"'Third World' is an obsolete term, (since the Second World no longer exists) but if you're going to use it in the sense of referring to the Global South, it's not horribly inaccurate to say the US is a First World nation geographically coextant with a Third World one, where the citizenship is determined by class (economic and social.)" -- kadath, 2008-03-04
The jack is a screw type (not hydraulic), and you need to have some boards to put under it, because it doesn't really have enough lift to get the tire clear. My arms were very sore once we got it up to where we could remove the tire. The lug wrench was relatively easy, and I was able to break loose the eight lugs that hold the tire in place and get it off. I wrestled it into the back of the Astro and we took it to Big O Tires in Sparks where we bought the tire in the first place.
The immediate problem turned out to be a nail in the tire, which they fixed; however, they also told us that the wheel rim must have failed and it would not hold air. We took the wheel and unmounted tire back home with us, because with that diagnosis, we would need to buy a new wheel. When we got home, Lisa put some boards under the tire-less wheel and lowered it onto the boards, as pictured below.
( Taking the strain )
Yesterday, Lisa examined the wheel rim and said that the diagnosis must be wrong, because the piece they said had failed isn't something that holds air anyway. It's a solid one-piece wheel, not the two-piece type used in some vehicles. We could have taken it back to Sparks tomorrow and asked them to remount it under the tire's warranty, but instead I took it Hanneman Service down the street and paid them $17 to remount it. This evening, we put the tire back on and we'll let it sit for a while and see if it holds air.
It's a good thing I don't have to drive it as often as I did when we first bought it. However, even so, we know that the vehicle (repairs and all) has more than paid for itself versus the cost of even cheap-by-Bay-Area standards hotels, when the fleabags in Fremont are charging $99/night and selling out. Nevertheless, even though I'm now officially 100% Work From Home, I have commitments (medical and dentist appointments, SFSFC and Worldcon meetings) that will take me to the Bay Area several times a year, so we'll need to keep the Rolling Stone in "warm storage" and run it periodically to keep it usable when needed.
If I do get a flat out on the road, I may well call AAA though. They have jacks in their trucks that are easier and faster to use. I'll only resort to the hand-crank jack in an emergency.
"For it's not enough to walk the moon, send robots off to Mars
Nor send a lucky handful out to catch a glimpse of stars
We're gonna live and work and space. We're gonna go to stay
And the ones who'll make it happen,
the ones who make it happen,
yes the ones who'll make it happen
are the ones who make it pay"
-- Jordin Kare (b. 1956-10-24, d. 2017-07-19), "Bloody Bastards"
Things without deadlines (fun):
* Stroll in the Botanic Gardens (I didn't do this but did go read in the park near our house)
Things without deadlines (productive):
* Celebrate the 1st anniversary of Story Hospital (!)
* Call insurance company about that bill
* Call doctor's office about that prior auth
* Remake OT appointment for next week
* Do a family Readercon debrief/postmortem
( Old Home Week )
After Mom got back from the farmers' market, we dealt with business, I gave her a list of all of the places I would be (and how to contact me) during the Europe trip, and we talked for a while. It was about 3:30 when I finally left. The idea that I could be home in time for a 6 PM San Jose Worldcon committee meeting call was fading fast.
( Not a Short Cut at All )
My mother's house is less than 120 miles from my home. I left at about 3:30 and it took me more than five hours before I got home, albeit that I did stop several times, including long enough to buy some groceries in Reno that I figured Lisa would want.
I made a separate mistake of not putting on any sunscreen. My face is redder than usual tonight. I'll put ointment on it before I go to bed and hope I don't peel too badly.
( Here are some notes, cut for spoilers and lack of interest: )
There are various encore presentations going to be happening, if you missed this and are interested.
Spoilers for all versions of Fullmetal Alchemist.
( FMA 3, 'Mother' )
( FMA:B 2, 'The First Day' )
( FMA 5, 'The Man with the Mechanical Arm' )
( FMA 6, 'The Alchemy Exam' )
( FMA 7, 'Night of the Chimera's Cry' )
( FMA:B 4, 'An Alchemist's Anguish' )
From "Oh this has not gone well" (part 14) by Redditor "ThisHasNotGoneWell":
"Well," I started, how do I explain statistics, and not sound like the boringest boring person in the world, "In the world I come from people have enough free time on their hands, and they take games seriously enough, that people will study a game like a Mage might study magic. I had plenty of time when I was waiting for the pass south to clear, so I spent some time pulling the rules apart, figuring out the probability of any given hand. The other players might have a gut feeling as to how probable a given hand is, but I know the figures exactly. I'll also try to keep track of what cards I've seen played already. Between that, and having worked out the probabilities of each, I usually have at least an idea of how good my hand is compared to the others."
