Morning Ed: Transportation {2016.12.28.W}

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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97 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    One thing that hasn’t changed about air travel is jetlag. Yesterday I slept from 1 PM to 4 PM and then from 9 PM to 12 AM and then 3 AM to 9:30 AM. I think it is early evening right now and my stomach is saying dinner time.

    I largely find air travel bearable or decent as long as I have an aisle seat. I think what gets people really mad is that airlines (and a lot of other businesses) seem fanatically committed to price discrimination and this can often be more like a tax on families. United just revealed a super economy ticket where you don’t get to use the overhead bin and don’t have an assigned seat. This might seem great but in the end it just an advantage to young people who can cram all their stuff in a small backpack or business people on quick day or overnight trips. Families will end up paying more as will people with disabilities or people on longer trips.

    I flew United back from Singapore on the 26th. The flight was fairly empty. There were a lot of empty rows in economy premium but United would not let economy passengers move up to those empty rows unless they paid more. Maybe my concept of costumer service is very different and this is why I am not in business but it seems to me that once the flight takes off, those empty seats are not getting filled. They probably are not getting filled around a half hour before takeoff or more if the flight is at 50 percent capacity or less. Why not build goodwill and let people move up for free or a nominal fee?Report

  2. Avatar J_A says:

    @saul-degraw

    They probably are not getting filled around a half hour before takeoff or more if the flight is at 50 percent capacity or less. Why not build goodwill and let people move up for free or a nominal fee?

    Goodwill? Who do you think they are? Continental?

    That’s why the merger caused so much bad blood and fury to old time Continental flyers. Because a company that grew out of its (literal) ashes based on building goodwill was absorbed by this selfish cost pinching blob.Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Articles like the one on flight make me wonder… Golden Age for whom?

    Our tendency to romanticize eras that were demonstrably worse for the vast majority of people causes real harm.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      Although I agree that asking the question “a golden age for who” is important, I’m not so sure about this line of thinking. I think that there are (and should be) platonic ideals of things that we should strive for.

      Was the Golden Age of jazz or classical music the moment when the most revolutionary writing and performing was being done even though Jim Crow was in full swing, or is it now, when the most people of different backgrounds could access the most free recordings? Are the most sought out wines of the Burgundy inferior to Gallo, which is more democratic and available to more people or different backgrounds? Are the works of Shakespeare, Austen, or Joyce inferior to those of Dan Brown, since the former wrote for a higher and more limited class than does the latter?

      I agree that it’s important to remember that there were times when things were worse for people in ways that are truly terrible. But I think it’s a mistake to say that we must judge things — experiences, literature, music, art, cuisine, people — on the basis of the degree to which they are surrounded by people who are progressively minded.Report

      • Avatar J_A says:

        @tod-kelly

        Though you have some good points, I must register my strong objection to

        Are the works of Shakespeare, Austen, or Joyce inferior to those of Dan Brown, since the former wrote for a higher and more limited class than does the latter?

        Yes they are, because Dan Brown is a talentless plodding plagiarist and the unreadable Da Vinci Code is nothing more than a dumbed down abstract of Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, stripped out of interesting characters, plots, ideas, and message, so as to guarantee that his readers would not strain their little neurons.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @tod-kelly

        I think you miss my point. Or, my point was less than clear. My argument isn’t, “Music in the 40s was worse than the 90s because MLB was segregated back then and therego the entire time period is tainted.”

        I think we can look at things individually. So, it is possible that the best jazz music was produced during a period that was otherwise awful for most human beings. I don’t know enough about the genre but if you tell me that the 1920s was the golden age of jazz, okay then.

