Category Archives: Automotive

Manhattan Gridlock: Plan to Relieve It & Impact On Transit Debt

Bumper-to bumper, horn-honking traffic through Manhattan streets is about as New York as bagels and Broadway. A plan to ease that problem is tapping into another mainstay of city life: high driving tolls.

The idea, called “congestion pricing,” involves using electronic tolling technology to charge fees to vehicles entering the most heavily trafficked parts of town during certain hours.

Some big cities already do it, including Singapore, Stockholm and London, where it can cost more than $15 to drive into the city center during peak periods.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed it for New York a decade ago and got a firm rejection from lawmakers who said drivers headed into Manhattan already get slammed enough by bridge and highway tolls and high parking fees.

But with the city’s subway system deteriorating, and politicians looking for ways to pay for a fix, the concept has gotten new life.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who said last summer that “congestion pricing” is an idea whose time has come, could unveil a plan to implement a system as early as next week. A spokesman for the governor said a committee, called FixNY, is finalizing recommendations.

Alex Matthiessen, director of the MoveNY campaign — the most vocal advocate for congestion pricing — says New York would become the first city in the United States to charge drivers under such a system, but said others like San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles are paying close attention.

“We have a full-blown crisis,” Matthiessen said. “Our subway system is severely underfunded; it is quite unreliable, there are delays and overcrowding and the situation is potentially dangerous. No other idea has the twin benefit of also tackling a very severe traffic problem.”

There are still plenty of roadblocks.

Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he likes the idea of getting cars off the street but isn’t convinced high tolls is the way to do it.

“I think there are serious fairness issues when it comes to congestion pricing,” he said at a recent news conference, citing the financial burden on drivers who can’t afford tolls as easily as the many millionaires who call Manhattan home. De Blasio has said he prefers dealing with the subway’s financial problems by imposing higher income taxes on the rich.

Key details, like how much it might cost, or where, exactly, drivers might get hit with the tolls have yet to be unveiled. Bloomberg’s plan would have charged $8 to drive south of 60th Street, or roughly the southern end of Central Park.

Adam Glassman, a Lynbrook, Long Island-based attorney, spoke in midtown Manhattan before getting into his car to go home.

“It is impossible to get into the city,” said Glassman, who is familiar with Bloomberg’s proposed plan years ago. He commutes into Manhattan twice a week.

He’s in favor of possible tolls. “I’d be willing to suck it up.”

Although no specific congestion pricing plan has been formally announced, many agree that any system would be likely to create surcharges for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. That’s OK with Uber, which is behind a public relations campaign backing congestion pricing.

“Users of Manhattan’s congested roads should bear part of the cost of helping to reduce congestion and improve our public transit system,” said Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang. “Everyone should pay their fair share to keep New York City moving forward.”

Brooklyn state Assemblyman William Colton, a Democrat, said any proposals that would create tolls across bridges into Manhattan that are currently free, or a system that would ping drivers in areas like Times Square south through Greenwich Village and into the Wall Street business district, would be seen as an unfair tax by his constituents.

“This is going to have a negative effect on working people, small business people and seniors who have medical appointments in Manhattan,” Colton said. “This is going to be a big problem. I don’t know the details, but I’m very leery.”

Commuter Joe Murphy said he would be “absolutely opposed to it.”

He lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and already pays for the George Washington Bridge, where tolls range from $10.50 to $15 a car, plus a midtown Manhattan parking garage. His half-hour, pre-rush hour commute is the fastest and easiest option for him; using public transportation would triple his commuting time.

“Just to get to work, the cost of parking and tolls and everything is just astronomical,” he said.

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Dyson employees are in the dark about top-secret electric car

NY Post

Working at Dyson is like working in a vacuum.

The UK-based luxury appliance maker has been developing an all electric car for the past several years, but even its own employees are in the dark about it, and those that are in the know have to sign non-disclosure agreements.

“It’s our biggest secret,” Andrea Lim, a Dyson engineer in the personal care unit, told The Post’s Lisa Fickenscher. “No one in the company who is working on it is allowed to talk about it. Even engineers from other departments weren’t allowed to know about the car.”

Dyson Chairman and chief engineer James Dyson was in town last week to unveil the company’s first NYC flagship store, where supersonic hair dryers, vacuum cleaners and air purifiers sell for hundreds of dollars, and where Fifth Avenue shoppers can get a free blowout.

A Few Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Richest Dude In The Car Business (TSLA)

Elon Musk is now the 39th wealthiest person in the world with a total net worth of $21.2 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.

Although his annual salary is currently less than $46K a year, Musk was one of the top 5 highest paid executives in 2016.

What’s most fascinating about the guy who runs both Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) and SpaceX is that he is a Thrillionaire! If your are wondering about the term’s meaning-this is how The New York Times has dubbed the new breed of high-tech entrepreneurs who are investing their new-found riches to help turn once considered futuristic impossibilities into reality.

And there’s absolutely no question that Musk belongs to this category.

He has already achieved so much with Tesla, which, with its EV disruptiveness has greatly influenced the automotive industry. The company has in fact been referred to as the Apple of the automotive world. Tesla’s new solar roof tiles and Powerwall storage systems are also a big deal as they encourage mass adoption of new and sustainable energies which could help save our planet and improve the quality of our lives.

His other company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), based in Hawthorne, California has been making history as well. Just this March, SpaceX was the first company to ever prove the feasibility of a rapid and complete rocket usability through a first reflight of an orbital class rocket.

Musk even has his eyes set on Mars, with a plan to construct a rocket that’s the size of a 40-storey building. He talked about this dream on TED explaining that the “thrust level for this configuration is about four times the thrust of a Saturn V moon rocket, the biggest rocket humanity has ever created. The rocket is so massive that it could take a fully-loaded 747 as cargo.”

Musk is also involved with his Hyperloop project, which is now handled by his other company called The Boring Company. The plan is to build a low-pressure tube above-ground where passengers can travel on pods at speeds of up to 700 mph. The futuristic transport system would run on solar power, although construction cost could still reach as high as $7.5 billion.

Currently, Musk’s Boring Company is digging tunnels for an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. In addition to this, he is considering digging tunnels underneath Los Angeles’ Interstate 105 which could transport cars on electric skates or as a support for a high-speed rail. Musk may also opt to use the tunnel for a high-speed rail connection between Chicago and O’Hare International Airport, a matter under discussion with Chicago authorities.

As you can see, this thrillionaire is definitely not running out of ideas for building a better and more exciting future for the mankind.

Where do these ideas and extraordinary passion come from?

Musk has admitted that he had experienced bullying during his South African childhood days.

He found comfort and great inspiration from books.

“The heroes of the books I read, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and the ‘Foundation’ series, always felt a duty to save the world,” Musk told Tad Friend in an interview for The New Yorker.

He also said that he has been deeply influenced by Benjamin Franklin’s: An American Life” and Einstein‘s : His Life and Universe.

Musk is even proud to say that Franklin is one of his heroes. “I would say, certainly, he’s one of the people I most admire,” he told Kevin Rose of Foundation in an interview. “Franklin was pretty awesome.”

There are other books obviously which have empowered Musk with knowledge and faith in realizing his dreams, even if at first these were only science-fiction fantasies. After all, their realization is actually for the betterment of humanity. He’s not attempting to be “anyone’s savior,” as he puts it, but he just wants a brighter, happier future for humanity.

Among the best lessons Musk has learned in life is the value of seizing the moment or opportunity.

Wall Street Pit

Tarrytown Chevrolet Plant and NY Central Croton-Harmon

GM Tarrytown Plant

Here’s the story when it closed in the 90’s

Fast facts;

The plant was first built in 1903 – they built MAXWELL automobiles.

The plant was purchased by GM in 1916 and assigned to it’s CHEVROLET Division.

Tarrytown was linked to New York City by the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad in 1849.

