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for complex times.


Archive for the ‘Transportation’

Pimp My Ride – British Style

September 29, 2009 By: Kvatch Category: Recreation, Transportation 5 Comments →

Shotguns, ammo, leather, and enough quality booze to ensure that you don’t end up actually killing anything—we present the “Holland & Holland” custom Range Rover by Overfinch. (Never let it be said that only Americans know to pimp a ride.)

Mass Transit In Terms of Lanes

August 16, 2009 By: Kvatch Category: Commentary, Transportation 7 Comments →

Why driving into Manhattan is crazy and mass transit is the ONLY practical option:

At best, it would take 167 inbound lanes, or 84 copies of the Queens Midtown Tunnel, to carry what the NYC Subway carries over 22 inbound tracks through 12 tunnels and 2 (partial) bridges.

Translating that to Babylon by the Bay, let’s consider BART through the Transbay Tube, the only real alternative to driving on the seismically unsound SF-Oakland Bay Bridge:

  • Of BART’s 370K trips per day, roughly 200,000 end in San Francisco
  • So, conservatively, 100,000 of those are probably commuters coming from the East Bay
  • The Bay Bridge handles 270K cars per day, of which, at least 60K are inbound to SF in the morning
  • So, at 1.2 commuters per car, the Bay Bridge would have to handle almost 85K more cars during the morning rush
  • In other words, we would need to increase the number of inbound lanes from 5 to 12 just to handle BART commuters–or…we could just build a second bridge

Mass transit everywhere isn’t just AN alternative.  It’s the ONLY alternative.

A Simple Rule of Driving

July 31, 2009 By: Kvatch Category: Commentary, Transportation 5 Comments →

Jalopnik clues us in to the “25 Most Redundant Car Technologies“. But the one that really resonates with the frogs of Casa de las Ranas is the automated parallel parking assistant.

Here’s a simple rule—and I note that, when this frog took his first driving test, parallel parking was a ‘required’ skill: If you don’t have the presence of mind to be able to parallel park a car, you probably shouldn’t be behind the wheel in the first place.

United Airlines Must Die! (Part 2)

June 01, 2009 By: Kvatch Category: Commerce, Transportation, Travel 12 Comments →

Read Part 1

My flight is canceled.  The Frogette and I are stuck in Chicago wondering how-in-the-hell we’re going to get to Boston.

Normally one would just head over to the gate agent to get booked on the next flight, but interestingly, there is no gate agent.  In fact a quick trip around Chicago’s Concourse B (all United, of course), reveals that there are hardly any gate agents…anywhere.

United has come up with a novel tactic for dealing with their customers, angry or otherwise.  They simply don’t.  Operations, especially at Chicago, are engineered to minimizing exposure of flyers to employees.  Gate agents now show up no more than 10 minutes before passengers begin boarding and disappear as soon as the upgrade and stand-by lists are either cleared or closed.  The only person left is the poor schmuck who checks boarding passes, and he’s usually too busy to answer questions.

Need a seat change?  You’ll need to speak to an agent, except that…there aren’t any.  Want to argue about an upgrade?  Good luck finding someone to argue with.  Was you’re flight canceled?  Head for ‘Customer Service’, because your gate now resembles a ghost town.

So it’s off to ‘Customer Service’ we go only to find:  A bank of automated ticket terminals, but not an agent in sight; 50 or so people waiting to use the 2 working kiosks (of 5) or the 3 working phones (of 7).  Where most of the unfortunates find that they need to try and call United on one of the ‘non-broken’ phones (the irony of calling United from their own terminal being lost of these masters of avoidance), we find that we’ve been booked onto another flight…5 HOURS LATER!  But…with no one to talk to, what the hell are we going to do?

So we accept our lot; punch through a dozen offers, “Would you like to pay $50 for an extra 3 centimeters of leg room?”; endure a major delay without compensation, two MIDDLE-F*CKING-SEATS in different parts of the plane (where originally we were seated together), and 5 hours in ‘United Concourse Crud’ a terminal so filthy that I expect roaches to be scurrying at my feet  And then…our rebooked flight is (wait for it…) DELAYED!

Some parting observations on “Something dreadful in the air…” tomorrow.

United Airlines Must Die! (Part 1)

May 30, 2009 By: Kvatch Category: Commerce, Transportation, Travel 7 Comments →

Living as I do, here in ‘Sodom by the Sea’, United Airlines is a necessary evil. Oh, I’ve tried to get away from this evil empire of the air. But the fact that they’ve got a lock on about 50% of SFO’s gates, the fact that for non-stop, coast-to-coast travel from the Bay Area they are just about the only game in town, along with a whole slew of unused frequent flyer miles, has made my departure almost impossible.

