Author of Blog: Daniel Day
New Post once a month.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

E-scooter Dilema & Update: Politically Correct Streetcar.

It's funny how after I write a blog post, new information seems to come to light. The reason why I left out Dockless Scooters out of Dallas Bike Share is simple; because I didn't observe any dockless scooters around when I was in Dallas.  The same thing with the Politically Correct Streetcar; new information came to light showing a possible solution to VIA's plan boondoggle of buying the Chinese Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit, aka, the Trackless Train, aka the real name, the Politically Correct Streetcar.

E-Scooter Dilemma/Update: Dallas Bike Share.
"Tech Bloc is representing our industry's interests and working with city staff on the initial draft regulations for dockless e-scooters and bikes in SA. We hope our city leans forward on innovation and keeps them here. The City Manager and her team have been very open and collaborative throughout. The draft ordinance will go before Mayor and Council in September. This public meeting on 7/31 is an opportunity for individuals to learn more about the issues and provide input. Let your voice be heard."

"July 31, 2018; 6pm-8pm
Central Library Auditorium
600 Soledad St."
Yesterday, I came across TechBloc's Facebook post (Image 76.1) yesterday about a meeting being hosted by TechBloc about the current Dockless E-Scooters that are plaguing San Antonio with it's greenness and showing people that you don't need a car to get around or order a Lyft.  From what I'm observing, it's doing the same thing that I observe with the dockless bikes in Dallas; leaving messes to be pick up by someone else while at the same time, showing the lack forethought by current and previous city leaders on alternative transportation options and vision zero.

As I wrote down in "Dallas Bike Share," I observed that these dockless vehicles are helping provide the last mile service that VIA or any other North American Transit system are unable to provide.  I'm fairly certain that the same thing is happening here with the E-Scooters for walking sucks on a hot summers day and waiting an hour for your connecting bus in that Texas heat also sucks.

Did you hear about the success about how E-bikes are reducing the number of Uber trips in San Francisco?  Well that's exactly what's happening there according to a CNN Money story.  Uber purchased Dockless E-bikes and the places where these bikes are being used is reducing the number of Uber car trips.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could get the numbers from Lyft, Uber and Bird rides to see if the same thing is happening here in San Antonio? After all, we're not quite staying inline with EPA air quality standards right now.

If anything, the dumping of this awesome service is showing the years of neglect of transit and bicycling infrastructure especially into protected bicycle lanes by past and present City Council members.  Because there's no bicycle infrastructure, the users of these E-Scooters are on the sidewalk and causing havoc, turning honest citizens into criminals by violating city ordnance Sec. 19-286. Driving or parking on sidewalks prohibited.   If I can find room for a protected bicycle lane on Broadway between 3rd and Houston, (Image 60.8) then so can the civil engineers at San Antonio Transportation and Capital Improvements, who hold degrees and licenses. Just another example on how the City of San Antonio isn't serious about Vision Zero.

I will not be able to attend this meeting because, I'll be at work and I like to be able to earn a living.  I will not be surprise at all if no one shows up and points out to the city manager in attendance; possibly the one who so gracefully removed the civic safety improvement on Mistletoe at N St. Mary's showing that if this city had invested as much energy into bicycling and transit as they are right now into moving the Cenotaph at the Alamo, then we wouldn't be having a big problem with E-scooters on the sidewalk.

For the Record, SWell Cycles needs to be involved in any Ordnance that is written for my suggest about Dockless Bikes also should be applied to E-Scooters.
"Make all companies that set up shop pay a fee to SWell Cycles to pick up stranded bicycles.  Just having the companies themselves pick up the bicycles will not solve the problem for they'll only pick up their bicycles leaving their competitors to litter the sidewalks.  SWell Cycles will be responsible for putting an equal number of bicycles at certain locations."
Please read my blog posting on the Dallas Bike Share to see more suggestions on how to manage this problem.

Update: Politically Correct Streetcar
For those who are just reading this for the first time, The so called Trackless Train isn't a train at all but a Guided Bus and I went into detail of what it was in my last blog post, "The Politically Correct Streetcar.  The thing that I left out was a type of Guided Bus called the Guided Light Transit which uses a uses a single rubber tire on a steel track for guidance.  Its used in Nancy, France today and since VIA is going to the buses, I really think that it should look into this technology.  The single guided track is perfect for making our buses to be able to have level boarding, not just at transit centers like I described with the Kerb Guided buses in the last blog post, but at everyday major bus stops like where the buses have to share the space with cars.  

The problem with this single track technology is that it's a proprietary system of Bombardier and that it ended up costing more than light rail to maintain it.  There was also one other guided light transit system in Caen, France (Image 76.2) that used this technology and guess what, they're turning it into, a light rail and it's scheduled to be operational in 2019.  In Europe, they call light rail, Tramsways.

In the end, these attempts to replace buses with light rail called guided busways ended up costing more than the dreaded, hated, communist light rail.  In Essen, Germany, the place where the Kerb Guided Busways got their start were eventually turn into light rail, protected bike lanes or just landscaped out of existence.  (See where this is going.)
My recommendation to VIA is to look into the ExquiCity 24 CNG Hybrid by Van Hool. (Image 76.3) This vehicle will do what you want of it just like the politically correct streetcar you want to buy from China. Also having it powered by an overhead wire like a trolleybuse would be a plus too.   And I'm not against the optical guidance for it's pretty successfully being used in Castellon, Spain by their trolleybuses. (Video Below) Optical Guidance isn't in much in use except in Castellon.  And if you want to find out more of what happened to many systems that tried optical guidance, please click here and scroll down to "Civis, Cristalis, Optical Guidance." 