In the past 50 years, the plant manufactured Chevy Impalas in the 50’s & 60’s. 1971 – 1977, lots of VEGAS rolled off the assembly line there which have all rusted into dust with their little aluminum engine blocks, the ultimate death of that car. Yes, the Lumina was the final vehicle manufactured in Tarrytown. Here’s a shot of the plant being torn down with a view of the railroad in 1999;

Something hard to believe now in looking at the wasteland along Metro North in Tarrytown is that in 1980, this plant was the MOST EFFICIENT plant that GM owned with it’s best worker/management relations on record. At that time, the plant was riding high with the production of the popular front-wheel drive Chevy CITATION.

It’s a sad story that the plant died, but for a change, this can’t be blamed on nor linked to it’s rail service in any way. The State wouldn’t give them a tax break to keep production in Tarrytown, Tarrytown was too expensive for the workers to live nearby (they commuted two hours one way, ROUTINELY) and poor management in predicting consumer trends killed it. Japanese cars helped kill it too. Let’s be honest. Chevrolet cars didn’t hold up well, and fell sooner to rust than the competitors.

See more on Croton-Harmon railroad facility
https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/ny-central-shops-at-harmon/

Car Culture

A real story for this era is how General Motors, Ford and Chrysler reshaped American ground transportation to serve their corporate wants instead of social needs.

As a result of their monopolistic structure, the Big Three automakers acted in a way detrimental to public interest. GM had control of auto, truck, bus and locomotive production. We are seeing a collapse of a society based on the automobile. We have consumed too much oil, polluted the atmosphere, and turned our cities into highways and parking lots. We see a government bias in favor of highways, failure to produce transport vehicles consistent with energy/environmental restraints, and a consumer dependence on the auto.

GM had the power and economic incentive to suppress rail and bus transportation: one bus can eliminate 35 automobiles; one rail transit vehicle can supplant 50 passenger cars; one train can displace 1000 cars or a fleet of 150 cargo-laden trucks.

GM had a role in the destruction of more than 100 electric surface rail systems in 45 cities including New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, Oakland, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. In southern California, GM and other highway interests acquired local transit companies and replaced them with busses. The noisy, foul-smelling busses turned people away from mass transit and therefore sold millions of automobiles.

General Motors received a criminal conviction for its part in monopolizing street transportation. In spite of this, GM continued to acquire and dieselize electric transit properties into 1955. 40,000 streetcars were in service in 1936 when National City Lines was organized by GM. By 1955, only 5,000 remained. While substituting buses for electric street railways helped GM stockholders, it deprived the riding public of a pollution free and energy efficient mode of transportation.

Substitution of buses for streetcar lines contributed indirectly to the abandonment of electric railway freight service. Merchants used to rely on this service to deliver goods and interchange with railroads. For instance, Pacific Electric was once the third largest freight railroad in California. It just proved uneconomical to maintain city track for freight-only. General Motors even benefited from this demise. They also sold trucks! They even used to have an interest in Associated Transport and Consolidated Freightways.

GM used its leverage as the largest freight shipper to coerce railroads to scrap their equipment, including pollution-free electrics, in favor of less durable, less efficient GM diesels. New Haven Railroad showed a profit during 50 years of electrification but started heavy losses after it dieselized its operations.

General Motors diversification into bus transportation: (1) shifted passengers from rail to bus and eventually into automobiles; and (2) shifted freight from rail to truck. An additional factor was GM’s integration into locomotive production. In 1930, they acquired Winton Engine and Electro-Motive. Unfortunately, GM could make 25 to 30 times more gross revenue selling cars and trucks than it could diesel locomotives.

In 1956 the government sued General Motors for monopolization of the bus industry and requested divestiture of its bus production facilities. The case was a failure for the government because GM had combined bus and truck production within the same facilities. A few years later the Justice Department started and then abandoned an antitrust case against GM Locomotive.

Many of the anti-competitive forces of the automobile industry could be diffused by a remedy suggested several years ago by Bradford C. Snell of the International Conference on Appropriate Transportation. First, deconcentration of the motor vehicle industry would reduce the automakers ability to pass on the cost of their anti-rail lobbying to consumers. Second, reorganization of GM’s bus and rail divisions into independent corporations would enable them to operate free from the conflict of interest they currently have. Finally, the facilitation of entry by a number of new bus and rail enterprises would provide competitive capability to build a modern passenger and freight transport system.

It has been the policy of Congress in the past to maintain competition by prohibiting common control of competing modes of transport. The Air Mail Act of 1934 forced GM to sell its interests in several airlines. GM also had interests in several aircraft manufacturers. At that time, GM chairman Sloan implied to Congress that his company had entered the aviation industry to protect its interests in the promotion of automobiles.

At one time there were more than 150 competing manufacturers of bus and rail vehicles. The technological development of these vehicles stopped in the 1930’s.

In Europe and Japan, where there is a limited amount of common auto/rail/bus ownership, there are much more balanced transportation systems.

GM owned Hertz from 1925 to 1953. Because it was perceived to lessen sales of cars, GM limited its growth. Its success after disposition by GM shows what could happen to bus and rail operations.

General Motors got into bus production in 1925 by acquiring Yellow Coach. In 1926 they assisted in the formation of the Greyhound Corporation. 1932 saw GM going into the business of converting interurban electric railways as well as electric streetcar systems to bus operations. Due to the high cost of operation and slow speed on congested streets, buses ultimately contributed to the collapse of hundreds of transit systems.

Several railroads converted substantial portions of their commuter rail service with buses: Pennsylvania Greyhound Lines (Pennsylvania RR); Central Greyhound Lines (New York Central); Pacific Greyhound Lines (Southern Pacific); New England Greyhound Lines (New York, New Haven & Hartford); Northland Greyhound Lines (Great Northern); and Southwestern Greyhound Lines (St. Louis Southwestern Railroad). The railroads were eventually forced out of ownership by the government. By 1950, Greyhound carried half as many intercity passengers as the railroads. Until 1948, General Motors was the largest stockholder in Greyhound.

General Motors used various devices to convert street car lines to bus. At first, United Cities Motor Transit was directly owned by GM and would buy electric street car companies, convert them to GM motorbus operation, and then resell them. After being censured by the American Transit Association, GM went “undercover” with other organizations, primarily National City Lines, Inc. Other participants in National City Lines were Greyhound, Standard Oil of California and Firestone Tire. By reselling properties after conversion, they were assured that capital was continually reinvested in the motorization of additional systems. The biggest GM “triumph” was California’s Pacific Electric. Within a 75-mile radius of Los Angeles, it carried 80 million people annually. In 1949, GM, Greyhound, Standard Oil and Firestone were found guilty of criminally conspiring to monopolize the sale of buses. General Motors was fined $5,000! The GM treasurer who masterminded the destruction of Pacific Electric was fined $1!

Additional Reading on this subject: great reference is Revisiting the Great American Streetcar Scandal, by Al Mankoff– Vol. 4, Summer 1999

and The Great American Streetcar Myth

Please read “The Streetcar Conspiracy” by Bradford Snell and “The Conspiracy Revisted Rebutted” by Louis Guilbault. I do not have links and will not tell you about Amazon or Borders and Noble because those people would not even give me the time of day.

See more about similar articles

https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/Connecticut%20To%20Philadelphia/

Real Welfare Cadillacs Have 18 Wheels

Truck freight movement gets a subsidy of between $57 and $128 billion annually in the form of uncompensated social costs, over and above what trucks pay in taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

If trucking companies paid the full costs associated with moving truck freight, we’d have less road damage and congestion, fewer crashes, and more funding to pay for the transportation system.

What with all the speculation about a possible trillion dollar spending package for infrastructure, we’ve been hearing a lot about about crumbling bridges, structurally deficient roads, and the need for more highway capacity.

It’s clear that our transportation finance system is broken. To make up the deficit, politicians frequently call for increased user fees – through increased taxes on gasoline, vehicle miles traveled, or even bikes. All the while, one of the biggest users of the transportation network – the trucking industry – has been rolling down the highway fueled by billions in federal subsidies.

A 2015 report from the Congressional Budget Office estimates that truck freight causes more than $58 to $129 billion annually in damages and social costs in the form of wear and tear on the roads, crashes, congestion and pollution – an amount well above and beyond what trucking companies currently pay in taxes.

