Gird your loins! Fed-up fliers gear up for a battle to earn their rights

August 31, 2009 at 11:19 pm

(Source: CNN)

We have all heard numerous stories about the bad treatment meted out to passengers by the airline staff and airline managements around the country. Among many such stories, one recent incident got a lot of scrutiny and prompted Government action.   On August 8, Continent ExpressJet 21816 enroute to Minneapolis from Houston,  with 47 passengers onboard was left waiting for clearance overnight on a tarmac in Rochester, Minnesota.

As the hours — going on six of them — passed, he said the air in the ExpressJet for Continental Airlines cabin grew rank. The two babies on board cried. The toilet filled and stopped flushing. No food was served and the puddle-jumper seats made sleep, for him, impossible. All the while, the airport was visible from the plane.

The much-publicized story of Flight 2816, diverted to Rochester because of bad weather while en route to Minneapolis from Houston, Texas, has brought to the forefront a growing demand to institute passenger rights.

Advocacy groups are fielding calls, gathering momentum and preparing for a September 22 hearing in Washington. One organization recently bought cable television ad time hoping to reach President Obama on his vacation and earn his support, just as a bill to protect fliers from such incidents heads to the Senate floor.

Since the Rochester incident, there have been other tarmac strandings. Passengers on a Sun Country Airlines flight were trapped for about six hours on August 21 while at JFK International Airport in New York. That prompted the airline’s CEO to announce last week a four-hour maximum deadline for tarmac sittings, Minnesota’s Star Tribune reported. The first “massive tarmac stranding” to spark outcries and stir up calls for legislation came in January 1999, said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition. That was when about 3,500 passengers were trapped during a snowstorm for up to 13 hours on Michigan’s Detroit Metro Airport tarmacs, he said.

The 2007 Valentine’s Day crisis involving JetBlue flights, which included strandings of up to 10 hours at JFK International, in Mitchell’s opinion eventually cost the then-CEO his job.  A couple of months before that mess, Kate Hanni was one of the passengers caught up in a December 2006 storm fallout in Texas that left her and her family on an Austin, Texas, tarmac for more than nine hours.

“People miss funerals, weddings, cruise ships, business meetings — it has an impact on their lives,” said Hanni, whose outrage about that air travel experience pushed her create

“And it’s not just a customer service issue,” she continued, mentioning overflowing toilets and people with diabetes or other medical conditions. “It’s about safety, dignity and well-being.”

In late July, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee passed the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, which includes the Airline Passengers Bill of Rights, first written in 2007 by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-California, and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. The FAA reauthorization bill will next move to the Senate for consideration.

Calling attention to the frustrations of flying is what Hanni, 49, is all about. If someone phones while trapped on a tarmac, she’ll start ringing the airline and airport managers, demanding help. If the response she gets is insufficient, she threatens and is poised to call media. Since the Rochester incident earlier this month, she said she’s been interviewed more than 50 times.

In June, 278 airplanes sat on tarmacs for more than three hours, according to a consumer report released by the DOT. The department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that 42 of the June flights sat on tarmacs for four hours or more.

Click here to read the entire article.

TransportGooru Musings: If you are one of the poor souls who was stuck for hours inside a metal tube, sign the petition and join teh crusaders in the fight for an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights (via .

Bernie’s Transportation Communications Newsletter (TCN) – August 31, 2009

August 31, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Monday, August 31, 2009 – ISSN 1529-1057


1) NASA, FAA Work Focus on NextGen R&D

Link to article in Aviation Week:,%20FAA%20Work%20Focus%20On%20NextGen%20R&D

2) Funding The Aviation Industry’s Conversion to NextGen

Link to the National Journal’s Transportation Experts Blog:


3) Do Traffic Cameras Violate Right to Privacy?

Link to column in The Miami Herald:


4) How GPS Takes the Guesswork Out of Beating Traffic

Link to story and video on NY1 News:

5) Commercial Use of GPS Technology Still to Pick Up in India

Link to article in Mint:


6) 70 Ports in India to be Connected Electronically

Link to SiliconIndia article:


7) ITS Strategic Plan Update

Link to further information from US DOT:


8) Campaign to Fight DUI Offers ‘Jail Call’

Link to article in the Deseret News:


9) Busiest Roadways in Texas Go Online Tuesday

Link to article in the Houston Chronicle:

10) Sanral: South Africa’s Road Miracle or a Waste of Taxpayers’ Money?

Link to article on Moneyweb:


11) No eNatis Worries, Says South Africa Road Agency

Link to article in The Times:

12) Police in Australia Urging Residents to Film Hoon Drivers in Action

Link to article in the Herald Sun:,21985,25998122-661,00.html

13) Governors Highway Safety Association Backs Texting Ban

Link to AP article:


14) South Africa Launches Bus Rapid Transit

Link to BuaNews article:

15) Smart Cards for Kenya Public Transport

Link to Kenya Broadcasting Corporation story:

16) Wellington, New Zealand Buses Climb Aboard Google Maps

Link to article in The National Business Review:


17) Latest Edition of Traffic Technology International Online

Link to magazine:

News Releases

1) New Idaho Mobility Web Site Introduced

2) New Roadway Markings for Bicyclists Being Piloted in Redmond and Kirkland, Washington

3) Fiat Punto Evo to Feature ‘Blue&Me – TomTom’: The New Integrated Infotainment System for Fiat Drivers from Fiat and TomTom

4) Winning Road Projects Deliver Innovation, Preservation, Congestion Relief and More

5) Top Highway Safety Awards to be Presented in Georgia

Upcoming Events

12th International IEEE Conference on Intelligent Transportation Systems – October 3-7 – St. Louis

Today in Transportation History

1999 **10th anniversary** – LAPA Flight 3142 crashed on takeoff in Buenos Aries.


The Transportation Communications Newsletter is published electronically Monday through Friday.

To subscribe send an e-mail to:

TCN archives:

Questions, comments about the TCN? Please write the editor, Bernie Wagenblast at

© 2009 Bernie Wagenblast

Is your community ready to support an “electric car future”? Seattle PI explores Seattle’s infrastructure readiness to support electric vehicle proliferation

August 31, 2009 at 4:58 pm

(Sources: Seattle PI via Autobloggreen)

With more and more electric car makers ready to blitz the market with Plug-in Hybrids Electric Vehicles and Plug-In Electric Vehicles, it is time the local communities took a stock of the supporting infrastructure necessary for feed these voltage-hungry vehicles.  The Seattle PI takes a look at the readiness of Seattle to handle the surge of electric vehicle.   Here are some interesting excerpts from the article:

Is Seattle charged for electric cars? Local electric car boosters think so, event though electric cars — other than such hybrids as the Prius — have not captured the fancies of more than a few people in the past 20 years.

“There’s a perfect storm this time around,” said Steve Lough, president of the Seattle chapter of the Electric Vehicle Association, who drives a 2000 Honda insight gas-and-electric hybrid.

On Aug. 5, the federal government announced that it will provide almost $100 million to install roughly 2,500 electric vehicle chargers each in the greater metropolitan areas of Seattle, Phoenix, Nashville, Portland and San Diego.

Roughly $20 million will go to Seattle for 2,550 chargers, Read said.

About 40 firms, including Nissan and eTec, will match the federal appropriations. Local governments will not be required to provide matching money, Read said.

This experiment is timed with Nissan’s planning to sell a new electric car — the “LEAF” — in late 2010. It hopes to initially sell 5,000 cars evenly split among the five metro areas.

This timing roughly coincides with General Motors’ plans to put possibly 10,000 of its all-electric “Volt” cars on the market in late 2010.

By comparison, Seattle has the nation’s largest chapter of the Electric Vehicle Association — with 230 members.

