No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

Archive for the 'Transportation' Category

July 18, 2011

Living with 56 mpg

by @ 12:33. Filed under Envirowhackos, Transportation.

After I read Jazz Shaw’s series of posts on the Obama administration’s plan to raise the CAFE average to 56 mpg by 2025 (part 1, part 2), I was reminded of a story Car and Driver did back in the day on life at 40 mpg. Let’s take a trip into the future with the vehicles from today that at least come close to 56 mpg.

Before I get to the meat of the matter, however, there’s a couple of explanatory notes that need to be made. First, there is a significant diference between CAFE mileage and the mileage one sees on the sticker of the car. Last year, Popular Mechanics estimated that 35 CAFE mpg, a bit higher than the 34.1 CAFE mpg that is mandated for 2016, translated to between 26 and 27 mpg on the EPA combined sticker. That would suggest that 56 CAFE mpg would translate to about 42-43 mpg on the EPA combined sticker. That’s a good thing because nothing on the lot today gets 56 combined EPA mpg.

Between 2011 and early 2012 models, the Department of Energy says there are exactly three gasoline/diesel models, plus 3 electric-only models that will be ignored as Obama famously said “…electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket.” and (possibly, depending on the mix of electric- and gas-powered driving) one plug-in hybrid model, that meet the 42 combined EPA mpg standard. Even after knocking down the standard to 40 combined EPA mpg, we have added one more model (plus the 2011 version of a 2012 model that is rated at above 42 combined EPA mpg). Therefore, I’ll “cheat” some more and consider cars that are rated at a minimum of 35 combined EPA mpg (plus the 2011 Volkswagen and Audi diesels that get a 34 combined EPA mph rating based on the fact that the one 2012 VW diesel model in the database, which is larger than any model in the 2011 VW non-SUV TDI lineup, barely cleared the 35 combined EPA mpg mark).

There are three things that you won’t find in this lineup – SUVs, pick-up trucks, and minivans. The highest-mileage SUV is the Ford Escape Hybrid (and its rebadged siblings), which gets 32 combined EPA mpg in front-wheel-drive and 29 combined EPA mpg in all-wheel-drive models. The highest-mileage minivans are the 6-passenger “micro-van” Mazda 5 (24 combined EPA mpg with no cargo capacity if more than 4 passengers are in the vehicle), the 5-passenger cargo-minivan-based Ford Transit Connect Wagon (23 combined EPA mpg) and the “traditional” 7-passenger minivan Honda Odyssey (22 combined EPA mpg with the optional 6-speed automatic transmission). The highest-mileage pickups are the compact 2WD Ford Ranger (24 combined EPA mpg with the manual and 4-cylinder), the lighter-duty-than-its-full-size-suggests Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid (21 combined EPA mpg in both 2WD and 4WD configurations), and the compact/mid-sized 4WD Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon (20 combined EPA mpg in either manual or automatic 4-cylinder versions).

None of the 16 models (plus siblings) that meet the mileage mark appear to be rated for towing, so the biggest water craft that they can transport is a canoe tied to the top (which really kills the aerodynamics and thus mileage). None of them can carry more than 5 people, so large families are out of luck. The highest-capacity version offers but 67 cubic feet of cargo capacity, so if you want to move that couch from one place to another, call up U-Haul.

I don’t have the budget that the car magazines do, so I’m going off their driving impressions. Now, let’s see what’s left to ply the roads in the ObamiNation:

Jr’s first car – Smartfortwo pure coupe (36 combined EPA mpg)

I’ll ignore the fact that this cheap little two-seater requires premium fuel to get its 36 combined EPA mpg. It is, by at least $6,000, the cheapest car of the contenders. Of course, the fact that it is literally half a car might have something to do with that.

Parents will like the fact that there isn’t a back seat and that Jr. can’t get the 70-horsepower car going fast enough to get into serious trouble. The problem is that it is entirely unsuitable for domesticated life with just the two seats and the tiny trunk.