        The argument here is that this earlier age was the golden age of air travel. It seems we are determining that based on passenger experience. If 10% of the population had an amazing flight experience and 90% had a bad one (including no flight experience at all because they were barred for one reason or another), I struggle to call that a golden era.Report

  4. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The federal money that was supposed to be used to build the Seattle subway ended up going to Atlanta’s MARTA instead. This was a mistake in retrospect. The Atlanta metropolitan area is one of the most sprawling anti-transit and pro-car areas in the United States. The system is good for what it is but only covers a very small area. More people live in the city Seattle than Atlanta even though the Seattle metropolitan area has fewer people. I might be getting this wrong but Seattle culture and politics seems much more friendly towards public transportation than Atlanta. so a Seattle subway would have higher usage.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Lee,
      Okay, you don’t know much about Atlanta. If the federal money is used to consolidate two workforces into one, or at least jumpstart that, well, that’s money well spent.Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The article on the golden age of flight seems similar to arguments presented by free marketers and globalizers when it comes to the replacement of high paying unionized factory and mine jobs with low paying service jobs, “but you have more, better, and cheaper stuff.” Thats true but a good paying job that seems meaningful provides a level of psychological comfort that more, better, and cheaper stuff does not even if you can’t provide for them through policy.

    There are definite benefits to flying now compared to the past. Air travel is cheaper and increases in technology have given people more entertainment options on the plane, although I can’t figure why it never occurred to people to read a book or two on a long flight in the past. Most people seem to prefer cheaper flights than ones with many services. At the same time, modern flying is bad for people who have to fly frequently. What people object to is the stuff them in cattle car treatment or the attempt to extract cash at nearly every opportunity as Saul noted and the security theater, which is beyond airline control but doesn’t help.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      I can’t figure why it never occurred to people to read a book or two on a long flight in the past.

      I had to fly a lot on business in the days just before laptops*. Over the last couple of years I’ve been converting shelves and shelves of books into epubs in anticipation of someday downsizing our living quarters. In the process, I came across one dusty shelf full of “airplane novels” — thick, not much plot, some sex, some violence, and a story line that moved along briskly enough to keep you turning pages. Must have been more than a hundred of them.

      * The first laptop I had almost started a riot on an evening flight from New Jersey to Denver. I’d loaded an early version of Linux and a light-weight windowing system on it. The stuff I had running was unmistakably Unix to anyone used to a Sun or other workstation. Some guy coming back from the restroom stopped behind me and literally yelled up the length of the plane, “Hey, this guy’s got Unix running on a laptop!” Which caused a small stampede of geeks to come running down the aisle. The cabin crew were not amused.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine says:

        Well, right… people did read books, heck I still read books on a plane (though now 50/50 on my handheld device, which doesn’t impact the conclusions of the story).

        Its not that people didn’t figure that out, its that the journalist is attempting to write a hack piece about flying and needs to eliminate all competing narratives – either willfully or out of simple ignorance, or both.

        Of course future journalists will look back on all the days when you could fly an not use your phone as the “Golden Era” of flying. And they’ll be right.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          “Back then, the airlines didn’t use cattle prods during boarding.”

          “You have to admit, Oceanic’s new thing of using a cattle brand for your boarding number is pretty smart. I bet all of them do it soon.”Report

          • Which brings to mind Matt Taibbi’s classic demolition of Thomas Friedman:

            Here’s what he says: I stomped off, went through security, bought a Cinnabon, and glumly sat at the back of the B line, waiting to be herded on board so that I could hunt for space in the overhead bins. Forget the Cinnabon. Name me a herd animal that hunts. Name me one.

            Report

          • Avatar Marchmaine says:

            @will-truman So are you saying for a fee I can get a permanent boarding priority tatooed with fire on my arm? Hmmmn… let me get back to you on that one.Report

    • Avatar Mo says:

      You can get the Golden Age of Flying experience today, you just have to pay for first class. You end up paying 3x more, but it’s still cheaper than the 5x multiplier from back then. The thing is people’s choices have led to the reduction of services and the nickle and diming. You know what the fastest growing airline in the country is? Spirit. What airline gets rated lowest for service? Spirit. What airline has the cheapest upfront fare? Once, again Spirit. Airlines have noticed what the American consumer wants and is giving it to them good and hard.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        This.

        Although I wonder how much of Spirit’s success is due to business travel policy that demands employees (who are not c-suite) fly on the absolute cheapest fare?Report

        • Avatar Mo says:

          Every company that I have worked for, granted Fortune 500 companies, specifically excluded budget carriers from choosing preferred carriers. Interestingly about Spirit, they were the only US carrier to make this list of the world’s worst airlines based on SkyTrak data. They narrowly beat Syrian Air and were outperformed by Air Cubana. Shockingly, there are 4 airlines worse than the North Korean airline. They’ve also flat out said they’re not for business travelers. I suspect all of the additional fees for seat selection, printing out your own boarding pass and carry-ons make the calculus such that no major company would force someone to undergo those indignities.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @mo

        Which American consumers want the cheapest fair possible? I doubt it is families because cheapest fair possible is not family friendly. It seems to be young, single people who like to do a lot of on the fly trips.Report

        • Avatar gregiank says:

          Families often love the cheapest fair since it means they can actually take the kids with them to visit family. Cheap is very family friendly for people without much money. Flying costs add up and if you have 2 or 3 kids it is expensive fast. So cheap is good.

          Most flights in the US are four hours or less. People can cope with a few less amenities for that long for the miracle of flight.Report

        • Avatar Mo says:

          As someone that just did a cross country trip with an infant and a toddler, I feel I can probably speak well to this. Families definitely want cheaper fares. You’re paying a full fare for any kid over two, so ticket prices start adding up fast with two or more kids. And the missing amenities are not particularly family travel unfriendly. The bulk of the stuff is going into two checked bags, so you’re paying feed on that. Roll-away bags are inconvenient, so you’re really getting by with backpacks full of all of the gear. You’re bringing all of your own snacks and entertainment, so the no food thing isn’t bad. Kids don’t recline, so NBD there. The main issue would be a dearth of direct flights. So all in all it’s not that bad, especially for the money saved.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          Plus at least some airlines (I can speak specifically for Southwest) will allow priority boarding of one kind or another for families, giving them a greater likelihood of flying together. Now, that is on an airline with no/limited reserved seating. On other airlines, if a family isn’t seated together for any reason, the flight crew will usually work pretty hard to get people to switch so that they can and most people are pretty willing to, especially if the switch is for an equivalent seat just in a different row.

          It might be time to dismount this hobby horse, Saul.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        Anyone got an inflation adjusted average price-per-mile airfare chart?

        Looking around casually, I get stuff that’s not adjusted for inflation OR is comparing a handful of routes. (Which is pretty useless, as I can’t tell if they’re cherrypicked or not to support someone’s agenda).

        By and large, the way airfare prices NOW are so opaque and change so radically does make me suspicious someone is playing a game of “Find the Queen” somehow.Report

        • Avatar Mo says:

          There’s one here. In 1959 price per mile was 44 cents, in 1969 it was 34 cents, in 2009 it was 14 cents, today it’s about 11 cents per mile (yay lower oil prices).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Excellent point.

        For whatever reason, we seem compelled to declare that things now are better/worse than they were before (and, increasingly, are/were the best/worst). Why isn’t it enough to say that things have changed and are different and that some people welcome these changes and some people hate them?

        And, more importantly, why do we act as if all of these changes have been imposed on us and are unavoidable. The fact is (as the airlines so often remind us!), we have a choice when we fly! You can choose Spirit airlines and get nickel-and-dimed! You can choose Southwest and rush for your seats but change flights with no penalties! You can get a first class ticket on Virgin airlines and fly like a king! You can even fly private… I recently heard their either exists now or will exist soon “Uber for private jets*”. This won’t be an option for everyone, obviously, but since when has everything been an option for everyone?

        Saul mentioned above he finds flying tolerable if he has an aisle seat. Guess what? YOU CAN PAY FOR AN AISLE SEAT!

