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Road dieting

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The concept of road diets is an alternate approach to dealing with road congestion that’s gained popularity in recent years. The typical solution to heavy traffic on roads is to widen them with more travel lanes. The problem is such an approach can induce demand and instead of two lanes of traffic jam, you get four lanes going nowhere.1

Instead, with a road diet approach, you might turn a four-lane road into three lanes: two travel lanes and a turn lane in the middle.

Realizing these unintended outcomes, some localities implemented a type of road diet: reconfiguring the four lanes (two in each direction) into three (one each way plus a shared turn lane in the middle). The change dramatically reduced the number of “conflict points” on the road-places where a crash might occur. Whereas there might be six mid-block conflict points in a common four-lane arterial, between cars turning and merging, there were only two after the road diet.

Likewise, at an intersection, eight potential conflict points became four after a road diet.

The result was a much safer road. In small urban areas (say, populations around 17,000, with traffic volumes up to 12,000 cars a day), post-road diet crashes dropped about 47 percent. In larger metros (with populations around 269,000 and up to 24,000 daily cars), the crash reduction was roughly 19 percent. The combined estimate from all the best studies predicted that accidents would decline 29 percent, on average, after a four-to-three-lane road diet — DOT’s reported figure.

Pedestrian and bike usage tends to increase as well (b/c that extra street can be converted to bike lanes or sidewalks), speeding decreases, and car travel times are largely unaffected. This quick video by Jeff Speck shows four different approaches to road dieting:

  1. The concept of induced demand can be seen in other places, like New Orleans’ overcrowded jails.

Tags: architecture   cities   Jeff Speck   traffic   video
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duerig
23 hours ago
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This is an odd article. It seems to conflate two very different things into one concept of a 'road diet'. Let's set aside the ridiculousness of the term 'road diet' for now.

(1) Does reducing the number of lanes on a street reduce global demand for driving or have other good (safety) effects?

(2) Does having a turn lane in the middle of a road increase safety?

In some sense, these two questions are linked because if you have a road of a given size, using a part of that size for one purpose (turn lane, bike paths) comes at the expense of other purposes. But really they are independent. If a turn lane in the middle really does improve safety, then we should start reworking all major roads to use them where possible. And we should accept that in some cases it will reduce the number of traffic lanes and in other cases we will need to widen the road.

(1) is not nearly as interesting of a question. To some extent widening roads induces demand because it makes it cheaper (in time) for people to do something they want to do. And to some extent it also induces demand by funneling people away from alternative routes to the new larger-capacity route. But these probably don't impact the safety. And these factors are already in use to funnel drivers away from rich neighborhoods as a kind of zero-sum game where rich people benefit disproportionately from roads but shunt the costs disproportionately onto the poor.
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DMack
1 day ago
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Hm!
Victoria, BC

A Few Rules to Avoid Getting Stung with Crowd-Funding

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Three years ago I backed this project on Indiegogo that was a clever iPhone battery/cable/locator/camera trigger. At the time it seemed pretty useful and I was still in those heady days of believing that anything listed on Kickstarter or Indiegogo would necessarily ship.

Well it's been three years and I'd pretty much written off the idea of ever receiving my GOkey. A few days ago I received an email from the project organizer making it official by explaining he was out of money and unable to ship. He concluded the email:

"I feel terribly shameful for letting you down.
I am sorry."

I actually felt kind of bad for the guy despite the fact that he got my $69 and I never received anything in return. I would have been more upset about this in the past but I’ve become much more realistic about these projects in the last few years. 

The idea behind crowd-funding is a good one. Somebody has a great idea and rather than going to the bank, they get funded by their first customers. Unfortunately, you’ve got to be pretty discriminating if you don’t want to receive any emails like I just did from GOkey. I’ve got a few rules now for backing crowd-funding campaigns:

1. If it has a circuit board, don’t back it. 

It often seems to me that the biggest fails on these types of projects involved finalizing, approving, and sourcing electronics. I know that this was part of the reason the GOkey never shipped. These days I’ll only back something that has a circuit board if it is made by a company with already a proven and reliable track record.

