I never do this, but…after watching this video for the fourth or fifth time over the last year, I feel the need to simply ‘share’ it, with relatively little comment. Take an hour out of your day to give it a proper listen, especially if you’re a planner or you’re otherwise working in government. If you’re a ‘millennial’ like me, a group disjoint with the previous one, watch it with caution perhaps; Duany has a great many good ideas to offer, along with the observation that there’s not much we in particular can do about them. Except move to where the government is more fully broken than here.
There’s not much to the visual, so you can just listen and not miss much.
Star Wars is not a story of a war between stars but a war about them. Stars set the scale of the series, it’s characters travelling in great loops about their massive references, always thinking on the scale of planets and moons and whole races of people. As the scale of their epic battle dictates the scale of their thoughts and attacks, so cars set the scale of our struggle today. Our American lives orbit these machines.
At the height of the battle we see our powerful protagonists, the rich, on the edge of a knife splitting between dark and light, seclusion or civilization. The tide is turning, and the rebel alliance may gain the upper hand…
Just some preliminary results from my first attempt to archive real-time bus data, these from the Champaign-Urbana ‘Mass Transit’ District:
This is a look at variance in the distribution of delayed buses throughout the day. It’s only looking at off-schedule buses right now so we aren’t seeing any change in the proportion of precisely on-time buses (if there is any such change). The little clock in the top right is the time of day the event was recorded, and right below that is the number of events used to ascertain the momentary distribution. For now, this sample size is as much a reflection of when I was running my computer as it is of schedule frequency.
I assumed that the first and last percentiles of the overall distribution were outliers and clipped them off.
I don’t actually see much going on here except random fluctuation, but I suspect this will get much more interesting with larger samples and many more and more diverse agencies included. I’m actually quite eager to see what that turns up! Right now, I’m working on developing a tool to query APIs from the Toronto Transit Commission and Philly’s SEPTA. Unfortunately, because neither Cincinnati transit agency is willing to share their data, which they’ve been collecting and using for years, it will be impossible to include them in this sort of analysis.
So far I know for a fact that bike maps have been dropped off in the following locations, though I’m certain there are others:
Spun Bicycles, Northside
Reser Bicycle Outfitters, Newport
SORTA and TANK (downtown store in the Mercantile Center, also handing them out at events)
Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce (HYPE, etc)
City of Cincinnati Bicycle program (City Hall, handing them out at events)
Campus Cyclery, Clifton Heights
Smitty’s Cyclery, Mariemont
DAAP, various places around the building
Green Umbrella (handing them out at events)
Coffee Emporium, Downtown
Rohs St Cafe, Clifton Heights
Groundwork Mill Creek
Park & Vine, OTR
UC Blue Ash Campus
UC Tangeman University Center, main entrance, with the transit schedules near the ATM
Queen City Bike (handing them out at events)
UC Geography Department (fourth floor Braunstein Hall)
UC Bike Kitchen
The North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) 2014 annual meeting, Pittsburgh
Crazy Fox Saloon, Newport
Iris Cafe, OTR
BunkHaus hostel, OTR
Rock Paper Scissors, OTR
I’ll keep adding to this list as I carry maps out the door. Check back! And as I said before, I’m happy to send a couple in the post if I haven’t made it to your neighborhood yet — or even if you’re out of town. Just send me an email with your address.
In response to a gratuitous question posed by a potential flatterer, I respond drunkenly:
“What needs fixed in Cincinnati? What would you change? Give me a bulleted list of projects. Things a person might actually do. Transportation related. And do it by tomorrow.” (I paraphrase)
Burn some off the transit agency boards. Replace them with people who use transit. In fact, do this to the whole administrative staff with few exceptions. Campaign of petty bothering until old people leave in frustration. Many are only there for the cushy seat anyway.
Raise the bar on the way we talk to transit users, beginning to really treat them like adults. No more streetcar toddling and ‘brt lite’. People can smell shit. Maps are just the start. It’s all the little things: the press releases, the inexplicable lack of real-time data, the metro fucking scavenger hunt, the greenwashing bullshit on billboards. Not one sane person rides the bus because it’s ‘green’. Just stop it. How? Someone needs the time to make unavoidably clear that speaking up to transit users is worthwhile and appreciated. Leading by example. Examples from other cities brought here, and local experiments to the verify foreign results.
Make clear the conceptual distinction between transportation advocacy and civic boosterism in popular discussion such as in the enquirer and certain other popular online discussion venues. Smart people must dog these forums and make this boundary clear. No big plan will get popular approval until it is seen as being out of the hands of the OTR set.
Stop the streetcar from dominating the discussion about transportation. See above point.
Wrest some authority from civil authorities in the field of planning and engineering. No one has the resources these agencies have. There is no one properly set up to counter their plans and proposals, to make counter-plans and counter-proposals in a serious way, except on an adhoc reactionary basis. But if there was…
Public information campaign making sense of the little things transit does that are different from cars. Average New Yorkers know this stuff. Why does the bus wait too long at the stop sometimes? What is bunching? what are the tradeoffs between stop spacing and speed? What are the tradeoffs between frequency and ridership and cost? What are the implications of a fare penalty? There is so much popular buzzing about capital project management, but this is worthless gossip.
