Saturday, December 5, 2009

Guy Negre, a former engineer in the formula race car circuit, is now applying his passion for motor transportation in the field of sustainability. Negre is the owner of Motor Development International (MDI), a company that is developing zero emissions engines that run on compressed air. MDI's most recent attraction is the AirPod, a three passenger transporter that runs off of Negre's patented air compressor engine and and two large air tanks for fuel. Other unorthodox additions to the Air pod are the joystick steering, rear and front doors, and recycled compressor air as AC cooling. Many critics are skeptical as to the saftey and reliability of the new alternative fuel source entering the market. MDIs first order are being put the test as air port transports for AirFrance in January of 2010.


NYC subway car construction

From National Geographic "Ultimate Factories": building a subway car part 2.
(via Core77)

World Solar Challenge

           Although the environmental need for alternatives to oil and gas-based energy is obvious, many people still do not consider this issue a priority. In order for technological advancements to be made and widely implemented, awareness needs to be raised. Once people begin to understand the significance of global warming and the devastation caused by greenhouse gas emissions, policies and technologies will follow as more human energy and time is put into the matter. 
         On that note, the World Solar Challenge, held in Australia, is a competition that features a solar car race. Turning the development of solar technology into a competition both instigates progress and rallies support and awareness. The competition ran from October 24th through the 31st of 2009, and was the 10th run, the first being in 1987. The competition was pioneered by the Australian Tourism Commission. The course is from Darwin to Adelaide, and it spans about 1,864 miles (3000 km). It uses real existing roads, as opposed to many concept alternative-energy vehicles that never make it off of the test track.
          In 1987, GM won the first race with the Sunraycer. It was the world's first race that featured solar-powered cars. The Sunraycer actually led to the development of the GM Impact, an electric concept car. The Impact then led to the EV-1, which was then leased out to a few customers in the 1990's. Now the Chevy Volt, the EV-1's contemporary, is scheduled for release to the market in 2011 (It runs 40 miles on a single charge, then has a gasoline internal combustion engine to extend its range to over 3oo miles). 
          The race is linked to the reality of car driving and use, and is slowly changing the competition rules to make the vehicles more and more functional to everyday use—this year a new rule required entrants to use regular tires, rather than the previously used low rolling-resistance tires, which increased drag on the vehicles. 
         This year's winner was the Japanese Toaki University's Tokai Challenger. The University of Michigan took3rd place, and won the Technical Innovation Award for advances in teh A123 Systems LiFePO4 batteries.
At the starting line.
Tokai University team celebrating the win.
The Tokai Challenger
Australian sunset over the World Solar Challenge race.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Bicycle accommodations and innovations in Germany, Paris, and New York.

The road bicyclist faces a battle in traffic on a daily basis. Many bicyclists complain about almost getting hit by a car or a bus taking a wide turn, or a car opening their door in the bicyclists ongoing path. The design and structure of the bike lanes and roadways are a major contributors to these hazardous situations. Various proposals have been made by cities throughout the world. Paris proposes using a shared bus  and bike lane, separated by a median from all other motorists on the road. 

Similarly, Germany Cycling Federation or ASFC manual written on April, 22, 2004, proposed for a shared bus and bike lane. Since September 1, 1997, cities in Germany have opened up existing designated bus lanes to bicycle traffic in order to increase traffic safety and bicycle use. According to the proposal,  the implementation requires adequate lane width that accommodated for bicycles and buses. Considering the off peak hours for bus traffic, there is a considerable increase in comfort for bicyclists. The proposal suggests that their solution can help avoid issue faced with bike lanes in the middle of the road, where if the bus is on a fixed route, bicyclists have problem merging into the curb side lane to turn onto a street. However, there is always the issue of following proper conduct when introducing bicyclists into a bus lane, which becomes an issue of legislation. 

New York came up with some of its own solutions for bicyclists in different traffic conditions in the city. First released in May of 2009, the Street Design Manual is the product of an inter-agency Task Force headed by the Department of Transportation, Department of Design and Construction, Environmental Protection and various other city agencies, including Mayor Bloomberg's office. The manual is proposes two designs, one is the bike lanes fro inter-city travel and the other is bike path for network bike connections or where there are high volumes or speeds or multiple moving lanes. A bike lane would be a dedicating on-street lane or path for bicycles and a separate system of lanes and ways for buses. These bike lanes would typically have 3 feet of channelization with buffered space. The proposal suggests that with the addition of on-road bike lanes can calm traffic speeds when used on narrow lanes (fig 3). 

The bike path proposal suggests a path that is physically separated from motorized vehicle traffic by an open space or barrier and either with a median that can be preferable on wide or busy streets, on major bike routes, or along long, uninterrupted stretches (fig 4).

Another suggestion is to create a painted buffer behind a "floating" parking lane, a narrow curb or median, or a wider median with landscaping (fig 5). Suggested benefits include reduced or eliminated blocking of the lane by motor vehicles and the swerving of bicyclists into mixed traffic. It also reduces the risk of bicyclists running into a car opening a door on this path. It would be necessary to propose a design which creates connectivity with adjoining bikeways, bike parking, and bicycle destinations. The NY proposal also goes further to accommodate in special circumstances paths designed for shared-use by bicyclists, pedestrians, skaters, wheelchair users, and other non-motorized users. Also focuses on anticipating volumes of low-speed users and high-speed users to minimize conflicts between the two. Most innovative design solution provided in the NYC Street Manual is its sustainability opportunities, in which they propose utilizing recycled content in paving materials. 