2. Smashing success is often a bad thing.

If I'm watching a Kickstarter or Indiegogo that starts blowing up, I’ll take a step back and look very closely before I get on board. Being required to make millions of a product when you originally only expected to make thousands adds a lot of complexity and opportunities for things to go wrong. You may recall how long it took them to ship the original Pebble watch. People I talked to said a lot of this was due to them having to ramp up for so many units.

3. Simple ideas are also subject to peril.

Another problem showing up is intellectual property theft. A clever designer will come up with a new way to solve a problem and the project will get some momentum. That very same momentum, however will attract rip-off artists to start flooding the market with similar products, sometimes before the campaign even ends.

I still think the idea behind crowd-funding is a good one. If you see something you feel passionate about and you want to play a role in making it a reality, there's nothing wrong with backing it. Just be warned that no matter how good of an idea a product is, it still may never ship.

 

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duerig
9 days ago
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I think item #2 is the most important indicator of whether a project is likely to ship. The more successful the campaign, the more delayed the product and the more likely that the product will never ship.

Item #1 interacts with Item #2. Making custom circuit boards on a small scale or re-using existing hardware on a larger scale can work out. But making custom circuit boards on a large scale is hard to get started at.

I'm not sure what problem #3 is. If somebody 'rips off' the idea and makes a similar product, you will quite likely still get yours. And in a lot of cases, the definition of 'ripping off' has a lot more to do with the psychology and culture than with the facts. The inventor of the collapsible selfie-stick case felt ripped off. But it isn't like they were paying licensing fees to the inventor of the selfie stick or the inventor of the cell phone case. Even though both smartphone cases and selfie sticks are extremely new (if somebody has patented them, that patent has certainly not run out), they are so common that people assume they must somehow be in the public domain.

And the popular idea of intellectual property is that something is a 'rip off' only if it doesn't build on and change what went before. But this has no legal basis. If I invent a new kind of engine and patent it, a competitor who took my engine and tweaked it a bit to be more efficient would still be infringing on my patent of the principle of the engines operation just as much as one who just made a carbon copy.
stanley
9 days ago
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Princeton’s Ad-Blocker May Put an End to the Ad-Blocking Arms Race

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A team of Princeton and Stanford University researchers has fundamentally reinvented how ad-blocking works, in an attempt to put an end to the advertising versus ad-blocking arms race. The ad blocker they've created is lightweight, evaded anti ad-blocking scripts on 50 out of the 50 websites it was tested on, and can block Facebook ads that were previously unblockable.

The software, devised by Arvind Narayanan, Dillon Reitman, Jonathan Mayer, and Grant Storey, is novel in two major ways: First, it looks at the struggle between advertising and ad blockers as fundamentally a security problem that can be fought in much the same way antivirus programs attempt to block malware, using techniques borrowed from rootkits and built-in web browser customizability to stealthily block ads without being detected. Second, the team notes that there are regulations and laws on the books that give a fundamental advantage to consumers that cannot be easily changed, opening the door to a long-term ad-blocking solution.

The Federal Trade Commission regulations require advertisements to be clearly labeled so that a human can recognize them, which has created a built-in advantage for consumers and, now, ad blockers. The team used several computer vision techniques to detect ads the same way that a human would, which they call "perceptual ad blocking." Because advertisers must comply with these regulations, the authors imagine an "end game" in which consumers—and ad blockers—ultimately win.

"Unlike the behavior of malware, the behavior of both publishers/advertisers and ad-blocking tools already is, and will continue to be, shaped by regulations," they write in a paper explaining the ad blocker. "A favorable legal climate and the existence of browsers friendly toward ad-blocking extensions are two key factors that may tip the scales toward users."

