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Eric A. Morris

Do We Travel to Get There or Get There to Travel?

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in transportation to demonstrate that you go someplace because you want to get there. But it definitely helps to have a Ph.D. if you want to demonstrate that you get someplace because you want to go. This far less intuitive hypothesis has been explored by Patricia L. Mokhtarian of the University of California at Davis, one of my favorite transportation thinkers, and her collaborators.


Should We Hope Congestion Gets Worse?

One of the less cheery parts of studying transportation is that the activity you have devoted your life to is widely considered an unmitigated downer. Even aside from the external environmental costs each trip places on society, travel is held to be no fun for the traveler. We don’t hop behind the wheel for the love of being honked at, cut off and stuck behind a creeping bus or semi; we endure travel only because we’ve got someplace to go. Right?


Is it Safe to Be High on the Highway?

In case you haven’t heard, California’s Proposition 19 was defeated last week. The initiative, which would have revoked state laws that prohibit the possession and small-scale cultivation of marijuana, drew only 46 percent of the vote. I’m no expert on what this will mean for incarceration rates, California’s budget, drug-related violence or the sales of Phish concert tickets, but what will keeping pot illegal mean for transportation?


Search Engine Meets Internal Combustion Engine

Ahh, Google. Has there ever been a company that has done me such terrific good, while asking for so little except the ability to do me terrific harm?


Prepare for Landing: The Friendly Skies Competition Winner

There is a dark side to the popular Freakonomics contest: the allure of Freakonomics schwag can turn otherwise rational, law-abiding people into animals willing to violate any norm of civilized behavior. As a result, there has been skullduggery in our competition in which we asked for your best (or worst) air travel stories. More in a bit.
But first, a couple of entries that are too late for prize consideration but quite amusing nevertheless.


The Friendly Skies: Freakonomics Contest Semifinalists

Last post, I asked you to regale us with your most memorable air travel stories, good, bad or just plain weird. Here are the semifinalists.


A Freakonomics Contest: The Friendly Skies

I just flew down to LA from Seattle, and aside from a vicious battle of wills with my neighbor over possession of the armrest (ultimately won by me: a foolhardy reach for his drink was his Waterloo), I was pretty satisfied with my trip. However, for most of us, air travel represents anything but a positive experience. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the airlines rank second-to-last in customer service out of 47 industry sectors.


Power Corrupts

About a month ago, Lincoln announced that it will be introducing a new hybrid electric version of the MKZ model with a price tag of $35,180. On its own this is nothing earthshattering, as many automakers have joined, or will soon join, Honda and Toyota in mass-marketing hybrids. But what makes Lincoln’s announcement exciting is that their hybrid will be coming at a price you won’t be able to refuse. Or will you?


The Antiplanner

Few figures polarize the planning profession like Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute. As far as I know, O’Toole has never attempted to steal Christmas and was nowhere near the grassy knoll, but nevertheless if you’re going to bring up his name at a gathering of transportation planners you’d better have a defibrillator handy. In part, the outrage O’Toole provokes is due to his sometimes colorful mode of self-expression, but basically it comes from the fact that he is one of a handful of planners (or, as he calls them, “antiplanners”) who take issue with the prevailing orthodoxy in the field.


Street Smarts

Bad news: with all due respect to Terrafugia, unless you’re a fan of Futurama it’s probably going to be awhile before you see a flying car. But cars that drive themselves are coming, probably within most of our lifetimes and possibly sooner than you might think. They will drastically cut traffic congestion, improve safety, and be a terrific boon to those like the young and the old who are deprived of mobility. The ability to take our hands off the wheel will also undoubtedly send sales of Big Macs and mascara skyrocketing. But do we have the drive to make robot cars a reality?


To Solve Our Problems on the Road: Lose the Drivers

The solution to all our driving problems?


Last Call for Drunk-Driving Posts

Checkpoints and IIDs.


The Price is Right?

Increasing alcohol taxes.


Closing Time?

Can – and should – we do more to control alcohol?


Appeals and Alcohol – Can We Be Persuaded to Drink Less?

What convinces people to not drive drunk?


Should We BAC Down?

Cutting the legally permissible BAC.


Drunk Driving: How Hard Should We Slam on the Brakes?

Eric Morris addresses readers’ drunk driving comments.


Drunk Driving: Is the Glass Half-Empty?

Drunk driving is still pervasive.


Drunk-Driving Deaths Are Way Down, But …

It’s still with us – what can we do to change that?


Life (and Death) in the Fast Lane

A change in U.S. law has killed 12,545 people, and nobody seems to have noticed.


Aggression and Accidents

Last post, I presented research showing that men are more deadly than women when behind the wheel. Researchers presume this is because men have a predisposition toward aggression and thrill-seeking, thanks to the testosterone that helped our male ancestors stalk, struggle and seduce their way to successful gene replication.


Who Drives Better, Men or Women?

We’ve established that men are more likely to take the wheel when a couple rides together, but should we care? I say we should. Aside from the cultural, sociological and psychological implications, the gender driving disparity might be costing us lives and treasure. If women are more skilled drivers than men, perhaps we’d all be better off if they were behind the wheel and men were in the passenger seat knitting.


Gender and Fender Benders

We’re coming to the end of a series on whether the man or the woman is more likely to take the wheel when a couple is in the car. Eric Morris argues that whether the man or woman is more likely to drive is literally a question of life and death.


Do Women Take the Backseat to Men?

Why do men usually take the wheel when a couple is together in a car?


Couples and Cars

Why do men do most of the driving? Recently I’ve posted articles showing that when men and women ride together the man is much more likely to be behind the wheel (see this link and this link). What do you, the readers, think about this?


In Relationships, Are Men in the Driver's Seat?

In the past, I’ve written on matters of high import for the future of our republic, and on literal questions of life and death. But clearly, nothing excites the Freakonomics readership more than the issue of why men tend to do the driving when a couple is in the car. The Times’s server nearly melted down as more than 400 of you posted responses to my article on the subject.


Are Transportation Planners Smarter Than Mold?

Transportation planners are a noble and advanced species; all I have met have opposable thumbs, walk upright, and have a reasonable command of fire and language. But the results of a fascinating new experiment reported in the journal Science give us cause to question whether their work would be better performed by primordial slime.


The Irony of Road Fear

It’s nearly upon us: the centenary of America’s first coast-to-coast road, the Lincoln Highway, conceived by entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher in 1912. That means we’re also about ready to start celebrating another major anniversary: 100 years of dreading driving on the highway.


LED Astray

LED traffic lights may be the wave of the future. But do they have some unintended negative consequences?


Men or Women: Who Travel More?

Typically, I run my stuff past a few test readers to see if it will meet the lofty standards of Freakworthiness. Reactions were mixed on my plan to do a series on gender and travel (see the first installments here). Some thought it was bound to be a bore because, duh, of course men’s and women’s travel patterns are going to be very different. Others thought it was bound to be a bore because, duh, of course in this day and age men’s and women’s travel patterns are going to be very similar. There was widespread sentiment that I’m going to bore you – but who was right about why?


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