July 2008

25 July 2008
A380 at Farnborough
Rob Fisher

I went to the Farnborough air show last weekend and took this video of the A380 taking off, flying around a bit, and landing.  The pilot made it climb and turn much quicker than I think it would on a normal passenger flight.  It was very big and very impressive.  Apologies for the shaky camera.

A380 at Farnborough from Rob Fisher on Vimeo.

23 July 2008
“Everything I learnt just got better and better if you like train wrecks”
Patrick Crozier

I’ve been listening to this podcast in which Russ Roberts of Café Hayek talks to Mike Munger about mass transit in Santiago, Chile.  It seems that they had a perfectly good1 private system which got nationalised.  Result: huge losses, longer commutes, higher car use, oh, and the odd riot.

But do they want to go back to the old system, you know the one that worked?  Hell no.

As Munger observes:

A public mass transportation system is the fiction that each of us can ride at the expense of all of us.

By the way, in case you think the guy is making it all up here is a report from the International Herald Tribune and here is what a Santiagan commenter had to say:

I am from Santiago, and it is very hard to understate the mess caused by the change in the public transportation system.

Santiago is a city where most of its population use public transportation (including myself) and the significant decrease in its quality caused inmense suffering. People who were used to wait for 10 minutes or less for a bus that would take them accross town in 45 minutes need to wait for over 30 minutes now, having to switch buses (sometimes more than once and at stops that could be several blocks away) and doubling or tripling their travel time. This causes havoc with family and “down” time.

Many areas of the city are not not served (or underserved) by the new buses and the ministry of transport has had to draw new routes with astonishing frequency.

And a system that was self-financed and produced profits for the operators, has caused the government to give huge subsidies and cause losses to the new bus companies. This is a terrible loss of wealth, in financial terms and withr espect to the time lost by passengers, in a country that already had a pretty good system.

This is all due to planners belief that thier intelligence was better than the wisdom of hundreds of bus companies.

At least, this has discredited central planning in Chile for the foreseeable time.

1.  Well, there was a slight problem with buses racing one another and mowing down pedestrians.

18 July 2008
Ruth Kelly on motorways
Rob Fisher

The Reg has an article on Ruth Kelly’s plans for motorways.  I like the idea of toll lanes.  I don’t like the idea of more M40-style speed management, mainly because it makes driving more tedious than traffic jams do.  I’m really not sure how concerned I should be about electronic tagging of vehicles.

15 July 2008
Swindon council wants to stop funding speed cameras
Rob Fisher

Some Swindon councillors want to stop funding speed cameras.  Conservative councillor Peter Greenhalgh thinks they’re just to raise revenue.  This revenue goes to the treasury.  The council contributes £400,000 per year to pay for the cameras.  Greenhalgh thinks that’s not the best way to spend the road safety budget.

The Labour MP for Swindon says that all this is “playing politics with lives”, after all, the Swindon Safety Camera Partnership’s statistics show that accidents at camera sites is falling.  Not everyone agrees.  The obvious question is, what about accident rates at non-camera sites?  Even if cameras do improve safety, there is a certain level of risk people find acceptable.  We could reduce road deaths to zero quite easily but it would be too inconvenient.

It will be interesting to see if this move succeeds and more councils follow suit.  Either way, it is certainly annoying anti-car types.

01 July 2008
New Motorcycle Test
Rob Fisher

The new motorcycle test starts on 29th September.  It’s a result of EU regulations.  Many test centres will close because parts of the test need to be done in a special off-road area.  This is mainly because the emergency stop now has to be done at 50km/h.  That’s thirty-two miles per hour.  Oh dear.

The DSA was on the radio quoting scary statistics and saying that the new test will make riding safer.  I am not convinced that a 2mph faster emergency stop and riding around some cones makes it safer.  I think motorcycle safety is largely about attitude.  Reading chapter 1 of Roadcraft, which is all about mental attitude, would do considerably more to improve safety.

An even better idea would be to let insurance companies administer tests.  They have to pay the costs of accidents, so they have the best incentive to stop them.  A range of tests could be offered, each yielding a different insurance premium.