"Wait," she said, trying to wrap her head around what I'd just said, "So, you know what cards they have in their hand?"
"Not quite, I know what cards they probably have. And even if I don't know specifics, I'll at least have an idea of whether their hand is better or worse than mine, and that's really all I need."
"Don't humans have anything better to do?"
I thought of the many hundreds of hours spent playing videogames and watching Netflix.
The boat docked this morning in Russe, Bulgaria, which you will also see sometimes spelled "Ruse". We had a brief bus tour of Russe on our way out of town, but this was one of those days where our destination was a couple of hours away on the bus, so it was very brief indeed. ( Read more... ) <
( Read more... )
My hours don't allow me to stay up late on weeknights. We walked home and I went to bed, possibly going to sleep faster by envisioning the ongoing drone of repetitive debate.
When I preside over the Business Meeting, if a speaker is going in circles, I've been known to intervene and say something like, "Could the member come to a point?"
It was the meeting-induced sleep that led to me not posting anything yesterday, which is a rarity for me because I do try to post something daily if I get a chance.
I really appreciated all the commentary on the last post. If y'all want to chime in about this one I'd likewise appreciate it. The topic is "Music video WTF" - as in, should I link to videos if I like the song but not the video?
Here, let me give you an example that sits right on the borderline, two videos for "One On One" by Tujamo, with vocals by Sorana. Tujamo is a German producer and EDM spinner; Sorana is an eastern European singer (near as I can guess, Romanian) and this is her first big team-up with a "name" producer. So, OK, great. It's a fun tune and I like her voice, though as with a lot of these things I think it's over-tuned.
First up, the official video for the song:
Minor warning: it's a PoV video done in the style of a lot of porn these days where you, the viewer, are invited to have the gaze of the (male) camera in intimate interactions with a small, very conventionally attractive woman through a series of scenes, including bedroom. There's nothing actually X-rated about this, but I was uncomfortable watching it. In case that gaze isn't intimate enough for you, there's even an official 3D-VR version - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=
Plus side: she's smiling and active throughout. She appears to be not only enjoying the interactions but initiating things. But if voyeurism isn't your kink (it's not mine, at least not for strangers) then you may (like me) find yourself unable to watch this video and see if there are other alternatives. Here's one:
At least that's just a static conventionally-attractive-skinny-chick-
I usually try to link to SoundCloud for my music choices but lots of things aren't up there and are on YouTube or other visual media.
So, dear readers, what do you make of this? Would you rather I didn't blog video music that sets me off, or blog it with information so you can judge for yourselves?
And what they wrote is, well, kind of infuriating, but a good lesson as to how ride-hailing, even if it's one day autonomous, will not solve congestion, and may just make it worse. It shows that Lyft not only seems to have no understanding of how transit economics work, but also no understanding of how their own service works, assuming that vehicles can just appear at random to fulfill demand. Their argument begs to be broken down line by line, so I'll do that. Original indented, my comments in italics.
Recently, Lyft started testing a new product called Shuttle in two cities: Chicago and San Francisco. I’ve seen quite a few thoughtful questions — and a few good jokes — circulating about Shuttle. So as one of Lyft’s longtime resident transit nerds, I want to take the time to share why we launched Shuttle, and what it means for cities and the future of public transportation.Okay, so you're a transit nerd. Great! Let's see how well you understand transit.
What is Shuttle?
