Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired New York’s L Train Shutdown Is Canceled. Now What?

Hexbyte Tech News Wired New York’s L Train Shutdown Is Canceled. Now What?

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

New York City’s plans to dodge transit disaster during the L train shutdown included building more infrastructure for cyclists, bus riders, and walkers. What happens now that the total shutdown is canceled?

Juan Madrigal/Getty Images

L-pocalypse not.

On Thursday, almost exactly four months before the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s popular L train line was set to shut down for 15 months of repairs, Governor Andrew Cuomo made a shock announcement: It wouldn’t. After less than a month of consultation, a panel of academic engineering experts convened by the governor determined the subway, damaged by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, could get by with a limited, nights-and-weekends shutdown instead.

Rejoice, right? For the 400,000 daily L train riders, definitely. But for those who have spent two years planning for what even government officials call the “L-pocalypse,” Cuomo’s apparent last-minute save had tinges of bittersweetness. (The new plan, which involves an “innovative” engineering process that has been used to build new tunnels outside the US, needs approval from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, over which Cuomo has some influence.)

It’s not that these activists and tech mavens are disappointed that the crisis has been averted. But like most crises, it came with an opportunity: to rethink transportation in a large swath of New York City. And they weren’t letting it go to waste.

“We saw a lot of thought and energy go into a community-driven plan that put transit and bikes and pedestrians first, and it would be a shame to scrap that, both for people trying to get around during the MTA shutdown and beyond,” says Joseph Cutrufo, the communications director at the New York advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. “The L train presented an opportunity to rethink the way we allocate limited street space. That shouldn’t be lost because it’s taking a different format.”

Whether or not the L train is running, there’s a case for getting more people out of cars. According to the Mayor’s Office, 30 percent of the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from private vehicles and trucks. And while the number of New Yorkers who regularly bike to work has tripled since 1990, they still account for just 1.2 percent of the population.

As part of the MTA’s plan, the agency and the New York City Department of Transportation had mapped out a network of cycling, bus, and pedestrian improvements, connecting North Brooklyn to the center of Manhattan’s busiest business districts. The city has started work on bus-only lanes in midtown Manhattan, and bike lanes in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood and across Manhattan. An expansion of New York’s popular bike-share program, timed to happen just as the L went into hibernation, will continue as planned, a DOT spokesperson said. It is an open question whether the improvements meant to make using those bikes easier and safer will stay.

Also still up in the air are the yet-to-be-executed parts of the L-train shutdown plan—elements that promised to make the city more accessible to those who bike and walk. The DOT had promised a 14th street “busway” with a wider sidewalk, banning all but public transit and emergency vehicles from part of the corridor. This would have sped up bus service in the crowded area and made it easier for walkers to maneuver about the streets. The city also had plans to convert the Williamsburg Bridge, which run between Manhattan and Brooklyn, into a bus- and carpool-only zone from early in the morning to late at night. Plus, it had plotted out walking-friendly improvements throughout the city, but especially in areas that expected to see increased traffic from travelers diverted from their standard commute.

A DOT spokesperson couldn’t say what will happen to those plans. And during a Friday interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, Mayor Bill de Blasio intimated that, if the new plan goes through, the city might reconsider its alternative transportation-friendly plans. “We’re going to keep all the measures the city has prepared in reserve,” de Blasio said.

Private transportation companies had also seen the upside of subway riders’ shut down pain. Lyft rolled out an ad campaign in Brooklyn in which it (jokingly) dropped the “L” from its name in solidarity with suffering L line commuters—and, of course, to remind them that its app is always an option. (Sample copy: “Stay ca m. We wi get through this together.”) Don’t feel too bad for the ride-hail company, though—transportation experts expect off-peak rides at night and on the weekends will increase as the L train disruption continues into 2020.

E-scooters and e-bikes, too, stood to gain, especially as the mobility companies that run them attempted to use the shutdown as an excuse to elbow their way into the city. Bird released a long report in December arguing its electric scooters, which are currently not allowed in New York, are an excellent solution to public transit meltdown. “We’re ready to meet that demand in the L Train corridor—and across the City—especially for those who will face longer wait times during the shutdown,” a Bird spokesperson said in a statement Thursday.

Uber, which owns the e-bike and e-scooter company Jump, said there was still good reason to allow its programs to operate throughout the city. (Currently, Jump participates in a limited dockless bike pilot in the outer boroughs of New York.) “We believe that having e-bikes widely available throughout the entire city, especially in the outer borough neighborhoods that are ignored by docked systems, is how you will see real mode switch and improve all New Yorkers’ access to transit,” Uber spokesperson Kaitlin Durkosh said in a statement.