The family sedan – Toyota Prius (50 combined EPA mpg)

Like the gang at the original version of “Top Gear”, I hate this car with a passion. Testers who care about performance have, until the latest version with the handling option, uniformly ripped the sterile driving environment. Other contenders, like the Ford Fusion hybrid and the Hyundai Sonata hybrid, offer more passenger room, especially in the back seat. However, the Fusion and the Sonata give up a lot of trunk space to accomodate the battery pack, while the Prius’ purpose-built hatchback trunk has 21.5 cubic feet of space. That allows for easier re-creations of “National Lampoon’s Vacation”.

The commuter car – Honda Civic hybrid (2012 version, 44 combined EPA mpg)

The first rule of commuting is to have a balance between city and highway mileage. One can’t get more balanced than the 44 EPA mpg city and 44 EPA mpg highway the 2012 model is rated. The second rule is that it be big enough to actually handle a carpool, which rules out the Smart. The third is that it be bland, and recent Civics are, outside the Si, bland. It’s also not the family hauler, so you won’t have to get the “My other car is also a Prius” bumper sticker (assuming, of course, you can afford 2 cars in the ObamiNation).

For just the briefest of moments, I had considered the Chevrolet Volt. However, once the electricity runs out, the EPA estimates that it would get a mere 35 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. Besides, there’s this little matter of necessarily-skyrocketing electric rates.

The “Mid-Life Crisis” car – Volkswagen Golf TDI (34 combined EPA mpg)

This is an exceedingly-hard category to fill as neither of the two contenders that actually get 35 combined EPA mpg are worthy of being called sports cars. The Smartfortwo cabriolet has the same wimpy drivetrain as the coupe. The CVT-equipped Honda CR-Z couldn’t break 9 seconds in the 0-60 mph test, and only Motor Trend found a way to get the manual version (which gets only 34 combined EPA mpg) to do that. Worse, while the manual version felt somewhat like a car that was comfortable being tossed about, the CVT didn’t exactly like it. Fortunately, the just-shy-of-35 combined EPA mpg (34) Golf TDI picked up the slack. Both Car and Driver and Motor Trend noted the TDI acted a lot like the sporty GTI in the twisties, and nothing that qualifies for the ObamiNation roads gets to 60 mph faster.

For those of you about to complain about whether the VW TDIs belong in this group, I can only offer an ancedotal bit of evidence that suggests the EPA is a bit conservative in their estimation. My father owns a 2009 Jetta TDI, and in the 6 months he doesn’t have to use the winter blends of diesel, he’s able to average better than 35 mpg in mostly short-distance suburban driving and bump it up to over 40 mpg on the highway. Of course, once the temperature drops and the service stations have to throw additives into the fuel to keep it from gelling, the mileage drops like a rock.

The light-duty cargo hauler – Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI (manual only, 34 EPA combined mpg)

Again, I had to cheat on the 35 combined EPA mpg by one to get something with hauling capacity, and I had to toss the automatic because its 33 combined EPA mpg is too low. If the upcoming Toyota Prius V wagon’s stats were verifiable instead of being estimates obtained by Edmund’s (44 EPA mpg city/40 EPA mpg highway/34 cubic feet behind the back seat/67 cubic feet behind the front seat), it would have won the category by default.

Instead, we’re left with another of Volkswagen’s oil-burners, at least for those who can handle a clutch. Its 32.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seat easily beats the next-best Prius’ under-22 cubic feet behind the seat and comes close to the 39.6 cubic feet Edmund’s measured behind the Prius’ front seat. Fold the Jetta’s seats down and that expands to 66.9 cubic feet.

The personal luxury car – Lincoln MKZ Hybrid (39 combined EPA mpg)

How did Ford take a rebadged version of its small family hauler, hybridize it, and beat two Lexus hybrids? The trifecta of “mainstream” car magazines unanimously say that it feels more like the standard MKZ than the Lexus hybrids feel like “real” Lexuses. It doesn’t hurt that the base Fusion Hybrid is a very competent car (more on that in a bit).