You can think of Shuttle as a new twist on Lyft Line, the popular dynamic carpooling option we launched in 2014, which is available in 16 cities and accounts for around 40% of all rides in those markets. Just like Line, Shuttle matches you up with other passengers going the same direction to create a high-occupancy ride for a lower price than riding alone (more people in fewer cars = win). The twist is that unlike Line, Shuttle pick-up and drop-off locations are the same every day, and so are the prices (with prices between $3–4 per ride, Shuttle is Lyft’s most affordable service, offering commuters a reliable option for far less than the average cost of car ownership, which is about $9,000 per year). And instead of coming straight to your door, Shuttle picks you up at a safe, carefully selected spot nearby.The main quibble here is the $9000 cost of car ownership. That assumes that you live in the suburbs and actually drive your car all the time! But the rides described here are generally 2 to 5 miles. Let's assume 5 miles, both ways, 250 work days per year. That's 2500 miles. Yet the $9000 figure is based on 15,000 miles per year. If you don't have a car, Lyft will save you all the fixed costs of ownership, but if you want to go somewhere outside of commute times, you have to pay the full cost per mile in rental fees and short-term insurance. (Or take a Lyft/Uber, but that's relatively expensive, too.) And if you do have a car, Lyft is only saving you the marginal costs of about 15¢ per mile, which for 2500 miles comes out to just $375, but you'll pay $2000 for the Lyft rides (80¢ per mile, which is quite a bit more, per mile, than car ownership). You won't, at least, have to pay for parking.
As many on social media pointed out, these new features are also found in traditional public transit buses. Fair enough. But here’s what’s different and important.
Shuttle rides are provided by the same, awesome Lyft drivers you know and love, driving their own cars — not big vans or buses.This is a bug, not a feature! The reason why transit works economically is because it uses larger vehicles: it can scale by carrying more passengers with the same number of drivers. Sure, a 40-foot transit bus isn't efficient if it's carrying two passengers, but in a city like Chicago or San Francisco, it's not. In the corridors Lyft Shuttle serves, buses in the peak are generally full. That's much more efficient than a car, even one carrying three passengers.
As a driver in a Shuttle market, your next ride request could be an original Lyft, Line or Shuttle request; they’re all part of the mix. That means no one needs to go buy any new vehicles to turn on a Shuttle route, and they are easy to change based on feedback. And unlike a bus route, a Shuttle route is on-demand — it doesn’t happen unless a passenger requests it.So are bus routes. None of the routes in the Shuttle areas have empty buses (or trains). In fact, the buses there are well-used enough that frequencies are based not on some minimum level of service (a bus every 15 minutes, for example) but to meet passenger demand, some as frequently as every four or five minutes.
That means Shuttle is very efficient, never making drivers circle and waste miles when people aren’t riding it. Instead, drivers just move on to give other Lyft requests after they finish a route, or log out if requests slow down.This completely misses the fact that cars don't appear and disappear but have to come from somewhere and go somewhere before and after a trip, usually not carrying passengers. If a driver gets downtown and drops off a fare and finds there isn't much demand (since at morning peak hour, there is far more demand going to downtown than leaving, with the opposite in the afternoon) the car doesn't just go *poof* and disappear, but it has to be driven somewhere else. The problem here is two-fold: first, this creates additional congestion, since transporting passengers for 4 miles might require the car to drive an additional 4 miles in an already congested area without any passengers. If the system were perfectly balanced with trips into and out of the core, it might work, but in San Francisco and Chicago, at rush hour, this is certainly not the case.
Second, the driver of this vehicle is not compensated for this time, so it eats in to their already-low wage. This speaks to an obvious flaw of the system: at the current price of $4 per ride, it's completely unsustainable. Let's assume that Lyft carries an average of 3 passengers per trip at $4 fare each. That's $12. Lyft takes 20% off the top, so the driver is getting $9.60. The marginal cost of a 35-minute, 4 mile trip in rush hour is probably $1 for gas and maintenance, but then the driver has to deadhead (operate without a fare, while still incurring the costs of operation) to and from the next fare, which likely adds another 4 miles ($1) and 15 minutes. Now you're earning $7.60 for 50 minutes of work, or $9.12 per hour. And that's sort of a best-case scenario, and assumes you have relatively little time in between fares, and doesn't account for time spent pumping gas, cleaning the vehicle, and other items. If we assume that every other trip, a driver will have no fare and have to deadhead 8 miles ($2, 30 minutes) out of the city, the economics collapse: the average hourly wage falls to $6. And while there is some affordable housing within 8 miles of Chicago, there certainly isn't that close to San Francisco.