Local owners said recharging electric cars lead to different habits from refueling conventional vehicles.

“You basically plug it in whenever you park it,” said Dan Davids, owner of a 2002 Toyota RAV4-EV and president of the nationwide Plug-In America organization.

Fulling charging a car with a conventional 220-volt installation could take four to eight hours. So-called “fast” chargers with extra oomph could take 15 to 30 minutes to do the same.

But local electric car owners said those figures are misleading.

These cars rarely need full charges with the accompanying long repowering times, they said.

Electric cars are usually charged nightly at their homes. If recharged at business locations, the new power mostly “tops off” a battery usually containing most of its original charge, they said. The same “topping off” would occur when cars would be recharged at businesses.

Between the small amounts of electricity and the lack of wear-and-tear on moving engine parts, they estimated it costs about 2 cents a mile to operate their vehicles.

The three are optimistic that a major hurdle to owning electric cars could be finally conquered — the initial price tag. The Tesla Roadster — with about 700 sold so far — goes for $109,000. Many models of electric cars have been in the $50,000 to $100,000-plus range. “You’re financing the research and development for the next generation of technology,” Morrison said.

The Volt’s expected price tag is about $40,000 with a federal tax credit of $7,500 earmarked for early buyers. The same tax credits will go to buyers of the first LEAFs, which are expected to go for $25,000 to $33,000.

Click here to read the entire article.

Study says GPS-systems with real-time traffic info can save a lot of time

August 30, 2009 at 11:54 am

(Source: NAVTEQ via Autoblog)

According to a new study, GPS-systems with real-time traffic info can save American drivers four days a year of being stuck in grizzly traffic snarls. As promising as it sounds, this particular study should be viewed with a little bit of skepticism because it was sponsored by navigation systems data-provider NAVTEQ.  Here are some of the study details (as published in the NavTeq press release).

The results are from a three pronged studies conducted in two metropolitan areas of Germany – Dusseldorf and Munich — which evaluated drivers without a navigation system, drivers with a navigation system, and drivers with a navigation system that included real-time traffic. Previous studies in this field focused more on “getting lost” scenarios versus the benefits to drivers of navigation system use during the course of their normal driving habits.

The study revealed that the drivers using traffic enabled navigation devices experienced dramatic time savings, spending 18% less time driving on an average trip versus drivers without navigation. If applied over the course of a year, a driver who does not currently use a navigation device would save themselves 4 days of driving each year if they had a traffic-enabled navigation system. Additionally, the findings show that drivers with real-time traffic experience reductions in distance traveled as well as increase fuel efficiency which would lead to a decrease in CO2 emissions per driver of .79 metric tons, or 21% less than a driver without a navigation system.

These results not only point to the positive impact on German drivers, they can be projected to other countries as well, for example*:

  • UK drivers with traffic enabled navigation would save 2.5 days per year and drop their CO2 emissions by 20%
  • US drivers with traffic enabled navigation would save 4 days per year and lower their CO2 emissions by 21%

Click here to read the entire press release.

Mixing Volt & Water – A glimpse into the making of the GM’s (Government Motor) Chevy Volt

August 29, 2009 at 12:27 pm

(Source: via Autoinsane)

Have you ever wondered while sitting inside your car at an automated car wash, what goes on behind the scenes to test and design a vehicle so that it doesn’t leak while your car is drenched with gallons of water?  Or have you pondered driving through that pouring rain about how to stop that annoying sound of rain drops hitting the sheetmetal roof and the windshield? Here is a glimpse into that world of designing and testing a car for its “water worthiness”, courtesy of our friends at Auto Insane.

Development on the Chevy Volt continues to progress at neck-break speed and GM has been sharing bits and pieces of the vehicle’s testing and engineering along the way. This new video caught our interest for the sheer fact that it combines the “electric” Volt undergoing leak testing in GM’s Universal Water Chamber.

For more information and behind the scenes videos of the Chevy Volt, head over  Also you can visit ChevroletVehicles to see more such videos from the Chevy Line up (including a Transformer demo).

Bernie’s Transportation Communications Newsletter (TCN) – August 28, 2009

August 28, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Friday, August 28, 2009 – ISSN 1529-1057


1) Back on the Bus

Buses back in style in the US Northeast corridor with amenities such as Wi-Fi.

Link to article in The Washington Post:


2) 3-D Imaging Set Off Lane Closure on Ohio Bridge

Link to article in The Plain Dealer:


3) Tighter Oversight on US Border Laptop Searches

Link to AP article:


4) Staying Entertained and Informed – Telemotive

Link to article in Automotive Industries:


5) ÖBB (Austrian Rail) Takes NFC Into the Next Dimension…

Link to article in Mobility:

6) TriMet Ride Advocate Campaigns to Save Jobs Helping Transit Passengers

Link to article in The Oregonian:


7) Wyoming DOT: New Highway Message System Working

Link to article in the Casper Star-Tribune:

8) Member of Scottish Parliament: Electronic Signs ‘Unnecessary’

Link to article in The Press and Journal:

News Releases

1) North Carolina Travel Information Now Available on Twitter

Job Postings

Team Leader of the Intelligent Transportation System Team/Senior Transportation Specialist – Federal Transit Administration – Washington, DC

Upcoming Events

2009 Sustainability, Social Responsibility, Energy Conservation and Maintenance Conference – October 4-6 – St. Louis

Friday Bonus

Here’s one more thing to blame on traffic.

Today in Transportation History

1609 **400th anniversary** – Henry Hudson and his crew make the first recorded European visit to Delaware Bay.


The Transportation Communications Newsletter is published electronically Monday through Friday.

To subscribe send an e-mail to:

To unsubscribe send an e-mail to:

TCN archives:

Questions, comments about the TCN? Please write the editor, Bernie Wagenblast

© 2009 Bernie Wagenblast

Meet the Angry Green Girl – A New Articulate and Angry Addition To the Green Movement

August 28, 2009 at 5:01 pm

(Source:  Green Car Advisor –

The treehuggers have a new reason to rejoice.  For the environmentally conscious, green movement there is a new addition to spread the green gospel – this time with a sassy/sexy twist.  Hello everyone, Meet the “Angry Green Girl” the new pro-environment angel (sans wings) who was recently captured marketing a carwash product. Now after watching the video below, do let me know if you regret not having a Prius or something green to drive around.   For the ladies, if you are an aspiring “green angel” or feel inspired after watching the video below you may want to get some tips from the AGG here on how to be green and sexy at the same time.

She is  not just”Angry,” who also goes by the name Sofia Pernas (an aspiring actress, in case you were wondering), is the face of anew social networking site built around a sassy, silly and somewhat sexy crew whose members demonstrate green products, provide grammar school-level explanations of concepts such as global warming and generally – with sarcasm, satire and, somewhere in there, a little bit of seriousness – urge people to get greener.

What drew our attention – it certainly wasn’t the bikinis! – was the AGG crew’s use, during a promo for the new site staged in Hollywood earlier this week, of a product we’ve tried, and liked.

A quintet of bikini-clad car-washers (in green bikinis, what else) used a waterless wash product called Lucky Earth to scrub hybrids and other green cars for free for a few hours – sufficient time to get them at least two segments on one of L.A.’s independent TV station’s news broadcasts.

(The videos also show those of you who don’t live here how incredibly inane some of our L.A. “newscasters” can be.)

Lucky Earth is the brainchild of an L.A. couple who developed it in response to their daughter’s sensitivity to chemicals.

