Friday, September 25, 2009

ITS Challenge - Final Results

Stockholm Central Railway Station - 5

I recently participated in the ITS Challenge, a contest to identify intelligent transport system (ITS) ideas for helping reduce congestion. My proposal, Bus Meister, was not selected as one of the nine finalists. I blogged previously on my assessment of the nine ITS Challenge finalists.

Yesterday the results were announced in Stockholm (hence the photo above) and the solutions I liked best did not win. The best I did was a 3rd place for iCone, a very nice application for helping provide ITS in construction areas and for special events (it got 7% of the votes).

My favorite application in the contest was skymeter, a proven system for efficient roadway user charging. It only received 5% of the vote. As we move to electric vehicles and more fuel efficient vehicles road user charging systems will be needed to replace the gas tax, and more relevant to the contest's goal of reducing congestion: using road pricing creatively can make a huge impact on congestion.

The winning application was with 54% of the votes. iCarpool is doing very nice work, but their system did not seem to be anything special. I thought the other carpool application in the contest, Avego (5% of votes), was a bit more innovative and better (check out the Avego YouTube video description).

The second place application, with 18% of the votes, was, an application that helps users use less fuel and drive more responsibly. Again, not bad, but not really earth shaking.

The VenCorps Blog summarizes the results and refers to a full press release with more details.

I guess I have to wonder about the process. First it was a little unclear how the top nine applications were chosen. As I mentioned in my earlier posting, most of them did not seem particularly innovative. Second, it seems odd that the winner would get so large a percentage of the votes, especially a relatively plain vanilla (for people working in the transport planning field) application (IMHO). As I said, nice application, but ...

Perhaps the contest sponsors were over represented in the voting? While anyone could vote, you needed to sign-up on the VenCorps website, a somewhat involved process. In many ways I think that the main sponsors (IBM, ITS America) are relatively conservative organizations and the results probably reflect this bias. Who knows?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

McAdam and the Modern Road

Men at work sign - Brussels
Wired: Today in Tech: John McAdam ... the father of the modern road ... today's his birthday. Great summary of his work in the Wired article: McAdam Paves the Way.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Vienna Tram Day 2009

Wiener Linien Tram Day 12sept09 - 10

On Saturday the Wiener Linien (Vienna Lines), the city's public transport operator held its annual open house at the main workshops. It was a nice day and a great party. Here are a few photos.

Inside the railway vehicle maintenance area. The Wiener Linien had set up displays of interesting information (how the new real time passenger information system works, etc) with various types of public transport vehicles interspersed between the displays.

The new Ring Tram was on display. The tram lines that used to run on the Ring (#1 and #2) were recently re-routed so they only go on part of the Ring. The Ring tram is designed for tourists and has information in several languages available on headphones. It has a special (higher) fare, but it's well worth riding.

What is it about kids (of all ages) and trams?

No Austrian event would be complete without food and drink. Below is my Goulash lunch at the employee cafeteria ... not as good as mine, but quite good.

Back to work ... here's a photo of several rail vehicles being maintained. On the left is one of the old trams, on the right (up in the air) is one of the old subway (U-Bahn) cars.

I don't know how many public transport operators have their own Blues Band, but the Wiener Linien does: the Wiener Linien Blues Band. They were playing Mustang Sally, I don't know why they didn't play Tramway Charlie ... but maybe next year!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

David Bryne on Cities

Brussels Saint-Gilles June09 - 2
I loved listening to the Talking Heads, it wasn't just the music, but that the lyrics were always (well almost always) so thought provoking. Last week, David Bryne wrote a wonderful essay on cities for the Wall Street Journal (of all places!?!?). The article David Byrnes's Perfect City is as clear and on target as his music. What a talented observer of cities and how they work. Thanks to Richard Florida and the Creative Class for the heads up. The photo above is of a sidewalk cafe in the Saint Gilles neighborhood of Brussels.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bill Fulton: What We Can REALLY Learn From Portland

One of my favorite California planners, Bill Fulton, has a wonderful article about learning from Portland Oregon's success in creating an exciting urban area. Like most planners I have always been a huge fan of Portland and its great transport system. Bill's article identifies six lessons from Portland, but rather than encouraging other cities to simply copy these lessons - which many "lessons from Portland" articles seem to do, he suggests that cities try to understand what Portland has done and develop their own strategies for success. Here's a link to Bill Fultons's article What We Can REALLY Learn From Portland.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Westbahnstrasse Tram Track Reconstruction

As I mentioned in previous posts the Wiener Linien has been rebuilding the tram tracks in our neighborhood this past month. I am putting lots of the photos on my website and also several movies. I now have five movies of the construction process on YouTube, above is one of them. I will write another post when the website is finished.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Salad and Wine on Austrian Airlines

On Thursday Austrian Airlines (AUA) was purchased by Lufthansa. Lufthansa promises to keep many of the good things about Austrian Airlines (although I am not convinced that the bright red uniforms their staff wear are really one of the good things with AUA, but I digress).

One of the things I like best about Austrian is that they still give you food and it's not bad. The food is prepared by Do&Co. The photo above is the 'salad box' that AUA served on my recent flight to Brussels. They also serve Austrian wines and I was able to taste the "Lois" Grüner Veltliner 2008 from
the Loimer Winery in the Kamptal region of Austria. Since moving to Austria I have grown to love Grüner Veltliner and have wanted to try the Lois for a while. It was quite nice, much better than the generally bland Chardonnay wines served on US airlines.

I certainly hope Lufthansa keeps the Austrian food and wine selection!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Otto Wagner and Vienna Transport - 1

A colleague from San Francisco was in town last week and, as usual, visitors call attention to the things you don't always notice as you go about your everyday business. I have been following his blog (Jarrett Walker, and added a couple comments and then thought, well one of these comments is something I've wanted to write about myself for a while, so here's a first installment on Otto Wagner and his influence on Vienna transportation planning.

Otto Wagner is a fascinating example of an architect who also did some great urban civil engineering. There is a nice exhibition of his work at the Wien Museum's Otto Wagner Pavilion located in the Karlsplatz U-Bahn entrance (designed by Wagner). The museum is very small but manages to present a good summary of Wagner's work.

Also don't miss his Hof Pavilion
(German website, nice photos) a private station designed for the Kaiser at Schönbrunn (the Kaiser's summer palace). The Hof Pavilion is adjacent to the Hietzing U-4 station (one station beyond the Schönbrunn station). Right now it's only open on Sunday mornings (see German website for times) but well worth the visit for fans.

Of course you can still see Wagner's influence in the design of many stations on the U-4 and U-6 lines. Both these lines were operated with steam engines in Wagner's day (he developed the conceptual plan for these lines as well as designing many of the stations and infrastructure). The photo on the right is of his famous bridge on the U-6 line over the Vienna River at the Gürtel. The photo is taken from the U-4/U-6 Längenfeldgasse Station.

Wagner's lines were later converted to electric trains then into Vienna's U-Bahn network, but many stations were maintained and have been renovated. The photo on the right is a detail of Wagner's bridge on the U-6 line. All photos are on my flickr photos of Vienna public transport, where there are many more photos of Otto Wagner stations and bridges.

Vienna has done a wonderful job restoring many stations designed by Wagner. A couple years ago they rehabilitated the Gumpendorferstrasse Station (U-6) - shown at the top of this post. They did a great job integrating new features (e.g. elevator) and new floor tiling (rubber non slip) that matched the old style. It is great that Vienna does not eliminate history from their transportation infrastructure in the name of efficiency or current fashion. As places like NY Grand Central Terminal show, old pedestrian flow designs often work much better and the buildings are much more gratifying as many modern designs.