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Photo: Nederlandse Spoorwegen
A special book given out as gift to readers during National Book Week is accepted instead of a ticket on the train.

The Dutch seem to be ahead of the curve on many things. I’ve posted about their friendly communities for people with dementia, about their environmental innovation, about their biking culture. This story is on their support for reading books.

Jon Stone writes at the Independent, “Dutch book lovers got free rail travel across their country’s entire network [in March] as part of the Netherlands’ annual book week celebrations.

“Every year since 1932 the Netherlands has encouraged reading with Boekenweek – a celebration of literature marked with literary festivals and book signings across the country.

“Traditionally, a well-known Dutch author writes a special novel – the ‘book week gift’ or Boekenweekgeschenk – which is given out for free to people who buy books during the festivities or sign up to a library.

“But the special book – this year the novel Jas Van Belofte by celebrated author Jan Siebelink, can also be presented instead of a rail ticket on every train in the country on the Sunday of book week.

“Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), the Dutch state railway company, has long been a sponsor of the annual festivities – and even organises book readings signings by top authors on its trains.

” ‘It is good to see all those happily surprised faces of travellers,’ author Jan Siebelink said after boarding a train for the city of Utrecht to meet passengers and read his book. …

“This year the book week gift was given out by bookshops to anyone who spent €12.50 on Dutch-language books.” More here.

And check out this cool article by Feargus O’Sullivan at CityLab, in which he describes a wide array of unusual ways to pay fares — ideas from all around the world.

Because of a problem with rail passes, he writes, England’s Virgin Trains let people pay with an avocado for a while. And “Indonesia’s second city, Surabaya, came up with a novel way of clearing its streets of plastic waste last autumn: It has been encouraging passengers to trade in trash for bus tickets.”

Among other creative approaches, Russia promoted the Winter Olympics by offering passes for doing a certain number of squats, Berlin partnered with Adidas to offer sneakers with a pass in the tongue, and Japan started experimenting with cryptocurrency.

Can you think of other ideas cities should try? Maybe on Giving Tuesday, transit systems could allow free travel for proof you gave to a charity.

 

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Photo: MTA Arts for Transit
Faith Ringgold’s mosaic “Flying Home: Harlem Heroes and Heroines (Downtown and Uptown),” 1996, is one of the pieces of subway art featured in a PBS documentary.

I’m always amazed by the beauty of the mosaics in the New York subway, even the ones that merely tell you what street you’re at. It makes me happy to see that the city values them, too, and periodically cleans up the oldest ones. They go back as early as 1901.

My sister alerted me to an excellent PBS documentary about recent additions to the art in the subway system. You can read about it at the website Mosaic Art Now.

“For a delightful immersion into the history and current activities of the enormous underground museum that is the New York subway system’s Arts For Transit program, treat yourself to WNET Channel Thirteen’s free one hour video called ‘Treasures of New York: Art Underground.’ …

“Mosaic artist Steven Miotto gets major face time. His decades-long collaboration with artists of all stripes is a fascinating story in itself. When selected by a commissioned artist as a collaborating partner, he gets into their minds and hearts, leading them through the complex process of translating their vision and their graphic designs into mosaic ‘paintings for eternity.’ …

Faith Ringgold, speaks eloquently and nostalgically about the series of paintings – now mosaics – that portray the heroes of her Harlem childhood. Writers and musicians fly across the cityscape in flattened but vivid characterizations. I had the opportunity to interview her when she was in Miami last year, and she spoke about the challenges of trying to ‘make it’ as an African-American artist dealing with political themes at a time when the galleries favored the abstract.  Click here (http://bitly.com/yxGJ3R) to listen to that interview with her.”

See some of the beautiful new mosaics and watch the video here.

If you are up for more on transit-system art, be sure to check out an excellent article by Sarah Hotchkiss at KQED about what’s going on with San Francisco’s Transbay system, here.

 

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Laura Bliss at the Atlantic‘s City Lab has a story on young people you may have seen performing in a New York subway car. She reports that in the film We Live This, the teens’ hopes seem hemmed in by poverty.

“ ‘Showtime’ dancing is a hallmark of the New York City transit scene,” writes Bliss. “Hoping for donations, crews of young black and Latino men perform exuberant choreographies for subway passengers, twisting and leaping from pole to pole with artful ‘lite-feet‘ dancing in between—and never before shouting, ‘It’s showtime!’

“Who are these dancers scraping by on their earnings? A new, short cinéma vérité documentary, We Live This, shines a light on the world of one crew, whose four young members perform on the J train. They are talented, hardworking, committed, and full of dreams, the film shows. But for some, the obstacles are high, and the alternatives slim. …

“Forty, is homeless.

‘As I’m dancing on the train, I’m thinking about where am I sleeping at night,’ he says. ‘Who should I call? Who is going to pick up? What if they don’t answer?’

“Showtime is the best way he he knows to a better life, a way into a community, he says. …

“Of course, the subway is no simple launchpad to success. While some passengers love the dancing, many others avoid eye contact, and some even yell at crews to switch cars. …

“ ‘I hope people will watch this and look at these young men as human beings,’ the film’s director, James Burns, tells CityLab. ‘And see the last vestiges of a culture that may be dying out.’ ”

More.

WE LIVE THIS – OFFICIAL TRAILER from HAYDEN 5 on Vimeo.

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Well, here’s a new concept in energy production: braking regeneration.

Diane Cardwell writes at the NY Times, “Along Philadelphia’s busy Market-Frankford subway line, the trains behave like those of any transit system, slowing to halt at the platforms and picking up passengers.

“But more is happening than meets the eye. In an experimental system that is soon to be more widely adopted, every time the trains pull into certain stations, they recover the kinetic energy as they brake and channel it as electricity to battery banks at one of two substations.

“The batteries, managed by software, can then use that power to push the trains back out or to help modulate electricity flows on the grid.

“The system is unusual because the batteries are being used for more than just powering the trains, said Gary Fromer, senior vice president for distributed energy at Constellation, the power provider that will own and operate the system for the transportation authority.

“The electricity savings alone do not justify the battery costs, he said, so it was important to find another source of revenue, which comes from selling energy services to the grid. …

” ‘We don’t have to front the money and we’re reaping both savings and actually money coming back our way,’ said Jeffrey D. Knueppel, general manager of the transportation authority. The base technology of the system, known as regenerative braking, was one of the breakthroughs that allowed for the development of hybrid and electric cars like the Prius.” More here.

This reminds me of my 2012 post on inmates in Brazil who bike to create electricity — and reduce their sentences. And this post from 2013 about lighting schools by playing soccer. All hail to human ingenuity!

Photo: Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times
The Market-Frankford subway line in Philadelphia is part of a regenerative braking experiment.

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