76.1:  The Flyer about the Dockless Vehicle Public Meeting updated from the Facebook post.  Originally posted on Twitter.  https://twitter.com/WTSsanantonio/status/1021474440583020545?s=04

60.8:  My cross section of Broadway segment.  The top is from the 73-page report by California-based design firm MIG and Parsons Brinckerhoff of Canada at http://therivardreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Final_Broadway_Corridor_Plan_web.compressed.pdf.  The bottom is my recommendation Featured in the blog post "SA Doesn't Make The List/There will be no Bike Lane on Broadway."

76.2: Français : Bombardier TVR n°516 et 508 sur la ligne B du réseau Twisto de Caen, au terminus Hérouville Saint-Clair.
By Billy69150 (voir les conditions d'utilisation / see licensing below) - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41607136

76.3: Français : Van Hool ExquiCity 24 METTIS n°1315 au terminus P+R Woippy, sur le réseau LE MET' de Metz.
By Billy69150 (voir les conditions d'utilisation / see licensing below) - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36608578

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Politically Correct Streetcar

Update to this post can be found by clicking here.

For the record, I thought that I wouldn't have to do a blog on this, but now there's no choice, I have to because now VIA along with Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Judge Nelson Wolff proposal for the future.  Ever heard of the Straddling Bus, or the Trackless Train?  You've probably heard about these vehicles for they have been making the news for the past 5 plus years from China. But the real name of these vehicles should be the Politically Correct Light Rail, aka the Straddling Bus, and the Politically Correct Streetcar, aka the Trackless Train.  The Reason Why I call these vehicles "Politically Correct" because there's this unwritten 11th commandment that states "Shall not slow down my car" because these vehicles don't break that technically. 

The Politically Correct Light Rail official name is the Straddling Bus. Wikipedia calls it the Transit Elevated Bus and it doesn't run on rubber tires, but a track along the roadway.  It is designed to be above the moving traffic while not taking away any space that's set aside for cars or blocking them while making a stop, thus this is the reason why I call this the "Politically Correct Light Rail" because building a light rail track above the roadway isn't the "politically correct" thing to do even though it's the most obvious thing to do.  Now if you ever saw the videos from the early years of Houston's Light Rail removing idiot drivers from the road, then you'll understand why this vehicle has no future and according to the Wikipedia article I sited, it was scrapped in 2017. 

The next vehicle is already being tested with passengers in Zhuzhou, China, and it should be called the Politically Correct Streetcar, but the official name is this vehicle is the Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit. The mayor and VIA is referring to this vehicle as the Trackless Train. (Image 75.2)  It's not a train at all, but a bus that has a body of a modern streetcar and uses a technology called Optical Guidance. Wikipedia States that "Optical guidance relies on the principles of image processing. A camera in the front of the vehicle scans the bands of paint on the ground representing the reference path" and a computer process the image and controls the steering of the vehicle.  This technology isn't just being used in Zhuzhou but in Rouen and Nîmes France and Castellon, Spain.  In essence, the Politically Correct Streetcar is a Guided Bus.  If this vehicle was a train, wouldn't have a need for a steering wheel for trains follow the rail that's lay down.  (I'll leave a link to Reading Rainbow episode "Kate Shelley the Midnight Express" explaining the controls of an Amtrak locomotive which can be seen starting at 1:45) Unlike a regular bus, it has a steering wheel at both ends of the vehicle.  I was trying to look for a story back in 2004 on why GM discontinued with offering this type of rear wheel steering called 'quadrasteer,' but I wasn't able to find the article pointing out how the rear steering wheels would get stuck in the turn position while the vehicle was in motion. In essence, Nirenberg, Wolff and VIA where coned by Chinese salesman who put lipstick on a pig or in this case a bus.

In VIA's own Long Range plans, they want to eventually buy the railway right of way that runs from Centro Plaza to behind the Rim. Now I thought they were going to use this right of way for rail transit, but it's beginning to look like if they ever buy it, they'll be using it for buses.  In my blog post Streetcar IV: The Future of Rail in SA, I stated how "Union Pacific Railroad will also stand in the way like one of their freight trains blocking traffic at a railroad crossing.  They dragged their feet when it came to the linear creekway trails going underneath their railroad tracks.  I'm personally counting on Union Pacific to seal those feet in cement to prevent that train from getting next to the Westside Multimodal Center" now called Centro Plaza. I was sorta right for Union Pacific walked away from talks with the Lonestar Rail district back in Feburary 2016.  It's my own opinion that this event had swayed VIA's rail plans and I'm wondering if the final plan is to turn this right of way into a Guided Busway.  

I can only hope that VIA has the foresight to use the type of guided bus called Kerb Guidance or (KGB) because it doesn't require a computer to guide the vehicle.  According to Wikipedia, "kerb-guided buses (KGB)" uses a "small guide wheels attached to the bus engage vertical curbs on either side of the guideway. (Image 75.3) In the video above, you'll see a Streetfilms video on the the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway between Cambridge and St Ives in England.  This type is used also used on Leigh-Salford-Manchester Bus Rapid Transit in England and on the O-Bahn Busway, in Adelaide, South Australia. Personally I wish that VIA would implement this technology at many of it's transit centers to provide level boarding so our buses don't have to waste time getting the ADA ramp out. Level boarding is a boarding method where the platform is at the same height of the floor of the vehicle making the stop.  This method is used on many light rail systems to allow quick and easy boarding for wheelchairs. By clicking here you will see a video from DART about how their level boarding works on the DART Light Rail in Dallas.