This form of flex transit capacity augments the fixed capacity of traditional transit routes at peak times when those services are maxed out with riders, brings “right-sized” service into areas which can’t support traditional transit, and melts away when it isn’t needed.This sentence is trying to have it both ways! If traditional transit routes have fixed capacity, it means that they are full, and if they are full, it means that it doesn't serve an area that can't support traditional transit. None of the corridors described are in areas that don't support traditional transit, of course. And then the "melting away" phrase doesn't account for the fact that it would wind up with a bunch of empty vehicles driving away from downtown, adding to congestion and pollution.
This is the problem with ride-hailing and (potentially eventually) autonomous vehicles. It may reduce the number of parking spaces we need, which would be a good thing. But unless the system is perfectly balanced—and in cities, it inherently is not—parking will be traded for more vehicle miles traveled (VMT). More VMT means more congestion. Is this a good trade? I'm not so sure.
This is a problem in the transit industry as well: full buses come downtown, drop off passengers, and operate empty to a garage to sit idle for the middle of the day. But it's an order-of-magnitude bigger problem for smaller vehicles: a bus can carry 60 passengers and make one empty trip. Cars—even with three passengers each—would require 20 such trips with 20 outbound drivers.
Shuttle’s initial routes were chosen by our data scientists, who looked at the density of Lyft Line requests during commute hours and picked a small set of initial corridors where the data showed we would be able to match up the most passengers, enabling the highest occupancies and thus the lower prices passengers want.Or the low prices which can entice people into these cars. As mentioned above, these prices are nowhere near sustainable. Plus, passengers don't really want high occupancy. If they did, they'd ride the bus; if they didn't, they'd drive instead. Four passengers means someone has to sit in the middle seat, which is likely less comfortable than a bus line. (And on a bus, you can at least move to another seat or part of the bus if you're uncomfortable with the person next to you. Try that in the middle seat of a Corolla.) If Lyft regularly has four passengers per driver, customers will abandon the service. The practical maximum number of passengers is 3, making the average less, making the math shown above a rosy estimation.
Not surprisingly, many of these corridors align with those most heavily used by other transportation modes, including personal cars and transit. With Shuttle, we hope to reduce the need for commuters to drive their own cars on those busy corridors, giving them a more efficient option and freeing up road capacity for high-efficiency shared and transit vehicles.This is a nice sentiment, but it only works if significantly more people switch from driving to Shuttle than from transit to shuttle. Let's imagine a congested corridor with a bus carrying 100 people and 100 cars carrying one person. In many cases, the corridors Lyft Shuttle is serving have 2-to-1 transit-drive mode share (and that's for all trips, it's probably even higher for trips to the core, see this map of Chicago, for instance). If 45 riders take shuttle at a 2-to-1 transit-to-driver ratio, this would add 18 vehicles to the roadway while removing 15 cars, meaning it would be less efficient and would certainly not free up road capacity. (This assumes zero deadhead mileage, which adds further congestion while providing no benefit.) Given recent trends of ridership declines on transit and increased congestion, Occam's Razor would suggest that's exactly what happens.
We’re For Transit
You might have noticed that Shuttle sounds like some hybrid mashup of ridesharing and transit. You’re not wrong. It fits into a new category experts call “microtransit,” and it’s designed to do things buses can’t do and reach people buses don’t reach, helping attract a broad spectrum of riders who haven’t used transit before.Microtransit doesn't really work. Bridj failed to make money or expand beyond Boston, even with larger vehicles than Lyft Shuttle and fares in the $5-$6 range, except for a publicly-funded foray into Kansas City. In that case, the year-long pilot project had 1480 riders. Not per day, total. At a cost of $1.3 million, it was a subsidy of $878 per ride. That pilot attempted to do things buses don't, reach people buses can't and bring in new transit riders, and it didn't exactly work. The most successful microstransit provider, Chariot, runs a few fixed route transit-style services in San Francisco, but mostly serves corporate-subsidized routes to suburban campuses.
The Lyft team is made up of strong public transit advocates (some might say geeks), a tradition that started with our co-founder and CEO, Logan Green.Remember when your middle school teacher—and Hemingway, apparently—would say "show, don't tell"? It's a rhetorical tell when you have to open every paragraph by telling us how you really, truly love transit.
We come to this issue with a deep empathy for and exposure to the challenges facing traditional public transit operations. Over a decade ago, Logan served on a public transit agency board in Santa Barbara, California. He lobbied hard to improve the frequency of bus service in the city’s low-density neighborhoods to benefit riders who depended on buses, only to find that the transit agency couldn’t afford it. There just weren’t enough riders to fill more buses on those routes.Yet Lyft Shuttle serves areas so dense that the only reason they can exist is because of transit. If Santa Barbara needs Lyft Shuttle so much, maybe it should try to operate there.
