Felix Salmon

How roads could beat rail

The best conference panels, like the best blog posts, are the ones which change your mind. And while I haven’t done a U-turn on anything, after yesterday’s panel on smart cars I’m now thinking very differently about the relative merits of various ways of improving how we move around where we live and travel. While I’ve generally been a fan of just about any alternative to the automobile, now I’m not so sure: I think that smart car technology is improving impressively, to the point at which it could be the most promising solution, especially in developed parts of the world like California.

The problems with measuring traffic congestion

Back in July, I gave a cautious welcome to TomTom’s congestion indices. The amount of congestion in any given city at any given time does have a certain randomness to it, but more data, and more public data, is always a good thing.

Traffic congestion datapoints of the day

TomTom has released its first congestion indices today, comparing 31 cities in Europe and 26 cities in the US and Canada. (They call that North America, which is a bit disappointing, because I’d dearly love to see how Mexico City compares to other North American cities, and it’s not on the list.) The rankings are interesting, but even more interesting, to me, are the way that the rankings have changed over the past year.

The case of the $400 million bike lane

Everybody’s favorite transportation geek, Charles Komanoff, has a fascinating new paper out on the economics of New York’s new Tappan Zee Bridge. The old bridge is decrepit, and needs to be replaced — everybody agrees on that. And the replacement is now in the works, at a cost of $5.2 billion. But does it need to cost that much? Komanoff makes a strong case that it doesn’t.

Market failure of the day, Connecticut commuter department

Shelly Banjo’s article about the multi-year waiting lists for parking spots at Connecticut train stations is going somewhat viral, for good reason:

New Jersey’s stupid parking-privatization plan

In cases like that of the Chicago parking meters, I have a certain amount of sympathy for the privatization argument. But New Jersey Transit parking spaces aren’t Chicago parking meters, and so I’m entirely in agreement with Yonah Freemark that privatizing NJ Transit’s parking lots is a very bad idea.

The congestion pricing debate

I recorded a lively sit-down discussion today with Charles Komanoff, the subject of my Wired article; Reihan Salam; Skymeter CEO Kamal Hassan; and Corey Bearak of Keep NYC Free. We were safely ensconced in Reuters’s fourth-floor studio overlooking the traffic of Times Square, and the full talk should be available on Friday. But here’s a couple of teasers, courtesy of Hassan: firstly, might it be possible to implement a de facto congestion-pricing scheme using only parking fees, with no fees for driving? Is that the way Chicago is headed? And secondly, did you know that after London implemented its Congestion Charge, subway ridership went down, rather than up?

Tolling the Cross Bronx Expressway

Those who live close to it won’t be surprised to hear that the Cross Bronx Expressway is officially the most congested road in the US. It has an astonishing ability to instil deep-seated passions in drivers: