Rubén M.Cenzano

Chartered Civil Engineer specialised in Transportation

Ingeniero de Caminos especialista en Transporte

New York - London highway

Posted On Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Russian government has proposed a giant, 12,910 mile (20,776 km) roadway to be connected, linking New York City and London by land.

The roadway would contain some already built roads but would also consist of a large building project that could cost as much as $3 trillion. The roads would be laid along side the Trans-Siberian Railway—the longest railway in the world.

New Zealand capital installs smart parking

Posted On Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Wellington (New Zealand’s capital) is about to install 3,000 parking sensors in the central business district street parking areas.

The system comprises of RFID-equipped SmartEye sensors flush-mounted in the parking bay, which use advanced sensing technology to detect when a vehicle has occupied a parking space.

The software collates and analyses the live information on how parking space is being used. Actual usage of the city’s facilities gives the council the leading edge in day-to-day management and future planning.

The parking solution will also include Smart Parking’s SmartApp which will allow motorists to identify and be directed to streets with available bays avoiding driving around searching for a spot on roads which are already full.

nine traffic myths

Posted On Thursday, 21 January 2016

Picture: Lucaackey / flickr

  • More roads mean less traffic:
The problem is the induced demand; building more roads eventually (if not always immediately) leads to more traffic, not less, because people who stopped driving out of frustration with traffic now return.

  • More public transport means less traffic:
Some residents will leave their cars at home and take the bus or metro; others will see this new space on the road and fill it. Strong and reliable public transport offer many benefits to cities, while being an integral part of the last traffic solution: congestion fees.

  • Bike lanes make traffic worse:
New York City reduced the width of car lanes from 3.6m to 3.0m and added protected left turns. As a result, the city was able to preserve vehicle volume and actually reduce travel times between 35% and 14%.

  • A wider road is a safer road:
An evaluation of intersections in Toronto and Tokyo found lower crash rates in lanes that were closer to 10 feet (3.0m), compared with those that were wider than 12 feet (3.6m) since wider lanes invite cars to drive faster.

  • The next lane over is moving faster:
This perception is a visual illusion created by the fact that it takes longer to be passed than to pass someone else; you spend more time being overtaken by three cars in the next lane than you do zipping past three other cars. That gives drivers the general impression that they’re losing ground even when both lanes have similar average speeds.

  • Everyone else’s bad driving is the reason for traffic:
No, it’s everyone’s inability to hold a steady speed and following distance. The Error-Prone game reflects the basic principles behind “shockwave/phantom” traffic jams. What this means is that every imperceptibly imprecise move in a car—tapping the brake a bit too hard, or holding the gas a bit too long—sends a ripple effect of congestion back through the rest of the road.

  • You need to get lots of cars off the road to reduce traffic:
Removing just a few cars from a road has a disproportionate impact on congestion. Traffic is “non-linear”; the relationship between cars and delay is not one-to-one. Removing just 1% of commuters off the peak-hour road in especially high-traffic corridors, can reduce travel times by 18%.

  • Removing an urban highway would be a traffic nightmare:
It is true that not every urban interstate can be torn down without having a major short-term impact on traffic.But drivers adapt extremely quickly to changes to the road network by shifting their routes, travel times, or modes when an existing road closes; others simply decide not to make a trip at all. As the authors of one study put it, “predictions of traffic problems are often unnecessarily alarmist.”

  • There’s no downside to cheap petrol:
While cheaper petrol seems to be good news for everyone, it is bad for all the hidden social costs of driving, which includes the time lost to congestion both at home and at work.

Germany launches its national cycle network

Posted On Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Last month, Germany opened its first stretch of “bike autobahn,” a cycle route that will eventually cover 100 km on the Northwest of the country. The design will pass through the Ruhr, the most densely populated region of Germany, where a network of industrial cities lies scattered at only short distances from each other. When complete, the route will bring a string of cities into 30 minutes cycle distance of each other, and where almost 2 million people will live within a 2km radius of the completed highway. Promoters expect this asset to become a viable commuter link, taking 50,000 cars off the road daily.

The completed tracks are 4m wide, fully segregated from cars (route to run partly on disused railway tracks) and use bridges and overpasses to create a safer, smoother ride.

At the moment, Munich and Cologne (link in German) are developing routes from the inner city into the suburbs and wider regions, which could link to this type of cycling infrastructure.

Stockholm's 'reverse' congestion charge would pay cyclists with driving fees

Posted On Tuesday, 19 January 2016

This is an idea being proposed for Stockholm in a new report from Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology. Having studied the barriers Stockholmers face in switching from cars to bikes, the institute has recommended that the city’s existing congestion charge zone be adapted to benefit people commuting by bike. Some money earned through the congestion charge (which covers most of the inner city) could be funneled back into cycling benefits—not as cash in hand, but as credits towards bike repairs or upgrades to studded tires for winter riding. According to institute staff, the plan would do more than provide practical incentives.

Other proposals suggested by the institute could also help, including allowing bikes on trains and creating broader two-lane cycle highways that heighten a rider’s sense of safety.

