Archive | December, 2005

Transit Surfer Catches Cell Phone Wave

We have our first release of a WAP/WML (cell phone) interface for the Surfer. Go to:

http://tsrf.us/wap

[If you follow the link in a regular web browser, you’re not likely to get anything meaningful.]

Note that it’s not 100% complete. We don’t have menus to select lines or stops, you MUST enter a stop number. But once you do, you have the ability to surf along stops on the line or to nearby lines.

I’m very interested to hear how well this works on different phones. Please comment with feedback!

Hey, it Could Have Been Worse

I got a kick out of the article in yesterday’s O about a spat between the parking folks at PDOT and the vendor who manages all those paystations downtown. Apparently some (percentage TBD) of the machines accepted money on Monday, which was a holiday with no parking enforcement.

While I quite agree that the City and vendor need to do better, it seems like a bit of a tempest in a teapot. After all, not so long ago those now-old-fashioned meter heads would take your quarter any hour, day or week of the year, regardless of whether it was within the hours of enforcement! How quickly we become reliant on our technology…

[Disclosure: I was a participant in the process for selecting the paystations, as they were under consideration for use in my neighborhood in NW Portland.]

In fact, I was at a 7:45 meeting this morning downtown where several of the participants remarked happily that when they fed the paystations at 7:40, the expiration time for the coins they put in was calculated from the 8am start of enforcement, NOT from the time they plugged the machine.

I think the biggest bonus is that the machines take debit cards! No more hunting for quarters.

I wouldn’t go back. Would anyone else?

GPS Tolling Gets a Trial in Seattle

What if I said that I had a magic bullet that would guarantee citizens significantly less auto traffic congestion and provide beleaguered transportation departments with much-needed funds. How could you say no?

And yet, tolls and congestion pricing have long been considered political suicide in the U.S. However, in the face of shrinking transportation budgets and increasing congestion in cities around the world, we may have no other choice than to take another look at pricing schemes.
What if I said that I had a magic bullet that would guarantee citizens significantly less auto traffic congestion and provide beleaguered transportation departments with much-needed funds. How could you say no?

And yet, tolls and congestion pricing have long been considered political suicide in the U.S. However, in the face of shrinking transportation budgets and increasing congestion in cities around the world, we may have no other choice than to take another look at pricing schemes.

In fact, for the last few years, London has begun charging significant weekday tolls between 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., resulting in a 30% reduction in peak-hour congestion (as well as a round-trip time reduction of 13%). London’s tolling program is also raising significant transportation revenue, which is being invested in improving public transportation. Here is the Victoria Transport Policy Institute’s study of London’s tolls (PDF, 513K).

A new study in Seattle is looking at if or how cash incentives (the carrot to tolling’s stick) alter driving habits. This Seattle Times article compares the reaction of two participants: one didn’t change anything about his commute, while the other reports that he “basically stopped driving.”

GPS monitors mounted on participants’ dashboards track their behavior and automatically deduct charges from prepaid accounts; they get to keep any money left in the account at the end of the study.

The study, called the “Traffic Choices Project,” will see how Seattle-area drivers respond to being paid not to drive during the busiest days, busiest times, and on the busiest roads. Study authors plan to measure any change in travel behavior as well as how participants feel about the impact of monitoring on their privacy. Here is more information about the study from Puget Sound Regional Council.

Copyright and a Milestone

As we wind down toward the end of the year, a pause for a moment of introspection seems appropriate.

First, unless we have a server meltdown, we’ll have our 25,000th visitor today. That’s just under a month since we hit 20,000, so thanks to our loyal readers who keep coming back to see what we’re ranting about.

Also, we’ve taken the time over the holiday break to update our copyright policy. When we started Portland Transport, since we had no legal entity, we left copyright in the hands or our contributors. Now that we have our very own non-profit corporation, we’re getting a little more formal and holding copyright in the name of Portland Transport.

This means that we can think about how we want the material used. In the spirit of the intellectual commons that we hope Portland Transport is part of, we’ve made most of our content (the part we actually own) available under a Creative Commons license. If you haven’t heard of Creative Commons, you should definitely check it out, it’s a very cool concept – the opposite of Mickey Mouse being under 100% control of Disney for perpetuity.

So you are now free to reuse most of our text and photos (get the details on our copyright page), as long as you give Portland Transport credit, and don’t try and make any money off the reuse. Enjoy and spread the memes in the new year.