Via, a shared ride-hailing operator and software provider that provided 14 million rides in New York City last year, had already started rolling out special L-train shutdown promotions and packages. The company had also intended to up the number of six-seat vehicles it dispatched to the affected neighborhoods. So the news of the sudden change of plans was a shakeup, says Alex Lavoie, its head of US operations. But that’s sort of how it works in transportation. “We understand that it’s not an easy thing to run real-time mass transportation. We understand things change and things have to adjust,” he says. “While this comes as a surprise, we’re prepared to adjust our own plans for it.” Ah yes, the city that never sleeps—but changes in an instant.


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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired A Runway Train Traveled 57 Miles Through Australia’s Outback

Hexbyte Tech News Wired A Runway Train Traveled 57 Miles Through Australia’s Outback

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

When a 268-car, 4-locomotive train barreled through the Australian Outback with no one aboard, authorities had to knock it off its tracks.

Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

When a 268-car, 4-locomotive train barreled through the Australian Outback with no one aboard, authorities had to knock it off its tracks.

Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Most things don’t happen the way they do in the movies. Changes are less sudden, incidents less surprising, humans less attractive. But when a runaway train tore through the Australian outback, the action sequence that followed seems to have come right out of a Tony Scott flick.

The whole mess started when the engineer stopped the 268-car, four-locomotive train and hopped out to inspect one of the cars, according to the Australian Transport Safety Board. While he was on the ground (presumably distracted by giant spiders and roving kangaroos), the train pulled away with nobody on board. Loaded down with iron ore, it was soon hitting 68 mph. The train, operated by metals, mining, and petroleum giant BHP, covered a remarkable 57 miles before the company stopped it—by flinging it off the tracks.

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Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers How Scheme Can Train the Mind: One Reason that MIT Should Reinstate Scheme and 6.001

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers How Scheme Can Train the Mind: One Reason that MIT Should Reinstate Scheme and 6.001

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers

(This content of this post is substantially identical to the content of my post [1] entitled “[semi-OT] possible benefits from training in Scheme programming in patent translation” on the USENET newsgroup comp.lang.scheme.)

Today, I came across an interesting phenomenon in which exposure to Scheme programming helped with technical translation of part of a patent specification.

Since the material is classified, I can only reveal the structure, and not the content, but basically, there was a document containing a “claim” (a sentence in a specification which specifies what is being claimed in the patent being applied for) which somebody had slightly mis-translated from English to Japanese, and which was being amended.

The original English clause in the claim had the following structure:

“… an A in communication with a plurality of B, said A configured to generate a C signal, configured to cause at least one of said plurality of B to output a said D, said C signal based at least in part on said E signal.”

Unfortunately, whoever translated that clause from English to Japanese apparently left out the “said A configured to generate a C signal” portion.

Then this mis-translated Japanese translation of the original English clause was amended, but was never translated back to English.

Then this amended Japanese clause was re-amended, and I was asked to “apply” the re-amendment to the English original. The re-amended Japanese clause then had the following structure (after I finally figured out the structure):

“… an A in communication with a plurality of B, said A configured to generate a C signal, configured to cause the C coupled to said F so that a positional relationship, for the E which has sent the E signal, corresponding similarly to a positional relationship between the E which has sent the E signal and the G of said plurality of B to output a said force associated with the strength detected by the E, said B signal based on said E signal.”

The first aspect that I noticed was that the previous amendment had never been translated, requiring me to fill in the details.

However, then I noticed that this previous amendment had itself been based on a mis-translated original.

In order to figure out which portion was missing from the translation of the original clause, I needed to map portions of the original English clause to their Japanese equivalents, but since the structure itself was not written to reflect the structure of the original English clause, I then needed to break up the original English clause into its structural components.

At first, this process seemed very tedious and difficult, until I noticed that treating these structural components in the clause as if they were S-expressions in a Scheme program, and then mapping equivalent components of the English clause to semi-corresponding components of the Japanese (mis-)translation speeded up and simplified this process greatly, even though the correspondence was not exact.

For some reason, I have discovered that this kind of mental equivalence seems to proceed much more smoothly between S-expressions in Scheme programs and claims in patent documents than between other kinds of expressions in other functional programming languages and the same claims in patent documents. For example, I have not had similar experiences with finding equivalences between expressions in even Haskell programs and the claims in patent documents; Haskell expressions seem to be more equivalent to mathematical equations than to claims in patent documents.

