Author Archive

Tuesday, February 03rd, 2009 | Author: admin

Digital SharingMy friend Mike has recently been doing some consulting work with me and today he shared my weekly commute.  We rotated our mp3 players taking turns as DJ.  We talked, laughed and enjoyed the companionship during the 2 hour ride.

Since we both have a lot of experience with computer software, at one point the conversation turned to how to create a paid ride sharing web site.  We batted around several ideas on how to mix the internet with text messaging to more easily enable riders and drivers to get together.

When I got home tonight, I did some research to see what was already out there and I was surprised to find some very interesting ideas:

So it looks like other people have also been thinking about this and implementing some promising technology.  Take a look and then share your thoughts on using the latest technology to match drivers and riders together.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Dave Duarte

Category: Ride Share, Yellow  | Tags: , ,  | One Comment
Monday, February 02nd, 2009 | Author: admin

Saw an interesting story this week entitled Public Transportation 2.0 by Tara Brown.  She shines a light on how web technology can improve our experience with public transit and keep us informed of any alerts.

The story highlights some of the recent innovations in the Bay Area, but this must also be happening elsewhere.  They are using Twitter to send text messages directly to your phone.  The messages can be about delays on your train or the arrival time of the next bus.  This is a great way to apply new technology to an old problem.

Now the story does not end there.  Apparently another writer at this blog, Mark Pritchard, was also inspired by Tara’s story and he posted Public Transportation 2.1 as a response.  He makes a very good case for small battery powered autocabs to supplement trains and buses.

On his daily commute, he could take the train into the city, but then how does he travel the last 2 plus miles to his office?  It is too far to walk and a bus would double his total commuting time.  So, he like most commuters just drives his own car every day.  Now here is someone who wants to take public transportation, but it is just not convenient for him.

He then goes on to detail the problem of there not being enough taxis and why they don’t really fit for these short ad hoc rides.  He has an idea for autocabs that works because one of these can replace many cars and solve the parking dilemma in most cities.  They would nicely fill the gap in getting you to a transit hub from your point of origin and then from another transit hub to your destination.

I think Pay4Rides could also greatly benefit from a texting service.  Imagine a host site that could accept ride requests and text drivers for availability.  The driver could text back to accept the request and the host server could text the rider with a confirmation.  Now instead of developing a fleet of battery powered autocabs, we could just employ the autos that are already on the road.

WIBNI (Wouldn’t it be nice if)?

Creative Commons License photo credit: numberstumper

Sunday, February 01st, 2009 | Author: admin

With Bruce Springsteen playing the Superbowl halftime show, I thought; why not feature one of his songs this week.  I have been fortunate enough to see Bruce play live a dozen or so times and he always puts on a tremendous show.  In searching for a song to feature, I found this acoustic version of “Reason to Believe”

Struck me kinda funny
Seem kinda funny sir to me
Still at the end of every hard earned day
People find some reason to believe

It is interesting to see how Bruce re-interrupts his own music.  This version is close to the original, although he added some nice slide guitar for spice.  When I saw him on the Magic tour, this song was transformed into an all out rocker complete with Bruce playing harmonica on a bullet microphone and guitars that sounded like ZZ Top.

You see, there are many ways to perform the same song and it just takes some vision, desire and work.  For me, there is reason to believe that we can redesign the way most of us commute.  As we struggle through our current difficulties, what do you find at the end of your hard earned day?

Friday, January 30th, 2009 | Author: admin

There were two stories in Time Magazine that caught my attention last week.  One is about living longer and the other is about dying, but they have one key thing in common: reducing our air pollution.

In the first story, “Want to Live Longer? Cut the Pollution”, they cite a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine.  The study details increased life spans for people who live in areas where pollution has been curbed.  Now this should not come as a surprise to anyone, but it is reassuring to see statistics to back it up.

Color on Dead TreesIn the second story, “Study: U.S. Trees Dying at Alarming Rate”, they look at the findings of a thirty-year study published in the journal Science.  The study finds that the death rate of trees in the western U.S. has more than doubled in the last few decades.  These are trees of all sizes and types in healthy, well-established forests.