The reason why I called these technologies "Politically Correct" because they don't break the 11th commandment which states "Shall not slow down thy car."  Yes I made it up, but it's literally the truth when you try to remove a vehicle lane anywhere in the world especially here in San Antonio.  The people who created these Politically Correct Transit Vehicles are trying to bring low cost fancy transit vehicles to the public believing that there's isn't enough  political support to remove a vehicle lane nor pay for light rail. We are hearing about these things because the Mayor and VIA doesn't think that Light Rail, if brought to a vote, will pass unless it's during a Presidential election and from what I understand on who goes votes, well he's right.  

As a rule, I don't mention political parties on this blog for I have a very good habit of insulting both Trump supporter and Hillary supporter in same sentence and I want to win over everyone to my point of view.  But for this point, I'll be breaking this rule for I need to get across the point that what you think is true, isn't.

Back in 2014, I attended a townhall hosted by Tommy Adkisson to test the waters to see if he should run for mayor. I was just 34 years old and the youngest dude in the crowd.  Back then, we were still talking about the Streetcar and I told the crowded in attendance what I wrote about in Streetcar Part III, No Need for Streetcars Down Broadway about how it's just there for development but I was still for it.  After the meeting was over, I walk over to this person and who wanted the bike lanes removed from South Flores and I told her that "you know, when you ride a train, you don't have to fold up your stroller like when you board a VIA bus."  Her reply was this, "well they should just suck it up and deal with it" and then went on  to describe how we need more car lanes. Now if I were to ask my friends who vote for democrats, does this sound like a democrat? They would have said no, that's a Republican.  But in reality, this is an average Bexar County Democrat voter; she pro-car, anti-bike, and the most important thing to our Mayor, is that this is the type of person out of all of the eligible voting population that is guarantee to show up and vote in every city election. This is the person that our Mayor and VIA needs to convince to increase VIA's funding. (Image 62.1)

My goal wasn't to make fun of Democrats, my goal was, is to try to get you to show up to every council election.  The majority of San Antonia's population do want trains, they do want bike lanes and more bike paths, but those people don't show up and vote, that crazy lady does and all the people who serve our local government, both past and present know this. this is why VIA is talking about the Politically Correct Streetcar and not Light Rail.  

This is also why I don't get into state and national politics on this page because I guarantee that the most people who identify with one particular political party over the other political party have stereotypical ideals of how their political party acts like and how the other side of the isle act like and my experience have found for the most part that this is not to be true. I'll just leave it at that and I hope never to have to cross this line again.  

And that's why Mayor Ron Nirenberg has ditch light rail for a bus with lipstick on it which I'm correctly calling it the Politically Correct Streetcar.  VIA needs more money and he's gambling on people like that person that I talk about in voting yes for it. Regardless if VIA buys the Politically Correct Streetcar, they need to receive more in the sales tax like Dallas, Austin, and Houston to meet the transportation demands of our growing city. 

Remember when I ask then Councilman of District 8 if he would bring rail to a vote as mayor?
K. Are you willing to bring Light Rail to a vote?     
Answer:  Yes     
Explanation:  If voter-approved, commuter rail will be an important element of a modern, multimodal transportation system in San Antonio. I have committed, on the record, to implementing this plan as mayor of San Antonio.   
I will be holding him accountable in the next election and For the Record, I will be also voting for Mayor Ron Nirenberg proposition on VIA as well.

75.1: a model of the Transit Elevated Bus.  By – FelixM – - InnoTrans 2016 – Chinese Bus… -ish Thing, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51672318
75.2:  A Screenshot from the YouTube video "World’s first "smart train" with virtual tracks launched in Hunan, China" https://youtu.be/Lqgvk6LWUDk
75.3:  The kerb guide wheel of a guided bus in Mannheim, Germany By Martin Hawlisch (LosHawlos) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87974 
62.1:  The statistics that ilovesanantonio.org has on their site about voting. Was featured in the blog post "3 Reasons You Should Vote" bikesanantonio.blogspot.com/2017/04/3-reasons-you-should-vote.html 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Dallas Bike Share

An Update to this story can be found by clicking here.

I have come across stories about the problems of Dallas Bike Share system (video above) and have read many stories about the failures about it.  But that's not what I've observed when I was in Dallas. What's actually happening is that it's serving a transportation purpose and making up for the failures of Dallas city leaders and people are enjoying the service. 

Unlike San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and Fort Worth, Dallas has no Bike Share System that was initiated by the local government.  The only reason why that this could be because there's seem to be this attitude towards fixing transportation that a train will fix it.  DART has the most miles of any light rail system, yet on any given day, they have traffic jams just like any other city in Texas.  I sum up the reason why Dallas didn't adopt bike share like this:
Politician: "Trains are going to fix up our transportation problem.
Hostage User: "There's no train plan to be built between my house and my work."
Politician: "Don't worry, one day there will be a train going to that destination."
With an attitude like this, it is no wonder I hardly see any bicycle lanes at all even though there's plenty of room on many of it's thoroughfares.

So with nobody in city of Dallas wanting to put in a bicycle share system, entrepreneurs decided to start their own.  I hear told that they are 5 companies, but I only saw three companies that operate their dockless bike share bicycles in Dallas, and they are LimeBike, V-Bike, and Ofo.

