Archives for transit



Mass Transit Hysteria: A New Marketplace Podcast

New York City’s subways and buses carry roughly seven million passengers a day, which goes a long way toward explaining why New Yorkers have one of the smallest carbon footprints in the U.S. Doesn’t that mean that mass transit is inevitably good for the environment?

Yes, no, and sometimes.

Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “Mass Transit Hysteria.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player in the post, or read the transcript below.)  Read More »



A Bill of Goods? Assessing the Transportation Legislation

Do you want the good news, or the bad news… or the bad news… or the bad news… 

Okay, in this post let’s start off on the bright side. At a time when the two parties cannot agree on the menu at the Congressional cafeteria, the Republicans and Democrats have found something they can agree on. After three years of debate and nine temporary stopgap extensions, Congress and the President have enacted new transportation authorization legislation. This bill divvies up the gas tax money, plus some miscellaneous revenue from other sources (more on this later), and funds and regulates the federal surface transportation program for the next 27 months. 

In many respects, this is a pretty remarkable achievement. Things could have been worse: on the same day that the transportation agreement was announced, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on healthcare. Compared to the stark partisanship surrounding that issue, when it came to transportation, John Boehner and Harry Reid held hands around the campfire and sang Kumbaya. Read More »



Did Blackberry Outages Cut Abu Dhabi Traffic Accidents by 40 Percent?

A three-day Blackberry service outage last week in parts of the United Arab Emirates once again demonstrates the value of “distracted driving” laws. According to an article in The National, an English-language paper in Abu Dhabi, traffic accidents in Dubai last week fell 20 percent from average rates on the days when BlackBerry users were unable to use its messaging service. In Abu Dhabi, the number of accidents last week fell 40 percent, and there were no fatal accidents. According to the article, on average there is a traffic accident every three minutes in Dubai, and a fatal accident every two days in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi recently launched a campaign against cell phone use while driving and plans to use electronic evidence in traffic cases. Read More »



Hitchhiking Lives On — at Least for Cargo

Okay, so hitch-hiking has plainly faded away — at least for human beings. But what about for cargo? German trucking companies are facing a big problem, according to ScienceDaily: “Around 20 percent of trucks on German roads are traveling empty, at a huge cost to the transportation companies concerned.” Read More »



The Answer to Yesterday’s Freakonomics Contest: Where Have All the Hitchhikers Gone?

The contest question was pretty simple:

I was in California the other day and saw someone doing something that I haven’t seen done in a good while. I used to do it myself quite a bit, when I was in college, largely out of necessity. What was it?

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The Travel Time Budget

Is our need to travel innate? Last time, I wrote about the intriguing theory of the universal Travel Time Budget (TTB), which states that humans have a built-in travel clock. Perhaps a product of some primeval need to balance exploration and conquest with hanging around the cave and vegging, the universal TTB is said to drive us all to spend about 1.1 hours per day on the go, regardless of nationality, culture, economic system, or era. Read More »



Do Mysterious Forces Dictate Our Travel Patterns?

Sure, studying transportation is important if you need to find the best route to the hardware store. But you might be surprised to know that transportation study might have other uses, like enlightening you about the most profound philosophical mysteries of the universe. For example, transportation might just tell us some surprising things about the degree to which we truly have free will. Read More »



What’s Putting the Brakes on the Growth of Driving?

One iron law governed 20th century transportation: driving always increases. But surprisingly, the 2000s appeared to see a halt to that trend. A few theories. Read More »