More information at

Last updated May 20,2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

SARTRE - automated car trains

The automotive industry has long been focused on the development of active safety systems that operate preventively, such as traction control and braking assistance programs. But automakers have also gone much further in proposing technology that allows vehicles to be operated without any input whatsoever from the person behind the wheel. Known as autonomous driving, this technology means that the vehicles is able to take control over acceleration, braking and steering, and can be used as part of a road train of similarly controlled vehicles.

The first test cars equipped with this technology will roll on test tracks as early as 2011. The vehicles will be equipped with a navigation system and a transmitter/receiver unit that communicates with a lead vehicle. Since the system is built into the cars, there is no need to extend the infrastructure along the existing road network.

The idea is that each road train or platoon will have a lead vehicle that drives exactly as normal, with full control of all the various functions. This lead vehicle is driven by an experienced driver who is thoroughly familiar with the route. For instance, the lead may be taken by a taxi, a bus or a truck. Each such road train will consist of six to eight vehicles.

A driver approaching his destination takes over control of his own vehicle, leaves the convoy by exiting off to the side and then continues on his own to his destination. The other vehicles in the road train close the gap and continue on their way until the convoy splits up.

The road trains increase safety and reduce environmental impact thanks to lower fuel consumption compared with cars being driven individually. The reason is that the cars in the train are close to each other, exploiting the resultant lower air drag. The energy saving is expected to be in the region of 20 percent. Road capacity will also be able to be utilized more efficiently.

There is still plenty of work to be done before we see road trains hit the streets. A three-year research trial will determine how to build a wireless system without making costly changes to highway infrastructures. Ideally, all vehicles linked in behind the driver move automatically, and cars can exit the platoon whenever they want. The trial will also look at safety issues — for example, how to make sure a car doesn’t end up sandwiched between two giant trucks.

If all goes well with the research trials, SARTRE will begin test runs on tracks in Sweden, the UK, and Spain. Soon after that, public road trials will begin. So if you see a group of distracted drivers moving in a perfectly straight line down the highway, don’t worry — they might be in wirelessly controlled vehicles!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Allan Chochinow of Core 77 reviewed Objectified:

The RUF Dual-Mode Transport System

A dual-mode transport system is one in which specialized vehicles travel under driver control on the street, but can also dock to a guideway (usually a monorail) for automated travel over an extended distance. The concept of dual-mode systems started gaining momentum in the mid-1970s. Palle R. Jensen, an inventor from Denmark, has been developing his "Rapid Urban Flexible" (RUF) system since 1988. The RUF system consists of electric vehicles designed with a triangular groove along the base, allowing the vehicle to dock firmly with the triangular monorail. Because the rail requires just over 8 square feet of operating space, Jensen asserts that it could easily be placed along existing traffic corridors in order to reduce total cost of implementation. A computer system guides entry onto, and exit from, the monorail at about 20 mph—and also controls the vehicles as they move along it, coupling them into aerodynamic "trains" which reduce energy consumption and can reach estimated top speeds of 125 mph. The monorail's shape makes derailments impossible, so this system is much safer than traditional driver-controlled travel. While on the monorail, the vehicles' batteries recharge. This means that the vehicle has maximum battery life for driver-controlled travel to any destination not located along the monorail's route.

Barriers to the implementation of the RUF system include the high cost of building the infrastructure--estimated to be upwards of a billion dollars-- and the limited availability of the specialized vehicles required. Still, the benefits of such a system might be enough to convince cities to consider the RUF dual-mode transport system as a viable option for their communities.

Find out more at the RUF website:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ralf Hotchkiss' RoughRider Wheelchair

The RoughRider Wheelchair is a redesign of the traditional wheelchair, targeted specifically for use in areas of rugged terrain and poor infrastructure as is common in developing nations. In Third-World countries, wheelchairs are very hard to obtain; in fact, only one percent of the twenty million people in need own a wheelchair. The one percent who do most likely have second-hand hospital wheelchairs which are meant only for indoor use. These break easily outdoors and are usually very difficult and expensive to repair.

Ralf Hotchkiss, who began redesigning wheelchairs after he became disabled in a motorcycle accident in college, became aware of the need for a wheelchair better-suited for the rugged terrain of many third world countries. He co-founded Whirlwind Wheelch
air International with Peter Pfaelzer, a fellow engineering design professor in San Francisco. Their goal was to design sturdy wheelchairs that could be easily built and repaired in developing countries from locally available materials. For example, the chair's frame is made from thin-walled steel tubing, which is available almost anywhere. The back wheels are bicycle tires, and the front wheels are Hotchkiss’ own design of flexible rubber, which can be molded in tire retread shops. The RoughRider is designed to be as cheap as possible without compromising quality, making the chair about $150-$175.

designing the RoughRider, Hotchkiss ran into "special challenges" because the bodies and abilities of the people who need the equipment vary, therefore the Rough Rider is designed to be adaptable. The width is adjustable but meant to be much narrower than the hospital model, allowing the rider to reach directly downwards to grasp the hand rims, rather than over an armrest, and so be able to push more strongly. It is also designed to be maneuverable on rough terrain and is therefore 10 pounds lighter than the traditional model. It has a longer wheel base to prevent tipping forward, which is the biggest hazard to wheelchair riders, and has wide, flexible front wheels so as to not get caught in cracks in the road.