CBO doesn’t report that headline number, instead computing that the external social costs of truck freight on a “cents per ton mile basis” range between 2.62 and 5.86 cents per ton mile. For the average heavy truck, they estimate that the cost works out to about 21 to 46 cents per mile travelled.

Unfortunately, trucking companies don’t pay these costs. They are passed along to the rest of us in the form of damaged roads, crash costs, increased congestion and air pollution. Because they don’t pay the costs of these negative externalities, the firms that send goods by truck don’t have to consider them when deciding how and where to ship goods. This translates into a huge subsidy for the trucking industry of of between 21 and 46 cents per mile.

For comparison, CBO looked at the social costs associated with moving freight by rail. Railroads have much lower social costs, for two reasons: first, rail transport is much more energy efficient and less polluting per ton mile of travel; second, because railroads are built and maintained by their private owners, most of the cost of wear and tear is borne by private users, not the public. Railroad freight does produce social costs associated with pollution and crashes, but the social costs of moving freight by rail are about one-seventh that for truck movements: about 0.5 to 0.8 cents per ton mile, compared to 2.52 to 5.86 per ton mile for trucks.

There’s a clear lesson here: It may seem like we have a shortage of infrastructure, or lack the funding to pay for the transportation system, but the fact that truck freight is so heavily subsidized means that there’s a lot more demand (and congestion) on the the roads that there would be if trucks actually paid their way. On top of that, there’d be a lot more money to cover the cost of the system we already have.

So the next time someone laments the sad state of the road system, or wonders why we can’t afford more investment, you might want to point out some 18-wheelers who are now getting a one heck of a free ride, at everyone’s expense.

View the full report: “Pricing Freight Transport to Account for External Costs: Working Paper 2015-03“

Uber Can’t Replace Transit — Here Are 3 Reasons Why

Transit projects from Detroit to Nashville are running up against a new argument from opponents. The latest line from anti-transit types is that ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft are going to make fixed-route bus or rail service obsolete.

It doesn’t hold up if you’ve given some thought to the huge amount of space cars consume compared to buses or trains. But many people don’t spend their days thinking about the spatial efficiency of transit.

1. Uber and Lyft hog too much space

Let’s say, hypothetically, that a city gives up on transit service because officials think Uber and Lyft can take care of things from now on. Imagine what happens next: Everyone who rides the LA Metro Bus system suddenly crowds onto the 405 in an Uber, every passenger on New York’s L train has to hail a ride over the Williamsburg Bridge. The result would be total gridlock.

Uber and Lyft have some advantages in certain contexts. But car services can’t overcome urban geometry.

2. Even lightly-used transit beats heavily-used ride-hailing services

Not every bus is packed, but even a mostly-empty bus can use streets more efficiently than Ubercars. A bus carrying about 10 passengers per service hour is generally considered to be “low-performing,” TransitCenter points out. But that still beats the pants off ride-hail services.

“For an Uber or Lyft driver to serve ten people per hour,” writes TransitCenter, “it would mean the driver is picking up a new passenger every six minutes, physically impossible in American cities.”

3. Demand for transit peaks at different times than demand for taxis

If you look at when Uber and Lyft are most popular, it’s during the night, when transit runs less often. Meanwhile, transit is at its fullest during the a.m. and p.m. rush. Not many people use Uber and Lyft for regular commuting.

Transit and ride-hailing services can complement each other — especially at times or in places where transit is weaker. But don’t be taken in by anyone predicting the end of transit — buses and trains aren’t going anywhere.

Elon Musk’s idea for fixing traffic suffers from one fundamental problem

Elon Musk — the restless billionaire behind Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity — was stuck in annoying traffic and mused that one solution would be to drill more tunnels. All he’d need, really, is a giant machine…

Everyone’s trying to figure out whether Musk is genuinely serious about starting a brand-new tunnel-boring company or not. Who knows! But tunnels are fun to think about, so why not pretend he is serious and think through how this might actually work….