The limousine/taxi – Volkswagen Passat TDI (35 combined EPA mpg)

It’s all about the rear seat, and nothing in the group comes close to the 39.1 inches of rear-seat legroom in the Passat. Add in a group-leading 57.0 inches of shoulder room and a not-exceeded 37.8 inches of headroom, and a sedan-leading 15.9 cubic feet of trunk space, and the few people who can afford to be driven around might for just a second forget the Crown Vic, the Town Car and the DTS that currently serve these roles.

The cop car – Ford Fusion Hybrid 39 combined EPA mpg)

This one is pretty much by default – only the Fusion (and its corporate siblings) and the Chevrolet Volt are from the Big Three, and the, General Motors entry is rather lacking in both size and performance. That isn’t to say it’s a bad default from the performance side – the Fusion is able to hit 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds, hang onto the skidpad to the tune of around 0.8 g, and, unlike Car and Driver’s choice back in the day of the Honda CRX HF for this role, transport prisoners. Of course, the 11.8-cubic-foot trunk is barely half the 21 cubic feet found in the Ford Police Interceptor (and also smaller than that in the Dodge Charger or Chevrolet Impala), so some of the gear the average officer hauls around “just in case” won’t be there.

November 19, 2010

In Defense of the TSA

by @ 15:10. Filed under Free Shoebox, Transportation.

In recent weeks, the TSA has evolved from being the answer to jokes about government ineptness to the leading face on America’s Most Wanted due to activities that are at best, border line criminal. The change in notoriety is a result of the TSA’s deployment of the back scatter X-ray machines combined with new standard operating procedures. The new SOPs have TSA agents doing “aggressive” pat downs to anyone who does not pass through “normal” screening. With increasing cries from the public about “sexual harassment,” several airports are now weighing whether to exercise their “opt out option” which would terminate the TSA and have security provided by a private firm at the opting airport. While I’m all for shrinking government and privatization of government services, allowing individual privatization of airport security will not solve the customer service issue and in fact, will make it worse.

First, my bona fides: For several years prior to and subsequent to 9/11, I was one of Northwest Airlines most beloved customers. Don’t be confused, while I paid lots of money for lots of flights on NWA, for which they loved me, I never once saw any indication of their appreciation. NWA employees never showed any favoritism to those of us who contributed most to their livelihood. They sneered and snarled at coach and first class customers equally. But, I digress. While my travel had dropped off for a few years, I again became a most beloved customer this year with Southwest Airlines….and they do love me!

As further bona fides, I’ve had my issues with the TSA. For those who don’t regularly follow the blog you can check out some of my fun here, here, here, and here.

I give you this list of bonafides so you know I have/do travel alot and that I’m not a lover of the mental vacuity that is the TSA.

So why am I defending the TSA?

Prior to 9/11, traveling by air, while not glamorous, was easy. I remember many a trip where I would get to the airport 25 minutes before departure and made the flight with the plane door grazing my backside as it closed. Of course, that all changed with 9/11.

Security procedures implemented post 9/11, were challenging. Lack of equipment, buildings that weren’t designed for large holding areas and confusing rules were all part of the challenges for the first weeks and months following 9/11. Additionally, you might remember that while the TSA was officially formed shortly after 9/11, it was private security companies that actually performed the airport screening while the TSA staffed up. It’s this last issue that concerns me with the cries for abandoning the TSA.

I believe an honest assessment of the year that private companies were providing airport security, would be hard pressed to find that “customer service” was any better than it was/is with the TSA using the same set of enforcement methods. In fact, my personal experience was that along with a bunch of people with Barney Fife kinds of attitudes, I was additionally subjected to security procedures that varied by airport. Each security company was interpreting the TSA rules and applying them in a fashion they determined appropriate. These variances not only caused high levels of frustration with the flying public but also had the impact of slowing the screening process as there wasn’t a routine that you could always depend on or prepare for. Cattle move in an orderly fashion when they know what to expect. Spook them or cause uncertainty, and it’s very hard to get them to move through the shoots.