        * One of my favorite things is the tendency to compare every new development to Uber.Report

        • Avatar Mo says:

          One thing that annoys me about airlines is their boarding procedures. I understand why they dole it out by status. However, nothing prevents them from doing back to front by status level. So you do the additional help group, then you do first class, then you do super elite status (generally small enough group where front to back isn’t needed), then you do elite (depending on the flight you can break into a back group and front group). Then, when you hit your “Zone 1” group you break the plane into halves or thirds based on the size of the plane. So many people creep around the boarding area and try to board before their turn that turning 2 zones into 6 isn’t going to slow things down and the throughput will make up for the extra zone calling.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            Mythbusters tested various approaches to boarding and they found the current system to be one of the slowest and free-for-all the fastest. However, they also accounted for “satisfaction” and both of those systems rated really poorly. They had a few other structured systems they tested, all of which were within a minute or two of the free-for-all and several minutes ahead of the status quo and all had much higher marks.

            http://mythresults.com/airplane-boarding

            Now, that was in a test setting (they constructed an aircraft and had people board, but the people weren’t actually going anywhere so who knows if that influences results one way or another), but given how big the gaps were (both in time and in satisfaction), you have to think there is a there there. They also had a segment of the test population act as disrupters who bucked the system or otherwise gummed up the works.

            So, yea, there is definitely a better way. But it requires getting people to change and people *HATE* change.Report

            • Avatar Mo says:

              I’m surprised back to front was so slow. I’m also surprised that the current system (essentially random with assigned seats) isn’t that much slower than the ideal.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I thought “back to front” is the current system, after priority boarding is done?Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                Depends on the airline, but most have gone to a modified scatter seating (zone) based on ticket price, loyalty programs and other factors. Its not quite random, but its also not (simple) back to front.

                Zones 1 and 2 are pretty heavily weighted to frequent fliers and premium ticket prices; but 3-5 are (as far as I can tell, pretty random – maybe one of the local programmers who have worked on airline stuff (Veronica?) can give us the secret zone algorithms).Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                @marchmaine — I know a fair bit about pricing, a bit about “inventory control” (how they tinker with pricing in real time), but very little about operations. Myself, I always pay for the early boarding upgrades. It’s worth it.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                The airlines are really two businesses. The main one uses complex (but somewhat archaic) computational models to predict consumer behavior, and to price that behavior. The other less important business flies airplanes.

                I’m exaggerating. A little bit.Report

              • It’s like when I (briefly) worked for a contracting shop. They dabbled in matching programmers with customers’ needs, but the real emphasis was on timesheets.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                @veronica-d

                Is that called “dynamic pricing”? Some sports teams have gone to that (or something similar).Report

              • Avatar J_A says:

                @kazzy

                You mean players will earn their salaries as they are in the field in real time? Like sitting in the bench gets you zero, a first down $5,000 a touchdown $100k, and after a fumble you owe the team $50k?

                I like that system.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “OOO… look! Ryan Fitzpatrick is taking out his wallet to pay the fans again.”Report

              • I know many teams have gone to charging more for good games (Giants-Dodgers) than bad ones (Giants-Brewers) and call that “dynamic pricing”. Anything else?Report

              • Avatar Mo says:

                Teams that risk having more fans of their opponents, like the Chargers, require multiple game packages to get the desired game. IIRC, the Chargers require a 4 game package for Raiders-Chargers games.Report

              • That’s been common for a while. I recall the Warriors doing the same for the Jordan-era Bulls, though I think that came more from leveraging demand for the game everyone wanted to see.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                @kazzy — the airlines call it “revenue management,” but yeah, it’s dynamic pricing. Oddly, the wiki article on dynamic pricing doesn’t actually account for how the airlines do it: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_pricing#Transportation

                I guess wiki calls it “yield management.” I never hear anyone use that term: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yield_management

                Anyway, the economic pressures are obvious. Airplane seats, hotel rooms, stadium seats — similar structure.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                v,
                not as much as you’d think, judging by the security they use.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                I’ll say this about “revenue control,” I just booked a round trip in January, from Boston to Vancouver, first class (cuz I’m posh), for a bit over $1k, which is pretty nice considering I’ll be crossing an entire continent, with plenty of leg room and nice cocktails. So yay.

                Had I booked that same flight during peak “season,” oh heavens.

                Fly off season. Get a Lyft before the clubs shut down. Etc. There is a reason “dynamic pricing” actually kinda works.

