Mapping May Impede Self-Driving Car Development

Urbanists, futurists and car enthusiasts buzz has been building over self-driving car technology. Traffic planners see them as a way to improve traffic flow on congested roadways. However; Slate’s Lee Gomes takes an in-depth look into the technology behind the curtain of the self-driving car and his conclusion is that it’s not ready for prime-time and it may never be ready. More from Slate:

But the maps have problems, starting with the fact that the car can’t travel a single inch without one. Since maps are one of the engineering foundations of the Google car, before the company’s vision for ubiquitous self-driving cars can be realized, all 4 million miles of U.S. public roads will be need to be mapped, plus driveways, off-road trails, and everywhere else you’d ever want to take the car. So far, only a few thousand miles of road have gotten the treatment, most of them around the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.  The company frequently says that its car has driven more than 700,000 miles safely, but those are the same few thousand mapped miles, driven over and over again.

State officials in Washington dramatically revise their VMT projections downward

Well, we have been seeing this trend unfold for years now. We seem to have hit peak VMT back in 2007, and have missed VMT projections from departments of transportation for many years. Up until now, that hasn’t affected anyone’s models. Instead many transportation officials have claimed that VMT would bounce back. But in Washington, they have decided to revise their projections to match new realities. More from Streetsblog USA:

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation, for example, has overestimated traffic on its roads by an average of 73 percent, according to a recent study. And Dallas-area planners recently produced traffic projections that predicted a much larger increase in driving than the state DOT was even predicting. That’s why a new traffic forecast from the Washington State Office of Fiscal Management is so interesting: It actually acknowledges how travel habits are changing.

In its most recent financial forecast, the agency has abandoned the assumption of never-ending traffic growth that it employed as recently as last year. Instead, the agency has responded to recent trends, even projecting that total traffic will start to decline within the next ten years.

Beijing to Moscow has better passenger rail service than Cincinnati to Chicago

A route has been identified for a new Trans-Siberian high-speed rail route that would connect Moscow with Beijing. An existing route has been in place for more than 50 years, but takes six days to complete. The new route, by contrast, would complete the trip in just two days. For some perspective, the current Trans-Siberia route (4,350 miles) operates twice per week, which is the same level of service connecting Cincinnati and Chicago (300 miles). More from The Daily Mail:

The project would cost more than $230bn and be over 7,000km long – more than three times the world’s current longest high-speed line, from the Chinese capital to the southern city of Guangzhou. The railway would be a powerful physical symbol of the ties that bind Moscow and Beijing, whose political relationship has roots dating from the Soviet era and who often vote together on the UN Security Council.

What can cities do to roll out BRT faster?

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) introduced its first Metro*Plus route in 2013. This type of service is often described as “bus plus”, meaning that it has some benefits over standard bus service, but is not quite up to the level of true bus rapid transit (BRT).

According to a recent post on Portland Transport, rolling out small, incremental improvements to bus service (as SORTA has done) may be more effective than focusing all effort into a small number of BRT routes. It may also be the best way to improve bus service while minimizing the number of political hurdles:

Don’t focus on “BRT” as a separate product, just focus on bus service improvements. In much of Europe, there is no “BRT”–the standard for basic bus service (at least on corridors) often involves things like greater stop-spacing, offboard fare payment, larger vehicles with all-door boarding, signal priority, and exclusive lanes (though not necessarily for the entire length of the route). [...]

In many cases, do these quietly, without much fanfare, and without a big splashy project. Big splashy big-ticket projects are more likely to attract political opposition and political opportunism. As Harry S Truman said, “it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Are the years of suburban corporate campuses behind us?

Many things have changed in America since the golden age of suburbia. The country is now much more diverse and tech-focused, and young people seem to be ignoring The American Dream in a pursuit of their own, newer ideals. One of the relics of The American Dream is the suburban corporate campus, and its death may have just been signaled. More from Better! Cities & Towns:

Smartly clad structures perfectly reflected their pinstripe suited, clean-cut occupants. It was a near perfect match of sociology and architecture. The male breadwinner toiling all day inside a glass box, coming home to the American Dream: a detached “Colonial style” house with a manicured lawn. The Betty Crocker cookbook of that era advised housewives to have a mixed drink ready for their husband’s eagerly expected return, along with tips on how to set a table when the domestic help had the day off.  We all know how that dream turned out.

Some Boomers smugly claim that Millennials will fall back into line as soon as they have children. Well, guess what? They aren’t having kids. They aren’t even marrying. Nor are they buying cars. And not because they can’t afford them. They don’t want them.

The folks who run Weyerhaeuser are a smart bunch. I’m sure they started projecting out how long it would be before they would have a difficult time recruiting younger workers to reverse commute.