We have already lost millions of tress to beetle infestations, but these are apparently healthy trees without evidence of infestation that have been weakened by global warming.  The real irony is that trees soak up large quantities of carbon dioxide and are critically important in slowing climate change.  So these trees will not be around to help clean the air and their dying actually releases carbon dioxide back into the air as a kind of global warming double whammy.

As temperatures slowly rise, this problem will worsen since the summer season will be longer which causes trees to be stressed and vulnerable to drought conditions.  More trees dying will have a direct effect on our air quality and ultimately our own longevity.

Aggressively reducing our auto emissions is a huge step in slowing the current rate of climate change.  Pay4Rides would help trees live longer, which improves the health of the planet and the air we breathe.  Now aren’t those a couple of great reasons to share rides?

Creative Commons License photo credit: *PaysImaginaire*

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 | Author: admin

Last Tuesday was the presidential inauguration and downtown DC braced for a very large crowd.  But a funny thing happened, there was no traffic.  In this story, they examine how over four times the number of daily commuters entered the city on this day.

This proves that if people just work together using mass transit and ride sharing that we can have a dramatic impact on our daily commutes.  On inauguration day, an estimated 1.8 million people got to their destination with more ease than the typical 400,000 daily commuters.  So even with most of the bridges closed to traffic, four and half times as many people entered downtown DC.

The crowd at the Washington MonumentOn normal workdays in Washington, 40% of the commuters or 160,000 people drive alone.  Single passenger vehicles are the biggest contributor to our nations gridlock problems.  Getting more people to utilize mass transit, group rides, bike and walk would improve everyone’s daily commute.

I know the current thinking is that we need to greatly enhance our nation’s roadways and build more lanes.  While this will help, it is going to cost us billions and billions of dollars as you can see in the stimulus proposal.

Last Tuesday was a historic day in many ways.  In the spirit of cooperation and national unity, we saw a great number of people avoid the nasty traffic that plagues us every single day.  I would like to see this type of togetherness become the rule, instead of the exception.

Creative Commons License photo credit: acnatta

Category: Red, Traffic  | Tags: , , ,  | 5 Comments
Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 | Author: admin

On Monday night, I saw a story on my local Fox news explaining a proposal by Mayor Bloomberg for Shared Cab Rides Coming to NYC.  This would allow riders to share cabs so they each pay less while the cabbie actually earns more.  So instead of just providing one ride for $25, the driver could charge 2 riders $20 each or maybe 3 riders would pay $15 each.  And don’t forget the tips.

By permitting cab drivers to pick up additional fares, they could attract new riders who might not choose a cab if they had to pay the full fare themselves.  The Mayor said that a shared-ride system is a win-win for the city.

Summer Vacation 07 part 1 288Think of all the people landing at NYC area airports who need rides to the city.  Grouping riders not only makes financial sense, but would also reduce traffic, cut gasoline consumption and help the environment.  Is there anything not to like?

The only problem is many people do not like to share, they prefer their privacy.  I can understand this, but wouldn’t all of these benefits offset the slight inconvenience of losing some personal space?  Most cab rides are relatively short, so it should not be that hard to tolerate another passenger.  If you do not want to talk, plug in your iPod and listen to some of your favorite music to pass the time.

So maybe next time you hail a cab, you will have some company for the ride.  Think about it, wouldn’t sharing a ride make the trip in a cab fair?

Creative Commons License photo credit: timpearce4816

Monday, January 26th, 2009 | Author: admin

Today President Obama endorsed efforts to allow states adopt rules for stricter emission standards.  In a USA Today story, Obama pushing stronger fuel-efficiency standard, they detail many of the reasons behind this initiative.It's the economy, stupid!

This may seem like bad news for the automakers, but they know these changes are necessary.  We need to focus on lessening our dependence on foreign oil for our own national security.  In a Wall Street Journal story, they make some excellent points:

President Obama again linked his energy agenda to the economy, the environment, and national security. Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on foreign oil helps finance terrorism, subjects Americans to volatile gasoline prices, and courts the “irreversible catastrophe” of climate change. “These are the facts,” he said.