                I dunno. As much as I hate “free market cheerleading,” I think this approach makes sense.Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw says:

                I’m thinking its all about overhead luggage storage. I’m guessing with back to front, you have more people waiting in the aisles to get their overhead luggage stored before sitting, than you would if people were storage luggage all along the length of the plane at about the same time.

                Also, I watched the video clip, and they also show people w/ luggage that is too big to fit in the overhead compartment bringing it to the front of the plane.Report

  6. Avatar LTL FTC says:

    Re: modeling cards out of clay – reminds me of the Adobe:

    http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/adobe/n9492?snl=1

    The funny thing is that I drove a Mexican-built VW for years and it was fantastic.Report

  7. Avatar Mo says:

    The worst flight I ever had was London to Chicago the weekend after the liquid bomber plot was broken up. You could bring basically nothing on the plane, you were limited to your passport, wallet and ticket in a clear plastic bag. They did checks at the gate to make sure you didn’t bring stuff bought on the other side of security*. So no book, no Discman, no headphones, nothing. It was the most boring flight of my life. All I did was drink, attempt to nap, watch the limited entertainment selections and read SkyMall cover to cover,

    * Somebody remarked that ended up paying 10 £ for three cigarettes when they confiscated his pack.Report

  8. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    The airplane story is pretty silly. When people compare flying in the ’60s with today, with today coming out behind, they mean the modern trend toward an aggressively uncomfortable environment and bad service. To point out that people smoked a lot back then is a proactive evasion of the point. No one is suggesting that more leg room and better service can only be achieved if accompanied by cigars and racism.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      Many European airlines still provide amenities for free that American airlines charge for. A few years ago I was on a flight in the United States setting next to a woman from Europe. She was outraged at having to pay for a meal on the flight rather than getting it included in the price of the ticket and complained to no end about it.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      The real salient point is that it was much more expensive back then. Bigger planes (or fewer passengers per plane) means higher ticket prices. Checked luggage included in the price of the ticket means higher ticket prices. More flight attendants means higher ticket prices. Economy plus is available for those who want it, but most people don’t. As much as they complain, consumers have clearly indicated that they don’t want that other stuff enough to pay for it.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Someone, but not totally tangential, I found this critique of capitalism/inequality to be… interesting:

        Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Once upon a time, the middle classes lived lives similar to that of the lower classes, allowing for a lot more cross-pollination between classes.

          Heck, in my own family, people from a blue collar family married into a white collar family.

          Today? The middle classes no longer associate with the lower classes. They have more in common with the (much smaller!) upper classes.

          There. That’s my best shot.Report

          • Avatar J_A says:

            The self description of rich and middle class has changed too. A couple of years ago NPR aired a piece about the family of a financial trader of some sort, with a couple of houses, a yatch, private schools and foreign vacations, describing themselves as “middle class”. When pushed,they agreed to call themselves “upper middle class”. They absolutely denied being rich

            I don’t think anyone self describes as rich with total wealth under ten million or so.Report

  9. Avatar Marchmaine says:

    The Matt Shapiro piece on Musk was pretty good; though I’m wondering at his target?

    I’m confused, which team owns the whole Crony Capitalism thing now? It was the fringe “principled” conservative right… or is it like a moveable feast? Whoever is out of power is against using government power to reward the economic trends they prefer? I just want to be sure I’m doing the signalling right when I agree with him.Report

    • Avatar veronica d says:

      I honestly don’t get his making a populist attack on a high-speed transport system meant to connect CA’s two largest cities, meaning the ones with the most people, where the population is. Isn’t that obviously where you would build such a thing?

      Which, it’s plausible the whole thing is a boondoggle doomed to fail, but they said that about airplanes once.

      And yes, maybe someday we’ll have such things connecting population centers nation-wide. Maybe. Maybe not. If we do, people will have to build the things. People will have to operate it. These are called jobs.

      shrugReport

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        That was more or less my take on it. As far as I can tell, the point is that such things are bad politics, not bad policy. If you wan to win, all that matters is politics, so boo to public transit and subsidies for R&D, regardless of whether the policy is sensible! Pieces like that are a dime a dozen.