This is what happens when governments fail to provide a transportation need, but unlike Uber or Lyft, you see the results all over the place.  At first it was just one bicycle, now, they litter everywhere.  Back in November 2017, I was in Dallas for just a day.  As I rode around the town, I started to notice a Dockless bike at the Flying J on I-20. As I continued my journey around Dallas, I saw the dockless all over the place but what I saw was that they were popular at around Light Rail Stations.

The Story that is being left out of all these narratives is the fact on how these dockless bike shares are really helping the people who I have dubbed as "Hostage User".  It's a term that I came up with to describe how the people dependent on public transit are pretty much held hostage by the decisions of those transit agencies they depend on. And for the record, I'm one of these Hostage Users myself, after all I depend on VIA to get around town and avoid places that have terrible or no bus service.

Owning a bicycle can become a very expensive thing to own for some people.  Yes, it does make you healthy, but if you're really serious about commuting by bicycle, you began to understand that having a bicycle starting at $300 is a requirement for commuting. Add to the cost of good lights, Locks, which I constantly notice that goes un-purchased, the end cost can gets to about $500.  And When you're barely making money to pay the rent, we'll good luck on buying a $80 lock that keeps your bicycle from being stolen.

Now comes the dockless bike share. Renting it is pretty cheap like a $1 an hour and you don't have to worry about repairs, flat tires, finding a docking station or that expensive U-lock.  So now, you get one downtown, take it on the bus (I've seen these bicycles taken on the train).  And Once you get to your destination, you're not waiting another 30 minutes to catch the bus to take you the next 2 miles.  These bicycle are fixing the problem with transit services worldwide, by providing the transit means to meat that last mile.  There's a reason why people own cars and don't take VIA everywhere, there's a reason why people are afraid to commute by bicycle.  But when you have a bicycle that you can just pick up and leave anywhere without worrying about it, well that changes the game. (The Video Below)

The next step for this bike share system is to end up all over the DFW area especially where the regional transit systems go, but they're not going to be in stuck there. They're going to spread to other city in Texas, not just the ones that don't have a bike share system but places like San Antonio that do. If we don't write the rules now they will get out of control. So here are my recommendations...
  1. Limit the amount of bicycles that are available and or limit the number of companies that are legally able to set up shop.  This can be done with a limit of bicycles per company or an overall limit the number of dockless bikes available, lets say 15,000 bikes.
  2. Make all companies that set up shop pay a fee to SWell Cycles to pick up stranded bicycles.  Just having the companies themselves pick up the bicycles will not solve the problem for they'll only pick up their bicycles leaving their competitors to litter the sidewalks.  SWell Cycles will be responsible for putting an equal number of bicycles at certain locations.
  3. Have the travel data collected so the city of San Antonio and other municipalities can know where to put down bicycle lanes.  
  4. Designate spots where these bicycles should be left especially at transit centers and bus stops.
Another thing that could be done is for SWell Cycles, the new name to our Bcycle to adopt the technology themselves and expand the current bike share system throughout San Antonio.
  1. Encourage people to take these bicycles on the VIA bus and around town or put several or 10 bicycles in places where people requested that SWell Cycles want to expand within the first year.
  2. Charge people an extra $1 to leave it parked not at a SWell Cycle Station. If we then see a bunch of these bicycles at a location where's there is no docking station, then this should be an indication that there's need for more docks or a docking station at or near this pile of bicycles.
  3. Use the data collected to put in new docks and where to put down bicycle lanes.
  4. Wait at least two years before putting penalties in such as leaving it blocking a sidewalk, or in a flood plain.  But please don't charge more than $15 and for repeat offenders, work with them.  They might live behind a fence and the sidewalk outside is too narrow.
SWell Cycles is local and they'll understand that we don't want the cheap bicycles but quality, that we don't want piles of bicycles blocking our sidewalks, but in orderly docking stations. 

And if you don't like my recommendation, click here to go read the "Five Ground Rules to Help Cities Get the Most Out of Dockless Bike-Share" by Streetsblog USA. 

Not everyone is happy about this new Dockless bike share. Bicycle shops hate this system and from one owner that I talked to, told me that their shops have lost business in Dallas.  This man who I will not name because I don't have his permission said that he feels that the reason behind the dockless bike share is to keep bicycling a marginalized transportation option by making the appearance that riding a bicycle is trash.  Now I don't think that the end results to make bicycling an non-option for transportation, but to keep industries growing when they really can't grow anymore.  Since I'm at a lost for words, I urge everyone to take some time out and go listen to the Extraenvironmentalist Episode #94, Rocking the Google Bus where they interview  Douglas Rushkoff about his book, "Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity." There you'll understand that the forces behind these ventures including Dockless Bike Share is unfortunately is a way to destroy local markets in an effort to keep the business growing indefinitely, in this case, shutting down your local bicycle shop by becoming the main bicycle provider.

The time is ticking away for the chance to control the upcoming situation. We need to be ready for the onslaught of dockless bicycles blocking our sidewalks and littering our streets.  This is one technology that will not go away and if we refuse to be ahead of the curve, we'll be buried under piles of broken green and yellow bikes.  And if you happen to be a residence of Alamo Heights or other independent suburb, well you're not immune and just outlawing them won't work. 

All images were taken around Deep Ellum, in Dallas, Texas.  Sorry, but I don't have precise locations. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Driverless Car, an opportunity being missed.

In a state that has an idiotic belief system that a car and only a car is a form of transportation, I'm throwing all my support to the towards a future where all motor vehicles being computer driven. Right now, we are at the cusp of this technology, and we can start writing the rules in which self driving vehicles will operate under.