Click here to continue reading the rest of the article.  Who are these insanely annoying (or annoyingly insane) TV news people?  Looks like they primarily operate under the assumption that a woman who is good looking can never be smart enough to use big words.   Their mockery of AGG’s use of words such as “exacerbate” and “ubiquitous” validates my fear that these boneheads stereotype people at every opportunity they get.  Maybe the women in their lives (mom, sisters, girlfriends, etc) were all beautiful but dumb, driving these idiots to arrive at a conclusion that a girl can only be beautiful and dumb or ugly but brainy.  The biggest bonehead in that crew is that lady who was laughing along when the mocking  voice made fun of “ubiqutious.” MORONS!

Cash for Clunkers Update – August 28, 2009: Clunkers by Numbers; Detroit’s Big 3 Sales Shares Sink; Sec. LaHood Blogs The Success; Skeptics Warn of “Hangover”;

August 28, 2009 at 3:55 pm

(Sources contributing to this hybrid report: Green Car Congress; Fast Lane – Sec. LaHood’s Blog; Autoblog; Detroit News; LA Times; Business Week)

Finally, the curtains came down on the Cash For Clunkers program on Monday @8PM.  After much hype and chaos the program closed its doors with a mixed record.  Secretary LaHood calls is a great success while some others say no pointing to the choas around the program’s final days when the computer systems crashed as the dealers tried to submit their transcation data for reimbursements. In anycase, the program has left a wonderful memory in the minds of many economists and possibly underlined the fact that indeed the Government has some clever tricks up the sleeves to stimulate a lagging economy, especially for the automakers whose future looked very gloomy before this program came in to place.

After one month, an extra $2 billion in funding and an absolute mess of paperwork, Cash for Clunkers has finally petered out. The final numbers are in and the program resulted in 700,000 sales totaling $2.877 billion in $3,500 and $4,500 vouchers handed out at dealerships across the nation. An additional $100 million was set aside for administration costs, or about $144 for every claim processed, leaving $23 million in the kitty.

The program offered consumers rebates of $3,500 or $4,500 off the price of a new vehicle in return for trading in their older, less fuel-efficient vehicles to be scrapped. The trade-in vehicles needed to get 18 miles per gallon or less.

Here are some interesting snippets collected from various sources around the web (thank me for making it easy for you).

  • The US Cash for Clunkers program (CARS) ended Tuesday night with 690,114 dealer transaction submitted worth $2,877.9 million.
  • Eighty-four percent of consumers traded in trucks and 59% purchased passenger cars.
  • The average fuel economy of the vehicles traded in was 15.8 mpg and the average fuel economy of vehicles purchased is 24.9 mpg: a 58% improvement.
  • Cars purchased under the program are, on average, 19% above the average fuel economy of all new cars currently available.

Image Courtesy: Green Car Congress

Green Car Congress notes that Toyota reaped the largest percentage of sales under the CARS program (19.4%), followed by GM (17.6%) and Ford (14.4%). Honda came in fourth at 13.0%.

The top 10 vehicles purchased under the program were:

  1. Toyota Corolla
  2. Honda Civic
  3. Toyota Camry
  4. Ford Focus FWD
  5. Hyundai Elantra
  6. Nissan Versa
  7. Toyota Prius
  8. Honda Accord
  9. Honda Fit
  10. Ford Escape FWD

Top 10 Trade-in Vehicles:

  1. Ford Explorer 4WD
  2. Ford F150 Pickup 2WD
  3. Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD
  4. Ford Explorer 2WD
  5. Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan 2WD
  6. Jeep Cherokee 4WD
  7. Chevrolet Blazer 4WD
  8. Chevrolet C1500 Pickup 2WD
  9. Ford F150 Pickup 4WD
  10. Ford Windstar FWD Van

David Kiley at Business Week says that the annualized selling rate for the auto industry in August is expected to be about 15.5 million, thanks to C4C, according to Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs. That would be a 16% improvement year over year, and nearly a 40% increase from July.  Goldman fully expects a “pay back effect” in September following the program. The firm also expects the monthly selling rate to remain above 10 million for the rest of the year, with a final sales tally of about 10.5 million, with a tally of 12 million next year. Some other analysts have pegged next year’s selling rate at 12.5 million to 13 million.

