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Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

Dan Holin, who used to run a Concord-Lowell volunteer partnership called the Jericho Road Project, is now director of special projects at UTEC in Lowell. (UTEC doesn’t use the longer title its youth founders originally came up with, but since people ask, it was United Teen Equality Center.)

UTEC describes itself as a nonprofit that “helps young people from Lowell and Lawrence, Mass., trade violence and poverty for social and economic success. It works to remove barriers that confront them when they want to turn their lives around and offers young people paid work experience through its social enterprises: mattress recycling, food services and woodworking.”

On May 15, Acton’s Pedal Power joined members of the Concord-based Monsters in the Basement bicycling club to share their bike-repair expertise with young people who wanted to acquire bikes and learn to maintain them. Holin, a serious biker himself, organized the event to give UTEC young people two things that he said they normally lack: transportation and fun.

At the event, one of them, Sav, recounted his story of change. Before UTEC I never talked to anyone,” he said. “I was a problem child on the streets. I was hanging around with gangs, selling drugs. I don’t do that now. Seven months ago, I moved from a place with nothing positive. Atlantic City. I let my family know I’m ready to live life. It was hard for me to get into something good: I’ve got a lot of tattoos and a record. But I’m in the culinary program here. It’s a family. They make you feel like you are somebody that has a chance. They give me love like a family. They changed my life for the better. There are so many new things to do here. Yesterday I went kayaking.”

More here.

Sav, in sunglasses, got a good bike at UTEC’s bike event in Lowell on May 15. The bike will provide transportation to his job at UTEC. It will also provide some much needed fun.

051516-UTEC-bike-clinic.jpg

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Artists seem to think differently from people who aren’t artists, which is why Renée Loth likes the idea of embedding a few in government.

“Imagine a dancer working with police officers to better interpret a suspect’s gait,” she writes. “Or a musician teaching a city parking clerk how to listen deeply. Or an abstract painter rearranging a tangle of contradictory street signs. That’s the idea behind Boston’s new artist-in-residence program, which will embed local artists inside city departments to promote creative thinking about municipal government. …

“ ‘Artists are all about asking questions,’ says Julie Burros, Boston’s cabinet-level chief of arts and culture. ‘They bring a unique set of tools to solving problems.’

“A jury of seven arts professionals and partners from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design [met in February] to winnow a field of 10 finalists to three artists, who will each receive a $20,000 stipend for a six-month residency. …

“Boston is in the throes of a comprehensive planning process that is working to inject fresh ideas into city transportation, housing, and zoning policies. Burros is directing the city’s two-year cultural plan, Boston Creates, and is a prime force behind the artist-in-residence program.

“But Boston is hardly in the vanguard of this approach. The concept dates back to at least 1976, when activist Mierle Ukeles accepted a nonsalaried position as the first artist in residence of the New York City sanitation department.

“Over the decades, Ukeles created artworks that engage questions of nature, class, and culture; her ‘Flow City,’ a video installation at a Hudson River transfer station, confronts visitors with their own role in the massive waste management task of city government. Environmental education is a dull, dutiful business — until it’s in the hands of a performance artist. …

“In 16th century Europe, wealthy rulers of church and state often commissioned artists to live and work in their courts — you might say that Michelangelo was embedded in the Vatican. Today’s artists in residence may not paint the ceiling of City Hall, but they will surely contribute to Boston’s renaissance.”

More at the Boston Globe.

Art: Pep Montserrat for The Boston Globe

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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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Here’s a green-transportation update from the radio show Living on Earth.

“ELF stands for Electric, Light and Fun, And this particular Elf is an invention that launched with a Kickstarter in 2013. As Living on Earth’s Helen Palmer reported, it’s a human- and solar-powered, covered tricycle that aims to create a commuting revolution, and might just help combat climate change. Now two years on from the Elf’s Kickstarter campaign, its designer and developer, Rob Cotter, tells Living on Earth’s Helen Palmer how successful the invention has proved. …