My point is not that I support the TSA’s aggressive, personally violating tactics. While I’m always a supporter of outsourcing all government activities that can be done by private enterprise, I don’t believe replacing the TSA with private security firms will improve the customer friendliness. Iit will however, lead to an inconsistent enforcement of policies that the TSA itself can’t agree on.

The problem with airport security is not “who” is doing the security but “what” the security measures are. Having a private company employee grab my crotch (not to be confused with viewing my crotch for which I’m on record as being for,) makes me feel no less assaulted than having a government employee grab my crotch. In my mind, blowing TSA employees out of airport security may feel good (pun intended) but it would have no effect on the user experience without changing the mindset of the idiots who refuse to use proven methods including profiling rather than getting their jollies from groping elderly, Scandinavian descended, women.

Improving the security process has little to do with who is doing the process and everything to do with who the process is being done to. Until Congress grows a pair (easily verified by walking them each through a backscatter x-ray) and decides to not kowtow to the ACLU, we can expect an ever increasing loss of privacy that will be veiled under “increased security.”

Maybe it’s my age but I don’t have fantasies about having sex acts done to me in public. On the other hand, Congress has been screwing us for so long, I don’t think they consider public sex abherent behavior.

November 4, 2010

Half-Fast Lobbyist HO Train derailed?

by @ 16:47. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin, Transportation.

(H/T – J. Rawson Schaller)

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that, a few short days after Jim Doyle committed Wisconsin to spend all $810 million of Porkulus money earmarked for the Half-Fast Lobbyist HO Train between Milwaukee and Madison, the Department of Transportation sent out a notice to all contractors and consultants working on the rail line to stop working on it. While the contractors and consultants were not given any timeline on how long their work would be “on hold” (though if it is until January 3, it will be permanent), DOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi said that would be “for a few days” until the election results (which saw Scott Walker become governor-elect with historically-high Republican majorities in the Legislature, and commuter-rail-tax questions answered resoundingly in the negative every place it was on the ballot) are balanced against job losses when the work is stopped for good.

Speaking of that, DAAR Engineering, which has a $2.8 million construction management contract, said that they would be forced to lay off two (no, not two dozen, not two hundred, not two thousand) employees if work was permanently stopped. Let’s see – $2.8 million divided by at most 5 years of construction (yes, I’m being generous here), divided by 2 employees comes to $280,000 per job per year.

September 2, 2010

To quote Lombardi, “What the hell is going on out there?”

by @ 23:01. Filed under Transportation.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports one of the newest ramps constructed in the recently-reconstructed Marquette Interchange, the one from Wisconsin Ave./11th St. to I-43 South, was closed today after cracks were found in a vertical support pier that is inadequately designed to handle the load. HNTB, the design firm on the interchange rebuild, will be taking financial responsibility for fixing the 2-year-old structure.

The DOT said that inspections on the other piers in the Marquette show no signs of problems. Perhaps an independent engineering review of HNTB’s designs is in order.

That ramp placement was one of the last things decided upon when the DOT designed the reconstruction of the interchange. Originally, the DOT wanted to put that entrance on 11th and Tory Hill. I’m not going to claim credit (or blame) for having that entrance moved to Wisconsin, but at one of the design presentations (in 2003), I expressed concern over that placement because of the grade required to get from ground level to the High Rise Bridge, especially with metering planned for the ramp, and especially during winter.

April 2, 2010

The other two replacement bridges in the Zoo are running ahead of schedule

by @ 11:14. Filed under Transportation.

There’s good news for truckers who normally use the north-to-west and south-to-east ramps in the Zoo Interchange in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Barring unforeseen delays, traffic in the Zoo Interchange will be shifted onto two new bridges in late April or early May, several weeks ahead of schedule, project managers said Thursday.

Unlike the bogus “7-8 weeks ahead of schedule” given for the completion of the new northbound bridge through the interchange given when the old one was closed, this is a legitimate use of “ahead”. Kudos to the contractors, workers, and yes even the Department of Transportation for a job quickly done.

March 31, 2010

Shocker – the Barrett Bypass/Doyle Detour to end “early”

by @ 16:54. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin, Transportation.

The gang at the very-unofficial nailed the bullshit call on the 8-week closure timeframe trotted out by the DOT and dutifully parrotted by the LeftStreamMedia. Word has just come down that the new northbound US-45 span over eastbound I-94, which has been closed since last Friday, will reopen at 5 am tomorrow Friday morning. The Journal Sentinel’s Tom Held amazingly continues to parrot the government li(n)e that it is 7 weeks ahead of schedule.

News flash – as I noted when the old bridge was closed, the deck on the new bridge was already poured. All that remained to be done to put the new bridge into service was to let the concrete cure, put some asphalt down for the approaches, and restripe some lanes. Given the original closure limitation to nights and weekends, the original schedule of no full closure last weekend to do said approach work, and the fact it took half a weekend to pave the approaches, that delay is, depending on whether the work crews would have worked the holiday weekend or next weekend, either 4 or 11 days.

Revisions/extensions (5:02 pm 3/31/2010) – Somehow confused Thursday and Friday.

March 29, 2010

Deconstructing the Zoo Interchange Debacle

by @ 17:41. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin, Transportation.

Some semi-random thoughts on what has become the Barrett Bypass:

  • The moment I-94 between the airport and the Illinois border became the post-Marquette priority at the end of 2004, this became inevitable. The 2005 veto of engineering funds by Jim Doyle (supported by Tom Barrett) and the 2009 veto of most of the engineering funds (again a joint Doyle/Barrett production) would not have done anything to stop this. On the other hand, Barrett had a big hand in Doyle making that decision – at the time, it had been widely expected that the Zoo Interchange would be the post-Marquette priority, and Barrett’s staunch opposition to a Zoo rebuild that would accomodate an 8-lane Zoo-to-Marquette I-94 led Doyle to the “expedient” alternative.
  • That said, had the Zoo been rebuilt first, it is quite conceivable that before the Mitchell Interchange would have been rebuilt, it would have faced a similar situation. While those bridges (carrying traffic from I-894 to both directions of I-94, and to I-894 from northbound I-94) are 4 years newer than the Zoo bridges, they were of the same superstructure as both the failing Zoo bridges and the Marquette bridges.
  • The $1.2 billion that Doyle raided from the transportation fund is another key component. Do remember that on this type of project, the federal government typically pays for 80% of the cost. Thus, a $1.4 billion rebuild of the Zoo would have required $280 million from the state.
  • As for the $820 or so million for the car-speed train between Milwaukee and Madison’s airport, while that “stimulus” money is earmarked for that specific project, Doyle and company could have, instead of trying to cram commuter rail down our throats, applied to use that money for rebuilding the Zoo.
  • Bold prediction – once the last “original” bridge (the US-45 northbound bridge over I-94 westbound) is replaced (ahead of the 2016 “start date”), if Barrett’s governor, he’ll declare the Zoo fixed for “all time” (or at least until he departs the governor’s office). There are two bridges with rebuilt superstructures (the pair of US-45 southbound bridges, rebuilt in 1984).
  • If you believe that it will take until Memorial Day to open the northbound US-45 bridge, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. The deck of the new structure was already poured before the Friday closure. In fact, the guys at the very-unofficial blog are predicting the new bridge will be open before Opening Day (that would be next Monday).

March 26, 2010

Northbound US-45 through the Zoo Interchanged closed indefinitely

by @ 12:14. Filed under Transportation.

WTMJ-AM is reporting that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has closed the US-45 bridge over I-94 eastbound to all traffic because of additional cracks on the present bridge until its emergency replacement is in place. As part of the closures, the on-ramps to I-894/US-45 northbound from Greenfield, Lincoln and National Aves. are closed, and 84th Street at I-94, including the westbound off-ramp from I-94 to 84th, is closed to local traffic to facilitate the detour route (exit to I-94 eastbound, exit at 84th Street, enter I-94 westbound at 84th, and exit to US-45).

That particular bridge had also been subjected to a 30-ton weight limit since last August, with two other bridges (the south-to-east and north-to-west ramps) also subject to weight limits and an emergency replacement program. That had been scheduled to finish up at the end of May, with only nighttime and very-limited weekend closures.

