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All Aboard Amtrak

Setting aside the politics and much of the economic silliness that comes with politics, does rail service offer anything to compete with air travel? This guy took a train and liked it:

Everyone we met, from trainmen, conductors, and attendants to counter clerks, security personnel, and our fellow passengers were, if not downright happy, at minimum in a good mood. Unlike the aggravated, anxious, aggressively rude misanthropes at the airport, from packed waiting rooms to the exclusive waiting rooms to the sightseeing car, people were polite, relaxed, and smiling. The security matched that of the airport—without the striptease: the ticket clerk asked for a photo ID.


More Turbulence for Air Travelers

I could blame bin Laden for this, but really it is the government’s failure to craft a better system:

From the American Airlines Web page:

As a result of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) mandate, beginning November 1, all passengers will be required to have Secure Flight Passenger Data (SFPD) in their reservation at least 72 hours prior to departure. This is the next phase in a program that was initiated by the TSA in 2009. 


Tokyo Super Ambient Discotheque

Only the dead stand still. Where are you headed?

Local Bike Nut Meets the Real World

Government Shrinks, Commerce Increases

From the Antiplanner:

Late last year, Clayton County, Georgia (a suburban Atlanta county) decided to terminate its subsidized bus service to Atlanta, saying it was costing $10 million a year but only bringing in $2.5 million in revenue. Despite protests from bus riders, the service was duly ended on March 31, leaving many riders worried that they would not be able to reach their jobs.

Starting this week, a private party has started a new bus service following some of the same routes as the Clayton County buses. Fares will be $3.50, compared with average fare collections on the County buses of about $1.10 in 2008.

Look for more of this as local governments head toward insolvency over the next several years.


Another Example of the Miracle that is Duct Tape


During a private “fly-in” fishing excursion in the [Alaskan] wilderness, a chartered pilot and fishermen left a cooler and bait in the plane. A bear smelled it and destroyed the plane.

Airplane torn apart by a bear


Pirates Fight Over PRK Ship Headed to Scrapyard

There seems to be more to this story that you probably didn’t hear:

During a serious shoot-out between two rival pirate groups surrounding the sea-jacked MV RIM, leaving 9 Somalis dead, the Syrian crew of the vessel managed to overpower six pirates on board and to sail free.


Can She Handle It?

It’s 1949, and what’s a well-dressed lady going to drive?

1949 Nash Airflyte Ad -- Long Hood

The daring ones drive a Nash Airflyte:

Its aerodynamic body shape was developed in a wind tunnel. Nils Wahlberg's theories on reducing an automobile body's drag coefficient resulted in a smooth shape and enclosed front fenders. The "cutting-edge aerodynamics" was the most "alarming" all-new postwar design in the industry.


Barry Thinks Truckers are Morons

The Failed Obama Administration™ has issued another absurdity:

President Barack Obama is getting behind a national policy to boost fuel efficiency and cut greenhouse-gas pollution from medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Obama said Friday he's asking the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department to come up with what would be a first-ever policy for such trucks in model years 2014-2018.

Such a move, he said, will bring down the cost of transporting goods, reduce pollution and spur growth in the clean-energy sector. The government will also work with the public and private sectors to develop technology for plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, Obama said.


It May Come, But They Do Not Ride

I observed the Northstar commuter rail service make its 4:40pm outbound stop at the Fridley station. I did not see anyone get off the train. There ten vehicles in the park-and-ride lot.

The locomotive was in the livery of FrontRunner, a commuter rail service in Utah. Perhaps there were no riders there, thus freeing a power unit to pull our empty trains.

Post Style: 

Week-end Getaway

You meet the silent type
On a windy trail
With a shiny cloak and an unseen silver dagger
You can talk ’til you ache
Give yourself one more break
You can tell by the look on his face that it just doesn’t matter

This is the naked truth
This is the light
There’s only one place left to go

Activists Against History

Some Minneapolis activists held a protest march against a proposed commuter rail project. I imagine they normally love commuter rail, except when it interferes with their NIMBY utopia:

Organizers of the march warned that Hennepin County’s proposal to use a 13-acre parcel in Bryn Mawr for train storage would jeopardize long-term redevelopment plans for Bassett Creek Valley. The largely industrial valley west of Downtown is divided between Bryn Mawr and Harrison, and residents from both neighborhoods have contributed to a decade of redevelopment planning.

In February, the City Council is expected to consider a city staff recommendation to negotiate a sale of the parcel, known as Linden Yards East, to Hennepin County by the end of the year.

The Green Economy Runs on Rails

Coyote has a great post about rail transport as an example of government foolishness:

High speed rail is a terrible investment, a black hole for pouring away money, that has little net impact on efficiency or pollution. But rail is a powerful example because it demonstrates exactly how this bias for high-profile triumphal projects causes people to miss the obvious.

The US rail system, unlike nearly every other system in the world, was built (mostly) by private individuals with private capital. It is operated privately, and runs without taxpayer subsidies. And, it is by far the greatest rail system in the world. It has by far the cheapest rates in the world (1/2 of China’s, 1/8 of Germany’s). But here is the real key:  it is almost all freight.

Free-Market Regulation

Before the government became our collective nanny, insurance companies were primary defenders of our health and safety.

A house built to low standards, for example, would either be uninsurable or face premium surcharges. One might still build the shoddy house, but in case of fire, the loss would fall totally on the owner. And that owner would have to finance construction out-of-pocket, as no lender would make a loan against an uninsurable building.


Corn or Cane

Last year we saw what happened when government enticed farmers to turn corn into motor fuel. The price of food went up.

The same is happening now with sugar:

The price of raw sugar has increased to its highest level since 1981, as supply concerns grow.

Growing demand in Brazil for sugar to be turned into ethanol, coupled with a sharp fall in Indian production, have both prompted worries, he explained.

The mandated “alternative energy economy” will make us prisoners of geography by raising the cost of travel. Or, we’ll just starve to death.

Because We Can

I will likely never drive one, and almost certainly never own one, but I love that such things exist:

The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport

Bugatti Veryon Convertible

The Public Includes Everybody

Minneapolis government is about to vaporize 1.75 million dollars in the name of bicycle transportation:

The Minneapolis Bike Share Program will create the nation’s largest municipal bike-share system right here in Minneapolis. Plans call for a thousand bikes to be available in the areas of Downtown, Uptown, and the University of Minnesota campus.



Imagine committing to a companion based only on the carefully-edited profile and photo from a matchmaking website. Disappointment would be inevitable. Unless you didn’t have to live with the less-than-perfect reality:


Death Turns Biker Arrogance Into Rage

This morning in Minneapolis a bicycle commuter was crushed to death by a semi. The local bike nuts’ reaction was to blame the truck driver.

Semis dont belong on city streets. period.

If what the Star Trib is reporting -- that the truck driver turned into the bike lane -- is true, then it needs to be prosecuted as a negligent homicide. Period.

Later in the thread, cooler and more-reasoned voices tempered the calls for vengeance.


Shocking Ignorance

I first heard it from a landscape architect in a meeting about land use planning in the 55418. We were discussing the projected need for parking in commercial districts. The conclusion was that auto technology would evolve so that personal autos would always be a significant and vital means of transport, no matter the price of oil. As sort of an off-hand comment about electric cars, the architect said something like, “And I hear the cars will even sell power back to the electric company.”



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