“COTTER: Many years ago I was working for Porsche and BMW more on the race-car side of things — and I was living in Southern Calif. — and they were building the Gossamer Condor and Gossamer Albatross — the pedal-powered aircraft — not too far from me, so I kind of linked up with those folks. … I became vice president of land for human-powered vehicles, I built a 62 mph tricycle about 30 years ago — and once I realized you could go highway speeds at one horsepower — I realized how inefficient everything is that we do. …

“PALMER: [Elf] uses no gas at all: just human-power, sun-power and a battery pack with a 30-mile range. It’s not built for highways though — only for local roads, and bike trails, as federal regs say a bicycle can’t go faster than 20 miles an hour. Cotter says if enough people who drive about 30 miles a day climbed out of their cars and into an Elf, the effect on greenhouse gas emissions could be startling. …

“COTTER: Each one of these on the road takes about 28 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere per year — so 100 of these on the road are equivalent to a 4-megawatt wind turbine at about 20% of cost. … The base price is $4,000 [and] we have over 400 orders or reservations currently, just from our website.

“PALMER: And that was before the Kickstarter campaign got underway — they reached their $100,000 funding goal in 12 days, and 40 people have actually paid for the vehicles. …

“COTTER: We actually worked with an organization in San Jose that trains homeless people to become bicycle mechanics, so we went there as kind of a test pilot to see who could build this and how, and in a week’s time we taught them how actually to build ELFs, and maintain them, and service them …

“COTTER: People are using them all winter long in places like Canada. They’re pulling trailers, 500, 600-pound trailers around with snow-blowing equipment and yard equipment on there. They turn them into food trucks. There’s a gentleman in Pasadena that has a gelato freezer on the back … One gentleman rode from Ontario, Canada, to Key West, Florida, on his Elf all on secondary roads and bike paths. But the thing that amazes me most I think is people with disabilities that are using the Elf to increase their mobility. So, this one woman, she broke both her legs in 20 places and doctors said she would never walk again without assistance. And she purchased an Elf, she lowers herself in it, and takes off on electric power, and when she can she goes ahead and just rotates the pedals. And six months later, she’s riding 22 miles a day and able to walk without a cane.”

More here.

Photo: Joanna Rifkin
Inventor Rob Cotter shows reporter Helen Palmer the ELF.

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You may get a kick out of this BBC story on the intersection of art and engineering.

“Artist Daan Roosegaarde has teamed up with Hans Goris, a manager at a Dutch civil engineering firm with hopes of reinventing highways all over the world.

“They are working on designs that will change with the weather — telling drivers if it’s icy or wet by using high-tech paint that lights up in different temperatures.

“Another of their ideas is to create a road that charges up electric cars as they drive along it.

“Daan Roosegarde said: ‘I was completely amazed that we somehow spend billions on the design of cars but somehow the roads … are still stuck in the Middle Ages.’

“In the past he has designed a dance floor with built-in disco lights powered by dancers’ foot movements.

“They plan to trial their specially designed glow-in-the-dark paint on a strip of road at Brabant, which is near the Dutch border with Belgium, later this year.”

Read more.

Photo of a glow-in-the-dark road: Roosegarde

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A concept called Rapid Bus Transit is getting increased attention, I hear, even though so far in the United States, having a designated lane doesn’t seem to make much difference. When I take Boston’s Silver Line to go to the SoWa art galleries, it acts like an ordinary bus — stuck in traffic and arriving in clumps. (In NY City, in the old days, we used to say, Why are buses like bananas? Answer: Because they are green and yellow and come in bunches.)

I do like taking the Silver Line to the airport, though.

Will Doig at Salon.com writes: “When it comes to improving mass transit, there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit on the humble city bus. The vital connective tissue of multi-modal transit systems, the bus could be an efficient — nay, elegant — solution to cities’ mobility woes if only we made it so. …

“Making people like the bus when not liking the bus is practically an American pastime essentially means making the bus act and feel more like a train. Trains show up roughly when they’re supposed to. Buses take forever, then arrive two at a time. Trains boast better design, speed, shelters, schedules and easier-to-follow routes. When people say they don’t like the bus but they do like the train, what they really mean is they like those perks the train offers. But there’s no reason bus systems can’t simply incorporate most of them. That’s the goal of bus rapid transit.” Doig has more at Salon.

Photograph: Duncan Allen at world.nycsubway.org

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