I do have had a couple questions (one of them was answered in the video from WTMJ-TV)

The plan had been to use new alignments for the three movements affected. Specifically with respect to north US-45, that alignment was expected to have a design speed of only 50 mph, compared to the current design speed of 60 mph. With only preliminary work (at least as of the last time I went through the interchange) done on the US-45 north emergency bridge, and the opportunity to replace on the same alignment now available, will the DOT take advantage? Scratch that – that span is already largely in place. That also means it is likely that the closure will not be as long as Memorial Day.

– Given the northbound US-45 bridge over westbound I-94 (which also carries traffic going onto US-45 north from I-94 east) is of the same age and construction type, is that bridge going to remain standing until the interchange is rebuilt?

Revisions/extensions (12:44 pm 3/26/2010) – One of the questions I had appears to have been answered.

March 23, 2010

The world’s most-dangerous car is proving its title

by @ 8:41. Filed under Transportation.

(H/T – Huckleberry Dumbell)

When I previewed the Tata Motors Nano, I termed it the world’s most dangerous car. However, I didn’t think it would be a flaming deathtrap. From Engadget (note – link added to the text – Engadget had it on the pic):

According to Indian Autos Blog, the manufacturer is particularly well known for its combustible motorcars these days — back in 2009, three Nanos caught fire, and now we have pictures of the latest to go into flames, courtesy of an insurance agent Satish Sawant. Apparently, the auto dealership was delivering the vehicle to its new owner when a motorcyclist overtook the driver to get his attention — just like that old episode of CHiPs.

It brews up real nice.

January 13, 2010

Who Knew, I’m A False Positive!

by @ 5:36. Filed under Law and order, Transportation.

ACLU Official Says It Is Not Realistic to Screen Air Passengers Against the Full Terrorist Watchlist

Get this:

Former FBI agent Mike German, now a terrorism expert with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said that using the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) of 400,000-plus names to screen airline passengers was not realistic, and added that it was “fundamentally ridiculous” to think the list was not flawed.

Oh, yeah!  It’s particularly HIGHlarious for those us caught in its hilarity!

“One of the most disappointing things about the whole review of this situation was this idea that the terrorist watch-listing system is not, itself, broken, which is fundamentally ridiculous,” said German.

Ah yup!  Big 10-4 there!

German said on Monday that the terrorist watchlist system has been broken “for years,” pointing out that names were added to the list incorrectly while others were kept on the list after investigators had cleared them of any involvement with terrorists.

Well, I guess I should be thankful that my portion of the list has only been broken for 11 days!

“There were people who were put on the list appropriately because they were under investigation, but when the investigation cleared them, they weren’t taken off the list,” said German.  “There were people who were known terrorists, there were people who he [the IG] identified as known terrorists who were not on the list.”

Oh, don’t forget about the people who were put on the list inappropriately and whose paper work you “just can’t find!”

“The whole listing process is broken and needs a fundamental overhaul,” said German. “We’re creating a system of tremendous false positives. We’ve created a system that creates hundreds, and probably hundreds of thousands, of false positives every day.”

Hey, hey, over here.  I’m false positive number 1!

January 12, 2010

Trust Us!

by @ 5:20. Filed under Politics - National, Transportation.

That seems to be what the TSA is asking us to do as they look to deploy the full body scanners.

This article at outlines a battle between a civil rights group and the TSA over the capabilities and the implications of those capabilities, that the scanners have.  The civil rights group raises concerns about the storage and security of body images that are scanned.  The TSA claims that the scanners have no ability to store or transmit the images.  “Not so,” says the civil rights group who points to the design specs of the machines which required an ability to store and transmit an image.  “Relax,” says the TSA.  The store and transmit functionality is only there for testing of the machine.  The TSA further claims that no one at the airport can put the machine into “test mode” and that the machine itself has no storage capability.

You’re kidding right?  Why is it that bureaucrats continually think that the public is so naive and gullible?

