The Near Future of Mass Transit: A Work in Progress

 

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Hong Kong CityScape at Night

 

 Typically when we think mass transit, visions of buses and trains populate our mind. However, there has been quite a culture shift over the last few years for greener commuting and lower cost options that provide not only the services commuters want, but can also lead to the revitalization of various metropolitan areas. While not one place seems to have mass transit down to an art form, there are several places that have gotten creative and inventive over the years to make people’s commutes more enjoyable and beneficial while saving taxpayers money and the environment.

 

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Los Angeles

 

  • Los Angeles

Over the years, Los Angeles has always been seen as an example for sustainable mass transit growth and green initiatives. Recently, the city passed a new transit plan that incorporates proposals for new bike trails throughout the city, bus-only lanes to help with congestion, and a manageable road maintenance schedule. However, the most unique aspect of this plan is the allowance for self-driving vehicles, in anticipation of the technological advances with companies such as Tesla. Los Angeles certainly has the capacity to handle the coming advances as well with a recent small tax increase that will provide the transportation division with billions of funds in the years to come.

 

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Philadelphia

 

  • Philadelphia

Philadelphia has embraced the green movement for the long haul with the introduction of bike share services. In fact, they are the number one city for bicycle commuting in the US with more than 400 miles of dedicated bike lanes. With mass transit facing a decline in ridership and cost of fuel rising, the city introduced Indego, a city-wide bike sharing service. Cost is approximately $4 a ride and bikes can be rented all over the city. The convenience of the system allows for anyone, including tourists, to rent a bike any time of day or night, every day of the week. The biggest benefit to come from Indego has been to provide affordable commuting services to low-income users in all areas of the city without restriction.

 

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Sky Hammock over Hong Kong

 

  • Hong Kong

Of all domestic and international cities, Hong Kong has by far the best metro system. This state of the art system is constantly monitored in a massive control center called the Super Operation Control Center or Super OCC. With Hong Kong mass transit supporting billions of passengers a year, the Mass Transit Railway or MTR is by the far the most popular option. When a problem arises that could delay transit times, the MTR strives to address each issue within two minutes. They have largely succeeded with an overall on-time performance at nearly 100%. The reason behind their success lies within the way the program is managed through accountability, funded (private and publically), and designed for riders. The system is so popular that the MTR Corporation has already started expanding to other cities worldwide to introduce efficiency and innovation.

 

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Who Killed J.R.?

 

  • Dallas

With the rising fuel prices and decline of federal funding, many cities have been researching long-term alternative fuels options such as natural gas, biodiesel, hybrid-electric, and all-electric. The city of Dallas recently finished a study that looked into cost savings with alternatives fuels along with more efficient technologies to help make their mass transit more effective overall. The Dallas mass transit system chose to switch all buses from diesel to compressed natural gas. The switch is aimed to fulfil green initiatives as compressed natural gas is a cleaner fuel alternative. Additionally, the switch will save taxpayers millions over the coming years.

 

 

V8 vs. V6

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Ah, the V8 vs. V6 debate – it’s as classic as a second generation Trans Am. Which one is better? Is there really a big difference in these muscle car parts? The answer is that the “best” option is up to you, the driver. What will you be using your ride for? There are a lot of racing enthusiasts who are only happy with the V8 option because of the power and speed. However, for many “regular” drivers a V6 is (way) more than enough power. Consider what you really want from your machine to make the best-informed decision.

What’s the Difference?

Overall, V6 cars will be less expensive to purchase, insurance will likely be lower, and your pocketbook will thank you at the gas station. This can mean more cash flow for those must-have accessories. A V6 can easily handle the daily commute and the occasional road trip, packing enough punch to inject a good amount of speed and power into an open road ride. The downside? Well, it’s not a V8 and doesn’t have the power of that monster.Mehta_V6 Emblem

Yes, a V8 will likely cost more in every department. Is it worth it? That’s up to you. Are you jonesing for weekends at the track, car show hopping, or heading to that favorite stretch of open road? Then a V8 may well be worth it. Sure, it might be a little trickier (ahem, expensive) to modify and those with lead feet might be tempting fate, especially with highway photo radar systems, but you only live once.

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So, How Do I Choose?

