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Continuing to clear out some articles, here’s some travel and transit related articles:

 

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Continuing the clearing of some themed groups, here are some interesting histories that I’ve seen come across my feeds of late:

  • LA Theatre. Here’s a complete history of LA Theatre while standing on one foot.  OK, well, it’s not complete (there’s no mention of the LA Civic Light Opera, for example, or the other major large theatres that are no more, like the Huntington Hartford or the Shubert in Century City), but it is a great summary of the current situation with 99 seat theatres and how we got there.
  • Jewish Culinary Tradition. Here’s an article (and a discussion of a cookbook) related to a classic Jewish food tradition: pickling and preservation. A number of the recipes described sound really interesting .
  • Left Turns. If you’re like me, you get … annoyed … at the current crop of drivers that wait behind the limit line to make a left turn, and then do a sweeping arc that almost cuts off the car waiting on the cross street to turn (plus, it means one car per light). If you’re like me, you were taught to pull into the middle of the intersection, and then to do an almost 90 degree turn to go from left lane into left lane. Turns out, left turns have changed over time, and I’m old-school.
  • Old Subway Cars. When your light rail cars die, where do they go? Often, they are dumped in the ocean. Los Angeles did that with some of the Red and Yellow Cars. New York does it with its subway cars. But this isn’t pollution, and here are the pictures to prove it. Rather, it is creating reefs for oceanlife.
  • Tunnels Back In Service. An LADWP tunnel that dates back to 1915 is going back in service.The Los Angeles Daily News reports the tunnel is being refurbished to capture water runoff from the Sierras, which was inundated with snow this winter.The tunnel is part of a larger system, called the Maclay Highline, that runs from “the L.A. Aqueduct Cascades in Sylmar to a group of meadows in Pacoima.” Once restored, the tunnel will carry a significant amount of water—130 acre-feet a day—to the Pacoima Spreading Grounds, where it will filter down into the city aquifer and become drinking water. (One acre-foot can supply two households with water for a year.)

As we’re talking history, here’s another interesting themed historical group, this time focused on air travel:

  • Lockheed L-1011. I remember back in the 1990s flying between LAX and IAD, when I could still occasionally get an L-1011. This was a tri-jet from Lockheed, and was nice and spacious with great overhead space. They have long since disappeared, but one recently took to the skies as part of a ferry to a museum. The refurbished plane will be used as part of a STEM teaching experience.
  • Boeing 747. The Queen of the Skies has been dethroned by someone skinnier and cheaper. The last few 747s for passenger service are coming off the line; airlines are phasing them out of the fleets. There will be a few more for freight service, but like the DC-10, they will be disappearing. The market can not really support such large loads — and the multiple engines and fuel it takes to ferry them. The Airbus A380 is facing similar problems. Airlines want at most two engines, with the planes packed to the gills.
  • Old Airports. Here’s an article on an interesting dilemma: What to do with old municipal airports, such as the one in downtown Detroit? (NYTimes article) Should they be restored for general aviation purposes, and perhaps the occasional commercial craft? Should their land be repurposed for more housing and manufacturing, as was done quite successfully with the old DEN (Denver Stapleton). Repurposing can be temping. Cities such as Detroit will soon run out of wide-open, city-owned spaces that can be offered to companies looking to build manufacturing or other commercial facilities here. A decomissioned airport can provide just the opportunity needed. But others say cities should reinvest in the airports, saying it could be an economic engine as well. (I’ll note similar questions exists for former Air Force bases as well — how is former George AFB working out, San Bernardino?) The article  notes that cities across the nation are reconsidering the value of municipal airports in the era of superjumbo jets and budget cuts. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association estimated the nation loses 50 public-use airports a year. Almost all are general-aviation airports, ones that cater primarily to owners of private planes, and most have operating deficits that the cities must make up for in their budgets. Detroit, for instance, faces a $1.3 million operating loss in the 2017 fiscal year for Coleman Young, which averages just 30 landings a day. The main airport for the region is Detroit Metropolitan, a Delta Air Lines hub about 20 miles west of the city limits.