This won’t happen over night, but it is a very good first step.  We need to aggressively curb our greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming.  California has been ahead of the curve on this issue and it is about time the rest of the country caught up.

Higher gas mileage and lower emissions, sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

Creative Commons License photo credit: net_efekt

Sunday, January 25th, 2009 | Author: admin

This song by John Mayer has recently been associated with President Obama and his inauguration.  The lyrics are very representative of how powerless many of us feel with our elected officials.  Here, take a listen:

 

Me and all my friends
We’re all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing and
There’s no way we ever could

Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it

So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change

Hopefully with a new administration, people will lose some of their past apathy and get energized.  There is a strong feeling that President Obama has a certain amount of political capital and goodwill behind his initiatives.  I hope this translates into active participation to ensure good decisions are made by our leaders.

So get involved in change, the waiting is over.

Friday, January 23rd, 2009 | Author: admin

As President Obama continues to build his cabinet, I don’t like what I am hearing from his nominee to the Transportation Department.  In this Wall Street Journal story, they say that he is making the case to give a bigger role to the private sector in rebuilding our roads and bridges.  Here is a quote from the story:

“There’s not going to be enough money,” Mr. LaHood told the Senate Commerce Committee. “I think we do have to think outside the box.”

Now I agree that there is not enough money for all the necessary transportation projects, but how is this thinking outside the box?  Allowing private investors to build, operate and maintain new toll roads and bridges is very dangerous to our economy.Silicon Valley Highway 101 Traffic Hell

In another story, Mr. LaHood gives his endorsement for more toll roads.  This is such a short sighted strategy to “fix” our long term transportation problems.  State governments are desperate to make up their budget gaps and these large upfront payments look very attractive.  Unfortunately, as time goes, by the private investors enjoy steady returns on their investment from hard working commuters.

Here is one such example where a foreign corporation contributes less than $350 million to a $1.9 billion taxpayer funded project, yet they are set to enjoy 80 years of profit from the tolls.  The private company will build High Occupancy Toll lanes on the Capital Beltway in Northern Virginia.  Once the lanes are completed in 4 years, drivers will be charged $1 a mile during rush hours.  Are you kidding me, who can afford this on a daily basis?

I have written a few other posts on how much I despise tolls.  They are one of the most inefficient ways to fund a road and they greatly contribute to traffic, accidents and additional carbon emissions.  Once erected, they never come down and the prices rise with little or no control from the people who actually use the roads.

Since when is building more tolls and sticking commuters with the bill considered “thinking outside the box”?  The answer can not be to just build additional transportation infrastructure since we continue to always exceed the capacity of our roadways.  Real innovative thinking will produce solutions that cut our consumption and conserve energy.  Don’t you agree?

Creative Commons License photo credit: richardmasoner

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 | Author: admin

Here is a story that caught my attention earlier today; Oil cost hedging is not fail-safe, as airline and consumer experience showsIn an effort to eliminate their risk, United Airlines and a Metro-New York City housing complex wound up losing a lot of money.

The price of oil was so unpredictable last year, that some analysts were projecting $200 a barrel.  Trying to be proactive, United Airlines attempted to control fuel costs with hedge contracts to control soaring prices.  If prices continued to rise, they would be covered, but they did not anticipate the price collapse in the second half of 2008.  So instead of benefiting with cheap oil, they were locked in at the now higher rates.

RouletteHere are some very educated analysts who got it completely wrong.  You see, hedging does not eliminate risk, it simply minimizes it.  The exposure comes when markets move wildly against you, then hedging can lead to loses.

Normally you would think of hedging as a safe play and usually you would be right.  Unfortunately the volatile price of oil destroyed a smart plan that was just trying to protect against loss. This proves that we can not reasonably plan or predict the future of oil.

Are you willing to continue betting our economy on oil when we obviously have such little control over price?  We need to spread our risk over many other energy alternatives.  Now that is how we can properly hedge our bets going forward.

Creative Commons License photo credit: stoneflower