Apparently, many European traffic demand models are no better than the ones used in North America. This paper reviews a traffic model used in Copenhagen, and found that it was simply incapable of including long-term “induced traffic” (the “if you build it, they will come” phenomenon) in its forecasts. But when the model was tweaked to look at modest, short-term induced traffic, it predicted lower travel time savings, worse environmental impacts, and a worse cost-benefit ratio than the standard model runs with no induced traffic. In short: even in Europe, traffic models do a poor job of reflecting reality, and tend to overestimate the benefits of road construction.
The SOCCKET is the world’s first eco-friendly portable generator in the form of a soccer ball. Created for resource-poor communities in the developing world, the SOCCKET harnesses the kinetic energy generated during play with the ball, and stores it as electrical energy that can be used to power different appliances like lamps and water sterilizers.
Gives a whole new meaning to “plug and play,” no?
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For anyone who loves bicycles, train stations, Queen, and/or a good flash mob. (h/t Bicycle Alliance of WA)
If I had my way, every American would be required to read this history of “dark” campaign money—by Andy Kroll at Mother Jones.
Definitely worth a listen is this Radio Open Source interview with Dan Ariely on the irrationality of inequality in America. The gist is that we hugely underestimate the true degree of inequality in this country and then consistently offer up as our ideal a society where wealth is more evenly distributed (with a “polite American tilt toward privilege.”) Here’s the reality (you may have seen the chart floating around lately that shows estimated vs. actual vs. ideal wealth distributions—you can see Ariely’s version here:
The top 20 percent of the people in fact own 84 percent of the goods, and the bottom 40 percent of us, barely floating on a sea of debt, own less than half of one percent of the wealth of the nation. We live across roughly double the rich-poor gap measured in Germany, Japan and Denmark. By the standard “Gini coefficient” of wealth inequality, the US ranks with Turkestan and Tunisia, just a tad more equal than Chad and Sri Lanka.
When given a choice, Americans—and that is Republicans, Democrats, rich, poor, NPR listeners, and Forbes Magazine readers alike—would all opt for a more “Swedish-looking” distrubution instead, where rich people still exist but wealth is far more evenly distributed. In fact, 92 percent of Americans, when shown these options, pick the Swedish model.
I enjoyed this Q&A with Matt Taibbi on Hunter S. Thompson, on the 40th anniversary of his famous book—one that educated, inspired (and entertained) me back when I was a campaign hack: Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, ‘72. (Gonzo journalism lives on—if toned down a bit; Taibbi essentially has Thompson’s old Rolling Stone job.)
My top recommendation this week is a collection of audio stories at Coal Train Facts. Hear riveting short-form accounts from two career trainmen on what life is really like on a coal train.
Peter Sinclair reports on a damming new economic analysis from finance expert Tom Sanzillo. The US government has been systematically leasing coal on public lands at way, way below market value using shady single-bidder “auctions” with virtually no oversight or public accountability. The result? Untold damage to the climate and public health, not to mention nearly $29 billion in foregone revenues for taxpayers.
If the Obama administration would stop selling publicly-owned coal in the Powder River Basin at below-market prices, it wouldn’t be so artificially cheap. And there’s a good chance that the coal exports debate would look a lot different than it does now.
At Crosscut, C.B. Hall has an insightful look at the dimming prospects for high speed rail in the United States.
Food “porn” may actually be making us fat.