The Truth

It's Your Funeral (part 2)

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Live the death you've always wanted. This is part 2 of a two-part story. Performed by Andy Moskowitz, Ben Jones, Amy Warren, Jackie Hoffman, Blanche Ames, and Damon Ketron. Written by David Wilcox, inspired by a segment from his podcast A Twilight...


The Truth

It's Your Funeral (part 1)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Live the death you've always wanted. Performed by Andy Moskowitz, Jackie Hoffman, Ben Jones, Damon Ketron, Phoebe Tyres, Shacottha Fields, Blanche Ames, and Rebecca Robles. Written by David Wilcox. Produced and directed by Jonathan Mitchell.


Transportation Nation

VIDEO: Transportation Nation's Mug. It Can Be Yours.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Action shot from "Multi-Modal Mug" shot film by Amy Pearl / WNYC

At Transportation Nation, we serve up serious news, with flair, style, and a flash of java.

Rejoice. (And get a tax deduction, too.) You can own a Transportation Nation coffee mug.

'What's so exciting about a coffee mug?' you might ask. 'It doesn't run on a smart grid or move at the speed of a bullet train." But, friends, it is a reminder to you of all the value this site has brought you in 2012. And your donation shows our reporters here at TN that you care.

Plus, the video is hilarious. We present to you the multi-modal mug. Yours as a thank-you gift for a donation of $5 / month to our ad-free, nonprofit public media project.

If you won't donate, consider sending this around to your friends who might.

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Transportation Nation

Bus to Stoplight, "Obey!" NYC Gets Traffic Signal Priority

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

(Photo CC by Flickr user Stephen Rees)

Traffic lights will yield to buses in New York City -- at least on a stretch of Manhattan's East Side.

It's a small but significant step that could further speed travel times for the city's Select Bus Service. SBS routes have dedicated lanes, express stops, and passengers pay before they boards. Now New York's SBS is rolling out signal priority: stop lights that can sense when a bus is approaching -- and stay green to let it pass.

“Traffic Signal Prioritization is a vital piece in making bus travel more attractive,” said New York City Transit President Thomas F. Prendergast in a statement.

An initial run of 60 buses on Manhattan's heavily traveled M15 route will be outfitted with the technology to communicate with streetlights along First and Second Avenues. Manhattan's signal priority, which has been tested on an SBS bus route in the Bronx, will begin in November. The MTA says another 200 buses could join the program if it proves successful.

The cost of upgrading the 60 buses will cost $480,000.

SBS is a form of Bus Rapid Transit, a popular form of mass transit in other countries, often as a cheaper substitute for a subway system. Traditional BRT systems use lanes that are physically separate from other traffic. But in New York, the lanes multitask -- cars can use the lanes to make turns, and taxis can drop off passengers in the SBS lanes.

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Transportation Nation

STUDY: 5 Million Electric Cars Will Power Homes, Grid by 2017

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Nissan Leaf charging (Photo (cc) Washington State DOT via Flickr)

The number of electric vehicles able to power buildings and feed the power grid will grow from 100,000 today, to more than 5 million in 2017, according to a new study by Pike Research, a market research firm for the clean technology industry.

The prospect of a power grid made more stable and efficient by millions of EVs connected to homes, and thus the power grid has been a much vaunted secondary benefit of widespread adoption of electric cars. So far it's not even close to happening. But, the researchers predict, it will by the middle of the next decade after continued exponential EV adoption, especially in commercial fleets.

As of now there has been exactly one commercial test project of V2G possibilities. That was headed by the University of Delaware and PJM Interconnection, and it concluded in 2010 (PDF report). The data from that project will shape future plans for commercialization, Pike research predicts.

There are a few obstacles and disincentives for utilities to connect cars to the power grid, according to the report. One hitch to growth right now is that one Nissan Leaf on a block is not enough to interest a power company in building out vehicle-to-grid connections in an area. There needs to be a cluster of EVs close enough to each other to tempt a utility. Fleet vehicles, like these electric delivery trucks, are the best candidates for a cluster of battery power storage the researchers posit.

While EVs could take on excess power from utilities, something they certainly want, utilities could potentially lose money on power served to homes with vehicle to grid capacity. If car batteries are able to take and store the cheaper power offered in off hours, the car itself could be a cheaper power source for a home or business during the expensive peak daytime hours.

Just how an electric car, a home, and the power grid will all interact is still far from sorted out. "Vehicles will compete with traditional generation sources as well as with emerging technologies, such as stationary battery storage," according to the report. What might turn out a more popular relationship between the next generation of car and power grid is for the car to help the grid more than the power the home it is connected to. Utilities and automakers are both keen on using EVs for frequency regulation, accepting more power for a faster charge when more power is available, and taking less when demand is straining the overall grid. ECOtality, an EV charger company, announced today a plan to use cars on their charging systems to help Maryland utility, Silver Spring Power Co. regulate their supply and demand through a smart-grid EV connection that shifts EV charging to off-peak hours if needed.

Finally, the report authors note that carmakers don't benefit from selling an electric car that can give back to the grid as compared to a car that can just charge up as normal. So until consumers clamor for that extra service, the feature is likely to be limited to costly retrofits or special orders, rather than standard with all new EVs, further limiting adoption.

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Transportation Nation

Now that Cars Can Talk to Each Other What Should They Say?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Ford Engineer Joe Stinnett Shows Smart Technology, at Ford Test Plant (Photo: Andrea Bernstein)

Dashboard consoles that warn of accident-prone intersections and suggest alternate routes.  Cars that could wirelessly order and pay for a cup of coffee as you approach a drive through cafe.  Vehicles that trade pollution credits so high-polluters cost more.

Those are some of the winners chosen by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) for their  Connected Vehicle Challenge The DOT called on academics, scientists, transit geeks and tinkerers of all types to apply Dedicated Short-Range Communications technology to transportation. It is like Wi-Fi but more secure and works with moving objects even at highway speeds.

For more on the competition see our original post from January. At the time the DOT cited research that explains why the DOT is confident that DSRC has the potential to dramatically increase safety, particularly in avoiding accidents of non-intoxicated drivers.

Out of 76 entries, RITA chose 6  winners:

From entry: Emergency Response Application of DSRC Technology

Matthew Henchey and Tejswaroop Geetla of the University of Buffalo applied DSRC to first responders. Their entry, Emergency Response Application of DSRC Technology envisions a real-time accident awareness system that accelerates emergency response and assists with traffic management. Vehicles in a six-car pileup automatically inform emergency responders and traffic management centers, for instance, letting dispatchers know before the first 911 call and hinting at the scope of an accident.

From entry: Connected Vehicle Proactive Driving

Sakura Associates, submitted a Connected Vehicle Proactive Driving entry that collects locations and types of accidents to help drivers choose safer routes. A driver is alerted to an upcoming intersection with frequent rear-end accidents, and, could presumably chose an alternate route.

From Entry: Using DSRC Signals for Improving Vehicle Position Estimates

U.C. Riverside's Using DSRC Signals for Improving Vehicle Position Estimates combines GPS and DSRC located in places like traffic lights to make location measurements on your dashboard GPS accurate to within one meter.

This is similar to U.C. Berkeley's entry:

From entry: R-GPS: Enhancing GPS Accuracy and Security using DSRC

R-GPS: Enhancing Accuracy and Security using DSRC uses nearby cars to correct GPS locations. This is useful "correct illegally jammed" GPS signals, the researchers say. Increasing the accuracy of GPS is vital to achieve several long term Federal Highway Authority ITS goals.

Another finalist, from the Univ. of Illinois proposes to use the technology to stem pollution. Pollution Credit Trading in Vehicle Ad Hoc Networks. Doug Lundquist suggests an automated system for trading pollution credits among vehicles in which the level of pollution allowed per vehicle is capped and credits are given to less-polluting vehicles. A low emissions vehicle can accumulate credits that it automatically sells to a higher emissions vehicle.

The most sweeping entry, Clemson's Integrated Intelligent Transportation Platorm, envisions a complete travel experience guided by DSRC features, from reserving and planning electric vehicle charging stops for longer trips, to buying and paying for a cup of coffee by speaking to your dashboard while driving. They made this 11 minute video showing off all the features.


One person from each winning team will get to be an honored speaker at the 18th World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems in Orlando this fall.

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Transportation Nation

SF Taxis: To Make System More Efficient, Rates Must Rise

Thursday, May 19, 2011

(photo by Marlith via Wikimedia Commons)

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) Starting this summer, San Francisco’s taxis will be among the most expensive in the nation – but officials are hoping they’ll also be the most used. The MTA, which has overseen city taxis since 2009, voted Tuesday to raise rates by 10 cents per fifth of a mile -- or per minute. The board also wants to raise the drop fee, or the rate meters display when passengers first enter the cab, but they won’t take up that issue until later this summer.