So far, Whirlwind Wheelchair has established 50 shops in 35 countries, where they provide on-site training in wheelchair assembly, production, and fitting. They not give away many of the chairs, but their shops provide jobs for the very people they are supplying. In addition, the RoughRider Wheelchair is not patented, therefore there is no cost for its design, and it is constantly being adapted and changed according to users' needs.

Wheels of Change (Video)

Sunday, November 29, 2009


The crux of this semester has surrounded dialogue concerning transportation issues and subsequent diagrams depicting these issues. As designers we inherently wrestle with solutions to problems we may not be able to fix by ourselves. So maybe we take the pressure off of ourselves and onto the public. Maybe just by opening peoples eyes, new realms of possibility and change could appear. This may be an idealistic viewpoint, but even the slightest consideration would be progress.

When considering established forms of transportation, society often interacts at an arms length. They consider what they have been given, what they have to work with and react accordingly. For instance a subway map's agenda is soley focused on getting you to ride the subway, and providing a visual reference to do so. The London Underground map successfully achieved this when it was overhauled by Harry Beck in 1933. And although the map is successful at easing the understanding of riding the Underground, it may not describe the most efficient way to commute in general. As we can see in this map by Steve Prentice, often times the commuter might be better off walking, rather than riding, because the distances between stops is not portrayed accurately. This doesn't discredit the work of Harry Beck, it simply provides an alternative.

Public transportation infrastructure is rapidly becoming outdated and overworked because it can't keep up with the growing numbers and demands of passengers. In New York City, Bus stops have elevated chairs or benches altogether. Many commuters accept this as a fact of life, something that can't be changed. Sit Projects have proven, rather simply that the issue can be improved by simply placing chairs under various bus stops in the city.

"Pragmatically, this arose from the pressing need for an array of benches/seats at bus and subway stops within New York City’s public transportation system. By installing our atypical seating compositions, we encourage people to contemplatively stop, consider their purpose, possibly sit and engage with other local commuters over the curiosity of their current placement."

Sit projects proves that a solution doesn't always have to be perfect to work. They have, if nothing else, opened a dialogue for New York City bus riders about the problem at hand.

By using public property as a means of communicating a concept, and idea can catch on and spread if it is designed well. Heklucht, a concept by Jeroen Bruls and Krijn Christiaansen capitalizes on the idea of multi-functionality; a bike lock with a built in air-pump. It began in
Ypenburg, Netherlands, but has quickly spread to Belgium, Austria and the United Kingdom. By combining two essential products of bike culture and executing it well, they have altered the concept of what a bike lock could be. Heklucht is an excellent example of how design can magnify specific needs in various forms of transportation.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hydrogen Cell Cars

Hydrogen cell cars are cars that use hydrogen as a fuel source. Unlike other “environmental cars” like hybrids (which are a combination of batteries and a gasoline fueled engine) hydrogen fueled cars offer zero emissions. The only bye product of the car is water. By having zero emissions, hydrogen cell cars are considered one of the possible alternative fuels of the future, but they are already here. In 2005 Honda leased the first commercial hydrogen car to a family in Redondo Beach, California. Being in the public market is an important step into hydrogen cell cars becoming more common on the road but there are two main problems that need to be overcome first. One is the cost of hydrogen cars and the other problem is that there is no sizable infrastructure laid out yet (fuel stations, refineries for producing hydrogen, and the transportation of hydrogen). At the moment, the cost for a hydrogen car is quite expensive with a Shelby Cobra costing $149,000. Hydrogen fuel is also expensive; at the moment hydrogen cells can cost as much as one to twenty dollars a kilo. Also, there is not a sizable infrastructure in place yet. At the moment California has the most at 13 (as of 2004), but plan to have around 170 by 2010.

Constructing a sizable infrastructure is the first step towards Hydrogen cell cars. President Bush allocated approximately $2 billion in hydrogen highway research. In Denmark, The Denmark Hydrogen Link Project started in 2005 with the goal of connecting a hydrogen highway infrastructure in N. Germany, Norway and Sweden. “
By 2015, Denmark Hydrogen Link expects to have 85-percent of the governmental cars in Copenhagen converted to hydrogen or electric vehicles. By 2025, Copenhagen is expected to have a 100-percent conversion rate”. Also a gradual shift is needed to ease into the hydrogen cell cars. First, hybrids (gasoline and hydrogen cars) need to be constructed until the cost in making, producing, and creating hydrogen cars drops. With a drop in price and an infrastructure to support it, hydrogen cars will be more accessible to everyone.