Test driving many different V6’s and V8’s is the only way to get a real feel for the difference – and your preference. Many of the newer V6 models are extremely (and sometimes surprisingly) powerful and people realize that’s “all” they need. Others instantly fall in love with the rumble of a V8. There’s no way to predict which way you will lean until you get behind the wheel.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

Some racing pros suggest that a V6 is the right choice for someone new to the muscle car family. Others are more the “do what feels right” type. It’s important to keep practicality in mind, even though it may not be the most fun part of buying a new ride. If you’re shopping for an (extremely lucky) teen’s first car, they likely won’t need a V8 and that’s asking for trouble anyway.

However, if it’s a second “just for fun” car that won’t be eating up gas in a long routine commute, it might be the perfect pick. Think about financing, the often unpredictable gas prices, and insurance premiums when making a selection. Choosing power is a big deal, so do your research, test drive as many machines as possible, be reasonable, and most of all, enjoy.

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A Glance at Car Culture Past to Future

 

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Henry Ford

 

There is much debate about when the first car was introduced to the world. From the early 1800s all the way up until the 1900s, numerous designs were patented and produced throughout the world. However, it was not until the early 1900s when the first full-scale automobile assembly lines were introduced that production of the car really ramped up. The introduction of the car helped shape and growing world economies and also shifted cultural mindsets. With the increased production, there was an increase in the need for skilled labourers and with that came the reinvestment of wages into the economy. Never before did people of all walks of life have access to a means of transportation that could take them to even the most remote places of the world in a much more compressed length of time. The wealthy were no longer the only ones who could afford to shape the cultural patterns of their countries since these workers also became a substantial wedge of the market share.

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Car culture continued to grow over the years especially with the use of motorcycles and vehicles during World War I and II, but nothing screams quintessential car culture more than muscle cars. Interestingly enough, the need for speed developed early in the 1900s during prohibition times, but it wasn’t until 1949 that the first official muscle car, the Rocket 88, was debuted by Oldsmobile. It had a lightweight frame with a powerful V8 engine. After its introduction, the Rocket 88 became popular within the NASCAR world, which helped to elevate the muscle car amongst American car culture. By the mid-1950s, muscle cars had begun to dominate the market with American automakers Chrysler and Chevrolet contributing heavily. It was during this time that Chrysler first introduced the Hemi engine, which was a series of V8 engines that used a hemispherically shaped combustion chamber. It had advantages over the tradition reverse-flow cylinder combustion chambers and allowed muscle cars to reach much sought after speeds.

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With the increased desire in speed, there came a larger concern for safety and regulation. Car manufacturers became increasingly aware of the need for such things as safety harnesses, reinforced framework, door locks, and even airbags. Throughout the late 1950s and into the 60s, these safety features became more standardized on vehicles, but it was until the late 60s when the first seat belt law was introduced in America.

Technological advancements have continued to dominate the car industry as the years have gone by. Every year cars get more and more upgraded features that not only incorporate safety but are user-friendly and meant to make the drive a pleasant experience for all. Some interesting new developments include the introduction of ADAS windshield technology and the self-driving car. ADAs technology assists drivers through a network of sensors and direct connections to the vehicle while promoting safe driving. The self-driving car has always been somewhat of a fantasy, but car companies such as Tesla have pushed to make it a mainstay in the car industry. They already produce cars capable of full autonomy but have yet to implement all the capabilities at this time.

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However, car culture may be slowly coming to end outside of people’s personal hobbies. Studies have begun to show that the younger generations are moving away from buying and owning vehicles. With the introduction of companies like Uber and Lyft and the growing push for greener solutions, we may be seeing fewer vehicles on the road in the very near future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things to Look for When You Buy a Used Car

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By S. Larson

Buying a new car is both exciting and nerve-wracking. A new car has a lot of draw. However, a pre-owned vehicle is a great investment. Cost is not the only factor you should look at when buying a car. Below are 10 recommended things you should consider when shopping for your next vehicle.

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Mechanical issues can take a pre-owned vehicle from a valuable purchase to a horrible investment. Be sure to inspect your vehicle for the following to ensure you are purchasing a mechanically sound car.