        The Carrier deal always seemed like a nothingburger to me, so I have to at least agree with Shapiro that the left is shooting itself in the foot by making a big stink over it. If all Trump does during his time in office is fly around and perform a Laying on of the Hands on businesses that were about to ship jobs overseas to save a few hundred jobs at a time, we should all be so lucky.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine says:

        I appreciate all the observations; but I’ll bite on the contrarian point.

        If Tesla [hyperloop] is an R&D project, then connecting Chicago and Columbus or maybe New York and Scranton would be a better use of R&D dollars. Once the R and the D are proven, then LA/SF are demand driven commercial enterprises. Building infrastructure in areas that might not support early adoption would be a potential win/win from a revitalization point of view.

        On the counter-counter-point the Federal tax breaks for Solar and EV are available to all, even in Columbus and Scranton… with regards Solar, the bigger issue in my consumer oriented experience is the State level policies for Credits. Virginia has cheap electricity and coal, so we have $0 SREC’s; without a market for Solar credits, the payback for the solar investment is about 20-years, or the life of the units (esp. if you factor replacements/repairs).

        But then, If I’m reading the defense of Musk correctly, who am I to argue with trickle-down economics?Report

        • Avatar veronica d says:

          @marchmaine — I know practically nothing about energy or electric cars, so I can’t really speak to the wisdom of those policies. Nor do I have any strong feelings either way about Musk. He’s seems like a nice enough dreamer. He does cool stuff, but I don’t idolize him.

          It seems like a big part of the hyperloop thing is simply, the company is in CA; the engineers (mostly) live in CA, and of course they do. So that’s where they build their prototype versions. According to Wikipedia, they’re supposed to build a 5 mile test track in Quay. I guess they haven’t started yet.

          Likewise I guess there are some folks proposing routes overseas. So fine. Musk wants to do SF-LA. I don’t blame him. That’s his home turf. That is where he knows the politics, has the pull, etc.

          Is it “worth it”?

          I dunno. We are a country in a rut, with crumbling infrastructure and a decaying middle. But on the edges there is still some creative energy. I know there is value in “reinforcing success” rather than wallowing in that which has failed. Or something. I’m also pro- basic income and single payer. I want no one to starve or have their health untreated. I guess instead folks want jobs. These same folks preach “bootstraps,” but do little that is new. I don’t have a fix for this.

          Anyway, would the wealth generated by this “trickle down” all the way to Peoria? Probably not.

          I’m a weird, crazy transgender math genius. I work for Google. I live in Boston. You think I’m going to move to Peoria? Good fucking god no! I make my money here, spend it here. Of course I do.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

      “Crony Capitalism” is like “Fiscal Conservatism”, one of those terms that only a tiny, very tiny, vanishing tiny number of people actually care about in any principled way.
      Partly because they are esoteric abstractions, partly because their definitions are so malleable as to be useful in any argument.

      If Trump has done one good thing, it has been to isolate the popular base from the market fundamentalist advocates, and demonstrate conclusively they never gave a rip about it.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine says:

        Hmmn, I don’t think that’s a particularly good read of the Crony Capitalism Critique (CCC).

        The CCC, from the right at least, was an observation that the “Market Fundamentalists” were often practicing market protectionism via regulations and political influence (zoning, taxes, local regs). Mostly its been along Chestertonian lines that the problem with Capitalism is not too many capitalists, but too few. So its rather a backhanded critique of the facade of capitalism rather than a full-throated roar for Market Fundamentalism.

        No particular argument that the term might be somewhat malleable depending upon who is wielding it; but then that was the half-joke that I was making by asking the question in the first place.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Musk would be Crony Capitalism if he was getting a deal more because of who he is, rather than what he can provide. Sort of like how Trump gets deals because he is Trump, not because he actually provides a useful service that no one else can.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      Marchmaine: The Matt Shapiro piece on Musk was pretty good; though I’m wondering at his target?

