Sunday, February 28, 2010

Benefits of High Speed Rail

I just read an interesting article on high speed rail that takes a more comprehensive look at the benefits of high speed rail ... it's not just travel time savings, but what these make possible for the economy. The article presents a very nice analysis by the University of Toronto's Martin Prosperity Institute. Here it is High Speeds, High Costs, Hidden Benefits: A Broader Perspective on High-Speed Rail.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lakeside Conference on Transportation Data

Zurich's on-board transport information system from my flickr photos.
I am helping organize the 3rd Lakeside Conference on Data and Mobility. The conference will explore ways of using data to improve mobility. The last conference focused on weather data but this year the scope will be broader. I am particularly interested in learning about new ways non-professionals can use data to collaborate on transport planning similar to the ideas in my 2010 US Transportation Research Board paper: Web 2.0 Applications for Improving Collaboration in Transport Planning.

We are looking for papers! Here's the call for papers - the deadline is somewhat flexible, send me an e-mail if you have a good idea for a paper but don't have time to do a full abstract by the February 26 deadline.

The conference will run from October 6-8 in Klagenfurt Austria. I am trying to organize a small meeting in Vienna on October 5 for people who come early to learn about some of the interesting things going on here. Contact me for more information.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vienna Museum: Kampf um die Stadt

The Wien Museum (Vienna city history museum) has a great exhibition on right now called "Kampf um die Stadt - Politik, Kunst und Alltag um 1930" which I would loosely translate as: "Battle for the city - politics, art and everyday life in 1930". The exhibition runs until March 28, 2010, and I recommend it highly.

The exhibition is about the years following World War I until about 1934. One of the main themes is the 'practical' socialism that was introduced in the city of Vienna during this period. After WW I the Social Democrats came to power in Vienna, a city of almost 2 million people. Vienna did not fit very well with the rest of Austria which was mostly agricultural and quite conservative. Vienna, in contrast, was a modern industrial city with a huge number of workers. There was great fear in Austria that Vienna's workers would lead a Communist revolution, but the Social Democrats focused instead on "practical improvements" that would lead in the long run to socialism.

The Social Democrats' practical improvements included a huge public housing program (the city still owns over 200,000 apartments and continues to build new public housing), kindergartens and health clinics, schools, and one of my favorites: a box of diapers, baby blankets and clothes which was given to new mothers (this was quite important because many people were poor). The exhibition has a great film of children in one of the public housing project's parks being taught how to brush their teeth.

One interesting fact is that Vienna was able to pay for these programs because it was made a separate Austrian state in the early 1920s. This gave the city a relatively large budget and the leaders chose to spend the money on social programs. A key problem in many US cities is the lack of funding created by inner cities being separated from the more prosperous suburbs that depend on the city; Vienna was (and still is) a very large city in terms of area and it includes many 'suburban' areas with high income. This helps explain how Vienna has been able to maintain and improve its impressive quality of life.

I have been on two tours organized by the museum in conjunction with the exhibition. On the first tour we visited several public housing projects (I hate using the word 'project' here because it brings to mind the idea of US public housing projects and the ones in Vienna are completely different) in the Margaretenguertel area of Vienna - the so-called Ringstrasse of the Proletariat. One of the public housing complexes is shown in the top photo.

On the second exhibition we visited some of the sites where there were actual battles between the Social Democrats and the conservative parties which controlled the national government. The first site we visited, Karl Marx Hof, is one of the public housing complexes built in the 1920s and is really an impressive site (see photo). The Austrian Army actually had to bring out the artillery to battle the residents.

My photos of both tours are available on my flickr site Wien Museum set.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Transportation for Communities Collaboration Website

Figure illustrating coordinated set of Web 2.0 tools for collaborative transport planning from my 2010 US Transportation Research Board paper: Web 2.0 Applications for Improving Public Participation in Transport Planning

I just saw the website Transportation for Communities - Advancing Projects through Partnerships (TCAPP). The website "has been created to enhance collaboration in transportation decision making". My major research interest right now is improving collaboration in transportation planning so I was quite interested in seeing what the website had to offer.

In summary, it is a very good description of the transportation planning process (although specifically designed for highway projects many of the concepts are quite similar for public transport). The main purpose seems to be to help citizens better understand the transport planning process and it does a good job. It also includes a tool to help either stakeholders or practitioners "identify what is going wrong in a process". That's quite an interesting and helpful feature I think. Other interesting features are the decision guide and case studies.

The website does not provide Web 2.0 tools that actually enable citizens to collaborate in the transportation planning process as I have proposed, but is a very valuable addition to the "library" of information needed to help support an integrated set of applications (see illustration above).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Itay Talgam: Lead like the great conductors | Video on

Itay Talgam: Lead like the great conductors | Video on

This is a wonderful video, not just because he shows several clips featuring Vienna musicians, but because it so clearly illustrates different management styles and the art helps you distinguish what works from what doesn't. I was saving this until I really had time to watch and enjoyed it immensely.

I read about the talk on Garr Reynolds' Presentation Zen blog.