If you are wondering why I am a big advocate for the driverless car, it is because of what happened a few years ago when a person riding a fixie stopped right at an intersection where a Google car was being tested. As the gentleman riding the fixie came to a stop, he never once put his feet on the ground which is called a trackstand, an ability that most people, including the engineers where unaware that you could do that on a bicycle, especially on a fixie.   The two computer programmers quickly got to their keyboard and started to write the code to teach the car identify the stopped cyclist.  This act alone pretty much told me that we should be embracing the driverless car because the way thing are right now, a car has more rights than you or I bicycling or walking.

The vision written by for the driverless car is a world where people don't own cars anymore because it's cheaper to use an Uber, Lyft or a former vehicle manufacturer providing car sharing services.  Even Walmart and Target will get into the game by providing free rides to and from their stores.  Now, I'm not going to be getting into a conversation about the effects on Public Transportation and VIA, but it will have an effect but I'll leave that for another blog post.

With our civic leaders giving into drivers complaints that bicycle lanes and useless sharrows are graffiti and cause imaginary problems, we are stuck with infrastructure that don't meet the demands of Vision Zero and the demands of 21st Century.  We are also stuck with unsafe drivers who feel that it's their right to run over people protesting or riding a bicycle.  We are also stuck with drunk drivers who have no alternatives to get around other than by operating a motor vehicle after hanging out at a bar.

Whether you like it or not, autonomous automobiles are coming, and we are at the cusp of the technology.  But what I find frightening is that the Bicycle and Pedestrian advocates associations like Bike Texas and the League of American Bicyclist are ignoring the opportunity to dictate the rules of self-driving cars interactions with vulnerable road users and land use policies which even with the vision of SA Tomorrow 2040, they leave bicycles out of the plans when it comes to the inner city. 

You've probably heard about the three laws of Robotics that Isaac Asimov wrote down in his famous novel, I, Robot.  They are
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Shouldn't we be making sure that those who are manufacturing driverless cars do not hit people in the first place?  Shouldn't a driverless car be programmed to operate at 20 mph down narrow urban neighborhood streets and when someone is walking across the street, "jaywalking," slow down, flash their lights to signal the pedestrian to safely proceed?  I'm a truck driver and when I come to a pedestrian whether at a truck stop, or driving my rig through a small town's downtown, I flash my high-beams to tell the person crossing the street that it's okay to cross.  For the life of me, I cannot understand why the people at Scientific American can't come to the same conclusion

Shared Lane Markings, or "Sharrows" are road markings used to indicate share space.  What they really show is a city unwilling to inconvenience drivers in the slightest. And because San Antonio isn't willing to inconvenience drivers in the slightest, we see people who are in motorized wheelchairs not even on the sidewalks, but on the streets because the sidewalks are unsafe and they suck. (Image 71.1)  (#sasidewalkssuck.)  But it's not just people that are in wheelchairs that are in the area designated for moving motor vehicles, but every other vulnerable road user.  You've probably seen on freeway to slower traffic keep right.  Well shouldn't we designate driverless cars to use the left lane going down stroads that have more than 4 travel lanes?  And because these cars are in the left lane, shouldn't they be allowed to drive just a little bit faster than the speed limit?  By doing this, and as more and more people get into driverless cars, over time this will free up the right lane for vulnerable road users.  These cars will still get into the right lane to make that right turn, but if we limit the travel lanes to be to the farthest left, then we'll have that right lane free for the vulnerable road user. 

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
You've probably seen headlines like this, Self-Driving Mercedes-Benzes Will Prioritize Occupant Safety over Pedestrians stating that a driverless car might just go onto the sidewalk to protect it's human cargo.  I am here to tell people that this won't happen because these cars will not follow the other vehicle so close that the stopping distance is less than the following distance. Also all collisions that have occurred with a driverless car so far was because the human behind the driverless vehicle was following to close. 

Yet we hear these headlines over and over again.  This one from NPR warning about how bicycles will need a transponder for erratic behavior, yet in the story, cyclist in Pittsburgh prefer driverless cars than the cars driven by human beings.  This goes back to my suggestion that driverless cars should be in the left lane where available and possible and by doing this, we won't need to worry about cyclist "erratic behavior."  And to avoid more of this "erratic behavior", should we teach cyclist to make left turns by waiting at the red light on the street they're making the left turn to?  Also programming the car to recognize the standard hand signals would also lead to less confusion.

But leave it to fear mongering journalist with a headline of "Robot-human smackdown: Self-driving car and bicyclist collide in San Francisco."  What this story leaves out is that the engineers probably wrote code to prevent this or at least reduce this from happening again.  

If I'm worried about anything, I'm worried about people who feel that they own the road reprogramming their vehicles to disregard human life.  You know, how most people drive, and the disregarding of human life that is encourage by traffic engineers including here in San Antonio.    You've probably heard this before, how some people want to kill us for being environmental friendly, for believing that we who choose not to drive don't pay for the roadway.  If we don't have mandatory  minimums for reprogramming driverless vehicles to disregard human life, we will not see justice with these heinous crimes because as we all know, a car currently has more rights than you or I walking or bicycling.  I know it should be jail time and that imprisonment should last no less than 3 yrs.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Now for this part in relating to Asimov's Laws, it's harder to connect this law to what driverless cars do, but already they'll be protecting their occupants over the people on the outside as well as their own existence.  To explain this part, I'll have to relate to my experience of being an 18 wheeler driver.
As a Truck Driver, you're responsible for an 80ft vehicle weighing up to 80,000 lbs (today's cars weigh up to 2,000 pounds) and in the safety videos they make us watch once a month, they'll describe allowing other people to cut you off, and you better be prepared to stop. It's about getting the entire picture of where you are driving and thinking 2, 3, even 5 steps ahead in making maneuvers such as lane changes or right turns.  The company that I drive for rams home this thought, "its not about who's right or wrong in a car crash, it's about avoiding the collision in the first place."  And it's that thought process that I'm confident that will also be the first and forethought concept of how driverless cars safety rules will be govern.