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Today’s news chum collection is united by the common theme of transportation: either the article deals with modes of transportation, or places impacted by transportation:

  • The Bus. Think about transportation museums that you know. There are loads of airplane museums. Train museums are quite common. Automobile museums you also see. But bus collections? Rare. About as rare as boardgames about Interstates. Here’s an article about a vintage bus graveyard in Fontana, CA, that may be in trouble. The owner has long wished to found a nonprofit museum dedicated to the history of the American motor coach, and his 122 buses represent a dream long deferred — a dream that could abruptly end, due to the fact that the city of Fontana has annexed the property that he rents to store the buses. he has been given two weeks to move (and the article was published in mid-May, so time may be up already). If he doesn’t get a stay of execution or a new, multi-acre lot (and significant funds to move the buses), many of these historic treasures will be destined for the scrapyard. [Note: I did some searching, but I could not find out what happened on this.]
  • The Elevator. Sometimes the most commonplace objects are the most transformational. Consider the elevator, or as the Brit’s call it, the lift. This humble movable box that goes up and down changed the shape of our cities. It changed the nature of the value of the uppermost rooms of a building, it made increased density possible in our cities, and it transformed how we use space in our cities.
  • The Motel. The impact of the automobile is significant. It transformed the humble inn or downtown hotel into the motel — a building expressly designed for the motoring public where the driver could park next to their room. The world’s first motel was in San Luis Obispo on US 101. Left to decay, the first motel is now going to be rebuilt. All that remains of the Motel Inn is a crumbling façade and an office building. The property on the north end of Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo has sat shuttered and dilapidated since the 1990s. In 1925, the Milestone Mo-Tel, as it was originally called, became the first motel in the world.Now, a team of local developers is working to restore the motel to it’s former glory.
  • The Vanpool. Solo driving can be tiring. Consider the transformational value of the vanpool and ride-sharing on how one gets to work. I know this personally: I vanpool every day. I put less miles on my car, have lower insurance, use less gas, and get reimbursed for my vanpooling costs (so I commute for free). A sweet deal. But I’m not the only one. Here’s a piece from a lawyer who commuted to Century City who decided that ride-sharing was much better. PS: If you live in the north valley, and commute to El Segundo, drop me a note if you might be interested in joining our vanpool.
  • The Mall. One of the greatest impacts of the automobile was in how we shop. No more wandering that quaint collection of stores downtown. We could go to the mall. That indoor collection of store after store surrounded by free parking, anchored by multiple department stores. Well, the department stores are going bankrupt, the small stores in the mall are dying, and everything is being killed off by Amazon. People still go shopping, but for the experience in outdoor shopping villages. As for the mall? Perhaps we can transform it into something better. But perhaps not. We shall see.
  • Signage. Transportation has also transformed how we sign things. We have to design signage to be universally understandable, at a high speed, by many cultures. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t (I have yet to see a well designed “no right turn on red” sign). 99% Invisible presents one such quandry: how would you redesign the “lane ends, merge left” sign? The old version of the sign features two lines running parallel at the bottom with one angling in toward the top. This design can be mirrored to indicate a merge from either the left or the right. It is hard to tell, though, whether the lines represent lanes or their borders — if lanes, then it looks like two routes coming closer together (not merging). The existence of text-only supplements (“LANE ENDS MERGE LEFT”) also suggests a graphic-only approach can be baffling. How would you improve it?

 

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As you may know, I vanpool to work. I’ve been doing so since the early 1990s; I’m currently the operator of the van. This means that I lease the van from the vanpool company, collect the fares monthly from my passengers, and pay the lease. We get a nice incentive from LA Metro for keeping our van at least 70% full, and my employer takes care of fueling the van for us (although we pay for the fuel and the fuel attendant). Riders who work at my employer get a tax-free credit of what they pay for the vanpool to a maximum $255 a month as an IRS credit. Combine this with lower insurance costs for driving less, and I actually save money by living further away from work and not driving my personal vehicle.

One of the downsides, however, is I periodically have to find new riders (PS: If you commute from the northern San Fernando Valley to El Segundo, (Vride Finder; on the Metro Finder, enter start 91324, end 90245 and we’re van “Tribure/Chimineas Northridge  91325” Van 1645) working 7am to 330pm M-F, 📲 call me or 📧 email me or PM me if you are on FB). So my virtual ears picked up when I read an article today about how to encourage employees to not use their personal vehicles.