Do a thorough and serious analysis of SORTA’s stops, with an eye to consolidating them to increase speed where doing so will have little or no negative impact on riders. And then just cut the bastards down. They’ll be a low priority for SORTA to replace even if they wanted to, and they probably don’t even want to; they just don’t have the nerve to do it themselves. Empirical justifications for the removal of each stop would be posted online (anonymously) after the fact and emailed to SORTA planners and board who can then defensibly say that they’re very sorry for this vandalism, but they have other priorities ahead of replacing the missing stops. In a year, no one remembers because it only ever bothered some curmudgeons and helped a great many people.
Break the seriousness that SORTA has slowly been building around their ‘brand’. A targeted campaign of mocking and general sillyness. A brand is something yet to be lost, and they must be willing to come to the table honestly and with nothing before change can happen. We all know the system is shit in at least a few ways. Everyone says it all the time. Let’s pop the bubble, break the facade, and get to the real conversation. Humbleness precedes learning.
Have a cathartic smashing of cars on fountain square. Properly claim some space for humans. Screw these pathetic ‘parking days’. Let’s make a sacrifice and show we mean it. Let’s haul the beast up a pole as a totem to remind the future of our shame, letting it rust and die in step with our suburban legacy. A king beheaded.
Letters to the editor, etc, exposing SORTA’s ridiculous dissembling regarding the real-time transit data that they’ve been collecting already for years. We know it’s there. We can see they have it! I will count off the excuses they’ve made on my fingers if you ask me. The other hand will refute them.
Get a team of artists who use transit to design for the agency, from outside of it. None of this decorating stops crap. Let’s make this experience beautiful and more than dignified. The atrium of union terminal sets an example on too big scale. Little things could go a long way without costing millions. Millions will flow downhill when the point is proved.
Thorough criticism of all transportation plans, published consistently on a set schedule after plans are released for ‘public consumption’. Peer review! “Please see our comments, make the changes and resubmit…”. Who watches the watchers? When certain of the public are as fit or more than they, the answer is clearly a matter of funding. Critical review will change the expectations from political to professional and engender pride in good work. This is part of a broader effort to partially reclaim planning as a profession apart from democratic whims.
Restart OpenDataCincy, which stopped meeting and moving when it’s staff person left town. Funding for the project seems to have gone with her. She had seemed to be making real ground in getting the public access to the tools they need to converse compete with governments.
Start a new bicycle advocacy organization. While there’s certainly a lot of hope for augmenting and growing QCB, it would probably be quickest to supersede and then subsume. This organization should have recreational riders as a secondary focus, with the increased possibility for vehicular transport cycling as the prime objective. This should be expected to draw a younger audience because it probably speaks more to the future. Most transport is not done for recreation after all; why should cycling try to be different?
Broker the start of a parking policy in downtown and OTR that charges at least a nominal amount for every single public parking space. Can be part of a ‘residential permit’ system. Ease people into ‘no free parking’ then raise rates later to discourage driving in marginal cases. I’d been working on this one for years already actually…
Spring in Our Steps. Excellent work ethic, brilliant and proven results, just add money(which buys a man’s time). They’re bringing dignity back to the humans out in carland.
Transit map design, printing and distribution. I left off there, but someone should be paid to pick it up. SORTA pays loads for someone to do this, just not someone who does it well. Until fixed infrastructure like catenary wires or very frequent buses insist on their own presence, we should pound the image of the network into our collective knowledge. Think of the ubiquity of the NYC metro map. Maps should be distributed everywhere buses go. They should be mailed to every city resident on a postcard each year. They should be placed as ads in the enquirer. SORTA already pays for such ads, but of useless silly things that tell us nothing.
Speaking of maps, it would be crazy helpful to get a map or even just a consolidated and up-to-date list of intercity transit providers, allowing us to compare travel times and prices. If I want to go to NYC, I should be able to easily compare megabus(X), delta, the air-shuttle, greyhound, Amtrak, the chinatown bus… and on and on. I tried to go to Louisville recently and, absurdly, couldn’t find a satisfying way to do it. I should have known this before. I want to see what my options are, and other people do too.
…I’m going to bed now.
…so susceptible an ego.
I write these things for you too, my readers, because I think an honest word is worth at least four silences — and because of point two: treat people like they’re capable of an adult conversation and perhaps they will be. Whether you care to surpass my bombast or surcease it, I’ll see all comers to the debate.
A friend of mine just emailed with a very good question: Why do the buses just stop sometimes, with no one getting on or off, no traffic jam, etc, and no clear reason why they aren’t running?
The buses here operate on a fixed schedule, with a set time for each and every stop. Planners try to adjust these times to accommodate varying traffic conditions like rush hours and other factors. Obviously, they can’t do this perfectly, and sometimes buses tend to run late, ie slower than the schedule says they ought to. Just as often, they should tend to get early. This can happen if traffic is particularly light, there aren’t as many passengers as usual, or maybe the bus just hits a string of green lights. When that happens, the driver tries to stay on-schedule by driving more slowly, or sometimes stopping completely. When they do stop completely, they’ll often take the opportunity to read a couple pages of their magazine, send a text, take a bite of lunch, etc.
To someone who doesn’t know what’s going on, it probably looks like the driver is behaving quite capriciously. Many systems make announcements explaining any longer-than-usual waits, but I’ll speculate that SORTA and TANK don’t do this because they’re not seriously trying to attract or retain new passengers. They see themselves as serving a relatively captive and stable audience who has already spent a lot of time learning the system’s quirks. This also explains their complete inattention to providing easy-to-understand overviews of the system in favour of obtuse and overly detailed maps and schedules.