  • Carefully inspect the interior and exterior of the car. Look for any rips, stains or smells that may indicate problems inside the car. Check the exterior for existing damages. Rust can indicate problems down the road. Vehicles that have been in minor accidents are not without value. It is important, however, that any repairs have been professionally done. Custom paint jobs can mask damages. Be wary of them.
  • Take the car for a test drive. It is best to take the car out on local roads as well as highways. A test drive is the clearest indicator of how the car drives and handles. Pay attention to any noises, odd sensations, lights or smells that occur while test-driving the vehicle.
  • Be sure to check for any leaking fluid. Black fluid can indicate an oil leak. Green fluids typically are anti-freeze leaks. Transmission fluids should be pink in color. To check for these, park in a clean area and allow the car to run for 30-seconds. Move the car and do an inspection of the area.
  • Having a mechanic inspect a vehicle may be a costly test, but it can go a long way in preventing you from buying a lemon. This is especially true when you are not buying from a reputable used-car dealer.

 

Research Checklist:

Researching a potential vehicle can help save you a lot of money and keep you informed. Be sure to follow the below to ensure you get the best value from a potential car purchase.

    • Read up on the make and model you are interested in. Consumer reports can help you understand potential problems or defects known to affect that type of car.
    • Compare prices of similar vehicles. Kelley Blue Book and dealership prices are all easily available online. While every used car is different, these sources can provide a reasonable estimate for comparison.
    • Be sure to investigate the VIN. A VIN decoder chart can help avoid scams. A VIN is like a vehicle’s fingerprint. It is unique; the title and record for a specific VIN will only apply to one car. Often, stolen cars are given VINs from legally owned cars. Do your homework and check to be sure that the VIN on your potential new car belongs to it.S Larson_Things3.jpg

 

  • After decoding the VIN, check the vehicle’s history report. This will allow you to review any title problems and previous accidents reported on that car. If buying from a dealership, the history report should be readily available. CARFAX also offers a report that can be purchased online.
  • A certified pre-owned vehicle may be for you. They often come with more quality assurance and offer extended warranties.
  • Do not rush into buying a car. Take your time and do your research. If something does not feel right or seems off, pay attention. Some salespersons will try to push you into a sale. This is your investment! Make sure it is one you are happy with in the end.

Editors notes:

While everything above will help you screen out vehicles that aren’t worth buying, in the end, the only way to know for sure that the vehicle you are buying is safe and priced right is to have it independently inspected. It can be difficult to and expensive to involve a mechanic that specializes in repairs to check out a car pre-purchase.

We strongly recommend finding a local inspection service that specializes in pre-purchase inspections as they will include things like VIN searches, CarFax, etc. and help establish accurate value. Because car buying is such an emotional decision and salesmen play to emotion to make a sale, you need to walk into a negotiation with a paper in hand that says the true value of the car or you’ll overpay.

Blindspot in Tesla Volvo AV’s AI

workshop-2104445_1920A recent CA accident involving a Tesla Model S highlights a glaring bug in the automated driving system. Volvo admits their self-driving function might well have the same bug.

The blind spot is ironically right in front of the car and happens when a vehicle the autopilot is following suddenly dodges out of a lane that’s become obstructed leaving the automated vehicle to acquire a new car to tail. As with the accident in California, the Tesla may continue at the same speed or even attempt to resume the previous speed without detecting the obstacle–in this case an enormous firetruck with flashing lights parked while it helps save lives.

Thankfully no one was hurt, and you could draw the conclusion that the human being is still the pilot of the car even if the car has an enhanced cruise control engaged.

This notion is further underscored by a recent DUI given to a San Francisco man who argued that his car was guiding him home. Much as with cruise control the person behind the wheel is responsible for the operation of the car. It seems obvious, but with all the press from the AV industry, you’d think that AV’s are vastly superior drivers capable of covering your shortcomings in all scenarios.

The reality is that you can delegate power but you can’t delegate responsibility. We might hope that the enthusiasm of those developing this technology would be tempered a little by this thought and stress that, much like an automatic transmission makes driving simpler, automated driving is not actually autopilot and even planes that have autopilot are landed by experienced pilots.

Beauty: Under the Hood

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Beauty isn’t just skin deep – neither in a person or with your ride. The right parts can seriously dress up the inside of your machine. It doesn’t matter if you’re the kind of person who kicks the tires and pops the hood without having a clue of what you’re looking for. Having an eye for beauty and detail is universal. Racers and car show regulars know that settling for prettifying the surface alone isn’t enough. You’ve invested in an American dream – the most incredible powerhouse on the road – so it (and you) only deserves the best.