Never one to take no for an answer, Logan was inspired by the informal jitney networks he saw on a trip to Zimbabwe and became determined to find another way to expand mobility access.Yes, since Zimbabwe is a perfect corollary for the Loop in Chicago. And in many cases, third-world jitney networks have been replaced with, you guessed it, transit.
His vision was to turn every single-occupant vehicle on the road into an extension of the transit network, which would cut traffic and make it easier for everyone to get around at a low cost — especially people who couldn’t afford to own cars.But Lyft and Uber don't do that: they add vehicles to the roads and generally increase traffic in already-dense areas.
Shuttle is the latest step in making that vision happen. In parallel, we’re also continuing our strong policy advocacy for expanded investment in traditional public transit, such as Measure M in Los Angeles, Proposition 1 in Seattle, and Measure RR in the Bay Area, all of which were passed by voters last fall. Our country must break down the traditional binary between cars and transit and embrace all of these strategies if we want to make gains in reducing reliance on car ownership.The whole point of not owning a car is to not drive a car. Or if you don't you want to save the money you spend owning a car and dealing with the hassle? Ride in a car but have a chauffeur, we'll explain how for some reason that's cheaper. (It's not, except in small doses.)
How Shuttle fits in with Transit
New, creative and efficient ways of delivering transit are sorely needed. For over a century, public transit agencies have had two basic tools for getting people around cities: buses and trains. Like any tool, buses and trains work really well for some tasks, and not very well for others. For moving large volumes of people along heavily-traveled corridors during commute times — buses and trains can’t be beat.So, you mean, basically every corridor Lyft Shuttle operates in. Downtown San Francisco has more transit commuters than drivers from the city. The corridors in Chicago are similar: for travelers to the Loop, 189,000 take transit, 81,000 drive.
They move the most people at the lowest cost while taking up the least space on the road — IF they are able to attract enough riders.Again, this doesn't seem to be a problem in Chicago or San Francisco.
But for routes where there are smaller numbers of riders, traditional buses and trains struggle to provide frequent, cost-efficient service, and ridership suffers accordingly, leaving riders in those areas with few efficient options. We think Shuttle can help bridge these gaps, and it’s one reason why we launched an initial test route in a transit-underserved area on Chicago’s South Side that connects to Downtown from Brighton Park.That pilot would be useful if there weren't any transit options from Brighton Park to the Loop. But there are: the Orange Line or the six bus lines which serve the neighborhood every 10 minutes or better at rush hour.
The vast majority of Americans live in places outside of mass transit’s “sweet spot” — which is why only about ⅓ of jobs in major U.S. metropolitan areas are reachable by the average commuter within 90 minutes one-way by public transit.But downtown San Francisco and Chicago are not exactly transit deserts.
And many potential transit riders live too far away from train stations to be able to use them, a classic challenge known by transit agencies as the first-and-last-mile problem.What about bus stops? Buses are bad, but using smaller cars as buses is great?
Here again, we think Shuttle can help. Since launching Shuttle in San Francisco, we’ve found that our single most successful route is a first-and-last-mile connector to the 4th and King Caltrain station.Then run a last-mile shuttle. Or advocate for bus lanes on streets from 4th and King to Market Street (but that would preclude Lyft pulling over in said transit lanes). But if Lyft Shuttle is going to reduce traffic, it's not going to do so by acting as a last-mile one-to-three occupant shuttle service from 4th and King. Thousands of people arrive by Caltrain at peak hour in San Francisco, there's just not enough road space for them all to get into cars for the last mile. How many of these Lyft Shuttle riders are switching from a single occupancy vehicle? Probably very few. Lyft Shuttle would probably work well for reverse-commuters way out in the suburbs, but the economics there are quite a bit harder, and it may be better solved by casual car-sharing.
Public transit services also experience challenges on the flip side of the ridership equation. On the busiest transit routes, demand often exceeds supply at peak times, resulting in transit facilities which are severely over-capacity, unable to serve all the riders who want to use them.But you said, three paragraphs ago, "For moving large volumes of people along heavily-traveled corridors during commute times — buses and trains can’t be beat." So the solution is obviously to, uh, add more congestion to these corridors?
