Playing on the Freeway

Recently, I’ve been playing on the freeway. No, I’m not referring to my commute home. I’m referring to the LA Times Bottleneck Blog (syndicated on LJ as bottleneckblog). There seem to be a bunch of folks on this blog that only see black and white: if it isn’t a fully built out underground rail system for Los Angeles, it is no good. Busway… no good. HOV lanes… no good. Light rail… no good. Never mind the impact or cost of the construction. Never mind the impracticalities of it. Equally, there are folks who think we should just turn everything into shimmering concrete: damn the houses or other impacts.

Of course me, ever the pragmatist and the historian, can’t stop from jumping in. So I have. What discussions, you might ask?

Wilshire subway, bus fare hike: No!
Longer buses on Orange Line
405 logjam
Freeway revolt in the Inland Empire
Carpool “snitch line”: Is it needed?
405 opposition moves to Valley
Beverly Hills Freeway: Revisionist history
Freeway conspiracy theory
405 widening: Here come the lawyers!

Yup. That’s me. Playin’ on the freeway.


In Light of My Recent Posts on Highway Safety

CNN is reporting that Tara Rose McAvoy, the reigning Miss Deaf Texas, was walking Monday near railroad tracks when she was struck by a Union Pacific train. According to witnesses, the train sounded its horn right up until the accident occurred.

Of the “4 Es” (Enforcement, Education, Engineering, and EMS), alas, only education can fix this one. If you are walking near train tracks, remember that in a battle with a train, you will lose, and you must be aware at all times of what is around you. I am curious why she didn’t feel the train coming; anyone who has worked with trains knows that you can generally feel the ground vibrate as a train approaches.


When Engineers Meet

Last night I went over to a colleague’s house to visit. While there, I got a chance to see his model railroad setup. Wow. Although not all that scenic, the size is very impressive, and the controls even more so. Each car is digitally controlled with controls you can move around. There are tunnels and a full switching yard.

While not into modeling personally, I can be impressed by those with the time and energy to do it right. As for me, I’d rather play with the real thing, or go play on the freeway.

P.S.: I’ve found another potential target for Clean Sweep


It’s Not Over Until The Last Tutorial Presenter Presents

And so it’s over.

Today was the last day of the conference. It was a full day of tutorials, while I had a day of conference business combined with packing and shipping the conference business office back to whence it came (i.e., publishers, proceedings chair, etc.). Still, I did have some interesting hallway conversations… Both Dave Bell and his wife found the notion of mixing train scale with computer security models interesting.

Note: You can find an article written about the conference from NetworkWorld here.

Speaking of trains, after the conference ended, I went down to University to ride on the Old Pueblo Trolley. I’m actually a member, as well as being a member of OERM. This afternoon they were running Kyoto City Lines #869/1869, which was built in 1953. OERM also has a Kyoto car, but it is much much older, having been built in 1910. My interest in OPT stems from their first car, OPT 10, which was a loaner from OERM (PE Birney 332). Alas, we couldn’t ride all that long, as due to the 4th Avenue Street Fair, the line shut down early.  So, we walked 4th Avenue a bit, then went off to BBQ for dinner. Joining me in the railgeeking adventure were Richard Smith and Marshall Abrams, founder of the Abrams Railroad Empire.

Tomorrow, hopefully, I see my sister-in-law and her family. I return to LA mid-afternoon.


Placing Blame Where Blame is Due

Last week, the Los Angeles MTA opened its newest transit line, the 14-mile Metro Orange Line. The Orange Line runs mostly along the former PE right of way and on former rail right of ways. It has an exclusive right of way, but does cross streets at grade. They have done numerous street improvements to attempt to ensure safety on the line, including a a signal priority system that enables buses to communicate with LADOT-installed traffic signals, special signals for cross traffix, special “Keep Clear” zones intended to keep motorists from blocking the intersection, and special “Do Not Enter” signs and other directional signs on both sides of busway entrances, complemented with flashing electronic “Bus Coming” signs when buses approach the intersection.

But all it takes is one idiot on a cell phone.

Yesterday, fifteen people were injured when a 78-year-old woman believed to be talking on a cell phone ran a red light and collided with a Orange Line bus. The accident occured when the woman ran a red light at Woodman Avenue. Her Toyota Camry hit the bus and then spun around and hit it again before stopping. About three hours earlier, a motorist made an illegal right turn on a red light from Topham Avenue onto Corbin Avenue and collided with an Orange Line bus. Yesterday’s crashes brought the number to three for the busway, following a collision with a vehicle that made an illegal right-on-red turn last week during test runs. During the test period, drivers of the 30-ton buses had been reporting close calls during practice trips and had been ordered to take their foot off the accelerator as they pass through intersections so they could hit the brakes more quickly.

The net effect of this is a bunch of immediate calls for beefed-up safety measures. MTA officials ordered Orange Line drivers to slow to 10 mph at all intersections and said they would consider other options such as crossing gates. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the MTA board member who has championed the line, said every possible safety measure will be considered.


What happened to personal responsibility? All of these accidents have occured by people ignoring traffic laws: running lights, driving while distracted, illegal right turns. Yet the answer is not increased enforcement to catch folks with bad driving habits and get them off the road, but to spend loads of tax dollars to slow the line down and install more technical measures.

This is wrong. The answer is simple: More traffic cops. Install cameras on those intersections to catch the licenses of the scofflaws and send them a ticket… in addition to having a safety officer come to their house. MTA should work with insurance companies to increase the insurance rates of such drivers.

In the most recent and egregious example, we have a 78 year old woman talking on a cell phone while running a red light… and yet the bus line is blamed for the accident. Wrong. This is a woman who should lose her license; it reminds me of the old man who crashed into the Santa Monica Farmers Market, or the recent 93 year old man who drove through a tollbooth with a body in the window.

Let’s get the bad drivers off the road. That’s the best answer to road safety.



Museum of Transportation

gf_guruilla likes to go to quilt shops. Me… it’s train museums.

Today, I went out to the Museum of Transportation (whilst the rest of the family went to the Art Museum—I may join them later, as I got done early). The capsule summary: A very nice museum.

The Museum of Transportation (StLMoT) has both strengths and weaknesses compared to OERM.

Strengths: It has a much more extensive engine collection, including some giant ones I haven’t seen before, including some a Mikado unit, a gigantic snowblower (UP #90081), the Burlington “Silver Charger” (CB&Q RR #9908), and the Rock Island “Aerotrain” (which looks quite a bit like the Disneyland Viewliner, except on a real train scale). It has a nice automobile and bus collection, and a segment of a motel that used to be on US 66. It has wonderful interpretive displays: some of the best signage I’ve seen in any train museum. Every car is labeled with its history on a clearly readable sign. It has numerous walkthroughs (including a milk car and a car that once held Nitric Acid), and quite a few engines have their covers off and parts clearly labeled.

Weaknesses: None of the mainline cars are operated, unlike OERM, where we regularly operate diesel and steam. It has a much smaller trolley collection than OERM (at least that I could see), with only three cars operating. The cars that do operate are much more modern. The grounds appear to be smaller than OERM, even with the proposed expansion. The bookstore is oriented more towards children than the railfan. I don’t know how much of this is the difference between public county museum (StLMoT) vs. being a private, volunteer run museum (OERM).

Would I go back? C’mon, its a train museum. You really had to ask?