Works Cited:

Hydrogen Cars. October 2009. <>.

Llanos, Miguel. “Hydrogen cars ready to roll — for a price.” October 2009. <>.

Hydrogen Link. Hydrogen Link Denmark Association. October 2009. <>.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nissan Land Glider

Unveiled at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, the Nissan Land Glider is a concept in a line of green vehicles Nissan plans to begin producing in late 2010. In addition to the Nissan Leaf (which will be the world’s first electric vehicle globally produced on a massive scale), the Land Glider is also a fully functional electric vehicle with zero carbon emissions. Nissan’s new goal is to become the leading zero emissions car manufacturer in the world, starting with the Nissan Leaf, and expanding with the Land Glider. The design of the car is geared towards use in a dense urban surrounding, with a narrow design to try and alleviate the amount of overcrowding on streets, as well as being able to fit in smaller parking spots within the city. The main feature and possibly marketing point, of the car is the fact that it maneuvers much like a motorcycle. A computer controlled steering system instructs the car to lean into turns allowing for enhanced handling and ease while driving. The interior of the car closely resembles a jet cockpit, which can carry up to two people positioned front to back instead of the traditional side to side. The vehicle’s rear view mirrors have been replaced with cameras and monitors, while the dashboard has been outfitted with digital gauges to coincide with its futuristic design. The car will run on battery, a battery that is suspected to be a lot smaller than the Leaf’s due to the lighter nature of the car. As of now, there are currently no plans to place this car into production, but the possible success of the Leaf may sway the company into considering this concept as the more sportier vehicle in their electric line.

Land Glider Video

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Walk to the Art Building 8am Wednesday 1.2 miles
I lock the door to my house. As I turn around I notice the weather feels a few degrees cooler than the day before but the humidity is still high. The sun is casting orange light from the direction I'll be walking and I regret not grabbing my sunglasses. At first, I think I am the only person out walking. I realize I am mistaken though, when I see a girl across the street mounting her bike and another girl crossing the street, trudging towards me with her eyes nearly closed. The girl on the bike passes me as I walk further up the block. Her pedaling seems labored as she ascends the slope of the street. I look down instinctively. The sidewalk is cracked and uneven here. In some places it has been patched up with asphalt that has been sticky for the past few days. Despite my careful watching of the crumbling sidewalk I still manage to catch the edge of my sandal on an slab of concrete. I save myself from falling with a clumsy hop-jump. I continue coolly continue my walk but I check around me to make sure no one saw my trip. The trees along my path shield my eyes from the sun, so I no longer wish that I had my sunglasses. A car moves into the middle of the two-lane street to pass a guy on a bike. I pass an old man with two small dogs. It's a bit awkward because we make eye contact from far away and as I grow closer I feel like there should be some sort of acknowledgment, a “morning” or polite smile. However by the time I reach him the sun is in my eyes again so I look down at the ground and smile at his dogs instead. Most of the other walkers (though there are few of them right now) are carrying food, coffee, or water. I reach an intersection and a car comes to a complete stop to let me cross. I front of me girl stops to fix her shoe. There are many more people walking once I reach the Drag. My mind wanders to thoughts not involved with my walk and I almost don't see the light signaling me to cross the street. Across from campus a horde of people are waiting to cross the street. Besides their bags a few are carrying coffee, cellphones, and music players. I join the group waiting to cross the street. As we cross I realize only two guys are talking to each other, everyone else is keeping to themselves. In West Mall the organization representatives are setting up their tables. No one is talking here either. It is easier to hear the chirping of birds and crickets than people's chatter. It's passing period and a swarm of people are going in different directions at 23rd St. and Speedway but still most people are quiet. A campus car rolls along at a snail's pace but still has to stop often for students to pass it. People are riding their bikes in what was previously a stretch of street on Speedway designated as a no-bike zone. I have to check the sign to see if the rule has changed and it has. Two bikes zip past me as I cross the shared street. I pass two people talking animatedly about neurons. The fountain at the end of East Mall is stagnant, green, and smelly and somehow still managing to leak onto the footpath. I wish I could avoid the fountain on my walk but a longer path wouldn't really be worth the trouble. As I cross the street a truck that was in too much of a hurry has to stop mid intersection to avoid hitting me. I arrive at the Art Building where sleepy students are locking bikes onto racks and lumbering up the steps to the building doors. I join them and enter class.