And when unusual events like severe weather, traffic crashes, or service outages occur it is hard for transit systems to quickly adapt to add more service in time to meet the need.If transit is completely full, then, yes, it is hard to add more service. But if you need a lot more service, enough cars to provide that service will just exacerbate traffic.
This problem has been exacerbated by chronic underinvestment in funding for transit infrastructure.Ding ding ding! That's a real issue. Creating congestion and making transit less efficient isn't going to help.
Flexible microtransit services like Lyft Shuttle and Lyft Line bring additional capacity into the system when and where it’s needed most, closing the last mile gap, delivering right-sized mobility service in underserved communities, and supplementing crowded public facilities.First of all, if Lyft is trying to bring additional capacity into the system, it is causing congestion, which slows down transit, and reduces capacity. Low-occupancy vehicles—which a Lyft Shuttle is, compared to a bus, even if it has two or three riders—do not add capacity to an at-capacity transit system: more buses do, or the same number of buses moving faster. And Lyft Shuttle can only do so many things, but bringing mobility to underserved communities and supplementing crowded public facilities are mutually exclusive. Right now, Lyft Shuttle does the latter, to the detriment of said facilities.
The bottom line is that in a country where fewer than 5% of commuters currently use transit, where 76% of Americans drive alone to work,Except in areas served by Lyft Shuttle, the numbers are more like 25% car, 55% transit, with the balance walking and biking. When you can figure out how Lyft Shuttle can serve exurb-to-exurb commuters better than cars, you might have a point. But that's a little harder.
and where traffic congestion continues to drag down economic productivity and quality of life,This sounds like the old joke of a doctor, engineer and lawyer arguing about whose profession was the oldest. The doctor said God creating Eve from Adam's rib made his the oldest, the engineer counters that God created the world from chaos, making GOd an engineer. But the lawyer counters: "yes, but who created all the chaos?"
Who do you think created all the congestion? Hint: it's not buses. It's cars. Even if they're Lyft Shuttles with two passengers.
our cities need a new spectrum of efficient, affordable transportation options to make car ownership a thing of the past.If no one owns cars, but everyone rides around in cars, the outcome is the same. The point of reducing car ownership is to reduce the number of cars on the road. Having cars clog up bus routes and bike lanes doesn't exactly do that.
Shuttle is a new tool to help make that happen. We welcome your feedback along the way as we continue working to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation.[exhale]
Lyft is trying to have it both ways with the Shuttle service. Their thesis is that it will expand mobility and reduce car ownership, yet they are serving already transit-rich areas with low car ownership rates, and it only operates during peak commuting times when most people are riding transit already. They claim it's efficient, but it's only more efficient than driving alone (or riding alone in a Lyft, which—with the requisite deadhead movements—is actually less efficient and might be the outcome in a "shuttle" service anyway). But it's still far less efficient than transit, a fact which they mention several times. If Lyft can target a corridor with low transit ridership and move people to Lyft Shuttles (carpools), it will be effective in reducing congestion. (This happens when you provide a good carpool lane and minimal parallel transit.) But in congested, transit-served areas, it will provide no added mobility and increase congestion.
That's not the kind of thing we'd expect from a company that is made up of "strong public transit advocates" now, is it?
Comm Ave in Brighton.
Why Comm Ave? Because Comm Ave, at least west of Packard's Corner, is obscenely overbuilt, an eight-lane highway masquerading as a local road. Originally planned as a grand parkway, most of the roadway today is a 150-foot-wide sea of asphalt, interrupted by narrow green islands and the MBTA reservation. The roadway has four through lanes, as well as two frontage roads with parking. If the roadway was used by 60,000 vehicles per day, this might be necessary. But the dirty little secret is that almost no one drives on Comm Ave.
Well, not no one. But very few people. The roadway has between 11,000 and 14,000 vehicles per day, with the higher vehicle counts west of Chestnut Hill Avenue. Some other roadways with similar traffic counts? Washington Street near Saint E's, Cambridge Street near Inman Square, and Chestnut Street near Jamaica Pond. What do all of these streets have in common? They're all two lanes wide. (Many two-lane streets are significantly busier.)
Comm Ave is six lanes wide. It's a complete street for cars—and no one else.