Already Germany is the only country to make self driving car regulations. Here are the key elements of their decision:   
  • Automated and connected driving is an ethical imperative if the systems cause fewer accidents than human drivers (positive balance of risk).    
  • Damage to property must take precedence over personal injury. In hazardous situations, the protection of human life must always have top priority.     
  • In the event of unavoidable accident situations, any distinction between individuals based on personal features (age, gender, physical or mental constitution) is impermissible.     
  • In every driving situation, it must be clearly regulated and apparent who is responsible for the driving task: the human or the computer.     
  • It must be documented and stored who is driving (to resolve possible issues of liability, among other things).     
  • Drivers must always be able to decide themselves whether their vehicle data are to be forwarded and used (data sovereignty).
Land Use Policies....
Did you know in San Antonio, we have a ordnance, § 35-526. Parking and Loading Standards dictating the amount of minimum parking spots you have to have for your business or apartment.  This is just one reason why rent cost in places where it's easier to live without a car are going up to $1,000 a month.  It's why when SA Tomorrow 2040 came out with vehicle parking over protected bicycle lanes in many of it's inner city corridors.

I wrote back in October 2014 on where to live if you wanted to live in San Antonio car free, you had to live in a certain area in and around downtown.  With the majority of our population living outside this 'square' the need to provide service to an ever increasing aging population with crumbling infrastructure will become more expensive. The way things are going, VIA will have a harder time providing regular bus service because more of their funding will be diverted to paratransit operations.  And as car crashes become more rarer, laws will be further passed to limit repeated offenders of DUI and DWI to have to own a driverless cars.

As Uber and Lyft become the main provider of transportation, parking garages will become hot real estate commodities because these companies will need and want to have cars ready in heavily congested area.  If parking garages are not enough, they will buy on street parking making it almost impossible to build protected bicycle lanes where they are needed in Downtown.

One of the fears that have been mention by the media is a car that drops off a person and continues to drive around the block until it's ready to be called for.  I guarantee that this isn't going to happen because the car will not have enough energy to go around the block, but will most likely drive back to it's origin.  If that origin happens to be more than 30 miles away, it will park at a designated parking area that is set aside by the manufacture, or programed by the service he/she leases to.

As you can see in the image above, (Image 72.2) a space for two parking spots is enough to make a studio apartment.  The reason why VIA sucks in San Antonio is because we lack the density to make transit viable.  Before this occurs, shouldn't we make a sure that we have a occupancy minimum or a parking maximum in our most walkable places? We here in San Antonio don't understand that a parking lot is unproductive piece of property. We don't understand that because the supply of housing is low, the price is high, and having more housing will eventually lower costs.

As owning a car becomes more cost prohibited, people will turn to driverless car services companies.  Like any for profit company, their main thing isn't about providing services like VIA, but to earn as much money as possible. They will do what car manufacturers have done for decades, make walking a crime, make bicycling undesirable, and make public transit suck. If you don't think that this is going to happen, think again. We already we are seeing Uber and Lyft take away from transit trips and walking trips.

One of the hopes of the driverless cars is that it will bring back the urban fabric that has been missing from the times of the Streetcar, before GM took out those streetcar systems to get more people to buy their products.  I hate to break it to you, but these companies are for making money. They will figure out that having places far apart from each other with large acres of parking will increase their profits.  For Profit companies already work hard to influence local governments, not to mention state and federal.  But if we were able to create laws that make it a crime to have a vacant lots and a parking maximums in all our communities, then we would force these giants to heal to a better future.

I wrote two scenarios, both based on my, what I perceive to be my future.  One is a dark world where people are getting tickets on Probandt because it's against the law.  The other is a brighter world where my co-workers are riding their bicycles to work because the built environment is friendly to vulnerable road users.  I encourage you to read both and ask yourself, do you want the one where your struggling to get by, where VIA is garbage, or do you want one where you're riding with your grand kids to the Alamo from your house, maybe as far away as SW Military? 

71.1:  Person in a wheelchair going south on N Colorado between Ruiz and Martin.
72.2:  An Illustration on how two unused parking spaces are enough to make a small studio.

A Wonderful Driverless Future.

The year is 2040 and the driverless car has replaced the motorist.  In this scenario, I describe a world where the car companies Do Not Write the rules of the road. And at least for San Antonio, we have retain and built upon it's roots, not allowing the sprawl to get out of hand. I using the prices of today as I do not know where inflation is heading.  Please before reading this story, read my original post "The Driverless Car, an opportunity being missed."

I got some good news today.  All my coworkers have decided to join me in riding their bicycles to work everyday except when it rain or during blue northern.  I convinced my friend Ted, who is suffering from diabetes, to start riding his bicycle to and from work.  It's been three weeks since he started and he loves it.  Because of him, everyone else started doing it to. And It wouldn't have been possible if the majority of people didn't use driverless cars.  Driverless cars don't care that you are in the way, or running a red light.  They ain't trying to get revenge for hogging an entire lane, they give you plenty of room when passing by.  Because of this technology, there's fewer cars on the road.  