Bus Ride to the Art Building 2:30pm Friday 1.2 Miles
I wait to leave my house until it stops raining. When I finally leave the rain has stopped but the air is thick and muggy. As I walk to the bus stop I notice a guy in front of a house across the street balancing shirtless on top of a board placed on a sideways keg. We watch each other until I walk out of his sight. I turn my head forward and see the West Campus bus turn the corner and I know I'll be waiting on the next one. I hear something that sounds a lot like a wooden board slap pavement and I crack a smile. I get to the bus stop and check the bench with my hand to make sure it isn't wet. It's not so I sit down. There is one other guy waiting at the stop with me. A car dives past with its windows down and music loud. We catch a few seconds of R&B before it drives away. I absentmindedly read the headlines of The Daily Texan on display in the box near the stop. The bus arrives and I get on. Walking onto the bus marks a stark change in temperature. I move from the thick hot air to a crisp, cold bus interior. I take a seat near the back. The seat is cold and the fabric that covers it has small bristles which feel abrasive to the uncovered parts of my legs. A guy is speaking into a headset phone in another language while the guy next to him wears headphones that look exactly the same as the headset but I know his are just iPod earphones. Two friends talk loudly to each other but the noise of the bus prevents me from hearing exactly what they're saying. The bus lurches forward at a stop and two girls get on and greet each other. All the seats are full now and some people entering the bus are forced to stand. A girl who is too short to reach the handrail hangs on the black hoop grips. As the bus starts driving the hoop sways and moves and the girl unwillingly swings into other standing passengers. She looks frantically for something to hold onto that will let her be more stable. She moves to the middle of the bus where a vertical handrail reaches from floor to ceiling. The driver grows impatient at a green stoplight where the car in front of her is waiting for pedestrians to pass so it can turn right. The bus driver checks for oncoming traffic and goes into the other lane to pass the turning car. The move is ill-founded though since an awkwardly placed charter bus is stopped diagonally in an intersection trying to maneuver its way out of a parking place. Our bus driver pauses unusually long at the stop sign to allow the charter bus to move. At the next stop most of the bus's load gets off, but they are replaced by a crowd nearly as large. A girl unloads her bike from the front of the bus. Everyone who gets on the bus tries to scope out a seat before choosing to stand. As the bus starts again it's progress is slowed by masses of pedestrians crossing the streets near the dorms. A guy sits next to me and asks me if the bus we're on will take him to the engineering building. Except for a few, the stops are unannounced, one must know the route and the area if they hope to signal for the correct stop. After I try to answer his question he checks his cellphone. He asks his friend what a certain acronym means and he's told it stands for another building on campus. The boys discuss acronyms used for the engineering building as the bus stops in front of the art building. I quickly squeeze my way off the crowded bus and enjoy my newly regained personal space. The bus quickly loads another a group of students and sets off for its next stop.

Carpooling and Carsharing Strategies

Annie Samuelson

Professor Hall

Design Theory and Methodology

11 October 2009

Carpooling and Carsharing Strategies

   Today, individual or personal mobility has developed into a right rather than a luxury. Unfortunately, the vast number of automobiles clogging our cities’ urban landscapes and polluting the air is seemingly uncontrollable (Mau 49.) This issue of personal mobility and its consequent traffic leads one to question how mobility could be made more efficient. John Thackara asserts in his book “In the Bubble; Designing in a Complex World” that one must address the core issue of personal mobility, but that it is not enough to just make mobility more efficient. This is because mobility will continue to expand on its own accord, leading to exorbitantly high social, economic and environmental costs worldwide. Since 1950 the average distance traveled by an automobile driver in his daily commute to work has increased from 3.6 kilometers per day to 13 kilometers per day (Thackara 59-60.) One proposed solution to help curtail the vast number of personal automobiles on the world’s roadways is to increase communal mobility: carpooling and carsharing.

   Carsharing is a short-term car rental arrangement where customers can arrange to use a community car for a period of time, returning the car after use (MSN Encarta.) Information from Austin’s Carshare website system suggests, “each carshare network car removes 11 private cars from the road plus 12 more as members postponed new car purchases” (AustinCarShare.) This idea of carsharing questions the notion of personal mobility, allowing users freedom within a network of other car sharers. “In a 2004 study, San Francisco’s City Carshare found a 47% reduction in car travel among carshare members. This study also found a 25% increase in public transit usage with its members” (AustinCarShare.) Of students surveyed at the University of Texas at Austin, over 54% of the students claim to use the bus as a common form of transportation. Since many students at UT and Austin residents already utilize the public transit system to commute and run errands, one can see an effective carsharing system implemented in this already dense area of communal transportation. A carsharing system inspires users to think more and drive less by using modernization programs, these programs attempt to integrate already existing transportation systems with a new carsharing system. These modernization programs see these modes of transportation as complementary not competitive (Thackara.)

   Cities such as: Bremen (Germany), Bogota (Colombia), and Curitiba (Brazil) have become the model cities for new mobility culture. Bremen, Germany has developed a new mobility strategy that is inspired by a mythical creature, “ die eierlegende Wollmilchsau” meaning “egglaying-woolmilksow,” which translates as an all-in-one device, suitable for everyone. With this inspiration in mind, Bremen has attempted to create an intermodal system, which includes public transportation and car sharing (Mau 57.) In a case study, entitled the Moses Study, which analyzed the carsharing system implemented in Bremen; it became clear that the carsharing system replaced 700 privately owned cars with 3,100 car sharing customers. Furthermore, with the pay as you go system, the number of miles driven per year dramatically decreased showing a reduction of 5 million kilometers per car. This consequently resulted in an increased use of public transportation and other environmentally friendly modes of transportation (Manage Energy.)