One obvious hitch to Musk’s scheme is that some cities are already trying to dig new tunnels to accommodate traffic — and it’s far from easy! There’s a lot of existing infrastructure buried in the ground beneath cities, from water mains to electrical cables. And the tunnels themselves often need to be reinforced. That makes tunneling slow, difficult, and expensive work.

Seattle is a cautionary tale here: Since 2013, the city has employed a massive 57-foot-diameter boring machine named Big Bertha to drill a 2-mile highway tunnel beneath the downtown area. Yet six months after work began, Big Bertha broke down after overheating. Drilling finally resumed in late 2015 — but then had to stop again after a sinkhole opened up near construction. Perhaps Musk can improve on Big Bertha. But that brings us to an even deeper problem with his idea. Building more tunnels is just not a good way to alleviate traffic congestion. In fact, it would likely do the opposite.

The “fundamental rule” of traffic: building new roads just makes people drive more
In January 2016, during SpaceX’s Hyperloop pod design competition, Musk explained why he thought tunnels could help alleviate traffic:

It’s a really simple and obvious idea and I wish more people would do it: build more tunnels. Tunnels are great. It’s just a hole in the ground, it’s not that hard. But if you have tunnels in cities you would massively alleviate congestion and you could have tunnels at all different levels — you could probably have 30 layers of tunnels and completely fix the congestion problem in high-density cities. So I strongly recommend tunnels.

Except economists and traffic experts have been studying this issue for a long time and they’ve found the exact opposite. When cities add new roads to a congested area, it usually doesn’t alleviate congestion. Instead, it just induces more traffic, as people take advantage of the added road space to drive more.

Granted, there can still be good reasons for fast-growing cities to build new roads. They just shouldn’t necessarily expect traffic jams to disappear as a result. Los Angeles got a firsthand glimpse of this after widening its I-405 freeway, a project that cost $1 billion. “The data shows that traffic is moving slightly slower now on 405 than before the widening,”

So what does help alleviate congestion? If cities really want to erase traffic jams, many transportation economists would instead recommend that they charge people to use roads when they’re crowded — a policy known as congestion pricing that has popped up in places like London, Singapore, and Stockholm.

Early research suggests that pricing really does cut down on traffic, as people decide to move their commutes to non-peak hours, shift to mass transit, or cut down on trips overall. It’s arguably even more effective if cities use the funds to provide alternative transportation options.

The downside is that congestion charging tends to be rather unpopular, since people don’t like it when they suddenly have to pay for something that used to be free. (It’s the same reason why checked-baggage fees on airplanes have incurred such a backlash.) So urban planners tend to favor building new roads and widening existing roads — or, in Musk’s case, new tunnels — even if the research suggests again and again that it doesn’t cut down on congestion.

Now, that doesn’t mean a tunneling machine would be useless! Remember, Musk also has plans to start colonizing Mars within a decade. And humans living on Mars would probably want to spend most of their time underground to avoid the higher levels of solar radiation that hits the planet.

UBER’s Rise From SCAB To Superstar

So in case the term is new to you, what is a SCAB?

The Urban Dictionary defines it as: ” A worker, often temporary, who crosses a strikers’ picket line, going to work in place of the strikers.” An example of usage:
“The scabs had their cars egged when they arrived at the factory.”

SCABS used to be looked down on in America.

Well, this is how UBER arrived on the business scene in 2008.

uber03

What happened? First of all, UBER started using a computer “APP” to order a taxi (or whatever you call it in UBERese).

Uber had some financial problems like trying to break into China. But some smart financial persons solved their money problems by modifying their business plan. Now they are in the “self driving car” business.

uber02

Now they are in the “tech elite” of America!

No word about “scab labor” anymore.

They even got invited to Donald Trump’s “tech conference”. This is the same Donald Trump who counts on support of organized labor embracing a “scab company”.

California could not handle testing of self-driving cars, so they relocated to Arizona

uber04

Robots Making Supply Chain Inroads

Robots aren’t coming for our jobs, are they? In a recent survey, supply chain professionals see them having a big impact in the very near future, so it may be a good idea to keep working hard! On the Wall Street Journal site, Loretta Chao takes a look at the survey information and provides an opinion or two. Read her article HERE.