Ever since the City of San Antonio decided to start a war on vacant lots back in 2020, we have for the first time, managed to turn an old subdivision over the recharge zone back into undeveloped land.  We've noticed something that the Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas, have been saying for years, that impervious cover over the recharge zone was causing the big floods and reduced our water supply in the Edwards Aquifer.  Today, the aquifer level is at 700 ft above sea level, a feat that hasn't been achieved for over half a century. It last hit that level back in the early 1990's.

Activists have made their worries known that the Driverless Car Coalition have been tearing down old buildings in other cities to make way for parking garages and lots. Back in 2027, The Driverless Car Coalition, a lobbying group focused on coordinating all driverless car parking in San Antonio and other cities throughout North America, tried to remove the old Greyhound Station leaving nothing but a parking garage. However, due to a Mayor and City Council that had the leadership and foresight to make it law that any new parking garage that is built, the first five floors should be used for either ground floor retail, apartments or office spaces. The Driverless Car Coalition brought in Elon Musk to fear monger that if the 30 story parking garage wasn't built with the first five floors, that there wouldn't be enough parking for driverless cars, thus perpetuating the myth that cars would go around the block endlessly trying to find a parking space. He got his parking garage. However with the first five floors comprised of retail and low income apartments as per city ordnance.

The reason why we don't have empty cars going around in circles is because we have so many options to get around downtown.  Not just transit, but also protected bicycle paths down the major streets like Commerce, Navarro, and even Alamo St. VIA use small driverless buses to supplement the regular routes between major destinations.  So when my friends back in the early 2000s asked me why there wasn't any express buses from downtown to the Medical Center, I said that VIA  can't afford it.  Today, they have small driverless buses between destinations like the Medical Center Transit center to not just downtown, but to places like North Star, Kel-Lac and to even the other side of town like Brooks City Base.

A lot of the old Walmarts and other huge retail spaces on the edge of town are still parking lots, but they're always packed with driverless cars waiting to be called upon at charging stations.

As for me, I'm a truck attendant.  Basically a truck driver, but the computer does the driving.  I'm there to basically take over the vehicle if the computer goes,down, if there's a route that the computer can't understand, or be there to call a mechanic if something breaks down en-route.

I get to work everyday by riding my bicycle.  Because of this, I'm able to save money for my driverless car rental services.  Many of my coworkers pay up to $200 a month, but I pay only $50. I use Ford because they provide free rides to and from HEB, but I also have up to 10 rides per month in a pick up so I can on the weekends, go traveling to a state park or even the Gulf Coast.  It's easier to bring your bicycles along in a pick up than a car. They have offered me early retirement and I have thought about taking up on their offer, but I not ready to make bike lobbing in San Antonio and the State of Texas my number one job, a job that I won't be paid to do.

A "horrible" Driverless Future

The year is 2040 and the driverless car has replaced the motorist.  In this scenario, I describe where the car companies write the rules of the road and pretty much have bought our local governments so people are forced to use their services.  I using the prices of today as I do not know where inflation is heading. Before reading this story, please read my post "The Driverless Car, an opportunity being missed."

I'm thinking about taking early retirement today since I was unable to make it into work today.  I was cycling on Bandera Rd out to my job when a cop decided to pull me over and gave me a ticket for riding my bicycle on a State Owned Highway.  Ever since the State of Texas in the last legislative Session, made it illegal to ride your bicycle on State Owned Highways, I had to spend more for my driverless car service.  I was hoping just to pay $100 a month to Ford up to 10 rides per month including pick up truck service so I could go out to other cities and visit state parks on the weekend.  Now I'm torn between spending $300 a month to get to work and still have the ability to visit state parks and far flung places, and $200 for local services with pick up truck service at a $20 premium per use with a $50 surcharge for out of town use.  I like Ford because of their agreement with HEB to use their service free of charge to get to and from their stores.

What's worse, several of my friends just riding their bicycles on Probandt got ticketed after SAPD decided to do a crackdown. I saw post after post in the the Southtown Neighborhood Facebook group about how they were giving tickets to everyone riding a bicycle on Probandt.  Bike San Antonio issued a statement condemning the situation.  However, the reason why SAPD were able to give out all those tickets is because Probandt is a State Owned Highway.  It's still okay to use your bicycle in the inner city for the most part, but slowly that's changing.

Yesterday, city council voted to demolish three historic landmarks including the Alameda theater so the Driverless Car Coalition can use the created empty lots for parking and charging.  Two of the speakers that spoke out against the removal of the Alameda Theater laughingly shrugged off my warning that I gave in 2018 about how if we're not careful, these places will be removed to make room for parking lots. As I sat behind them, I openly snarked at them, constantly pointing out how I warned about this vote years before it took place.  After a few minutes of my rude behavior, they changed seats, moving to the other side of the Council Chambers. I remained seated waiting for my turn to speak against the proposal. 

In my speech before city council, I pointed out how the Driverless Car Coalition, a lobbying group focused on coordinating all driverless car parking in San Antonio and other cities throughout North America were doing this to increase their profits by making it more difficult for people to walk between places. This organization has purchased tons of empty lots and old shopping centers and turned them into parking lots and charging stations. Even though I pointed out during the speech that half of their lots are mainly empty except for a handful of cars.  The city council response was that more people are moving into town and they are going to need those empty lots for the increase in car services. The real purpose in tearing down such historic landmarks is to make sure we will have an excuse to use their service by making sure all places are distant and difficult to walk between.  They even reduced our tree coverage and managed to bypass the tree ordnance when it came to vacant lots that the Coalition acquired through the decades.