David also observed that while the program did its job, its real contribution has been less than the hype. Cash for clunkers did spur sales. It sold 690,000 cars and many were compacts like the Ford Focus and Honda Civic. So it did accomplish the mission of scrapping some old iron and selling some more efficient cars. That said, the boost will amount to less than a 3% increase for the year. That’s hardly the windfall that Germany achieved from a similar program, which pushed sales up an average of 30% a month since March. There may also be a hangover in car sales in the U.S. Edmunds says that purchase intent is now down 11% from June, meaning that fewer people are looking at new cars. So sales could slump in the coming months. In fact, J.D. Power says that more than 70% of sales may have happened later this year even if the government hadn’t spent $3 billion on the clunker program. One other point: Toyota was the biggest beneficiary, getting 19.4% of sales, with General Motors getting 17.6% and Ford getting 14.4% of sales from the program.

David Kiley says that “Clunkers” was good policy for a number of reasons (all of which I agree wholeheartedly):

  1. There is no question that the program brought many car buyers off the sidelines, and gave automakers, and dealers, a shot in the arm not only in terms of sales of the vehicles that qualified, but in vehicle sales in general as the program brought lots of new eyeballs to the entire showroom, not just the models that qualified.
  2. The $3 billion had direct impact on the economy, keeping people working, increasing production and shift work at auto companies and parts makers. Unlike other pieces of economic stimulus, the money was allocated and went directly into the economy. The money isn’t sitting on a shelf waiting for building permits to make it through local bureaucracies.
  3. Clunkers put a spotlight on the whole idea of trading up in fuel economy. Lots of old Explorers got swapped for Ford Focuses and Toyota Corollas. I believe U.S. public policy must move toward engineering a substantial change in transportation. There needs to be more policy that persuades people to choose their vehicles in a smarter way, to leave a smaller carbon imprint. This Clunkers bill was, perhaps, a start of a recurring series of moves that will create a more fertile atmosphere and public discussion about this.
  4. Perhaps the undeniable efficiency of Clunkers will influence policy-makers and lawmakers the next time they draft a stimulus package. Economist Martin Feldstein warned us when the stimulus was being debated that it was not targeted nearly enough to consumer spending. His notion, which I agreed with, was that money should have been highly targeted to spending on specific high-impact sectors—cars, major appliances, home improvement.

The USDOT’s press realease observed that according to a preliminary analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the CARS program will (1) Boost economic growth in the third quarter of 2009 by 0.3-0.4 percentage points at an annual rate thanks to increased auto sales in July and August. (2) Will sustain the increase in GDP in the fourth quarter because of increased auto production to replace depleted inventories. (3) Will create or save 42,000 jobs in the second half of 2009. Those jobs are expected to remain well after the program’s close.

Sec. LaHood says “This is a win for the economy, a win for the environment and a win for American consumers”.  He noted in his blog “CARS’ economic success has been some of the most heartening news. Both Ford and General Motors haveannounced production increases for their third and fourth quarters due to heightened demand for fuel-efficient vehicles. Honda is also increasing production at its U.S. plants in East Liberty and Marysville, Ohio and in Lincoln, Alabama.  The program has been a lifeline to auto manufacturers and dealers to be sure. But it’s also had a visible ripple effect through communities and related industries. Because of CARS, scrapyards are selling clunker waterpumps, batteries and other parts. Credit unions and banks are processing thousands of car loans. Repairmen, mechanics and sales staff are picking up additional work. CARS has truly been a winning deal for everyone. ”   The USDOT’s press release also offered the following statistics:

Vehicles Purchased by Category

  • Passenger Cars: 404,046
  • Category 1 Truck: 231,651
  • Category 2 Truck: 46,836
  • Category 3 Truck: 2,408

Vehicle Trade-in by Category

  • Passenger Cars: 109,380
  • Category 1 Truck: 450,778
  • Category 2 Truck: 116,909
  • Category 3 Truck: 8,134

84% of trade-ins under the program are trucks, and 59% of new vehicles purchased are cars. The program worked far better than anyone anticipated at moving consumers out of old, dirty trucks and SUVs and into new more fuel-efficient cars.