And so it was, for a recent trip to Boston, that I found myself pondering once again how an airline offering such abysmal service manages to stay in business. (Perhaps we could liquidate all of United’s assets and give the money to GM? Oh sure…only in the fevered dreams I had on a plane heated to the point where I could have broiled sausages on my filthy tray table.) But I digress…

What is United’s biggest problem? I’d say open contempt for their customers. My connecting flight from Chicago to Boston was not only canceled without an explanation, but the crew, waiting in the boarding area, didn’t even get the word from their employer until after the flight disappeared from the departure boards. Was it weather? Nope…both coasts had great weather that day. Was it mechanical? Perhaps, but we’ll never know. More likely it was the fact that flight was only 50% full, and United could save few petrol dollars by massively inconveniencing 80 passengers.

So…it was off to ‘Customer Service’ we went for the continuation of our miserable journey. Stay tuned tomorrow for lessons in how this arrogant company has managed to completely disconnect from angry customers.

Read Part 2


May 01, 2009 By: Kvatch Category: Economics, Transportation 6 Comments →

There are so many reasons why Fiat’s investment in Chrysler isn’t going to save this sorry excuse for a company. But perhaps auto industry analyst, Rob Golding, summed it up when he said:

I think it’s madness… Fiat is easily the weakest of all the major automotive companies. It does not even generate enough revenue to fund its own investment.

But setting the investment issue aside…imagine, for a moment, what the bastard children of these two makers of supremely ugly cars will look like…

Now tell me that Chrysler is going to emerge from this debacle.

Lead By Example

April 20, 2009 By: Kvatch Category: California, Environment, Transportation 8 Comments →

We should all—well…at least…all of us who can—be considering whether or not we really need a car.

Some mayors tool around in Priuses and hybrid Civics. But Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has taken green transit a step further. No more cars for him, at all.

—  SF Gate – 20 April 2009

Mayor Bates traded in his Volvo for an AC Transit pass and a sturdy pair of walking shoes, and he’s 71 years old for God’s sake!

What’s your excuse?

This has GOT to be a sign of the Apocalypse

March 26, 2009 By: Frogette Category: Economics, Transportation 8 Comments →

Kvatch brought this one to my attention.  Apparently even though the automobile markets worldwide are tanking, Ikea has decided it’s a good time to enter the game.  If you’re having the same nightmarish images flash through your head as I am, you’re thinking hex wrench and directions.  That’s right.  For a mere $500 you get to put together your own car!  Dear God, what if the instructions come in Swedish?!

Smart cars, stupid people

February 26, 2009 By: Frogette Category: Commentary, Transportation No Comments →

Boy does it apply this week. I don’t know if you’ve heard but President Obama recently appointed a task force to take on the reformation of the auto industry. Great idea, right? Here’s the catch. Turns out most task force members not only don’t own American cars, the imports they do own don’t meet America’s CAFE standards. That’s right they get an average of 23.4 miles to the gallon a full 4.1 miles lower than CAFE standards demand. And these are the people chosen to clean up our auto industry people. You thought that auto execs were the only stupid people in America? Not even.

Gulf of Aden decended upon by treasure hunters

January 11, 2009 By: Frogette Category: Commerce, Humor, Transportation 4 Comments →

Yes it was reported this weekend that 5 Somali pirates drowned in the Gulf with their share of the $3 million booty paid by the Saudis for their oil tanker the Sirius Star. I’m still having a hard time though imagining how a group of unruly guys in a Zodiac, who CAN’T SWIM, managed to take over a ship the size of several football fields. The captain saw them coming and he and the crew just threw up their hands? I mean for the pirates to even board them would mean climbing the side of a supertanker. Kvatch and I were cracking each other up imagining scenarios for repelling the pirates. Only recently, a cruise ship captain evaded them using nothing but a “sonic weapon”. So you see a bunch of guys hauling ass out to your big old ship in a Zodiac. They look kind of fearsome, you’re thinking pirate attack. Do you (a) turn the ship and run them down?; (b) Run to the opposite side of the deck and basically play “keep away with the crew” until the pirates get tired and give up?; or (c) HIDE. It’s a big ship man, there have got to be some cubbyholes or an engine room you could hide in. Here’s a thought guys, it’s a Zodiac, why not use a harpoon to shoot a hole in it and sink it?

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