Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hijinks ensue

On the morning of Monday, September 1, the Republican National Convention kicks off in St. Paul, Minnesota.

On the afternoon of Monday, September 1, Hurricane Gustav will make landfall on the US Gulf Coast.

Where will Gustav hit? Well, according to this forecast, the center of the forecast track is bearing down on New Orleans. How's that for convention optics?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

How not to teach

A case study in how a professor should not behave in the classroom. Strictly this was a debate competition, but the principle holds. (Caution, lots of swearing.) [via Gawker]

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Brave new world

Brain in a jar controls robot remotely. (A few neurons from a rat fetus ... hooked up via bluetooth ... but still.)

I'm not sure if I would be more creeped out, or less, if the rat brain were actually on board the robot.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

On Blue 22

My comment on this article:

Arguments against Blue 22 tend to be specious, and those made in this article [are] no exception.

- “only 17 percent of travellers departing from Pearson originate in the downtown area” — I’m not sure where you got those numbers, so I can’t look it up myself, but I’ll bet that downtown is by far the largest single origin/destination for Pearson passengers. It’s also home to an increasing number of people, myself included.

- “SNC-Lavalin intended to charge $20 for a one-way ticket, which would price many out of the market” — First, an air ticket is a premium luxury good, usually purchased by the (relatively) affluent; it makes no sense to give flyers a government subsidy on their transit trip to the airport, and I’m happy to make them pay. Second, if you hang around the airport a lot, you will observe that families (who would not benefit from Blue 22) make up a small minority of flyers. Third, I’m sure the executives of SNC-Lavalin are smart enough to lower the price if they can’t fill trains at $20, or offer family passes if need be.

- “There are several options that should be studied instead of Blue 22″ — Have you ever used Chicago’s blue line? Or London’s Picadilly line? In each case it takes about an hour to get downtown (not including wait times), which is wearying after a long flight, and frustrating after a short one; this is not a compelling option for business travelers, who will simply take taxi. Further, light rail is already going to the airport, via the Eglinton TransitCity line.

- “The advantages of [a rail shuttle] solution include providing a station at Woodbine Racetrack where VIA trains from London, Kitchener and Guelph could gain direct access to the airport” — If your objective is to provide connections with VIA and GO, why not do that at Union? It’s already the largest transportation hub in the region, and it makes no sense to duplicate that function at the airport — especially since the arguments in favor of London, Kitchener, and Guelph ignore points east and south of Toronto, such as Oshawa, Kingston, Hamilton, and the Niagara region.

- Finally, and most importantly, there’s no reason why your suggested routes — which, as you point out, complement an express route rather than replace it — can’t also be built. You talk of “putting the cart before the horse”, whereas it is more like sticking your thumb in the eye of the cart vendor, because you don’t have a horse yet. Given the progress of transit construction in this city, the alternatives are decades away at best, while Blue 22 is ready to go right now and has the backing of government. Rail to the airport is a major missing piece of transportation infrastructure, and it’s time to take the solution that is available. One can turn your argument on its head: if regional, non-express services are still needed, they can be built later.