Therefore, it seems that exposure to the Scheme programming language, in particular, can help in training non-programmers to think structurally in analyzing expressions in natural language, which can have benefits in translating claims in patent documents in such a manner that they can be more easily and clearly amended.

Perhaps MIT should reinstate Scheme and 6.001, and get rid of Python and the new C1. Somehow I feel that MIT is risking creating a new generation of idiots by getting rid of Scheme and SICP from their curriculum just for the ostensible reason that the recursive style of programming does not reflect the way that programming is actually conducted in industry. Students do not learn programming just to program; learning programming also has important ramifications for the structural thought processes underlying other technical fields, even those that do not seem superficially related (such as patent translation), and it seems that watering down a core programming course for such ostensible reasons undermines the crucial patterns of thinking which are cross-applicable to such other technical fields as well.

[1] Russell, Benjamin L. “[semi-OT] possible benefits from training in Scheme programming in patent translation.” Online posting. 19 Aug. 2009. 19 Aug. 2009. <news://comp.lang.scheme

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Ford’s Train Station, Elon’s Angry Emails, and More Car News

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Ford’s Train Station, Elon’s Angry Emails, and More Car News

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

The future of transportation is all about brilliant engineering, sure, the sort of fast-moving modeling and number-crunching that Volvo employees needed to pull to transform a concept car to a production one in less than two years. (Jack got us the scoop on that one.)

But it’s also about politics. Ford making strategic, symbolic moves and purchases in the big, struggling city it once helped make great. Colorado sticking a thumb in the eye of the EPA by signing onto a California-led low-emissions vehicle standard. Massachusetts attempting to balance the leeriness of its citizens about self-driving tech with its desire to maintain its reputation as a center of innovation.

This week was all about automakers, tech goliaths, states, and cities making canny moves to position themselves to welcome the next few months, years, and decades. Sometimes, you gotta get down and dirty. It’s been a week—let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

  • Transportation editor Alex Davies got elbow deep in permits to bring you this breakdown of Tesla’s newest assembly line in its Fremont, California, plant. The carmaker built it under a big tent in its parking lot. But here’s the nuttiest thing: manufacturing experts say the whole thing actually makes sense.

  • What does it take to turn a concept into a production vehicle? Ask the very tired engineers at Volvo, who had just two years to transform the old Concept Coupe into the $155,000 Polestar 1, a car you will actually be able to buy. Jack takes us behind the curtain as the Volvo team hustles to make it happen.

  • Why is Ford buying the old Detroit train station that has become a symbol of the city’s ruin? No, it’s not going after the passenger rail sector, I explain. The carmaker is planning to expand its footprint in Detroit with a new mobility center, a vote of confidence for the city and autonomous vehicle technology.

  • The ID R, Volkswagen’s entry into the extra-twisty annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, has a curious quirk for a vehicle charged with navigating 4,720 feet of elevation in just 12.4 miles: no engine. Yes, the ID R is electric, and Jack explains why VW thinks the car can succeed where military hero Zebulon Pike failed.

  • As Trump administration rolls back emissions standards, Colorado takes a stand, signing onto California’s Low Emission Vehicle program. It and other states (mostly on the coasts) plan to stick to the EPA standards laid down by the Obama administration.

  • Massachusetts becomes one of the first states to expand autonomous vehicle testing since a self-driving Uber killed an Arizona woman. An agreement between the state DOT and 14 Boston-area cities gives residents more say over where the technology tests on public roads, while streamlining the application process for companies interested in that testing.

  • WIRED contributor Mark Harris gets inside Seattle’s grapplings with the new, explosive dockless bike-share industry, and emerges with some lessons learned for cities: how they can get better, cheaper transportation for their residents without cluttering their streets and exploiting their workers in the process.

Future Color of the Week

It’s not so often that you get a peek into the future of…automotive colors. The German chemical producer BASF took a look forward to 2022 and concluded that, based on “new enthusiasm for science and especially space travel”, future car buyers will be very interested in the “relationship of earth and space” captured by a specific shade of deeply saturated blue called Atomium Sky. So they’ll buy cars in that hue. Of course.

BASF

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In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s past

At this year’s midpoint, it’s a good time to look back to WIRED’s list of city transportation goals for 2018. How y’all doing out there?

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