Friday, January 28, 2011

Bus Meister Game - Thanks for the Feedback!

London Buses - 2
Double Decker Bus in London: from my flickr photos of London.

Thanks to everyone for providing feedback on the Bus Meister game via e-mail, comments and at the TRB meeting!

One funny question was, "Why are the buses traveling on the left (curb) lane?"

The answer is that we wanted the buses to travel left to right and also wanted to show the buildings in the background ... so the buses need to travel "British style". Maybe we should make them double decker?

Our next steps are to revise the factors to make the game work better (i.e. show the benefits of PT priority more clearly), then we will make Bus Meister a real game with levels (top level is "Bus Meister" of course!). When we launch this version of the game it will be on facebook and have a more interactive website so that players can use social networking to get involved in improving public transport in their own communities. ... Lots to do, but quite exciting.

Bus Meister game:

Bus Meister Public Transport Priority Best Practices wiki:

Please keep those comments coming!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bus Meister Game (beta) - Now online!

I have just finished the beta version of a game designed to help citizens understand public transport priority. The game is linked to a wiki that provides detailed information about measures to improve public transport. Once we are happy with the game we will place it on facebook and add social networking features so that players can discuss how to improve public transport in their own community.

I am looking for people to try out the game and wiki and to give me comments (also join the wiki as contributors!). The game is available now at:

The wiki is available at:

This page on the wiki provides instructions on how to play the game:

Right now the game works, but we need to refine the values used to run the simulation and calculate the happiness and cost values. We will adjust these in the coming weeks and also add levels (so players advance to more difficult challenges) and other standard game features. We also will add more information to the pages. But, for now, the game works and we would love your feedback.

Finally, I hope to extend the approach to other modes of transport (biking, walking, street design) in the future.

Thanks for your help,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Martin Wolf: East and West Converge on a Problem

Today's column by Martin Wolf (East and West Converge on a Problem) in the Financial Times discusses a recent book by Ian Morris (Why the West Rules – For Now, Profile Books, 2010). As always Wolf's analysis is very interesting, for example:
For Prof Morris, “social development” is an amalgam of four factors: energy use; urbanisation; military capacity; and information technology.
Wolf's column focuses on the energy side, but all four factors are fascinating. Morris' book is on my to read list!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

High Speed Rail in the USA

Prague main railway station June 2010-01

Pendolino Train in Prague - From my flickr photos.

I just commented on a very interesting article in The Infrastructuralist: A Powerful Argument for US High Speed Rail. The article discusses the fact that no US transportation system actually pays for itself and therefore arguments against HSR because it does not pay for itself are wrong. Here's my comment:
I think an important point is that we need a transportation SYSTEM that works. High speed rail is part of that system and we all realize it’s not appropriate everywhere and it will be impossible to build quickly enough even where it is justified right now. What’s to be done?
1 - Focus on improving the existing railway system. It may not be possible to build a real HSR system through New England, but I am sure there are many projects that could shave ten minutes off the travel time.
2 - Improve multimodal connections. Travelers care about door-to-door time not speed. Any rail traveler can tell you the horror stories involved with connecting to local public transport networks. Most of these problems are “simply” institutional, they would cost almost nothing to fix. Again, this could save tens of minutes.
3 - Build a couple HSR lines where they make sense. California for example. Let’s see how they work, even starter lines with (1) and (2) above could show whether the concept will work in the USA.
These seem like pretty uncontroversial suggestions. A country as innovative as the USA should be able to try out an idea like HSR and spend some money improving the rail system without all the controversy that seems to have been generated by what is really a very small program.
Reading through the article comments is really enlightening. There is so much negative energy being thrown around about what amounts to a very small amount of money. It seems strange that people would object to spending a little money testing something that works pretty well in other countries and which could be implemented successfully in carefully chosen US corridors.

Furthermore, many of the investments in Obama's High Speed Rail program fall in the first category of improvement above: small projects to improve railway travel in the USA. Again, a small amount of money to make pretty useful improvements (and create jobs in a depression economy - no small benefit). Critics say these are not "real high speed rail," fine, but useful, yes.

Most depressing of all is the fact that normal people have been coerced by politicians and the media to get fighting mad about these small expenditures on relatively benign infrastructure improvements. To be against simply trying out things that just might really improve our society, and certainly won't hurt. A pessimist would say that it's useful for those in power to keep the middle class fighting with each other about peanuts rather than questioning why, for example, hedge fund managers only pay a 15% income tax rate.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year 2011

Happy New Year from Vienna! This is how we celebrated New Years day ... that's the Vienna Philharmonic in the background ... like most people in Austria we watched it on TV. Christa is pouring a glass of Austrian sparkling wine. Cheers!
Posted by Picasa