The answer: eliminate the subsidy that employers get for providing parking, and make employees pay to park. Keep the subsidies for transit and car/vanpools. Quoting from the article:

Among the more galling subsidies, writes Susan Balding at Greater Greater Washington, are commuter parking benefits. Many employers provide free parking as a perk, and the federal tax code allows car commuters to write off up to $255 a month in parking expenses.

Thanks to a change in the law in 2015, transit riders can write off the same amount, but the impact is overwhelmed by the traffic-inducing effect of the parking benefit. Baldwin says if we’re going to make a dent in congestion in major cities, parking subsidies have got to go:

And this:

Parking benefits, you likely won’t be surprised to hear, also drive up congestion. And beyond that, they leave governments with even less money to repair roads and keep up public transit systems: As of 2014, the parking benefit translated into about $7 billion a year in lost tax revenue (because the money used toward the benefit is not taxed). To put that in perspective, the Federal Transit Administration’s total appropriations in 2016 came to just over $11 billion.

Now taking transit can be time consuming. One article shows that transit, unless you have a convenient route, can take twice as long as driving. But carpooling and vanpooling doesn’t have that problem (well, unless you’re like our van, and we run a surface street route to make it easier for our riders — this adds about 1/2 hr on the valley end). Quoting from that article:

For New York metro residents who take public transportation, a door-to-door commute averages about 51 minutes. That’s much longer than the 29 minutes typically spent by those who drive alone. Similar discrepancies exist around Los Angeles, where despite the region’s traffic woes, drivers arrive at work an average of 22 minutes faster than public transportation riders. In nearly every metro area, driving to work remains far quicker than using a bus or train, taking less than half as long in some places.

So, here’s my question to you: If you had to pay to park at work, with no subsidies, would that encourage you to take transit, carpool, or vanpool?

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userpic=lougrantThis is another busy weekend, so I should probably put this pot of news chum on the stove to simmer. What’s in it? A collection of articles and other items I’ve seen on the web this week that have stuck in my head. Let’s lift the lid and find out what is in this pot:

  • The Ever-Tightening Job Market for Ph.D.s. It is graduation season. This means that metric tonnes of newly minted graduates with Bachelors, Masters, and PhDs are going to be flooding the job market, and in many professions, it will be bad for the PhDs. The linked article talks about a recent report finds that many newly minted Ph.D.s complete school after nearly 10 years of studies with significant debt and without the promise of a job. Yet few people seem to be paying attention to these findings; graduate programs are producing more Ph.D.s than ever before.
  • How Unions and Regulators Made Clothing Tags an Annoying Fact of Life. Clothing tags. Those things at the back of your shirt that annoy you. Did you ever wonder where they came from? Wonder no more.
  • Bookstore down: Mystery and Imagination & Bookfellows in Glendale. Another independent bookstore bites the dust: Mystery and Imagination, which was across the street from another recent closure, Brand Books. Although some independent bookstores are thriving, others are closing… and it is a sad thing. Amazon may be great for music, but it is a pain for discovering new books. It is not just bookstores that are closing: Orphaned CDs, which was around the corner in Northridge, has been put on the market, sold, and moved to Sunland.
  • Offbeat L.A.: A Cherry on Top- Fosters Freeze, the History of California’s Original Soft Serve. I had never realized that Fosters Freeze had originated in Los Angeles, the product of an attempt to bring Dairy Queen to LA. I’ve enjoyed them over the years (particularly, the fudge dip that crunches afterwards). Interesting read.
  • Want to Make America More Inclusive? Start With Stamps. I used to be a stamp collector. I guess I still am, although I haven’t updated the collection in years. Stamp collecting has gone out of favor as a hobby, with the advent of self-adhesive stamps (that don’t soak off), pre-printed postage, and the decline in physical mail. Stamps are interesting, and have always been a reflection of a country in its values. The linked article looks as how America and other countries demonstrate their inclusivity through the images they put on their stamps (and the people that end up collecting them).
  • Pacific Bus Museum in Fremont: showcasing a piece of Bay Area history. I’m into transit history: be it trains, planes, automobiles or buses. I’m a member of a train museum, but I haven’t seen a similar attempt to save buses. Well, until I read this article.
  • Going to Universal Studios Hollywood with food allergies. As a reference for those attending this year’s ACSAC — an article on dining at Universal with allergies. Alas, the picture isn’t the greatest at the present time. Disney still wins hands down in this competition.