Ad-blocking is obviously a fraught ethical topic—especially for a journalist whose salary is paid for in large part by advertising. The rise of malvertising, invasive tracking and surveillance, and heavyweight scripts that can bog down browser performance mean that there is a strong case to be made for blocking ads (a recent study found that advertising and scripts slow down web pages by an average of 44 percent). On the other hand, ads allow companies like VICE to keep the lights on, and widespread ad-blocking has already made significant dents in the revenue streams of online publishers.

While the researchers don't take an ethical stance about whether you should use an ad blocker or not, they do believe that the advertiser/publisher/reader relationships must fundamentally change.

"The fundamental problem with online ads today is a misalignment of incentives—not just between users and advertisers, but between publishers and advertisers," Narayanan told me in an email. "We've consistently found that publishers are upset about rampant online tracking and the security problems with ads, but they don't have much control over ad tech. Changing this power imbalance is important if we want a long-term solution."

A proof of concept is now available for Chrome, but is not fully functional (as in, it only detects ads, it doesn't block them): "To avoid taking sides on the ethics of ad-blocking, we have deliberately stopped short of making our proof-of-concept tool fully functional—it is configured to detect ads but not actually block them," Narayanan said.

With two highly motivated parties involved—a largely open source ad-blocking developer community and publishers who have their bottom lines at stake—the ad-blocking arms race has gotten significantly more complex over the past several years. Popular ad blockers like Adblock Plus and uBlock Origin work by detecting code that is used by standard ads; urls and markup code popularly used in ads are shared on huge open source lists that are often maintained by humans.

This means advertisers and publishers can simply change the code they use to deliver their ads to defeat them. This type of ad-blocking is often easily detected by anti ad blockers, which are deployed on the sites of more than 50 popular publishers. Finally, traditional ad blockers fail to block native ads that look like normal content, which is why your ad blockers won't detect and block sponsored posts on Facebook.

Perceptual ad-blocking, on the other hand, ignores those codes and those lists. Instead, it uses optical character recognition, design techniques, and container searches (the boxes that ads are commonly put in on a page) to detect words like "sponsored" or "close ad" that are required to appear on every ad, which is what allows it to detect and block Facebook ads.

"As long as the disclosure standards are unambiguous and adhered to, a perceptual ad blocker will have a 100 percent recall at identifying ads governed by that standard," the researchers wrote. Because new disclosure standards generally have to go through legal vetting and are required, they are less likely to change than the code used to deliver the ads.

To defeat anti ad blockers, the researchers say they've borrowed techniques from rootkits, which are often used for malware but can be adapted to "hide their existence and activities" from ad-blocking detectors. This is done because browser extensions are given a higher "privilege" than advertisements and ad blocker detectors. Another technique that was not used but was proposed to hide the ad blockers' activities is even more impressive. They are able to "create two copies of the page, one which the user sees (and to which ad-blocking will be applied) and one which the publisher code interacts with, and to ensure that information propagates between these copies in one direction but not the other."

What we have, then, is research that points toward a potential end of the ad-blocking arms race. Your move, publishers.

Update: This article has been updated to clarify that a technique that would create two copies of a webpage was only proposed, not tested. 


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duerig
13 days ago
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Hmm. I tried the extension and it seemed fairly ineffective. Perhaps this is just a proof of concept and others will run with the idea and make it solid.

I'm not in the least concerned with whether adblocking is 'ethical' in regards to reading online content. But I am worried that there is increasingly a divide between the rich and/or tech-saavy who have figured out how to avoid the assault of advertising and the poor/vulnerable who are preyed on by advertisers. In other words, I think people should have no qualms about avoiding advertising as much as possible. But I do want the ability to avoid advertising to be distributed to everyone and not just the lucky few.
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missmentelle: At age 23, Tina Fey was working at a YMCA.At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first...

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missmentelle:

At age 23, Tina Fey was working at a YMCA.

At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job. 

