Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Garmin-Asus Android-powered A10 ready for almost all transportation needs

Garmin-Asus has thrown another Google Android-based smartphone into the mix. But the makers of the A10 handheld are promoting it as more than just a smartphone, but rather a “pedestrian navigation” device.”
The core reason for being of this device seems to be for providing transportation advice. The A10 is ready to take your feet almost anywhere with integrated GPS capability plus preloaded, detailed maps in case your Internet connection is slow, spotty or non-existent. When you’re planning to jump on public transit, there’s also support for cityXplorer, an app that retrieves information on local bus, metro and suburban rail systems. Finally, the A10 is also ready for some road trips with an included audio mount for your car.
Being an Android-powered smartphone, there will naturally be support for the Google suite of applications including Gmail, YouTube and Maps, plus access to 30,000 more applications in the Android Marketplace the plethora of Google Apps isn’t enough for you.
Here’s a couple of other nifty specs packed into the transportation-friendly A10:
  • 3.2-inch HVGA touchscreen display
  • Built-in accelerometer (for tilting to portrait or landscape mode)
  • 1,500mAh battery
  • WebKit browser
  • 5-megapixel AF camera
  • Automatic geotagging
  • Electronic compass
  • Support for Microsoft Exchange
The Garmin-Asus A10 will be released first in Europe and Asia-Pacific region in mid-2010. There’s no information on a North American release nor pricing anywhere yet.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Transportation's bicycle policy hits potholes

WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a weekend bicyclist, might consider keeping his head down and his helmet on. A backlash is brewing over his new bicycling policy.
LaHood says the government is going to give bicycling — and walking, too — the same importance as automobiles in transportation planning and the selection of projects for federal money. The former Republican congressman quietly announced the "sea change" in transportation policy last month.
"This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized," he wrote in his government blog.
Not so fast, say some conservatives and industries dependent on trucking. A manufacturers' blog called the policy "nonsensical." One congressman suggested LaHood was on drugs.
The new policy is an extension of the Obama administration's livability initiative, which regards the creation of alternatives to driving — buses, streetcars, trolleys and trains, as well as biking and walking — as central to solving the nation's transportation woes.
LaHood's blog was accompanied by a DOT policy statement urging states and transportation agencies to treat "walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes." It recommends, among other things, including biking and walking lanes on bridges and clearing snow from bike paths.
Transportation secretary is normally a quiet post, a Cabinet backwater. But LaHood has been the administration's point man on an array of high-profile issues, from high-speed trains and distracted drivers to runaway Toyotas.
The new policy has vaulted LaHood to superstar status in the bicycling world. Bike blogs are bubbling with praise. A post on calls him "cycling's man of the century." The Adventure Cycling Association's Web site calls LaHood "our hero."
"LaHood went out on a limb for cyclists," Joe Lindsey wrote on "He said stuff no Transportation secretary's ever said, and is backing it up with action."
The policy has also been embraced by environmentalists and many urban planners.
Word of the policy change is still filtering out beyond the bicycling and transportation communities, but the initial reaction from conservatives and industry has been hostile.
The National Association of Manufacturers' blog,, called the policy "dumb and irresponsible."
"LaHood's pedal parity is nonsensical for a modern industrial nation," said the blog. "We don't call it sacrilege, but radical is a fair description. It is indeed a sea change in federal transportation policy that could have profound implications for the U.S. economy and the 80 percent of freight that moves by truck."
LaHood said he has been surprised by the response.
"It didn't seem that controversial to me," he wrote in a second blog item. "After all, I didn't say they should have the only voice. Just a voice."
At a recent House hearing, Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, suggested jokingly to a Transportation Department official that one explanation for the new policy is that the secretary's thinking has been clouded by drugs.
"Is that a typo?" LaTourette asked. "If it's not a typo, is there still mandatory drug testing at the department?"
The new policy is not a regulation and, therefore, not mandatory, Transportation undersecretary for policy Roy Kienitz responded to LaTourette.
But it's LaHood's view "that the federal government should not take the position that roads and trains are real transportation and walking and biking is not," Kienitz said. "His view is it's all real transportation, and we should consider it based on what benefits it can bring for the amount of money we spend."
That didn't satisfy LaTourette.
"So is it his thought that perhaps we're going to have, like, rickshaws carrying cargo from state to state, or people with backpacks?" asked the congressman.
Bicycling advocates have been blasting LaTourette. Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, with 300,000 affiliated members, called his comments "a little childish."
LaTourette said in an interview that he thinks bike paths, bike lanes and projects that make communities more walkable are fine but shouldn't be funded with money raised by a gasoline tax paid by motorists. The federal gas tax pays for most highway and transit aid, although lately general Treasury funds have been used to supplement the programs.
LaHood noted that LaTourette supports federal funds for a bike path in his district.
"The point is, on his Web site he's bragging about the fact that he got some money for a bike path," LaHood said. "He knows people in his district like them."
LaHood, 64, said he and his wife have biked on weekends for years. Three days before his announcement of the new policy, LaHood stood on a table to speak to a gathering of hundreds of bike enthusiasts in Washington. He drew cheers when he vowed the Obama administration will put affordable housing next to walking and biking paths.
"I'm not going to apologize for any of it," he said in the interview. "I think this is what the people want."