 

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userpic=metrolinkWhile eating lunch, I’ve been staring at an article from Curbed LA titled “West Hollywood Refusing to Let Metro Rail Pass It By”. The gist of the article is that West Hollywood is trying to convince Metro to extend the a-buildin’ Crenshaw line northward to West Hollywood, connecting the neighborhood not only to Metro’s system, but also directly to LAX. A feasibility study is needed to determine the exact route a train line would take to WeHo, but the advocates for this proposal are hoping for a route that spans from San Vincente to Santa Monica Boulevard. The train would run completely underground, making it’s way through West Hollywood before connecting with the Red Line at Hollywood and Highland.

Here’s the map from their website:

First and foremost, haven’t they seen Volcano? You don’t build a rail line near Cedars-Sinai; it only will create a canal for the magma.

Seriously, it appears that whomever is proposing doesn’t understand the problems with the rail network in LA. The Expo, Green, and a-buildin’ Crenshaw line are all above ground light rail. Overhead caternary. The Red and Purple lines are underground, third rail. Yet this proposal shows the above ground line connecting with the underground line. At the present time, there’s only one place where that happens: The blue/red line connection downtown, and there the blue line is on the upper platform and doesn’t travel more than a few blocks underground. This proposal would have the Crenshaw extension traveling multiple miles underground with overhead caternary, and connecting to *existing* Purple and Red stations (or heaven forfend — new stations). Connecting to an existing station with a different power system means you need to be on a different level, making tunneling and construction even more difficult.  Of course, there’s also the fact that this is geologically unstable land through oil and gas fields.

There’s also the issue of how this would cross the Santa Monica Freeway, and where it would safely go underground.

This won’t happen.

If West Hollywood wants a rail line, their better bet would be to jump on the eventual line that will run from Westwood to the San Fernando Valley under the Santa Monica Mountains. They could come off the Westwood spur, and possibly coordinate for an underground connection at Hollywood and Highland. Of course, that does mean tunneling under Beverly Hills.

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Observation StewYesterday was a crazy day, and I didn’t get the news chum stew on the stove. Today is chilly and rainy, so I’ve made an extra big pot:

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userpic=travelToday’s news chum post continues the trend of using a song lyric in the title. Does anyone recognize the song? If you figure it out (or cheat), I’ll note that even thought the line fits the post, the overall song doesn’t really. In any case, today’s post — focused on going nowhere — is about transportation in the news. Transportation, in fact, that may get us nowhere fast. Here are a few transportation articles I’ve corrected, while I eat my lunch…

 

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userpic=theatre2Continuing the process of cleaning out the accumulated links, as themed link three-sets form like hurricanes in the Central Pacific…. This collection all relates to upcoming theatre productions that don’t leave me with a good anticipatory feeling:

  • Jordanian Adaptation of Oliver!. Lionel Bart’s musical, Oliver!, is a well known adaptation of Charles Dicken’s “Oliver Twist“. One of the more problematic features of Oliver Twist (a story I happen to like) is the potentially antisemitic portray of Fagin, the old man who runs the gang of thieves. The musical version made a distinct attempt to tone down the antisemitism (especially when it came to Broadway — if you contrast the original version from the West End). So naturally, hearing that this show will be done in an Arab country — an area where antisemitism isn’t only common but encouraged — doesn’t bode well.  Adding to the fear is the following note from the article: “Working with a local community center in the Jordanian capital, the story has been updated to a modern Arab city.” Let’s see: Lovable Jewish merchants running a gang of thieves in a modern Arab city. What could possibly go wrong?
  • K-Pop Adaption of In The Heights. Lin Manual Miranda’s musical In The Heights, was a hit when it reached Broadway in 2008. It brought a hispanic flavor to inner-city hip-hop with a language that theatre hasn’t seen before. Theatremania is reporting that the show is soon to open in Seoul Korea, with some footage already available. The musical will play the Blue Square Samsung Card Hall in Hannam-dong beginning September 4, with a cast led by several K-pop stars including Key of SHINee and Jang Dong-woo of INFINITE sharing the role of Usnavi. Mixing K-Pop stars and hip-hop. What could possibly go wrong?
  • I Can’t Hear You. There are loads and loads of shows planning to open on Broadway., from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s School of Rock to a musical version of American Psycho. But the mind boggles when it hears about another production planning for the Great White Way: The SpongeBox SquarePants Musical. Yup, and no, this isn’t a kids theatre show.  Nickelodeon will make its Broadway debut as a producer on the musical, with a score provided by a mixture of classic and contemporary rockers. The full list of composers was announced Aug. 31:  Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of the band Aerosmith, Tony winner Cyndi Lauper, They Might Be Giants, Jonathan Coulton, Dirty Projectors, The Flaming Lips, John Legend, Lady Antebellum, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, and T.I., with an additional song by David Bowie and additional lyrics by Jonathan Coulton. The plot is as follows: “The end is near. Only one sponge can save the day. But he’s going to need help from some of the greatest songwriters in rock and pop music history.” Again, what could possibly go wrong?