At age 24, Stephen King was working as a janitor and living in a trailer. 

At age 27, Vincent Van Gogh failed as a missionary and decided to go to art school.  

At age 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.

At age 28, Wayne Coyne ( from The Flaming Lips) was a fry cook.

At age 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter. 

At age 30, Martha Stewart was a stockbroker. 

At age 37, Ang Lee was a stay-at-home-dad working odd jobs.

Julia Child released her first cookbook at age 39, and got her own cooking show at age 51.

Vera Wang failed to make the Olympic figure skating team, didn’t get the Editor-in-Chief position at Vogue, and designed her first dress at age 40.

Stan Lee didn’t release his first big comic book until he was 40.

Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career and landed his first movie role at age 42.

Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get his first major movie role until he was 46.

Morgan Freeman landed his first major movie role at age 52.

Kathryn Bigelow won the Academy Award for Best Director when she made The Hurt Locker at age 57.

Grandma Moses didn’t begin her painting career until age 76.

Louise Bourgeois didn’t become a famous artist until she was 78.

Whatever your dream is, it is not too late to achieve it. You aren’t a failure because you haven’t found fame and fortune by the age of 21. Hell, it’s okay if you don’t even know what your dream is yet. Even if you’re flipping burgers, waiting tables or answering phones today, you never know where you’ll end up tomorrow.

Never tell yourself you’re too old to make it. 

Never tell yourself you missed your chance. 

Never tell yourself that you aren’t good enough. 

You can do it. Whatever it is. 

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duerig
13 days ago
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I guess if I want to be a carpenter, that ship has sailed. Thanks, Harrison Ford, for crushing my dreams. :-)
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Eat24 Is Now Delivering Via Robot In The Mission And Potrero

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Eat24 Is Now Delivering Via Robot In The Mission And Potrero Another service has officially entered the fray to make us put up with their delivery bots on our sidewalks, and that's Yelp's Eat24. [ more › ]
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duerig
15 days ago
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Hmm. This is something that hadn't occurred to me. The deliberately snarky 'put up with their delivery bots on our sidewalks' points to an aspect of self-driving cars/drones/etc. that will be a real concern: space pollution. Previously, there was a natural limit to how much public space you could take up. You are only one person after all. And if anybody was annoyed that you (or you in your car) was causing congestion with your presence, then at least they were in the same boat causing just as much congestion. So there has been no fee for congesting public thoroughfares or if there is one, it is more of a flat fee that everyone who has a car pays. But in 10 or 20 years, some people and businesses will be causing a lot more congestion than others. Like the Fedex or UPS trucks that sometimes block traffic but much more prolific.
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samuel
15 days ago
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Well this is new.
The Haight in San Francisco

A Proposed Regulation

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The story about United dragging a passenger off an overbooked plane highlights how crazy the current system is.  I would not go so far as to say that airlines should never overbook, but it seems that when they overbook, they should fully bear the consequences. They should be required to keep raising the offered compensation until they get volunteers to give up their seats. If $800 does not work, then try $1600 or $8000.  I am sure volunteers will appear as the price rises.

This alternative system would have three benefits:
  1. Those who can delay their travel at least cost will be the first to give up their seats so the allocation of available seats will be efficient. 
  2. Those who are delayed will be compensated so won't feel harmed.
  3. The airlines will face better incentives when deciding how much to overbook. 
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duerig
17 days ago
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I really like this idea. It used to be the case that overbooking was relatively benign. Both the airline and passengers could easily reschedule seats, so there was a certain fairness. But increasingly airlines have restricted the passenger's flexibility regarding ticket changes while retaining their own. This power imbalance should be redressed.
freeAgent
17 days ago
Yup. Currently, the cost of overbooking is fairly bounded by the maximum required compensation (which airlines never seem to exceed). The "surplus" which airlines can get from overbooking is not as strictly bounded, so the incentives are for them to overbook more than they would if the downside could match the upside.
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