This article can be found here:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Prospect Park West’s two-way bike lane is on a roll

The Brooklyn Paper

The city is moving ahead with its long-stalled plan for a two-way protected bike lane on Prospect Park West — despite the continued opposition of Borough President Markowitz and the drivers he says he represents.

The lane, which was approved last year, will stretch from Grand Army Plaza to Bartel Pritchard Square, and will run along the eastern curb alongside a lane of parked cars that will protect cyclists from car traffic.

But the new bike lane comes at a price — one that many opponents say is too steep: one lane of southbound car traffic will be eliminated from Park Slope’s speedway, and 22 parking spaces will be lost.

“It’s going to impact traffic terribly,” Jack Nayer, a Park Slope local, said at a public hearing on the subject on Monday night. “Just a few yards away is a bike lane — it’s called Prospect Park! Why not use that?”

Nayer echoed the concerns of perhaps half in the crowd of roughly 75 people who came to the informational “open house” at Congregation Beth Elohim on Eighth Avenue to learn about the looming project.

But city officials said that the lane would alleviate a pressing problem on the street: speeding traffic.

Many drivers are using Prospect Park West as if it were the Daytona Speedway — a claim backed up by recent research. On the eve of Monday night’s meeting, Park Slope Neighbors, a civic group that supports the bike lane, released a report that showed outrageous speeding on Prospect Park.

Volunteers from the group recently clocked cars and discovered that 85 percent exceeded the speed limit, with a startling 30 percent averaging 40 miles per hour or more.

A survey by the Department of Transportation also hinted at another problem that would be alleviated by the bike lane on Prospect Park West: cyclists riding where they aren’t supposed to.

A tally of 349 cyclists last year revealed that nearly half were riding on the sidewalk — a result of having no way to legally bicycle northbound in Prospect Park.

Borough President Markowitz doesn’t think the bike lane will fix these supposed problems. In an interview with WNYC earlier on Monday, he not only said he opposed the cycle path, but also took a swipe at Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

“We just disagree on certain instances where I’m acutely aware that she wants to make it hard for those who choose to own automobiles,” Markowitz said. “I really believe that … she would like to see more people stop car usage and use their bicycles or walk.”

Markowitz later reiterated that he has supported some bike lanes in the past — including one on Ninth Street — but remains convinced that the Prospect Park West bike lane would cause traffic congestion and exacerbate the already woeful parking situation in Park Slope.

But supporters of the project sought to allay opponents’ fear over lost parking spaces, saying that the traffic-calming effect of the lane was worth the loss — an effect that drew some scoffs. Advocates also noted that the cuts proposed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would eliminate the B69 bus, which runs along Prospect Park West.

Eliminating the bus stops on that portion of the route should cover all of the 22 lost spaces, said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope).

“I am completely opposed to the MTA [service] cuts,” Lander said. “But that is a silver lining — if there is one.”

The Department of Transportation says that construction of the bike lane will begin in June, though it said the same thing last fall before Markowitz interceded, possibly causing the near year-long delay.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Smart transport in South Korean transit systems

South Korea and Japan streets ahead in smart transport

By Nicolai Hartvig, for CNN
  • Intelligent transport systems well developed in South Korea and Japan
  • GPS updates South Korea's 17 million drivers with traffic updates
  • Faster commute times, less accidents ands pollution has been the result
Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- Juwan Yoo was tired of calling up the old-school telephone hotline to find out when his bus would come -- and excited about the iPhone's arrival in South Korea.
So the 17-year-old developed the "Seoul Bus" application, which crawls public transport Web sites to give real-time updates for all bus stops in the capital and its surrounding provinces. More than 400,000 people have downloaded the free app, Yoo told CNN.