Average Fuel Economy

  • New vehicles Mileage: 24.9 MPG
  • Trade-in Mileage: 15.8 MPG
  • Overall increase: 9.2 MPG, or a 58% improvement

Cars purchased under the program are, on average, 19% above the average fuel economy of all new cars currently available, and 59% above the average fuel economy of cars that were traded in. This means the program raised the average fuel economy of the fleet, while getting the dirtiest and most polluting vehicles off the road.


Image Courtesy: Green Car Congress

Industry experts are now saying that after the ‘party’ of the Cash for Clunkers scheme, the auto industry will now experience a ‘hangover’, with a large drop in sales due to the lack of incentives. Auto research firm predicted Wednesday that the industry “is likely to experience a painful hangover” after the monthlong cash-for-clunkers party. “People rushed into purchases that many would otherwise have made later this year. The result will be lower sales in the weeks to come,” said Edmunds Chief Executive Jeremy Anwyl.  The number of people who intend to buy a new car in the next two months was down 50% from the peak of the clunkers program and 11% from the average in June, the firm said.

Figures released Wednesday showed that California auto dealers requested the most in reimbursements, $326.8 million, followed by those in Texas, New York and Illinois.  Timely payment to dealers, some of whom are owed more than $3 million, will be a key measure of the program’s effectiveness, industry spokesman Wood said.  Michigan ended up with $132.4 million in vouchers sought under the cash for clunkers program, the eighth highest among states. California was first at $327 million followed by Texas, New York, Florida Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Bernie’s Transportation Communications Newsletter (TCN) – August 27, 2009

August 27, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Thursday, August 27, 2009 – ISSN 1529-1057

Countdown to IBTTA’s 77th Annual Meeting & Exhibition, September 13-16, 2009 in Chicago — Register Today!

IBTTA’s 77th Annual Meeting & Exhibition is the most significant gathering of toll industry professionals in the world. Attend this meeting and interact with the most influential experts and decision makers from around the globe and discuss ideas and solutions about transportation financing strategies, the future of tolling and paying for mobility, AET and Interoperability, new ideas for the new economy and sustainable transportation. Featured speakers include Stuart Varney, Business and Financial Journalist; Mark Shields, Syndicated Columnist and Political Analyst; Robert Atkinson, President, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and Chairman, National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission; and General (Ret.) Barry McCaffrey, Retired U.S. Army General, News Commentator, and Business Consultant. Register by August 21 and receive a $100 discount off your registration fee. This meeting is hosted by the Illinois Tollway and will be held at the Hyatt Regency. For information on registration, hotel reservations, exhibiting or sponsorship, visit IBTTA’s website at


1) LAX Simulator Puts Trainees in the Hot Seat

Link to article in the Los Angeles Times:,0,239228.story


2) GPS Hackers Blaze Own Trails with Crowdsourced Maps

Link to article in Wired:


3) Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles Warns of Fake Web Site

Link to Vermont Press Bureau article:


4) BNSF Wants Automatic Brake Rule Eased

Link to Bloomberg News article:


5) Kansas City-Area Transit Becoming More Tech Friendly

Link to article in The Kansas City Star:

6) Recession Prompts MARTA to Spend on Image

Link to article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:


7) Evaluation of the National CVISN Deployment Program

Link to final report from US DOT:

News Releases

1) Connected Vehicle Testing Begins at Michigan International Speedway

2) NOAA, Japan Establish Navigation Satellite Ground Station in Guam

3) Navteq Study Shows Traffic-Enabled Navigation Can Save Drivers 4 Days per Year

4) US Department of Transportation Awards $100,000 Research Contract to Solar Roadways

Upcoming Events

ITS Georgia Annual Meeting – October 4-6 – Young Harris, Georgia

Today in Transportation History

1859 **150th anniversary** – In Titusville, Pennsylvania the world’s first successful oil well was drilled.