   Although carsharing systems have proven to be successful in several urban cities, companies such as strive to take this idea of communal personal mobility one step further: providing an online carpooling service. From the numbers advertised on, the company provides daily over 14,765 riders with a work carpool and 1,248 riders with a cross-country travel companion. However, the number of riders who use the program for everyday errands and/or shopping remains under 150 riders per day nationwide (eRideShare.) What many riders fail to realize is that “everyday shopping is highly transport intensive: traveling to a shop usually takes far longer than doing it” (Thackara 54-55.) Shoppers react to this issue by using the internet as a virtual store, buying groceries and clothing online. However, this supposed alternative stimulates more travel than it aims to replace (Thackara 66.) This is due to the fact that each individual product is delivered to the doorstep of each individual buyer as opposed to a central location, such as a grocery store.

   From research conducted by the National Consumer Agency in Ireland, as of July 2008 61% of grocery shoppers chose their main grocery shop based on convenience, i.e. geographic proximity (Amarach Reasearch.) Furthermore, as Thackara asserts, “ Cities are already vast information storage and retrieval systems in which different districts are organized by activity or social group” (Thackara 69.) With this assertion in mind, riders should begin to think more, drive less and plan shopping trips to not only geographically close stores but also with a companion. Dense urban areas with congested roadways would highly benefit from a carpooling system implemented to aid the pairing of riders on their daily errands, this system would help to reduce carbon emissions as well as decrease the number of cars on the roadways, even more than a carsharing system. Of the students surveyed at the University of Texas at Austin, only 1 in 6 claimed to carpool when grocery shopping, but most often carpooled while running other errands. However, because UT’s campus is a highly dense area it seems ecologically irresponsible for a student to not take a friend along when grocery shopping. Because shopping is a relatively personal experience, most people would not feel comfortable sharing with a stranger, a grocery store carpooling system could be easily implemented on a smaller scale, within an already established organization or company, such as a dorm at UT. Large corporations, universities, athletic teams and religious groups already use the eRideShare program. With the implementation of a grocery store carpooling system within these already formed communal mobility groups, the bulk of individual mobility could be decreased further. As Bruce Mau and the Institute without Boundaries asserts in his book “Massive Change,” “No transportation system is an island; it must coordinate all shared systems for maximum effect” (Mau 57.) With the effective implementation of carsharing and carpooling systems, communal mobility could begin to take precedence over personal or individual mobility and free the urban landscape of unnecessary traffic and pollution.


Works Cited Austin Car Share. Web. 10 Oct. 2009. .

ERideShare. Web. 10 Oct. 2009. .

Manage Energy. Web. 10 Oct. 2009. .

Mau, Bruce, Jennifer Leonard, and Institute Without Boundaries. Massive Change. New York: Phaidon, 2004. Print.

MSN Encarta Dictionary. Encarta. Web. 10 Oct. 2009. . Amarach Research, Sept. 2008. Web. 10 Oct. 2009. .

Thackara, John. In the Bubble Designing in a Complex World. New York: The MIT, 2006. Print.

Monday, October 19, 2009

One-minute Lecture: High Speed Rails in the U.S.

In April 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation & Federal Railroad Administration released the "High-Speed Rail Strategic Plan" as part of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, setting aside $8 billion stimulus as an investment. The proposed lines cover some of the busiest connections between U.S. cities and reflect ideas from Spain's Ave trains. Once Spain implemented a system in February 2008 connecting its busiest cities of Madrid and Barcelona (410 miles apart) with a train capable of 220mph, Spanish airlines went from carrying 72% of the long-distance travelers (4.8 million) to 60% in less than a year. High speed rails there now carry 20% of long distance travelers.

High speed rails are not limited by weather problems like planes, but their carbon emissions are 1/6 that of an airlines. Spain plans to continue adding high-speed lines until 90% of its citizens are within 30 miles. The success of Spain's rails shows that, "If you build it (successfully), they will come." This concept can be seen in our own auto and air travel trends. When comparing the U.S. Department of Transportation's analysis of Federal Investment vs. Intercity Travel Trends, it is noted that higher investment led to more usage by Americans. Such investment needs to be applied to high-speed trains. If today, our government invests $60 billion per year into automobile infrastructure, what harm could there be in a one-time investment of the same magnitude into rail line development?

Unfortunately the plans were recently put on hold "until further notice" because too many state grants were filled, pushing the budget much higher than expected. Secondly, investigations of fraudulent grants are taking place.



U.S. High Speed Rail.pdf

Sunday, October 11, 2009

1 Minute Lecture: Bike-share Programs

Bike sharing programs are very popular in Europe, and the US just got its first working program in DC. The concept is that there are "docking stations" around town where one can rent a bike for a day, and return it to another station when finished. The Velib system in Paris is quite comprehensive, with 20,600 rental bikes and 1,451 docking stations throughout the city (Velib Press Kit). Renters can walk up to a station and check out a bike for a mere $1.50 a day. Velib, like all bike-share programs, reports some problems with vandalism and theft; Clear Channel-owned 'SmartBike' in DC attempts to remedy this problem by requiring an annual online membership where people give their personal information and a $40 membership fee in order to check out bikes. SmartBike has only 100 bikes at 10 rental locations throughout the city, and if you accidentally return your bike after more than 24 hours, you will be charged $550. Also, SmartBike stations are only open from 6am to 10pm, so renters have a limited amount of time to check out a bike.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Paige - Mass observation