Yoo is now affectionately known as "the high school student" to South Korean traffic researchers and officials after he ventured into intelligent transport systems (ITS).

For more than a decade, South Korea and Japan have been rolling out their world-leading ITS, pouring money and political capital into ideas beyond the carpool lane.

Drivers race through expressway toll gates as their wireless wallet pays the fee, while GPS updates in half of South Korea's 17 million registered cars tell them how many minutes delay they can expect and how to take a faster route. Public buses are fitted with shrieking dashboard road-nannies that help drivers stay on schedule. Millions of passengers seamlessly transfer using the ubiquitous T-Money travel card, finding their next bus or subway train on up-to-the minute electronic schedules.

"Our transportation life in Korea has much improved -- and our quality of life as well," Kee Yeon Hwang, the director of the Korea Transport Institute (KOTI), the South Korean government's official research arm for transportation, told CNN.

By many measures, it has also saved time and money. Average speeds on the roads of Seoul has increased from around 20 to 24 kilometers per hour in the past five years. South Korea estimates the total savings of its ITS systems, including automatic toll collection, fewer accidents and less pollution, to be around $1.5 billion a year.

South Korea's ITS has always been government-led and heavily centralized, quickly pushing the country from research to national implementation. The funding continues unabated, to the tune of $230 million dollars annually until 2020.

"The government knew exactly what it had to do. It invested the money and led this as a government project," Young-jun Moon, a research fellow at KOTI's Department of Green Growth Policy and Implementation, told CNN.

"Installing fiber-optic lines along the expressways is very expensive, for just one kilometer you had to invest $100,000. We now have 3,500 kilometers of expressways, all with fiber-optic lines that are the backbone of our communications."

The construction industry helped turn South Korea from a post-civil-war wasteland into a thriving modern economy -- and since the early 1990s, has been in partnership with information technology.
"ITS costs less than one percent of the investment necessary to build a four-lane road," Moon said.
Most roads still get grid-locked and Japan knows the cost of its problem. Drivers there lose 3.5 billion potential working hours to traffic jams, at an equivalent of $109 billion a year, according to the country's Highway Industry Development Organization.

Meanwhile, commuters and transported goods in the U.S. are stuck for 4.2 billion hours a year -- a full work week per person at a total cost of $87.2 billion, according to the Department of Transport's Research and Innovative Technology Administration.
That missed productivity could be particularly costly, as economic rival China ramps up its own investment in ITS, warns a new report from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITFT), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

The U.S. is still stalled in the research phase and the ITIF report calls for a federal approach comparable in scale to the Interstate Highway System launched in the 1950s, with national real-time traffic information in the 100 largest cities by 2014 and a mileage-based user fee system by 2020.

It is ironic, then, that South Korea's traffic setup was adopted from the Intelligent Vehicle Highway System, an ITS forefather pushed by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration in the early 1990s.

"The majority of experts in Korea were educated in the United States," says Hwang. "We learned from the United States but we didn't see many things practiced there."

A patchwork of state and local responsibility for U.S. roads is a hurdle, something the European Union is also facing as it seeks to introduce ITS standards.

Politicians tend to favor old school road works, fixing potholes and building new roads instead of investing in unseen technology.

The U.S. is expected to spend more than $500 billion dollars on surface transport infrastructure until 2015, while the Department of Transportation's ITS strategy for 2010-2014 keeps intelligent transport funding at about $100 million per year.

Even in South Korea, some jurisdiction tussles remain. The National Police Agency controls the country's traffic lights and adapts them according to drivers' complaints rather than extensive data offered by traffic planners, Moon explained.

The government is also facing bandwidth gridlock as it attempts to switch wireless traffic communications to the world standard 5.9 GHz. In an odd coincidence, that frequency in South Korea is heavily dominated by broadcasting companies beaming mobile TV to commuters.

There's another, decidedly more low-tech issue.
"Driving behavior is very important. Our car culture has not had a long history," Hwang said, citing people running red lights.

