Photoblog Transportation

Skate Route

Bicycle Routes are too mainstream.
Bicycle Routes are too mainstream.

Why Am I At a McDonald’s at 5 a.m.

I called my Mom again. Her Greyhound bus was supposed to leave at 10:15 a.m., but I hadn’t heard from her yet. It was 12:30 p.m. We had a bit of time between the arrival of the bus and the departure of the train, but this was quickly being eroded away.

Each and every employee is important to a business. The wrong employee or someone new who wasn’t given the proper tools or training is a liability to the business, either in personal or financial capital.

My mom doesn’t like flying. Between the TSA, being unsure of what is allowed or not allowed, trying to transverse through DFW (where all flights from her home town fly connect to the larger air network), and somehow always having delays when flying, she’s done with it.

Amtrak provided the next best option—both in terms of speed and price—but the closest train station was still 100 miles away. In the past, family or friends were able to drop her off on their way to other places, but this time, no one was traveling at the right time in the right direction.

After arriving at the bus station, she was told the bus was running just over two hours behind. Okay, we had enough time built-in for her connection. As she waited, she started talking with others in terminal, including a lady whose daughter was en route on the bus.

Picture of a bus from 1962
Greyhound: Transit of the Future photocredit: flickr/autohistorian

Greyhound has one disadvantage compared to airlines—cell phones work. When things are odd on the ride, it is easy for anyone to share the experience at no additional cost.

The daughter said the bus was behind because of a new driver.

As 12:30 p.m., the new word is that the bus would be in at 1:30 p.m. Then, 2:30 p.m. Word from the daughter—the bus driver is just completely lost. Passengers on the bus were trying to help by providing directions. At one point, word passed that the bus had completely skipped my mom’s city and was 30+ minutes out-of-town.

In the end, at 2:30 p.m., when my mom was getting into a car to drive back home—since the schedule was shot and there was no way to get her to Austin via bus/train on this day, she saw the bus pulling up, with a police escort. The officers seemingly took pity on the souls wandering aimlessly trying to go somewhere for Christmas.

I can appreciate new drivers being unfamiliar with a route. I don’t understand why you would put someone new in the position over the holidays without, at least, ensuring there was a GPS unit or the driver and dispatch both had an idea of how to resolve being lost without a four-hour delay.

I truly don’t blame the driver. No one wants to be bad at their job. No one should be bad at their job, if they’re trying. Either the hiring process failed to connect the right person to the position, training failed to bring the person up to speed on the internal operations of the company, or operations failed to handle the situation.

So now, I sit in a McDonald’s at 5:00 a.m. in the middle of nowhere over an hour from home waiting for my niece to pull up with my mom on her way to her boyfriend’s house for Christmas.

Merry Christmas, Greyhound.


Southwest Is My Airline

Soon after getting married, I realized that I would be flying Southwest quite a bit more. It is the only airline to fly Austin to El Paso direct and, being the city of my wife’s family, it would be a common destination during the holidays. For five years, I’ve only flown Southwest.

Now, working for Automattic, and needing to travel some with them has exposed me to a few others: United and American so far. I can choose to fly with any airline, but those are the ones that are pre-programmed into the company’s travel purchasing site.

Austin Transportation

New “California Stop” Signage

The City of Austin is apparently testing out a new form of intersection signage to indicate that a “California Stop”, also known as a rolling stop, is allowed at an intersection. The test has not resulted in any accidents and may lead the way for future intersection signage.

California Stop?

In reality, a developer installed these signs in part of the Mueller neighborhood. The street is slowly being expanded to include a median and this is one of the crossovers, currently the end of the divided section. One of the two signs will be removed at some point, but why install two in the first place? Why leave them both up for weeks (at this point)?

Random Transportation

Flashing Yellow Coming To You?

Left turn on left only / 20091201.7D.00879.P1....

The way we turn left in Texas, or at least how we know when to turn, may be changing in Texas if the Federal Highway Administration get their wishes.

In signal-controlled intersection with dedicated left-turn lights, we’re used to the following, or some similar variation:

RED “ball”: Stop.
YELLOW “ball”: Light is changing to red. Exercise caution and stop if safe to do so.
GREEN “ball”: Left-turn allowed after yielding to upcoming traffic
YELLOW arrow: Protected left-turn ending.
GREEN arrow:  Protected left-turn.

The FHA has adopted a recommendation to change this and Arlington, TX may be the first in Texas to do so if the Texas Transportation Commission approves it later this year. The idea is that the green ball is confusing. We can go, but after exercising caution. Doesn’t green mean go though?

The new lights would work something like this:
RED — Stop
Solid YELLOW — Light signal is changing to either unprotected or red.
Flashing YELLOW — Left-turn allowed, not protected (i.e. the green ball)
GREEN Arrow — Left-turn protected.

An example of this was filmed and put online by the Missouri Department of Transportation

Besides the initial confusion and retraining time, do you think this makes more sense? A yellow flashing ball at an intersection means proceed with caution but generally practiced as a clear-to-proceed (with caution) green light. A yellow flashing arrow isn’t a clear-to-proceed (with caution) green arrow. Would a flashing red arrow make more sense or do we need retraining on what yellow means, arrow or otherwise?

According to the FHWA Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the document that helps ensure that all traffic control devices in the U.S. mean the same thing, both a flashing yellow and a flashing red arrow are allowed. A flashing yellow arrows allows turn without stopping, while a flashing red requires a stop (like a flashing red light would). I’ve never seen a flashing red arrow used, except when signals are malfunctioning or timed to revert to a stop-sign-like control at very slow times of the day (like late at night).


Segway + Smart Car = PUMA?

I saw this today on the Platentizen blog

A two-seater hybrid between a segway and a traditional car. In reality, think two segways fused together, add seats and a little weather shield.

See more on Segway’s website.