Sunday 9/6 Afternoon walk

It’s about 2 pm and across the street from my building a girl in an old car appears to be stalled at the intersection. The car smokes out the back and the engine roars in protest, but she manages to peel out of the stop. The day is hotter than I expected, and the sun beats down from the west. A few blocks from home, a homeless man with a blue cap staggers out of an alleyway and lingers pensively at the sidewalk. At the Guadalupe intersection, an older man calls “hey, Jean” to alert his wife, when the pedestrian light turns. They’re both hesitant and ambling when they follow behind me. Two bikers in matching uniforms come down the intersection in the opposite direction, wobbling slightly as they swerve to avoid the dense crowd of pedestrians. I don’t take my usual route, instead cutting through the square in front of the Union. A pair of girls walking ahead of me discuss Facebook stalking – one has been studying the listed interests of a guy, presumably, and doesn’t know how to mention it to him.“How do you strategically bring it up without sounding creepy? ‘I heard you had these three interests and guess what? I also have those three interests.’” The hand-painted student organization signs in front of the Union are collapsed haphazardly; there is one lone promoter who propositions me about something concerning Schlotzky’s. A woman passes, carrying a two-by-four over her shoulders like a yoke. At the cul-de-sac behind the Flawn Academic Center, another pair of cyclists and the man makes a show of riding with no hands. Passing the turtle pond, a group of three take pictures, and one man steps out of the frame and into my path. The turtles are piled up on the rocks to soak in the sun.

The campus is quiet, and the construction site empty. The CAT vehicles are abandoned; some appear halted in the middle of a dig. The iron skeleton of the new building towers over the street. I catch my friend Aaron on his way down 24th street - he’s headed to the Fine Arts library to study – and we note on the coincidence of running into each other on a Sunday afternoon. Our short conversation is punctuated by an acorn that falls onto the hood of a parked Honda. Down the street, two workers swing open the long fence door to the second construction site, which blocks the path down the sidewalk, so I cross to the side running along the Service Building. At San Jacinto I take a shortcut to the art building through the path up to the Texas Museum – on the stairs a man plays with his three children racing up the steps, one announces his victory as I take off down a dirt path up the lawn.

I come down the stairs to the first floor. Behind the double doors into the Art Lab someone is playing opera. I’m inspecting the flyers as a girl with a Chelsea hair cut emerges – the aria is clear for a few brief moments – and gingerly shuts the door behind her.

Wednesday 9/2 Morning walk

A garbage truck unceremoniously deposits a dumpster in the middle of the back alley – its fork rises over the top of the truck. Down the street a biker swerves to avoid me, the bike is covered in colorful tape. There are a few runners – those in jogging clothes and others with backpacks, tardy to class. One man sits on his bicycle in a parking space, seemingly lost in thought. At Guadalupe, an androgynous kid with a wooden surfboard-shaped skateboard glances at me from the other side of the pedestrian crosswalk. She jumps on it and takes off in front of Sutton hall, not long before the bell tolls 9.

A janitorial crew in tan uniforms saunter, laughing, through the parking lot into a low floor of Battle Hall. The square in front of Main is quieter now, there’s a student organization stand set up for something I can’t quite make out, and a UT utility truck parked on a walking path. At 9:13, a tan-shirt crewman heads towards the parked truck - he lowers the back platform and rises with it slowly. It’s 9:15 when the man returns from inside the truck with a dolly, and the student stand breaks out into an indistinguishable school cheer. The flags are at full-mast again, at half-mast only two days ago. There’s a discarded beer in a paper bag at my feet. The sun beats down on the unshaded concrete and a student mumbling into his phone walks, unperturbed, in aimless circles, scuffing his feet.

An old man with a great Santa-beard walks with a gimp and a blue eco-bag, lumbering up the slope. 9:30, a girl with a massive TI83 does homework on the edge of a plant bed. One girl lays prostrate on a bench, immersed in a book. A group of girls at a table chatter something difficult to make out above the incessant noise of the construction across the way – a whistle and a shout from the site. A street lamp knocked over, lying in the gravel.

There is buckling in the brickwork where the ground seems to lurch up – dirt and pebbles collect in the shallow valleys. I pass a deep trench of mud in the otherwise pristine grass; it’s 9:45 when a man with a guitar case passes. I stop to talk with a friend heading to work – she tells me about her anonymous Q & A sessions for her class; instead of geology questions she sends in drawings of dinosaurs, much to her TA’s frustration. She goes on ahead of me.

The fountain is off and the water stagnant and green. One girl coming up the stairs remarks “OOH that water’s nasty,” but it’s all the same to a crow perched on the edge of the fountain, who ruffles his cropped feathers. In the shade of the theater building, a man discusses the Johnny Carson show with a friend. A parked truck has some motorized device in tow – it churns out a low hum. The intersection of San Jacinto and 23rd is a practiced routine of hurried students half-jogging down the crosswalk as long lines of cars and buses wait for their turn to go. It’s hot and my clothes are beginning to stick like a second skin.