"People often violate traffic rules but unless you keep the rules, the system cannot be workable."
South Korean planners are looking to link the upgraded transport to the country's next economic driver, green technology. Still in embryo, the ideas include data systems that allow drivers to map the fastest and most eco-friendly routes.

Find this article at:

NBC Reports on the Misuse of Placards in Los Angeles

It’s a problem that’s gotten out of control, nearly one in ten California drivers claim to be disabled and have placards, which let them park free all day at meters and on streets reserved for residents only.

But NBCLA found, many of these people are able-bodied drivers, illegally taking away parking from the rest of us. Because of our report, the Department of Motor Vehicles is going after them in a huge way.

DMV officers conducted a sting operation in Downtown LA, looking for drivers who are illegally using disabled placards. We watched as they confronted one man who parked his car using his wife’s placard, so he didn’t have to plug the meter near his clothing store.

When asked, “You didn’t know it was illegal to use your wife’s placard?”

“No, I didn’t know,” he replied.

This DMV crackdown, is in response to NBCLA’s undercover investigation, where we found 80 percent of the cars in a large section of Downtown LA were displaying disabled
Placards, that often belong to other people.

“We will actively investigate, and conduct enforcement operations,” says DMV chief Vito Scattaglia.

NBCLA also found placard abusers hogging most of the parking in other areas, like Beverly Hills, and Westwood.

We watched as one woman parked her Jaguar, day after day, on a Westwood side street, even in spots reserved for residents only. She displays a placard, which allows her to Park there all day, while she works at a nearby travel Agency.

Our investigation found she’s using a placard, issued to a 75 year old man.

She admitted she knew that what she was doing was illegal.

NBCLA also talked to LADOT traffic cops. We asked one cop, “Do you think all these people with handicapped placards are disabled?”

“Oh, no,” he replied.

He says they’re told to write parking tickets, and leave the placard cheaters alone.

NBCLA also spoke with Jimmy Price, head of LA’s parking enforcement. We asked him, “There is something you could do about this?”

“Absolutely,” Price replied.

State law allows city traffic officers to cite placard abusers and to do sting operations, just like the DMV does.

NBCLA asked Price when the last time the city did a sting on placard abuse on city streets.
He couldn’t recall but said, “We have limited resources, and yes our primary responsibility is issuing parking citations.”

So with no help from the city, the DMV is cracking down on the problem in areas we exposed.

On three recent mornings, agents spread out across a section of downtown. When they spotted drivers using placards, they questioned them.

During this one downtown sting, the DMV confiscated dozens of placards, towed cars of placard abusers and wrote 46 criminal citations for placard misuse, a record for a DMV ting of this kind.

If found guilty, these people face a maximum penalty of $3500 dollars and six months in jail.

“What we’ve found here in the last couple of days has just been unbelievable in terms of the violations,” Scattaglia tells NBCLA.

Because of the sting, there appear to be a lot more places to park in this part of downtown. Store owners tell us the word is spreading, that if you use someone else’s placard you could get busted by the DMV.

The city of LA could be doing a lot to stop placard abuse. Cities like San Francisco have teams that look for placard cheats. Last year, San Francisco confiscated 2000 placards that were being misused. The city of LA seized just 33 placards.

If you want to report a motorist who is illegally misusing a placard, you can notify the DMV by filling out this form:

Do you have a story for us to investigate? Email us at:

First Published: Mar 3, 2010 10:11 AM PDT

High Speed Rail

Bullet train plan under fire from local officials

California's massive high-speed rail project could save up to $2 billion -- and hundreds of homes -- by expanding and sharing existing tracks through the L.A.-O.C. region, local transit leaders argue.

April 05, 2010|By Dan Weikel and Rich Connell

Transit executives from Los Angeles and Orange counties are pressing officials with the state's high-speed rail project to consider resurrecting a plan to share existing track between Anaheim and downtown L.A.'s Union Station.

The idea was considered and discarded by the California High-Speed Rail Authority in 2008, but key local leaders believe it could save up to $2 billion and avoid the need to condemn hundreds of homes and businesses. Bullet train officials have been pursuing the more costly and disruptive option of adding their own exclusive tracks and widening sections of the 34-mile route through the region's dense industrial and residential core. The existing corridor is used by Metrolink and Amtrak passenger trains as well as freight carriers.

For more information, see the Los Angeles Times