VIA services have been reduced throughout the city and county.  As driverless car service fees risen, it's making it harder for people with fixed incomes to get around. Back in 2030 made a deal with Uber to take over areas where circulators, (the 600 routes) operate to increase Crosstown and Express Bus routes, Today, VIA is reducing their Crosstown services so to just two routes. Apparently the Driverless Car Coalition convinced them that it would be cheaper to provide all crosstown routes with shared driverless vehicles that can be obtained after a short wait.  But there's hardly ever a short wait to use the Uber/VIA services.  Wait times can b eup to two hrs and during rainy and cold days, it can be up to four hours.  It's not going to affect me much, but still, it going to affect those of us who depend on crosstown routes to get around.

I love riding my bicycle everyday and it shows how I'm fit and in better health than my fellow coworkers. But with San Antonio going down the drain, I really don't see fighting for this city being worthwhile anymore. It's becoming Detroit with no culture.  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

What isn't Mentioned on Transportation in San Antonio

As I was watching the recent League of Women Voters of the San Antonio Area forum called, “Transportation Needs of San Antonio: How are we preparing for the future?”, I was expecting the usual talking point that rail will save the day, and I got that. But I was surprised to see that Ana Sandoval, council woman for district 7, point out the problem, how we punish people for not having a car are paid less and many job ads demanding that you have "reliable transportation."

I have personal experience with this for my lack of car ownership always puts me at a disadvantage when looking for work.  I lost count the number of times that I've been denied employment for not owning a car.  It was this experience that lead me to create my map on where you could live without a car in San Antonio for when I lived in that square, I found work. (Image 23.1)

Another problem that was pointed out by Bill Barker, Adjunct Associate Professor in Urban and Regional Planning at UTSA. He pointed out how at the turn of the 21st century, there was plenty of money for passenger rail projects, now all that money is now focus on the Northeast Corridor.  He mention that we need a 21st Century solution for transportation.  The problem with that is that we don't have the money for 21st century.  What we need is a 19th century solution to our transportation needs for as virtually everyone mentioned on the board, that the federal money is drying up.

So how did communities before the 20th century pay for infrastructure improvement with out the federal government?  Well they formed their own corporations to raise money to pay for churches, roads and even public transit systems like electric trolleys. To make sure that their investments (the key word here) wasn't a waste of money, they made sure that the value of the land was tied to the improvement.   Their examples can be seen in mountainous areas throughout the Appalachians with roads that have the word "Pike in their name and many of the churches that are in the community built before 1920.

I found out about this while reading the book, "Decline and Fall: The End of Empire and the Future of Democracy in 21st Century America" by John Michael Greer.  On pages 216 through 217...
      "De Tocqueville wrote: “The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found institutions for education, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, and to send missionaries to the antipodes; and in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. If it be proposed to advance some truth or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they found a society. Whenever, at the head of some new undertaking, you find the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you are sure to find an association. I met with several kinds of association in America of which I confess I had no previous notion; and I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object to the exertions of a great many men, and getting them voluntarily to pursue it.”3The types of associations de Tocqueville encountered used an assortment of ingenious legal structures borrowed, for the most part, from English common law. Those of my readers who dislike the role of corporations in contemporary American life may be interested to know that the distant and much less toxic ancestor of today’s corporate structure was one of them. A corporation, back in those days, was not a privileged legal pseudo-person with more rights and fewer responsibilities than a human being. It was simply a group of people who set out to accomplish some purpose, and got a charter from the state government allowing them to raise money for that purpose by selling shares of stock. Most had single purposes — building a hospital, say, or a canal — and limited lifespans, defined either as a fixed number of years or until the purpose of the corporation was completed."

If we are to do the same thing today lets say to provide passenger rail between Dallas and San Antonio, we are going to have to form a corporation to either lease the tracks from Union Pacific, or lay down our own tracks.  We are going to have to find a way to make money so we can pay back the lenders who paid for the initial cost such as buying passenger equipment and locomotives. We need to show how having a passenger rail station raises the land values and use those raises in land values to pay for the service because ticket revenue isn't enough to pay for the service at all.

If you read between the lines of this forum on transportation, it is that we are literately up the river without a paddle, with no money to pay for expanding highways, no money for buses or light rail and no way to translate any transportation improvements with higher land values that equals to future money for transportation needs.  Sorry folks, but there's no more money coming from the federal government, there's no money that is going to be gain with existing sales tax or gasoline tax.  So what is the ancient solutions to transportation?  Build things near each other, and that is what needed to be mentioned in the League of Women Voters of the San Antonio Area forum called, “Transportation Needs of San Antonio: How are we preparing for the future."

23.1:   My map of where you should live without a car featured in the blog post "Where 2 Live in SA W/O a CAR."  If you want to make one of your own, I recommend that you use yahoo maps instead of Google.  Make sure you put down that these are walking directions and they are...http://yhoo.it/1F7QFuy
Hildebrand at Broadway
Club Dr at Wilson Blvd
Cupples Rd at Brady Blvd
Brady Blvd at S Zarzamora
S Zarzamora at W Southcross
E Southcross at Gevers St
Gevers St at Walters
Walters at Sherman St
Sherman St at N Pine
N Pine at Josephine
Josephine at N Alamo
N Alamo at Broadway
Broadway at Hildebrand.