P.S.: I can’t resist adding a non-theatre item that also strikes fear in my heart. In Los Angeles, Metrolink has indicated they are purchasing some state-of-the-art locomotives to replace their well worn engines. These Tier 4 locomotives are powerful, fuel-efficient vehicles designed to slash potentially harmful releases of nitrogen oxide and fine particles of diesel exhaust. They also have never been used in passenger service — and heavy service — before.  Metrolink officials say the Tier 4 engines have up to 1,700 more horsepower, use less fuel, have longer service lives and are more reliable than rebuilt engines.  However, Paul Dyson, president of the Rail Passenger Assn. of California, was concerned the new engines could have “plenty of teething problems” as they go into service, as they are so new they don’t have any service history for passenger use. Some Tier 4 engines are being tested for freight service at Union Pacific Corp. and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., two of the nation’s largest carriers. Lena Kent, a spokesperson for BNSF, said the railroad’s prototypes have “experienced operating issues,” but she declined to elaborate.

Here’s where I get worried. McCarthy, Metrolink’s deputy chief, disagreed with Dyson, saying all Tier 4 components have been tested successfully. “We are not concerned,” he added. “It’s a tried-and-true locomotive.” This reminds me of the High Assurance Brake Job; in particular, the process people. They may never have done a brake job before, but: “Well, no, but we’ve done other mechanic-type work before, and our processes are designed to be adaptable to all situations. We’ve got processes for making sure bolts and stuff are loosened and then tightened later. We’ve got processes to check that we don’t have left over parts when we’re done with the job. We got processes for…”

They’ve never run the locomotive in passenger service before, but all the components have been tested successfully. What could possibly go wrong?

P.P.S.: If you haven’t read the High Assurance Brake Job, you really must. It’s a classic (PDF).

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userpic=travelContinuing to clear out the links… here’s a collection of news chum all being related by the theme of travel or travelling:

 

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Observation StewAh, the weekend after Thanksgiving. Time to sit down to a hearty bowl of Turkey Stew, with nice chucks of news:

  • Smelling The Subway. This is a real interesting article (and quite likely of interest to Andrew Ducker and those in the UK). A fellow who has synaesthesia, a neurological condition which prompts an involuntary reaction to sensory experiences, tastes things that he hears. In particular, place names provoke real tastes and intense cravings for particular foods. Using this knowledge, he has made a “taste map” of the London Underground. For example, to this fellow, Tottenham Court Road provokes a particularly strong taste of a sausage and egg breakfast, whilst nearby Bond Street prompts the less appealing tang of hairspray. Among the flavors that appear on the map are apple pie, bubble and squeak, HP sauce, purple grapes, chicken soup and soft boiled egg. Others include sweets such as love hearts, poppets, soft wine gums and jelly tots. Obscure flavors include coal dust, putrid meat, burnt rubber, wet wool, pencil eraser, fuzzy felt and dried blood.
  • Shel Silverstein. One of my favorite warped authors is Shel Silverstein. His kids stuff is great; his adult stuff is even better. He was also an accomplished songwriter, penning many folk and comedy songs. Here’s an interesting article on the unlikely way he rose to fame. Here’s a hint: Whenever you read his children’s stuff, look for the hidden subversive adult message.
  • I’m Bored. Many of us, I’m sure, get bored. But most of us don’t make it their job to boredom. Luckily, there are researchers that do. Did you know, for example, that there are five types of boredom … one more than researchers expected? (Well, you did if you were bored enough to listen to Wait Wait).  The types of boredom that they expected were: (1) Indifferent boredom, a relaxing and slightly positive type of boredom that “reflected a general indifference to, and withdrawal from, the external world”; (2)Calibrating boredom, the slightly unpleasant state of having wandering thoughts and “a general openness to behaviors aimed at changing the situation”; (3) Searching boredom, the kind that makes you feel restless and leaves you “actively seeking out specific ways of minimizing feelings of boredom”; and (4) Reactant boredom, which is so bad that it prompts sufferers “to leave the boredom-inducing situation and avoid those responsible for this situation (e.g., teachers).” What they discovered was a fifth type of boredom: Apathetic boredom. I’d go on, but I’m sure you’re bored by now.
  • Next on Wait Wait. Do you ever see scientific studies, and go “That’ll be on Wait Wait”. Here’s one for Wait Wait: Sexual frustration decreases lifespan — at least in flies. Specifically, the chemical attractant wafting from a female fruit fly shortened the lifespan of male flies when the femme fatale didn’t deliver on the signal’s promise, according to a new study.
  • Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning. I’m a morning person. In fact, I often get up just shortly before my alarm goes off. Turns out, there’s a reason why. It’s due to having a very accurate body clock. The body happens to love predictability. Your body is most efficient when there’s a routine to follow. So if you hit the hay the same time each night and awake the same time each morning, your body locks that behavior in.  The implication of this, of course, is that having constantly changing bedtimes and waking times puts stress on your body. That’s one of the reasons that, for me, sleeping me means sleeping until 530am.
  • Good News for Steve Stepanek. Dr. Steve Stepanek is one of the folks I work with regularly at CSUN, as he is head of the Computer Science Liaison Council. The Daily Sundial is reporting that Steve just got elected to the CSU Board of Trustees. That’s great news — they’ve got a great educator, an engineer, and a computer scientist (as well as a train aficionado) as a member.
  • Eating the Brain. One last science related item: Scientists have discovered an overlooked type of brain cell that may be responsible for learning. What it does is prune connections (essentially, eating them) in the brain, permitting new connections (and thus new learning) to be recorded. This could carry important implications for the battle against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, for psychiatric disorders, and for the nagging loss of memory that comes with aging.

 

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userpic=observationsIt’s Saturday. It’s lunchtime. It’s 105.7°F in the shade on the back porch. You know what that means — it is time to fry us up (on the sidewalk, ‘natch) some tasty News Chum, using those links we saved earlier in the week. Better eat it quick, before it spoils in the heat:

Music: Memories (Barbra Streisand): “My Heart Belongs To Me”

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userpic=las-vegasToday’s lunchtime “News to Chew On”™ deals with relics. No, I’m not talking about the US Postal Service, which has decided to stop Saturday delivery in August. Rather, I’m talking about architectural relics:

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userpic=lougrantToday’s collection of lunchtime news chum brings together a number of articles all connected through a great city and great country, in fact, a Great Britain….

 

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userpic=vanpoolingBy now, everyone knows that the fiscal cliff has been averted, and a compromise bill passed. What you probably don’t know is everything that was in the bill. It is your usual mix of good and bad, but there is some good news for those of us that commute via shared rides (buspools, vanpools): the commuter tax benefit has been restored. According to LA Metro:

As part of the fiscal cliff legislation adopted by the Senate and House yesterday, a provision was included that will extend (through December 31, 2013) the increase in the monthly exclusion for employer-provided transit and vanpool benefits from $125 to $240.  By increasing the monthly exclusion for transit and vanpool participants, the benefit now matches those provided for employer-provided parking benefits.

Further, according to the American Public Transportation Association:

Under the new “fiscal cliff” legislation passed by Congress this week, the parity between public transit and parking benefits are now up to $240 a month and are retroactive from January 1, 2012. This will expire on December 31, 2013.

