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.