The Transportation Communications Newsletter is published electronically Monday through Friday.

To subscribe send an e-mail to:

To unsubscribe send an e-mail to:

TCN archives:

Questions, comments about the TCN? Please write the editor, Bernie Wagenblast

© 2009 Bernie Wagenblast

Is that Fat Free? Chinese Suicide Prevention Strategy Involves Smearing Butter (on Bridge Trusses)

August 27, 2009 at 4:56 pm

(Sources contributing to this hybrid report:  The Sun-UK, Metro – UK, & Gizmodo)

Image courtesy: Croatiantimes via Austrian Times - Buttered Bridge

Who would have thought about it! Some of our clever Chinese friends have figured out the ideal lubricant for (stopping trespassers from climbing up to) suicide hotspots like giant steel bridges.

U.K.’s Metro (via Gizmodo) has a story that captures this unique suicide prevention strategy that also doubles as traffic control measure, preventing traffic jams caused by rubber-necking motorists who slow down to witness the suicide drama on the bridge.

Chinese workers have covered a giant steel bridge with butter because officials are fed up with traffic jams caused by people who slow down to watch suicide victims leaping to their death.

Government officials in Guangzhou in south east China ordered workers to smear butter on all of the climbable surfaces of the 1,000 foot long steel bridge.

Government spokesman Shiu Liang said: “We tried employing guards at both ends but that didn’t work – and we put up special fences and notices asking people not to commit suicide here. None of it worked – and so now we have put butter over the bridge and it has worked very well. Nobody can get up there and anybody who tries either falls”

Another British tabloid, The Sun, has the following coverage on tihs subject.  Bridge guard Wong Man said: “The butter makes the bars and frames slippery and hard to climb on to, and we can easily catch them.”

In one month alone eight people committed suicide on the bridge and numerous others climbed up threatening to jump before changing their minds.

The guard added: “Each time somebody threatens to commit suicide to get media attention or sympathy over personal problems we end up with several hours of tailbacks and there were lots of complaints.

“Since we put up the butter there have been no problems with these attention seekers.”

TransportGooru Musings: I suspect this is the bridge (going by the description and the picture of the bridge posted on The Sun’s website) that recently was the site a man pushing (indeed to save him) a suicidal case when he sat on top of the bridge and threatened to jump for hours.  Watch this sensational video below to see what transpired on the bridge.

If you are wondering what can the impact of such a suicide threat on trafffic, I’d like to bring to you attention this story the story of a suicidal man threatening to jump from top of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (WWB), causing a huge traffic jam that pretty much shut down the city for hours.

In 1998 one of the most infamous traffic jams in the history of Washington took place on the WWB. A would-be suicide jumper stood on the bride during the height of afternoon rush. Washington is so choked with traffic ordinarily that this was all it took to completely gridlock the entire metropolitan area for hours.  Ivin Pointer, the would be jumper climbed up the bridge’s center span and pondered whether to jump into the Potomac River 50 feet below. Law enforcement officers closed the bridge and allowed him to weigh the question for almost six hours. Meanwhile, a portion of the 200,000 cars that use the bridge daily backed up for 20 miles in each direction on the Capital Beltway, a 64-mile, eight-lane interstate. At 6:45 p.m., police finally shot Pointer with a beanbag bullet, then plucked him out of the Potomac. (Pointer now sells real estate from an office in Washington’s hip Dupont Circle.)

Now imagine what can happen in a traffic heavy Chinese  city when such a thing happened 8 times in a month?  No wonder they resorted to butter to “smoothen” things up.