The bell tolls 10 when I make it to the Art building. “ST” is fingered into the dust on the sign labeled “ART” (it spells “START”). A construction worker inside screws a circuit board into the wall panel between the two bathrooms. Another worker walks by, happily humming an odd tune, and the vending machines whirr into life beside me. A sour-faced girl emerges from ARTL with a moleskine - I follow her upstairs.

Group Map-Katrina, Emily, Paige, Lauren

Refined Last Call Map

Monday, September 28, 2009

Michael's Mass Observation

10:00 AM

The door to my apartment is still broken. It can’t stop from opening on its own when shut, and a maintenance request seems to not have been the answer. I lock my door and make my way down the dimly lit corridor of my apartment. There are lighting fixtures on the wall, but not a single one has ever been turned on, so my walk in the dark is no surprise. I make my way down the stairs, avoiding the dirt layered railing. I count 12 beer cans and 4 can taps on my way to the front entrance of my building. This time tomorrow these cans will be gone to only be replaced by cans from tonight’s parties. Last night’s choice was Budweiser; I wonder what tonight’s could be?

10:05 AM

The 30 yard wide plot of grass in front of my building appears to have no life in it. There is a slight shade of green, but with all the dirt and dead patches, no one will ever notice. This, however, doesn’t seem to bother the Border Collie that is playing on it while on its morning walk. “Connie Let’s go back inside”, the owner yells from her first floor balcony, and like a soldier, the dog listens and retreats. Making my way through the parking lot I noticed that the car of choice seems to be a Honda Civic; I count 10. A Ford Prism is missing a window, but with glass clearly spread out on the floor, could this have been an accident or theft? Neither would surprise me. Ever curb in my complex appears to be a fire tow away zone, even in very obvious unnecessary areas. Are these spots really hazardous? The owner of a red Ford Focus must not think so, as they are parked in a clearly “hazardous” zone. The only bike on the bike rack seems to have been stripped of its handle bar, tires, and seat. The bike frames discoloration suggest it has been here a while. I come across more beer, this time empty bottles. A foul stench is surrounding the garbage bin to my right. The bin has been outfitted with the ID TDS-4211340. The number is located on the side facing a wall, so it’s safe to assume that the number could have meant something Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
Cache-Control: max-age=0

some point, but is now a mere decoration. A girl, about 5’6’’, leaves her apartment building, and passes me wearing a Longhorn shirt. In a somewhat single file fashion, we both make our way to the bus stop. Hesitating at first, she decides to run after noticing the bus arriving and fixing to depart. I run as well and we both enter the bus from the north entrance.

10:15 AM

There are five girls sitting in the front, and five guys sitting in the back. Almost automatically I am compelled to take a seat in the back as to continue following the established flow within the bus. After taking my seat, I notice that everyone on this bus appears to be paying no attention to anything going on around them, as though stepping on the bus has made them oblivious to the world. As the bus begins to depart, the bus driver attempts a conversation with a girl in a black shirt near the front, but stops after getting no reaction from her. This same girl then turns to her friend on her left and begins a conversation with her with a little more enthusiasm. The bus makes a stop and the guy directly in front of me with blonde hair motions to get off the bus, but after realizing where he was again, sits back down. There are many posters on the walls of the bus, which I have never noticed or read. It seems as though placing a poster on a bus like this is like decorating a wall. The poster becomes ornamentation rather than a beacon of information. One of the girls in the front opens her backpack and takes out her iPod, and like dominoes, so do the 3 girls around her. In the ten minute drive to campus, not a single person has looked up. We make a left onto San Jacinto. First sign of movement: Boy in an orange t-shirt glances at a passing Toyota Tacoma. Today the bus decides to skip its first stop on San Jacinto. A look of confusion hits the blonde haired boy, who looked like he was planning on exiting the bus. Driving through campus, there is a crowd of students exiting the stadium to my right in a very sluggish manner, while a group of eager high school students on my left take a tour of the campus. The bus makes its final stop on 23rd street. I follow the blonde haired boy, who waits patiently on the steps inside the bus, while the girls, oblivious to his act of kindness, exit the bus.

10:26 AM

There is a man drinking a cup of coffee near the Daily Texan newspaper dispenser. Top Story: UT Begins $5 Million Dollar Budget Upheaval. He grabs one and walks off, almost being sideswiped by a departing UT shuttle bus. The man at the O’s CafĂ© stand smiles at a customer as she makes her purchase of coffee and bagel. The land sculpting/maintenance workers are hard at work, tending to the shrubs and trees to my left. One appears to be tired; there are sweat marks on his tan shirt. I pass the barely legible “Art Building” sign and make my way up the twenty seven steps to the Art Building. Construction within the building is still going strong, with the noise level at an all time high. One worker signals the other, who has a very angered look on his face, to go with him to the back. Both retreat as I make my way down the corridor, stopping as a group of students exit their class. Turning the corner I caught a conversation between two girls. Conversation: How to make a good cup of coffee. Two scoops of sugar seems to be the key ingredient in any good cup according to the girl who talked using her hands while she was making her point. After walking up a small flight of stairs and taking two lefts, I arrived at my class.