My, the Possibilities

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The amount of amping up under the hood is vast. However, it can be a very inexpensive and rewarding hobby unlike the embarrassment of slowly modifying the exterior. If you’re driving around with only a couple of improved pieces and the rest is still factory, no one will know but you. Consider starting with a master cylinder cap cover – perhaps in a show-stopping chrome – to start adding a little polish under the hood. Aficionados who are going the “one piece at a time” route should think about either holding off on the installation until all desired pieces are acquired, or making sure to keep new parts clean and polished.

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An aluminium A/C cap cover is another part of the affordable accessories family. Fuse box covers, shock tower covers, and oil dipstick covers are also easy ways to improve the inner beauty of your ride. All of these parts can easily be found for under $100 each.

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Make a Big Impact

 

Dress-up kits are an easy way to drastically change the look under the hood. Large pieces, complete with the stang emblem, cost around $300. Proudly pop that top – whether at a show or simply while showing off your machine – for the never-ending “wow” factor. Chrome is expected on the exterior, but having a shining interior properly displays the power and beauty of your machine.

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Make the Most of Your Investment

Maintaining your tricked-out interior is crucial. Why spend cash on a project and then

 

allow it to be less than stellar? Rust is a common problem with chrome, but buffering it off with steel wool is a quick fix. Make sure to wash the interior chrome regularly, just like with the exterior body. Your average car wash soap works well on chrome interiors, but for added shine include a couple of capfuls of white vinegar to the mix. After gently washing the parts with a large sponge, it’s important to completely dry the chrome parts to prevent spotting and rusting. A little easy care can make a huge difference – both in looks and the life of the parts.

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Is The Car In An Identity Crisis?

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OP-ED from across the pond by Paul Wimsett

People see a car as a way of getting from A to B, a status symbol or an extension of personal tastes and character. What people tend not to see is a computer.

Looking at the computer it did have a mechanical history, first made of cogs and gears then bulbs and transistors. It doesn’t take much to imagine the pipes and chambers under the hood as the early beginnings of a computerized device. As more people get AVs (autonomous vehicles) we may have to change how we see the humble car, I feel.

The idea of AVs seems to be growing in popularity even if it seems unlikely to become a reality any time soon. It seems that AVs will cause accidents in the early days, but each country’s legal system will have to determine if the fault is with the driver or the programmer? I also feel that a certain amount of driving is culture. In some places, everyone runs amber lights or stops at crosswalks and other places they don’t. We grow accustomed to how we drive locally. As a motorist, you can’t follow the habits of a fellow driver who isn’t even in the driving seat. We’ll have to learn what the computer does or doesn’t do and it won’t match what the other human drivers are doing. It’s a different way of driving completely.

This post, however, isn’t about how safe or unsafe the driverless car is, merely how our relationship may change. My feelings are that a car will stop being a personal possession. It may well become a family-owned possession, maybe passing down generations if the car is expensive enough. It may also mean that cars are harder to buy and keep their values more, as houses do today.

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How do cars not being personal change their meaning? Well, there may be a lack of stickers and go-faster stripes. This is a shame as it so much part of American society, including political interest. However, if an automobile is no longer a personal thing, this will alter, I feel. The interior of the car might become neutral and the form of the interior less some kind of hierarchy where the driver is in charge.

Okay, will we be driving by committee? No, but even now the driver shares the load with a navigator. At least for now (perhaps, fortunately) folks in the back seat cannot physically control the vehicle, but that could change.

This will essentially change the way cars are marketed too. No longer just to the breadwinner and now more to the family as a whole. The idea of a car being a “macho-wagon” and “chick-attractor” may alter as the automobile changes its character.

Less obviously, how women see cars may also change. Even with a female “driver” there may be more neutral colors, fewer turquoise, and other pastel colors. (It seems these days women prefer the color green to other colors, (https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-womens-favorite-colors-1077397). The car may be in future designed with all the family in mind.

Does this mean that a car will be more of an investment? It would seem so, IHS says that a self-driving technology will add $7,000-$10,000 to the value, at least up to 2025. Even now, cars can be collateral against a loan. In the future will expensive cars be “remortgaged” and become an income source? It doesn’t seem likely at the moment, but at a time of fluid change, who knows?

It seems to me that drivers who drive themselves will become the outsiders, the people who chose the cheaper car. As stated above they will also find it harder to drive in a world of non-drivers. So what if you know a three point turn? No one else does. That information will not be valuable anymore.

The predictor of the future will no doubt get many things wrong. Maybe the world of the driverless car will always be considered unsafe except in arranged convoys or it will never happen at all. We can never totally predict what the future might bring.