First, technologies have advanced to the point where the scanning or processing device has no storage capacity on it.  Even so, is it really so difficult to have storage devices somewhere else on the network?  What?  they claim no network?  Well, that doesn’t pass the smell test.  The TSA tells us repeatedly that the people who review the scans are sitting somewhere completely removed from the scanners themselves.  Is the TSA suggesting that the images are being sent to these people via carrier pigeon? Or, do they want us to believe that the scanner and the viewing device are hardwired across the airport?  Are there cables running across the runways to some building on the other side of the airport?

Second, does anyone really believe that the scanned images are not being stored?  No images are being stored for training purposes?  No images are being stored to review in the event of a later identified security breach? The TSA is so confident about its legal position that it will save no images to combat the ACLU lawsuits?  Like hell.

Listen, I’m not saying not to do the body scanners.  Personally if I thought they would make us safer, I, like most men, don’t care.  Hell, I’ll walk through naked and not bat an eye although there may be a few TSA folks who would scream like someone just shot them in the retina with a laser!  On the other hand, most women I know react in abject horror to the notion of their under things (and I don’t mean clothing) being seen on a scanner. 

I’ve chronicled my own travails with the TSA.  You’ll have to take my word for it (unless you were at the Christmas DR where you could have personally verified it), I’m no threat to anyone.  But, under the guise of “doing something,” the TSA has made it significantly more inconvenient for me to fly.  I’ll guarantee you that if I got on board a plane, told everyone I was on the TSA list and asked if they felt safer as a result, not a person (assuming Mrs. Shoe wasn’t on the plane) would raise their hand to say, “Yes! 

The fact is that until the TSA is willing to start doing some level of profiling, be it identity or behavior, these scanners will not make us any safer than the scanners and processes being used today.  The only thing these scanners would do is allow the Obama administration to point to them and claim that they had done something in response to the Christmas bombing attempt. In short, this looks like yet one more “solution” brought to you by the people in housed in the Alfred E. Neuman federal building. Their only request is to trust them!

November 19, 2009

Delays have consequences, DOT edition

by @ 19:02. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin, Transportation.

A few years ago, Governor Jim “Craps” Doyle (WEAC/HoChunk-For Sale) and Milwaukee Mayor Tom “Milk Carton” Barrett conspired to delay the rebuilding of the Zoo Interchange, which links I-94, the northwest terminus of I-894, and US-45, in order to focus on rebuilding and widening the stretch of I-94 between the Mitchell Interchange (just north of the airport, which links I-94/US-41, the southeast terminus of I-894, and I-43) and the Wisconsin-Illinois state line. Indeed, with the effective elimination of funding for engineering work in the FY2010-2011 budget, the delayed target start date of 2014 was considered ambitious.

In August, the Department of Transportation placed weight limits on three of the bridges in the interchange due to deterioration:

– The northbound US-45 bridge over eastbound I-94 – 30 tons (3/4ths of the 40-ton national legal limit)
– The bridge connecting southbound US-45 and eastbound I-94 over westbound I-94 and US-45 – 35 tons
– The bridge connecting northbound I-894/US-45 to westbound I-94 over eastbound I-94 and southbound I-894/US-45 – 40 tons (which precludes use by any trucks with overweight permits)

Now, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that the DOT has issued a call for bids for the emergency replacement of those three bridges because follow-up inspections revealed that the three structures wouldn’t last until even 2012 as the supports are cracked and corroded. The estimated cost is somewhere between $12 million and $22 million, depending on how the replacements are done, with anticipated completion by Memorial Day weekend 2010.

Complicating matters are the closure requirements:

– No closures affecting more than one bridge at any time
– Except for a single weekend full closure per bridge, all shoulder or single-lane closures must be between 11 pm and 5 am

Given the other bridges in and just south of the interchange are of the same age, I have to wonder whether they’ll last until they’re replaced sometime after 2014.

August 17, 2009

The eventually-inevitable Barrett-Peters question

by @ 9:48. Filed under Transportation.

Headless Blogger asks it:

What was Trolley Tommy doing driving to the State Fair when there was cheap and convenient mass transit available to him?