It was originally designed as a Frederick Law Olmsted roadway (a comprehensive early history here), but you wouldn't know that from the concrete expanse of the roadway today (portions were originally significantly narrower, but was widened in the 1950s). Before the Turnpike, the roadway may have gotten more use, but today it sees little more traffic than a side street. It serves a transportation purpose, but mostly for transit; twice as many people ride the B Line as use the roadway (13,000 people board west of Packards Corner, almost all inbound, so a similar number ride this segment outbound), yet the B line crawls along, stopping frequently for traffic lights and loading passengers on substandard, non-accessible platforms.
Pedestrians are forced on to often-narrow sidewalks, and experience long crossing times (and long gaps between crosswalks) when trying to get from one side to the other. And cyclists? Options for cyclists are to ride in the highway-like traffic lanes or ride the service roads along parked cars with frequent side streets. Despite being the widest street in the city, there are no provisions for cyclists.
So it's time to radically rethink Comm Ave.
In the City of Boston's defense, they have gotten a start, but as usual, they are thinking first about cars, and then about everyone else. Their presentation gives three reasons the city wants to maintain four main lanes (six total):
- Operational flexibility including winter
- More signal time available for pedestrians
- Consistent with adjacent segments = safety
Here's how it comes out:
There's still a lot of pavement there. Yes, there's a nice multiuse path, but there are still six lanes of traffic, and parking. And note that since the MBTA does not like trees near their right-of-way, the second-from-left tree would likely not exist. Without moving curbs—as this plan proposes—it's nearly impossible to rebuild the T stations with full accessibility, nor does it provide a staged plan where, when the Green Line tracks are rebuilt, it can sensibly be integrated with the design.
So what if, instead, all of the current traffic on Comm Ave was shifted to the outside roadways, and the middle of the road became a two-mile-long linear park? In other words, what if you built the portion of Comm Ave west of Packards Corner to more resemble Comm Ave in the Back Bay than, say, the Mass Pike?
This wouldn't be as hard as it seems, and it could be done in stages with the first stages allowing current traffic movements while providing better cycling and pedestrian facilities In the long term, by rebuilding and relocating the Green Line tracks (a project which the City of Boston should help the T to fund, similar to how other cities fund transit agency projects), it would allow a 75- to 100-foot-wide linear park stretching from Chestnut Hill Avenue to Packards Corner, unlocking the pockets of useless parkland and creating a wide, welcoming park.
Here's what Comm Ave looks like today:
It's 200 feet wide from curb to curb, yet two thirds of the spaces is devoted to cars. The two sidewalks take up 37 feet, and the T reservation another 30: beyond that it's all travel lanes, parking lanes and medians to keep the lanes apart (and encourage faster driving). The city's plan would mostly replicate this: a couple of improvements here and there, but mostly the same profile.
Here's an idea of what you could have instead:
This would still allow two lanes of traffic in each direction, but rather than being a pseudo-highway in the middle of the street, cars would instead travel along the edges, and along parallel parking, to allow easy access to local businesses. (A single lane of traffic would only reduce the width of the roadway by a couple of feet, since a certain width is needed for fire apparatus, and would also allow loading zones during the annual Allston Christmas festivities.) Two lanes of traffic in each direction is plenty for this roadway, and this profile provides it. The traffic is all shunted to the side of the roadway and might move a bit more slowly, but this is a local roadway, and slower traffic would be better.
Now, this assumes the MBTA rebuilds its track, allowing a wider roadway on the north (left side of this diagram, which looks east) side. Since that's a worthy—but longer term—project, there's a relatively easy interim stage which can be constructed: build the final alignment of the south side (eastbound traffic) of the roadway, and leave a lane of westbound traffic to the south of the MBTA reservation. It would look something like this:
This allows for most of the beneficial elements of the roadway to be built:
- Most of the green space
- The curb-side cycletrack on the eastbound lane (which could be shifted to the left if there were data that showed too many turning patterns, although then it is harder to access the sidewalk and businesses)
- The center walking path and cycling facility
City of Somerville advises you to call Massport and also 311 to report your complaint: http://www.somervillema.gov/
Massport politely took my complaint and promised me a written report. 311 said "people should totally call us about issues, no one ever calls us!", politely took my complaint, and said that various elected officials (including Rosetti, Capuano and some third person I'm forgetting, possibly the mayor) have been trying to get this mitigated, but not necessarily to much effect.