It’s the first in a series of steps the city hopes will make more efficient use of the city’s 1500 licensed cabs. Higher rates mean a steadier cash flow for cabbies, who aren't always inclined to risk picking up passengers in far-flung neighborhoods. But the increase is only part of an ongoing campaign to integrate taxis more fully into city life.

After the vote, several drivers said that while the fare increase was a good start – they haven’t had a raise in nearly a decade – they still felt there was a long way to go. Particularly contentious has been the issue of credit card transactions (cabbies pay a 5% card processing fee), and electronic waybills (detailed records of all taxi trips). Those last two issues will be addressed at additional "taxi town halls" coming up this summer.

The city’s liaison to the cab drivers is director of taxi services Christiane Hayashi. I caught up with her to ask about what’s in store for SF’s cabs.

How would you describe the taxi situation in San Francisco right now?

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Transportation Nation

LISTEN: Bay Area Transpo Update

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tester seats in BART's mobile seat lab.

Missed the news about the future of parking, the future of traffic jams, or the future of the (now germ-incubating) BART seats? Kick back and hear TN's Casey Miner tell you everything you need to know, over at KALW News.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

SFPark Launches, and Works – For This Reporter, Anyway

Friday, April 22, 2011

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) San Francisco launched its real-time parking data feed Thursday morning at City Hall – and, fittingly, there was more than enough parking to go around. A strong start, as the city hopes the dynamic pricing pilot will ease congestion and generally improve people’s quality of life.

People deciding whether to drive into one of the project’s eight test neighborhoods can look online to check parking availability and price – or, if they’re on the go, they can use a handy iPhone app. (Sorry, Android users, nothing for you yet, though the city promises apps for other smartphones in a few weeks.) Over time, the parking prices will change from block to block in response to supply and demand, raising prices consistently on some streets until there is at least one space available on every block.

I wanted to test it out for myself, so I checked the site from my home in the East Bay before heading out for the press conference. San Francisco's downtown is usually fairly crowded, and though some neighborhoods are worse than others, I usually won't even consider driving unless I absolutely have to. But at 10am, it looked like I’d have no trouble finding parking within one block of City Hall.

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Transportation Nation

SFPark Launches Thursday

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) The price may be steep, but the payoff is high: a dense city where no one ever has to circle for parking. On Thursday, San Francisco will officially launch SFpark, a dynamic pricing program that aims to ensure at least one free space on every block at any given time.

The price of that space will vary depending on demand: for the first few months, prices will remain in the city's normal range of $2-$3.50 an hour, but eventually they could go as high as $18 a space for, say, parking outside the ballpark during a Giants game. But don't worry, you won't get walloped: prices will increase incrementally by no more than 50 cents each month (so no $16 jumps), and everyone will be able to access real-time pricing and availability info. If it's too expensive to drive, the city's hoping people won't.

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Transportation Nation

New Bi-Partisan Smart Tech Transportation Bill Introduced In House

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

(Houston--Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers, R-MI, and Russ Carnahan, D-MO, have introduced a new smart transportation technology bill (H.R. 995) into the House that would give six cities the opportunity to share in $1.2 billion dollars—as long as the money is used to fund innovative transportation technologies.

Cities would have to compete for the grants, which would be paid out over five years. “For far too long these great ideas about intelligent transportation have been sitting on the shelf, but have not been actually implemented into our national transportation strategy,” said Carnahan. “This, I think, is a very big step to get these technologies off the shelf and into American communities so we can really show their value.”

The SMART Technologies for Communities Act, which was discussed during today’s House Transportation and Infrastructure hearing, would establish pilot programs in selected cities, where innovative tech solutions would be deployed and tested, such as electronic toll collection, vehicle to vehicle communication systems, and real-time traffic information applications. The goal would be to see whether these intelligent transportation systems (ITS) save money, reduce congestion and traffic collisions, and improve the overall quality of the city’s transportation system.

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Transportation Nation

NRDC List: Top 15 Metro Regions for Public Transportation

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) New York, Chicago, Boston all made the cut. Los Angeles, not so much. The Natural Resources Defense Council released their top 15 "Smart Cities" for transportation Wednesday.

The study compares metro regions according to public transit accessibility, cost, use as well as household auto habits. Innovations, like pedestrian plaza construction and sustainable transportation programs are factored in as well.

The NRDC announcement offers some highlights of what constitutes a "Smart City" In Lincoln, Nebraska, for instance, low-income riders pay a mere $7.50 for unlimited bus rides all month long.