      That’s where I am too. It seems like he identified a hypocrisy, but does he want us then to embrace crony capitalism everywhere? Or should we reject it everywhere?Report

  10. Avatar Pinky says:

    The Golden Age of Flying author doesn’t understand statistics, not even slightly. He says flights cost more back then because of inflation, and that doesn’t even take into account the fact that people were paid less back then. Well, yeah, that’s part of what makes inflation inflation. Then he says:

    In fact, for every 100,000 hours that planes are in the air, there are only 1.33 fatalities. That makes flying one of the safest way to travel now, but in 1952, that number was 5.2 deaths per 100,000 hours, and this despite the fact that the number of passengers flying on American carriers has increased 42 times in the last 60 years.

    How does that last part fit in? Doesn’t he realize that fatalities per hour would take into account the increased number of flights? Or does he think that there are 42 times more people on each airplane, increasing the chance of someone accidentally bumping the wrong button? It’s like in both cases, he misunderstands the denominator, and feels the need to take it into account twice.Report

    • Avatar Mo says:

      The Golden Age of Flying author doesn’t understand statistics, not even slightly. He says flights cost more back then because of inflation, and that doesn’t even take into account the fact that people were paid less back then. Well, yeah, that’s part of what makes inflation inflation

      No there is inflation and there is real wage growth. Real wage growth takes into account definitionally. That’s what people mean when they say wages have been flat since the 80s. Nominal wages have grown, but real wages have been flat.Report

  11. Avatar Pinky says:

    The Interstate article says that the term is “a reference to how the road is paid for—that is, with federal funds—rather than where it connects”, explaining their presence in Hawaii. But it links to an article that doesn’t confirm this. Does anyone know if it’s correct?Report

    • Neither is true. There are federal highways that cross states but aren’t Interstates, e.g. 101 that connects Washington, Oregon, and California.Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

        The US Route system predates the interstate system. My understanding is that it was originally basically a navigational aid. If you were driving to Los Angeles you knew that you should stay on Route 66 and you followed the signs. The road itself was just whatever was locally available through that particular stretch. In the case of Route 101 it was gradually improved into limited access freeway, such that now much of it looks like an interstate.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      The Interstate System roads are owned and operated by the states they are in. States are reimbursed by the feds for about 60% of each dollar they spend. Then there’s the National Highway System, a set of state/local roads designated as high-priority that connect things like army bases or refineries to the Interstate System. The feds used to provide partial funding for the NHS, but no longer do so. Then there’s the US Numbered Highway System (eg, US Route 66) which the feds have essentially nothing to do with, it’s a cooperative thing done by the states through the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw says:

      I’m not sure what that quote means. Interstates are generally required to connect with other interstates:

      The proposed route should connect to the Interstate System at each end, with the exception of Interstate routes that connect with continental routes at an international border, or terminate in a “major highway traffic generator” that is not served by another Interstate route. In the latter case, the terminus of the Interstate route should connect to routes of the National Highway System that will adequately handle the traffic. The proposed route also must be functionally classified as a principal arterial and be a part of the National Highway System system.

      I-72 in Illinois only connects to interstates on one end and stops outside of Quincy, Illinois, which is not a “major highway traffic generator.” Dick Durbin got an exemption to allow the final 100 mile stretch to be designated as an interstate, apparently for the status of the designation.Report

  12. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    I agree with the first half of the Matt Shapiro piece – don’t attack the Carrier deal, change the subject.

    But to Musk? We live in a country where 70 percent of the people think we should be moving to cleaner energy – solar, wind, etc. 51 percent of Republicans support this. It’s true that in places like Idaho, they think solar power for homes is a silly, hippy idea. But they have cheap hydro.