This is a significant jump, and drastically reduces commuting costs. I have no idea whether “the ranch” will provide the retroactive side of the benefits; I could see that as an accounting nightmare.

There were also improved benefits for those that used Compressed Natural Gas (CNG): “Also included in the fiscal cliff legislation was a provision to extend, for one year, the CNG tax credit. In addition to being extended through December 31, 2013, the CNG tax credit language included in the final bill provides for the tax credits to be retroactive for 2012.” This is of significant benefit to public transit agencies.

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Well, it’s Friday at lunch, and you know what that means–it is time to clear out the bookmarked links that didn’t quite form into themes (although, as I type in the times, there does seem to be a general transportation/travel theme). So here we go… (and as a reminder, I’m still looking for thoughts regarding use of iTunes 11 with the iPod Classic):

  • Three-Cylinder Power. This article from the LA auto show caught my eye. Evidently, Ford has a new 3-cyl. Fiesta, and the engine is designed in such a way as to give more power than a conventional 4-cyl. engine. The trick is to turbocharge the engine, combined with patented engine mounts and with weights installed outside the engine, on the pulley and flywheel to address the inherent unbalance of 3 cyl. If this approach works, I’m guessing we’ll see some revolutionary strides in small car efficiency.
  • Subway Problems. We all know how Super-Storm Sandy knocked out the NYC Subway system. What you probably don’t know is the work involved in getting it running again. Here’s an interesting article on why it is going to take a long time to restore the R train tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan. One of the longest tunnels, it saw all of its electrical equipment coated in salt water. Not good.
  • Busing It. Megabus is returning to California, with low-price tickets between Vegas, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Oakland to Union Station. This is of particular interest to me, as it provides an easy way for my daughter to get from Berkeley to Los Angeles (and then Red Line or Metro-Link to the valley). However, as the service is run by Coach USA, I’m unsure it will last (given Coach USA’s problems — they used to run the Flyaway). Still, I hope it succeeds.
  • The Cost of Hotels. LA Observed has an interesting discussion on why hotels cost so much, working off an article from Slate. There are a number of basic reasons: travellers tend not to bargain (especially when on expense accounts), and hotels don’t need to discount all rooms (they can discount the unsold few at the last minute). [By the way, this may be similar to the demand pricing Megabus uses to discount tickets -- a few tickets purchased really early may be cheap, and tickets purchased at the very last minute may be cheap.] The Slate article itself talks about the excessive taxes, location costs, and high level of services, but concludes “Hotel customers tolerate these marked-up amenities because they generally aren’t very interested in driving a hard bargain. The business traveler is likely to feel that he “needs” appropriately located accommodations and isn’t going to be interested in exhaustive research about the costs and benefits of staying someplace cheaper and more remote. What’s more, he’s generally not paying out of pocket. A responsible employee will of course try to be reasonably frugal, but even so frugality is benchmarked to local costs. “
  • Costs of Secession. We’ve all be reading about the secession petitions, and even humorists have addressed the subject. But here’s a more interesting question: Suppose you have a DOD Security Clearance and sign a secession petition. Does that affect your security clearance? This article explores the question. When you think about it, it is a real issue: you have an individual who has just publically advocated working against the US government. Is that adverse information, and does it bring into question their loyalty to the US. As Ben Franklin once said, “Oh sure, harmless. I know how these things happen. You go to a couple of harmless parties, sign a harmless petition, and forget all about it. Ten years later, you get hauled up before a committee. No, thank you, I’m not going to spend the rest of my life writing in Europe.”
  • Gluten-Free Wheat? An intriguing article in the LA Times about some scientists who believe it is possible to engineer a wheat variety that goes not contain gluten. It might be possible, but I’m not sure I’d trust it… for a number of reasons. First, I would be far too afraid the processing would contaminate it with other wheat; secondly, I’m still unsure about engineered food.
  • Finishing With the Hat. And lastly, an interesting story about a woman who lost her hat while traveling. It was a hat her mother wore during her last days of chemo. How is she solving the problem… she’s putting the request on social networks.

P.S.: Received my first challenge coin today. Cool.

Music: Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me (Martin Short): “Glass Half Full”

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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