Monday, December 17, 2007

No money for transit, but always money for sports

The CTA is still in crisis mode due to state politicians still unable to come up with a plan to properly fund public transportation. Yet as reported by the Chicago Tribune last week, that didn't stop them from discussing a possible purchase of Wrigley Field. So my question is, how will Cub fans get to Wrigley Field if public transportation falls apart? Sounds like another bad idea from politicians that hopefully won't get reelected. The January 20th funding deadline is fast approaching. Do you think the CTA will get its much needed funding? I don't.

Here's another idea. Since the rest of Illinois doesn't think they should have to pay anything for transit in Chicago, why not cut all state taxes of Chicago residents and have that money go to the city?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A step to the right and a step to the wrong

Today's Chicago tribune had a front page article that the mayor of London will impose a $50 a day tax on SUVs and other gas guzzling vehicles as a way to reduce congestion and carbon emissions. The new fee will roll out in February. Currently all cars entering the city's congestion zone between 7 AM and 6 PM must pay a $16 a day fee. It's an interesting concept, but I'm not sure the mayor will be able to pull it off.

On the other side of the world... in yesterday's Tribune it was reported that Illinois lawmakers finally put together that state budget proposal, a day late and a dollar short. The new budget doesn't include any new money for the CTA which is in dire need of funds. The CTA is proposing to cut service and increase fees as a result. This will only increase congestion and frustration as people taking public transit will have to wait longer for more crowded buses on slower routes to get to work. It will also increase the number of people that choose to drive resulting it even more congestion, more pollution, and more carbon emissions.

All of this talk about expensive, gas guzzling SUVs made me come up with a new idea. How about a fancy, expensive, luxury vehicle with zero emissions? The current problem with fuel-cell vehicles is they're too expensive to produce. But what if you could make a zero emission vehicle that was targeted specifically at the wealthy who could afford it. Those people would be able to show off their status while at the same time not contributing to the pollution. Think about it. The BMW Zip, the Porsche Zero, the Ferarri Terra. OK, the names need some work, but I still think it's a neat concept.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Public transportation, thanks to politicians not for long.

Here in Chicago the CTA is falling apart. I just read their 2007 Contingency Plan recently posted on their website, transitchicago.com. The problem is the CTA has been underfunded for years while at the same time the people at the top who ran the CTA gave themselves big pension plans that the CTA can't afford. On top of that the CTA is depending on critically needed funds from the state that doesn't look like will come through.

Whether the CTA is really in as bad of shape as they claim I don't know for sure, but what I do know is their current service is pretty bad and any cuts will make it even worse. In all the major cities I've visited that have public transportation, London, Paris, Barcelona, Lisbon; Chicago has by far the worst public transportation. Compared to those other cities the CTA is dirty, slow, and unreliable. There have been times when I've waited over half an hour for a bus that was supposed to appear every 7 minutes, times when the bus or train has been so dirty you want to not touch anything other than holding your nose, times when buses broke down, buses with no air conditioning on 90+ degree days, and times when the buses or trains were so crowded you had to wait until several passed before one showed up with room for you to board. If fact at the station where I was waiting for a train yesterday I noticed numerous rail spikes laying around and missing from the ties and a few missing clips that hold the rail.

The CTA's current plan is to raise prices and cut service hoping they'll loose customers. The bus routes they're planning on cutting are already over capacity. Cutting those routes will only increase crowding on other already crowded routes to the point where you'll only be able to get on the bus if you get on at the first stop. On top of that they're planning on raising fares to the point where it's cheaper to pay for downtown parking. If this plan goes into affect I'm afraid it will create massive gridlock throughout the whole city and make everyone late for work. This is unacceptable and I think the CTA is counting on that to work to their advantage.

The bigger problem is not the overreaction by the CTA but the fact that at a time when the environment and the effects of global warming are coming to the forefront, the same politicians that are claiming to be pro environment are trying to avoid funding public transportation, which can do far more to reduce carbon emissions and the use of fossil fuels than some of the new program they're trying to pass such as the use of ethanol (which is really a farce since ethanol production requires more energy to produce than it saves.) If anything both the federal and state governments should be encouraging and expanding public transportation, especially in large cities where it makes the most sense. If public transportation were as clean and efficient as I've seen in other major cities I'm sure we could get a lot more cars off the road which would reduce carbon emissions, reduce the use of fossil fuels, and would even reduce travel time on buses which share those same roads. Hopefully the people who run our government will figure this out sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Forgotten Genius

NOVA had a wonderful program tonight titled Forgotten Genius about Percy Julian, a genius chemist who through perseverance and determination became one of the greatest scientists of all time. It was very interesting to learn of how many companies and universities turned him away simply because he was an African-American. It turns out that many of the products and medicines we take for granted today can be linked to the work of Percy Julian. His pioneering work with alkaloids and synthesizing animal steroids from plants helped to create affordable and effective treatments for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and glaucoma as well as progesterone used to curb miscarriages and later for the birth control pill. Regardless of color he was definitely one of America's finest. If you missed the program be sure to check out the link below to learn more about this forgotten genius. You can also find out more about Percy Julian at Science Alive.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Are you ready for Vista? Probably not.

Microsoft is releasing Windows Vista later this week. But for most people there's no point in running out to the midnight sales to buy a copy. Unless your computer is less than a year old or has a "Made for Vista" sticker on it, most likely the video card in your computer isn't good enough to get the full Vista experience.

As a developer I had the opportunity to try out Vista on my current computer a few weeks ago. Although I was able to successfully install Vista and have a fast enough processor and enough memory, my video card just wasn't up to snuff. At the time I built my computer about three and a half years ago, my ATI All-in-Wonder Radion 9000 Pro was a pretty good video card. Unfortunately ATI doesn't have Vista drivers for a card this old and the drivers they have available for more recent video cards are all in beta. In fact many of the hardware drivers I looked for were either in beta or not available. Windows Vista did have basic drivers for my video card, but nothing beyond a basic low resolution display.

When it comes to Vista, unless you have a very new machine I recommend you hold out until you decide to buy a new computer. Give the developers some time to update their drivers and make sure their software works correctly on Vista. Especially if you have a laptop. From what I've read running Vista on a laptop can drain the batteries significantly faster than Windows XP.

If you still want to run out and get Vista, at the very least run the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor and find out what will or won't work. When I ran it on my computer it generated a good sized list of programs that "might have minor compatibility issues after upgrading to Windows Vista."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sluggish Transit Authority

Rapid Transit Authority? That's an oxymoron.

If you haven't already heard, the CTA has started work on the already slow and overcrowded red line that will reduce capacity by 25% and cause major slow downs for the next two years in order to increase capacity. Is it me or is the CTA actually trying to convince people not to take mass transit. As someone who takes CTA almost everyday, it seems like buses and trains keep getting more crowded while taking progressively longer to get to their destination. I think Frank Kruesi's plan (the president of CTA) is to grind CTA to a halt in an attempt to convince politicians that more money needs to be poured into mass transit. Meanwhile, people who need to get to work in a timely manor are the ones paying the price.