yellow lines have some speed restrictions (i.e., lowered speed limits), but that is not causing delays. Perhaps in another universe this is true, but, in ours, it is false. Lowered speed limits cause increased travel times, that is, delays. Normal service will resume when the track is ready. I really didn't know that. But, then I asked a more precise question about when it will be ready. A different view of reality and a nonanswer from someone without answers.
Alexandria, va: The idea of a enabling a walking transfer between Farragut North and Farragut West has recently popped up. What are your thoughts on implementing this? In what kind of timeframe can this be done?
Reply: Hello Alexandria. Actually the idea of a ?walking transfer? is something that has been considered and I believe is actively being explored. It is something that is part of our next fare software upgrade. Once that is in place, we should be able to move forward with that idea. It would work by allowing riders x amount of minutes (that would be determined later) to walk between the Farraguts.
I'll spare my rant about last night's Redskins game for another post. I can hear the rejoicing now.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
- The building funnels everyone into one entrance. This is very inefficient and creates backups.
- There is only one access road.
- The access road opens on to a 2-lane road, thereby putting the latter over capacity.
- To add insult to injury, every ticket comes with a parking fee. That's chiseling in my book.
The only way this can be fixed is for the Nissan Pavilion to be boycotted until it is put into usable shape and charges ethical prices.
The steps required to end the boycott are:
- An end to the per ticket parking charge. If they want to charge for parking, they can sell permits online like the Washington Nationals do.
- Free shuttle buses from Metrorail to reduce traffic loads.
- More building entrances.
- More access roads. One can be dedicated to the shuttle buses.
- An appropriate number of properly trained parking staff.
- Widening the two lane road and other traffic improvements. Let NP pay for them, so the taxpayers don't have to subsidize it.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
On the other hand, the U.S., which is not exactly a totalitarian country, is leading the total medal count. This is due to a combination of the U.S.'s size (over 300 million people) and freedom. No government official will force you to take up a sport. If you are lucky, you can get a college scholarship, provided that your sport is played intercollegiately. For the most part, our athletes play for the love of it, which is the way things should be. Fortunately for many of them, they are marketable and can gain support in exchange for advertising work. Still, this relationship is strictly voluntary.
Enough of this outburst...the Redskins are playing tonight. I have to practice watching football and berating idiotic coaches. ;-)
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
The Spring 2008 issue of ArcUser has an article "Techie Teens Use GIS to Increase City Revenues" (p. 49). While the article focuses on the work the kids did, deeper points lie in the article. 6 of 60 kids in Safford, AZ's jobs program were selected to do the work. The work consisted of a fixed project and the kids had to give a report in the end. The kids gained useful skills and are expected to work on future projects.
The implication for DC is to severely scale back the jobs program and to make the jobs part of discrete, measureable projects. Teenagers should apply to work on the projects, thereby encouraging them to gain an internal locus of control. This also means a reduction in DC's democratic centralization. Only a small number of projects should be done in the first year, as everyone gains experience with the system. As experience grows, the number of projects should increase. In no case, should a project be make-work. The projects can range from high value-added things like GIS and IT to simple beautification and clean-up projects. One obvious clean-up project involves removing trash from the Anacostia River. The work will be tough, but the benefits can be made clear to workers, and the money is still money.
So, imagine the results. Kids will have shown their willingness and ability to do hard, useful work and the initiative to take those jobs. This will look good on college applications.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Another aspect of poor survey design: I was asked whether I worked in Fairfax County. I answered "No." Then, it asked me whether I worked in Tysons Corner. Hello? Tysons Corner is in Fairfax County, so if I don't work in Fairfax County, I can't work in Tysons Corner. Idiots!
BTW, while I was typing the first paragraph, I got a second call from the same number with the same survey. Who programmed this stupid thing?
Friday, August 1, 2008
The weakness of this technology is its low voltage. According to the product information, it runs at 750 volts. To get, say, 10 km of acceleration, the voltage has to increase to 7,500 volts. It is unclear from Bombadier's website how much charge is stored. Still, the supercapacitors have to have about 10 times greater voltage, or be 1/10th of the size of the current ones to store this much charge.
Thus, we can conclude that this technology is unripe.
So, what does this have to do with anything? I've been following the talk about light rail lines in Washington, DC. It seems that the Congress has long forbidden overhead wires on streets. Getting power from a third rail using either the old conduit track technology or the new technology in Bordeaux is impractical. So, the way to get streetcars running is to charge them at stations. Right now, this appears impractical. But, improvements in battery and supercapacitor technologies may make this feasible within 5 years. So, all of you who like to dream up light rail systems should think in terms of having chargers at terminals and stations, with Shanghai-like charging "umbrellas".