Around U.C. Davis in Yolo, Calif. the local transit provider, Yolobus, does such a good job of balancing the needs of students (who bike a lot), government employees, and casino patrons that the area boasts the highest rate of transit access, 91 percent, of any small region (population under 250,000).

NRDC partnered with the Center for Neighborhood Technology on the study, drawing data from the U.S. Census as well as CNT's H+T Affordability Index that quantifies household transportation costs by location.

Getting from place to place is more affordable in New York—at an average annual household cost of $5,289—than in any other large city, according to CNT.

And at an average of 9,920 miles a year per household, New Yorkers travel fewer miles in the car than residents in any other region in the country besides Jersey City, New Jersey.

The 2011 Smarter Cities for Transportation aren't ranked. Sorry, there's no a number 1 city here. But they are grouped by city size, and each city gets it's own web page extolling the efficiencies, access, or other admirable elements that earned them this eco-accolade.

Large cities (population more than 1 million)

Boston, MA/NH, Chicago, IL, New York, NY , Portland, OR, Philadelphia, PA/NJ , San Francisco, CA, Washington, DC/MD/VA/WV.

Medium cities (population: 250,000 – 1 million)

Boulder-Longmont, CO, Honolulu, HI, Jersey City, NJ, New Haven, CT.

Small (population less than 250,000)

Bremerton, WA, Champaign-Urbana, IL, Lincoln, NE, Yolo, CA

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Transportation Nation

SERIES: Houston Mayor Wants to Prod residents into EV's AND Cars that Talk

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF)   Houston is best known as the capital of Big Oil.  But Mayor Annise Parker says alternative energy is on the way:   She tells us:    "We're a sprawling city that's built around the automobile. If we can convince Houstonians that electric vehicles are the way to go, then it can work anywhere."  That city struggles to provide enough chargers to meet demand. Full story, on Marketplace.

AND:  In ten years, driving will be nothing like it is today -- cars will "talk" to each other and stop signs, making it harder to crash -- and easier to shop. But can you deal with a car that bosses you around?  Andrea Bernstein's story is here.

And you can see the whole Marketplace series on the Future of Transportation here.

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Transportation Nation

Bad Directions: A Cautionary Tale of GPS Misbehavior

Monday, November 01, 2010

Car navigator in action

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) – When the New York Times reported last month that Google was developing a car that could drive itself through traffic, Jon Kelly at the BBC wondered whether we could ever learn to love driverless cars. Kelly quoted “motoring journalist” Quentin Willson, who doubted the level of trust people would have in robot drivers. “The human brain can react quickly to the blizzard of information we're confronted with on the roads,” Willson told the BBC. “By contrast, we know what sat nav is like—it takes you on all sorts of circuitous routes.”

Indeed. The pair of articles brought to mind a harrowing tale I’d heard about a rogue GPS that had led a friend’s car astray. The vehicle in question was not piloting itself, but was being driven by Liesl Schillinger, a writer and literary critic who happens to write frequently for the Times.

A few years ago, Schillinger was on her way to an interview in rural New Hampshire. It was a humid August day in the White Mountains, and she was driving her rented Hyundai with its windows down, enjoying the “gorgeous and enveloping” smell of pine and trusting fully in her GPS device to guide her.

“At first it was idyllic,” she remembered in an email to me. “I passed a quaint red barn and farmyard, where picturesque Holsteins grazed, then entered a kind of woods.  At first I marveled at how lovely and rugged it was to be driving in such refreshingly unblemished wilderness, but as the road through the trees got steeper, to the point of being nearly vertical (like skiing uphill), I grew doubtful.”

But the fuchsia line on the screen was unmistakably clear, she told me. “The voice kept blandly ordering me onward. It was just a mile and a half to the house, "she" (the voice) said, so I decided to persevere.”

Schillinger came to a clearing in the trees, and found herself and car “atop a rocky plateau, like in the Jeep Cherokee ads—you know,  where the jeep perches on some  jagged butte where it has been airlifted like a stunned hippopotamus.” She stopped and opened her door to examine the terrain, doubtful that her mid-size could handle the steep, rocky grade. She wanted to call the woman she was visiting, but she had no cell reception. So she pressed on, trusting her robotic navigator.

“I managed to drive the car down the rocks, say, five hundred feet, at which point the scree turned into a damp muddy narrow roadlet through a forest,” Schillinger recalls.

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