Before some lefty decides to go off half-cocked, allow me to answer:

– Tom Barrett lives in the Washington Heights neighborhood (for you out-of-towners, it’s a very nice neighborhood west of the Stadium Freeway (US-41) between Vilet and North Avenues). Assuming everybody gathered at his house, the best transit option would be Route 76 (specifically, the one that goes to Southridge via 76th St.).

– That trip involves a 10-minute walk to 60th St, a bus ride to 76th and Greenfield, and an 8-minute walk into the fair. Given Barrett did not park on the Fairgrounds, I doubt walking would have been a problem.

– I don’t know the ages of his daughters or his niece, so I do not know whether they qualify for the $1 one-way trip given to those under 12 years. I do know that he and his sister would have been charged $2 for a one-way trip, so that would be $8 just for the two of them. Depending on the ages of the children, the total cost would be between $14 and $20.

– Speaking of parking, I don’t know whether Barrett availed himself of the lawn parking services that many of the residents around the Fairgrounds offer. If memory serves, they typically charge between $5-$10, with the higher amounts closer to the Fairgrounds. In fact, parking on the Fairgrounds is $10 during the Fair.

In short, Barrett made the economical decision that driving himself, his sister, two of his daughters and his niece to the Fair would be cheaper than taking public transit. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

September 10, 2008

Yoohoo, Socialized Medicine Fans….

by @ 5:21. Filed under Transportation.

High oil prices suck!   Airline fare prices are up, gas prices are up, prices for any good that uses petroleum to make it, or transport it, are up!

High oil prices suck!   But there is a silver lining.

USAToday reports with this headline:

Survey: Public transit pressures could hurt riders

Huh? What? How can that be? Haven’t the mass transit folks been crying, pleading and cajoling people to “Keep the Earth Green!” and ride mass transit? Yet, now that more people are riding mass transit, they’re having problems?

I’m sure you’re thinking, “This is temporary. They’ve gotten so much additional business so fast, they have a short term problem until they add more buses or choo choos or some other form of communal sweat sharing transportation vehicle to the inventory.” You might think that, but you’d be wrong!

According to the President of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), which represents transit agencies:

“We’re going to see more (fare) increases and more service cuts at a time when the nation is trying to encourage people to use public transit.”

It’s easy to understand the rate increases. Heck, they’re selling as much as they have. Any capitalistic marketer would increase their prices in a similar situation. But, decrease their service? How can they do that? Wouldn’t they want to add as much as they can while the demand is there? Yes they would, if they were making a profit!

The problem with public transportation is that they sell their service at a loss. Depending upon the system and the city, public transportation takes in between $.20 to $.50 for every dollar they spend. They epitomize the old marketing joke about selling at a loss and making it up in volume!

The transit systems all have budgets (of some kind) and because states and municipalities can’t print their own money, the transit systems must manage their systems within those budgets(at least until they come back and strong arm another tax increase from the morons taxpayers). The result is that when they have more ridership than their budget will handle, they cut services (routes) to try to manage to their budget.

What’s this got to do with socialized medicine? It works the same way.

If the US implements socialized medicine, there will be a budget for it. When services are provided for free or below their market rates (as we see in mass transit), the demand for the product inordinately increases because there are no natural price restrictions. Unfortunately, there will be restrictions on how much can be spent on the system, even if the Govt. is printing money. If you have no restrictions built in on the pricing side and you have a budget to stay within, there will have to be restrictions on the cost side. The result will be just like what is occurring to mass transit; services will be cut or rationed.

If you like the idea of the Govt. managing healthcare, stop and talk to someone who is dependent on mass transportation. Ask them what they think of the fare increases and the route cuts.

High oil prices do have  a silver lining; they teach us why socialized medicine won’t work.

August 18, 2008

Reason #983 to not leave commuting up to government

by @ 9:38. Filed under Transportation.

(H/T – Fred)

The Racine Journal Times reports that the bus drivers’ union in Racine, who have been working without a contract since July 1, is conducting a no-notice strike.

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