    I don’t know that electric cars are a good target. If you live in N. Dakota, an electric car is not going to be practical, but if all the city folks switch to them, your gas bill will go down.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

      The only valid complaint Matt had against Tesla was that the taxpayers are subsidizing toys for rich people.
      But it could be argued that the R&D from the venture will spur the development of cheaper forms of electric cars, and by introducing cool sexy high end models first, Tesla is building consumer demand. In the past electric cars always looked like a prop from a dystopian Sci Fi movie.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

        That is Musk’s avowed strategy. He has a patent consortium, too. The success of the first Teslas I think has lots to do with the appearance of the Volt and the Leaf. Though the Prius was a big factor, too.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        Yep, the big 3 shyed away from electric until Tesla made it cool.Report

        • Avatar Mo says:

          EV1 predates Tesla Roadster by a decade and the Chevy Volt predates the Model S*. The Big 3 shied away from electric until gas prices and materials technology made them economically viable. One place that Tesla did help out with was with good press for electrics and by giving companies a reason to install charging stations because some execs have a Tesla.

          * And the Volt concept car predated the Model S announcement.Report

  13. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The Yugo article just proves that for certain types of goods you can only go so cheap before you seriously start effecting quality. Even an inexpensive car that is trying to be practical, workday vehicle rather than a sexy and luxurious fun ride needs to have a certain amount of features to be a decent car. The Yugo sacrificed that and sucked as a result.

    Going back to the Seattle subway, one reason why I think that referenda are a bad idea is because the public is often “penny wise and pound foolish.” After World War II, a few cities had plans to build a decent rail based public transportation system for it and the metropolitan area. City planners in Los Angeles recommended turning ten of the Pacific Electric lines into a mass transit system and running them through the centers of the to be built freeways. There were plans to expand the NYC subway and Boston T. During the 1960s, Dallas, Houston, along with Seattle as mentioned revived plans for rail based transit. All of these were shelved because of costs, the American love affair with the car, and cheap oil. Now building even small systems is prohibitively expensive because reasons and traffic is congested.Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

      The Yugo article just proves that for certain types of goods you can only go so cheap before you seriously start effecting quality.

      I didn’t get that from the article. There was a lot of sniggering about how much the Yugo sux! But for actual specifics, we have that the interior is cheaply made, there isn’t a lot of power, and the handling is “vague and floaty,” whatever that means, while the ride is “harsh,” which I take to mean you feel the bumps in the road. What isn’t addressed is whether it served the purpose for which it was intended. If you were going to use it for a modest commute and to run to the grocery store, nothing in the article suggests it wasn’t just fine. I suspect that in real life there would be maintenance issues pretty quickly, and these might be severe enough that the Yugo would have been a poor investment even for that commute and grocery runs. But the article doesn’t address this. The writer was too busy make sure we knew he had just driven a Lamborghini.Report

  14. Avatar Joe Sal says:

    Heh, Canadians

    “Another year has passed with the event’s best-ever result remaining intact.

    From Quebec in Canada, team Université Laval managed to regain the title from Canadian rivals, the University of Toronto. They recorded 2,585 miles per US gallon (1,099 kilometres per litre) with their gasoline-fueled prototype car Alérion Supermileage. However Laval fell short of beating their own 2013 best of 3,587mpg (1,525km/l) set in 2013. The team from Toronto wanted to surpass their main competitor on their final attempt, but hopes were dashed when their vehicle failed to start.

    In the Prototype diesel category, the all-girls’ Shopgirls team from Washington state, USA, broke their school record three times in a row to take first place with 1,115mpg (474km/l).”

    http://www.shell.com/energy-and-innovation/shell-ecomarathon/americas/news-and-highlights/a-battle-under-blue-skies.htmlReport

  15. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    A fun tool to show arbitary the Electoral College is by creating random state boundaries based on county maps – for example, I got a map that had not only Hillary and Obama winning, but also had Kerry winning!

    http://fakeisthenewreal.org/random-states-of-america/Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      At the airport today, I was really surprised at how many pets there were. Not even wearing service garb.

      I think in a decade or do, having your dog accompany you will just be an accepted norm, with or without paperwork.Report

  16. Avatar Stillwater says:

    “Who is Obama?” Regev asked rhetorically. “Obama is history. We have Trump.”

    No more pretense.Report

  17. Avatar Chris says:

    There used to be car commercials showing the designers molding the car in clay.Report

  18. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I am very disappointed that people want to talk about plans and cars rather than the Seattle subway that never was.Report