Monday, November 30, 2015

Our not-that-bad traffic bottlenecks, Ashby parody, autonomous cars forecast, TX-HSR, affordability strategies, fixing LA

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  On to this week's items:
  • Kuff has a pretty good analysis of why it's fine that the Dallas-Houston high-speed rail will terminate at 290 and 610 instead of downtown, including the opportunity for redevelopment out there.  As far as a light rail line connecting it on to downtown, I'm very skeptical on the cost-benefit.  I'm open to data otherwise, but my guess would be that any given trainload would have less than a busload that wants to get downtown - why not just have an express bus meet the trains and shuttle them downtown?  Not only would it be faster than a net 17mph light rail, it can circulate downtown to get people closer to their actual destinations.  In fact, this could be a *great* use for some of those Park-and-Ride express buses that are idle most of the day.
  • This is a pretty interesting report on the nation's top bottlenecks with some deep analysis here.  It gave me some optimism: our three on the list are not ranked that high, and there is current construction (290) and plans (59) to fix two of them.  Now we just need to double-deck the West Loop! Page 48 of the document at the bottom has the success story of the Katy Freeway expansion.
  • How Soon Will We Get Self-Driving Cars?  Conclusion:
"Based on this, I find it completely reasonable to think that, by 2020, you’ll be able to buy a car that is completely self-driving on many roads and streets, but that may require you to take over on some little-used roads. Moreover, I think these cars will penetrate the market much faster than pessimists think, both because companies like Uber will make them available for-hire at rates of about 25 cents a mile, and because many cars built between now and 2020 will be easily upgradable to be self-driving cars. And, contrary to some expectations, such self-driving cars should almost completely replace transit (at least, outside of New York City) within a few years after they are introduced."
On a related note, I had my first ride in a self-driving Tesla last weekend - limited capability (requires active driver monitoring) but still impressive.  
Finally, a pretty amusing NIMBY parody video about the Ashby high rise.  Hat tip to George.

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At 1:56 PM, December 14, 2015, Anonymous Mike said...

"my guess would be that any given trainload would have less than a busload that wants to get downtown - why not just have an express bus meet the trains and shuttle them downtown?"

Because it would firmly cement Houston as second-rate compared to Dallas in the minds of all HSR users? To make an analogy, airports in many countries around the world force passengers to use buses between the airplanes and the terminals instead of having jetways, which leads to much cheaper airport design. Maybe our airport system should consider getting rid of jetways and bussing everyone to their planes? Our airport would feel dumpy, but it sure would be cheap!

Things like this are why Dallas has always out-marketed Houston.

At 2:42 PM, December 14, 2015, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I'm ok being out-marketed to save a billion dollars. Also, something else I'm going to blog about soon: if you look at the most likely sources and destinations for HSR business riders, it's likely to be a zone from downtown out west to Westchase and the Energy Corridor. The easiest and most central arrival and departure point is 290/10 at 610, not downtown. Forcing everybody to go downtown may actually suppress HSR ridership, especially for those going to/from the west side.

At 7:41 PM, December 14, 2015, Anonymous Mike said...

So then are you okay with getting rid of jetways at the airports? We could probably save a billion dollars in airport construction this way. Just stack the gates and make everyone take buses to the planes. Airports only account for a small percentage of total trips, so it really makes sense from a cost/benefit standpoint.

At 8:00 PM, December 14, 2015, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Not true. Run the math on the cost vs. the number of people that use those jetways vs. the cost of running buses (gas, labor, maintenance) and jetways are an easy choice.

At 9:42 PM, December 14, 2015, Anonymous Mike said...

I don't have enough data to run the math, but if the cost of jetways were so low, why is America one of the few countries in the world that has jetways? It is pretty apparent that an airport design that provides enough space for each jet to sit next to the building for an hour or more is much more costly than a design where several gates can make use of the same exit door and just send the people out to where the airplanes are waiting. You can accommodate many more flights in a smaller building.

At 10:49 PM, December 14, 2015, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

And that might be true if you have a small, underutilized airport, especially in less wealthy countries. If each gate is handling 10+ flights/day, the jetways get plenty of utilization. I also imagine if you calculate all the space needed for people to sit and wait for their flight, you might as well build extended terminals with jetways anyway - probably similar square footage to a central waiting area.

At 10:18 AM, December 15, 2015, Anonymous Mike said...

It's not just small, underutilized airports. It's Frankfurt, Rome Fiumicino, Warsaw, Vienna, Istanbul, etc. Most of these have limited jetways for certain flights and then a lot of bussing to the planes. The budget airlines (EasyJet, RyanAir) exclusively do bussing because they can't pay the rent for the jetways. Even JFK busses a lot because they can't construct terminals fast enough for all the new capacity.

And the sitting and waiting space can be configured in more flexible ways to save space than you are forced to do if you have planes adjacent to the terminal. You could have two story terminals, or compressed seating areas, or various configurations that you can't do with the jetway model. Usually when I fly this way, I am forced to walk a certain distance, including stairs, from my gate to the crowded bus which then takes me to my plane.

At 2:54 PM, December 22, 2015, Blogger Andrew said...

"Because it would firmly cement Houston as second-rate compared to Dallas" whom? Who cares is some ambiguous group of "they" thinks Houston is second-rate? That's the weakest argument ever in favor of spending billions and billions of dollars to make something that will be less efficient.

"Yes, Mr. Taxpayer, we're going to issue billions more debt so that some people, I don't know who... maybe bloggers or people who make listicles on Buzzfeed or something, will subconsciously put us above Dallas in their casual dinner conversations."

This is not how the real world works and following that mindset will put us further on the path of being Detroit.

At 5:01 PM, December 22, 2015, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Well said - love it!

At 10:37 AM, December 23, 2015, Blogger Andrew said...

Oh, hey, look! A listicle from a world-renowned food critic placing Houston above Dallas (not even listed, lol), NYC, and Chicago for best food scene. We just saved ourselves billions of dollars in unnecessary infrastructure spending thanks to this article. Whew!

At 3:00 PM, December 23, 2015, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Whew! Saved! Lol. I saw that and will be blogging on it soon.


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