The institute’s recommendation of cash or in-kind benefits for cyclists isn’t the first of its kind. Several European countries have lined up various incentives and benefits to get people on to bikes—most notably an experiment in France last summer where a control group of 10,000 employees were paid €0.25/km to cycle to work. This had only limited success, partly because commuters still had access to free parking. Given that the habits the scheme tried to discourage were heavily ingrained, the reward itself was also arguably on the low side.
The Stockholm method could potentially prove more effective because it has a better balance of carrot and stick. The cycling benefits would be funded by drivers paying a fee to enter the congestion zone, so the incentive to bike would be matched more explicitly with a disincentive to drive.

Further info
Picture: chuddlesworth / Flickr

toward roads that de-ice themselves

Posted On Monday, 18 January 2016

A new solution in the works at Turkey’s Koc University might make the annual de-icing process less labour intensive, less harmful to the environment, and perhaps less expensive in the long-run. Researchers there are testing what’s essentially salt-infused asphalt by embedding potassium formate (a salt that dissolves in water and can lower its melting point) in bitumen, an ingredient of asphalt.

The resulting material was just as sturdy as unmodified bitumen, and it significantly delayed ice formation in lab studies. The new composite released de-icing salt for two months in the lab, but the effects could last even longer when used on real roads, the researchers note. In that instance, the salt-polymer composite would be evenly embedded throughout the asphalt. Thus, as cars and trucks drive over and wear away the pavement, the salt could continually be released — potentially for years.

air pollution could be pushing up crime

Posted On Thursday, 14 January 2016

A growing body of scientific literature tells us that air pollution is bad for the brain. Fine particles and ozone are neurological irritants, reducing productivity, weakening cognitive skills, and encouraging anti-social behaviour as they enter the body. And as with noise pollution, the physical discomfort induced by breathing air layered with carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide can lead to more aggressive actions, too.

A new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research goes further, linking air pollution to violent crime in Chicago, a city trellised by smoggy highways. On days when they were on the downwind side of the interstate, neighbourhoods saw roughly 2.2% more violent crimes—homicide, rape, assault, and battery—than they did on upwind days. There was no effect on property crime. What’s more, the increase in violent crime was driven mostly by arrests for aggravated battery, while arrests for aggravated assault actually decrease. That is to say, offenders become more physical engaged with victims.

Researchers made a rough-sketch calculation as to how much pollution-induced crime is costing the U.S., assuming that the criminological effects of air pollution scales with population. The U.S. loses $100-200 million annually to pollution-induced crime.

European cities with plans to go car-free

Posted On Wednesday, 13 January 2016

I reported yesterday that Milan and Turin offered cheap public transport during some days in December to reduce the pollution.

While these measures are just quick fixes to the problem, it must be noted that Europe is moving towards a future where city centres will be free of private vehicles. These initiatives can be seen, not only in Milan (article in Italian), but in many places. There are congestion taxes in cities such as London or Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Oslo claims that private cars will be banned in the central district by 2019 as already reported.

Dublin is on the brink of becoming a more pedestrian-friendly capital city, unveiling a €150 million plan to banish cars from key sections of the city centre by 2017.

Some other cities like Berlin, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, Lisbon, Rome, Copenhagen, Prague or Amsterdam introduced Low Emission Zones (LEZ) and allowed only vehicles that follow certain Euro standards inside the zones.

Madrid, Paris and Brussels are facing polluting problems which undoubtedly will end in similar measures in the near future. 

quick fix for bad smog: cheap public transport

Posted On Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Between December 17 and 24, Milan offered unlimited public transport anywhere in the city for 24 hours for the cost of a single fare (€1.50). A similar move was carried out in Turin, introducing two days of free transit.

Milan introduced a central congestion charge zone in 2012, while it is also gradually joining up pedestrian areas to create an ultimately car-free city centre. During the emergency period, its other measures involve making city bike-share rentals free, and offering free transit tickets for groups of adults and children, a move that’s already been introduced to deter parents from driving their kids to school. Diesel vehicles have also been banned from the streets during the pollution peak.

mobility as a service gaining traction in Europe and the US

Posted On Monday, 11 January 2016

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a concept fast gaining traction on both sides of the Atlantic as a way of giving travellers digital multimodal one-stop shops and journey planning tools as an alternative to private car use. Planned delivery methods include subscription-based travel packages in Europe, and 'mobility aggregator' apps, including employee commute benefits, in the US. 

Helsinki, the Finnish capital, has just kicked off the pan-European MaaS Alliance - formally unveiled at the 2015 ITS World Congress. Under the Alliance umbrella, Finnish Technical Research Centre VTT is coordinating the two-year MAASiFiE (Mobility as a Service for Linking Europe) project, which aims to deliver practical methods for making public and green transport more passenger-centric.

ITS Finland CEO Sampo Hietanen, widely regarded as the 'father' of the concept, instances a possible urban commuter package for €95 per month offering:

  • Free public transport within the user's home city;
  • Up to 100km of local taxi use;
  • Up to 500km of car rental; and
  • Up to 1,500km of national public transport use
An alternative package could include shared taxis with a guaranteed wait of 15 minutes maximum from making a mobile phone call. The Alliance believes economies of scale will bring prices down.

In the US, a fast-developing MaaS project under way in California's San Francisco Bay Area, has a more employment-centric approach. It sees 'mobility aggregator' smartphone apps as the 'missing pieces' in a jigsaw puzzle of ongoing efforts aimed at reducing car dependency through a real-time travel marketplace.

Specific targets include freeing up in excess of 1050ha of surface parking for more productive uses and a 15% reduction in vehicle/km travelled by 2035.  

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