Tag Archives: Slate

Seven freeways that never were

More good stuff from Slate’s Tom Vanderbilt (via Bus Nerd):

The Lower Manhattan Expressway—dubbed “Lomex”—which would have coursed in eight-lane glory through the now-vibrant (and expensive) neighborhoods of Soho and Nolita, is one of the world’s most famous unbuilt highways. The epic battle about whether it should be built is virtual mythology in New York City, pitting the sweeping interventions of Robert Moses against that savior of the street, Jane Jacobs, a conflict of networks against neighbors, a struggle over a road that was either essential to Gotham’s 20th century survival or, in the words of Lewis Mumford, was “the first serious step in turning New York into Los Angeles.” (Not thought to be a good thing.)

A recent exhibit* at New York’s Cooper Union, Paul Rudolph: The Lower Manhattan Expressway—complete with an exhaustively recreated scale model* of the proposed road—provided an opportunity to consider the invisible (and sometimes visible) presence of this and other phantom highways in the world’s cities. Existing merely as segments of many-tentacled schemes on faded planner’s maps, they are more than historical oddities or visions of an alternate future. They’re part of an ongoing dialogue about the meaning and possibilities of mobility in the world’s cities: Would their host cities be better off if these highways been built? How should we balance the desire for mobility with the desire to create livable, meaningful urban spaces? Is there any room for the megaprojects of Rudolph in a city that now favors pocket parks and restriped bike lanes?

Read the rest…

Seattle even got a shout–for 520’s ramps to nowhere. Here’s hoping for another miracle.

The art of public transportation

The latest evidence that art and public transportation are inherently complementary (previous examples can be found here, here, here, and here): MoMA’s London Underground poster exhibit. If you won’t be in NYC between now and mid-January, check out Slate’s review and slide show (via: Bus Nerd).

This one’s my favorite.

Zero (Hans Schleger), Thanks to the Underground, 1935. Lithograph Printer: The Baynard Press, London. Gift of G.E. Kidder Smith, 1943
A bus chick with places to go

The opposite of progress

From Tom Vanderbilt’s recent piece in Slate:

In Greenberg, Ben Stiller plays Greenberg, a drifting musician-turned-carpenter who’s getting over a nervous breakdown. He’s a needy and casually abusive schmuck, a socially awkward and obsessive crank. And if you need any more clues to the extent of his pathological loserdom, here’s one: He doesn’t drive.


Greenberg is just the most recent film in which a character’s non-automobility–whether for lack of a car or for lack of the ability to drive–is used for comic effect, whether as a metaphor for a deeper personality flaw or as a token of marginality and/or plain creepiness. As the humorist Art Buchwald once observed, “People are broad-minded. They’ll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn’t drive, there’s something wrong with him.”

We bus, train [ahem], and bike chicks beg to differ.

Positioning for bus luh (or, How to increase your chances of finding romance on the ride)

Earlier in the week, Bus Nerd hipped me to this Slate piece about subway psychology. It didn’t turn out to be as interesting as it sounds, but it did contain one useful (and fascinating) tidbit: Apparently, parking yourself in the seat closest to the door* “offer[s] the best opportunities for falling in love with the proper stranger.”

Talk about a revelation! If only I’d known this back when Nerd was a “proper stranger,” it might not have taken us so long to meet.

Unfortunately, the article does not propose any theories about what seat choice has to do with bus mack success rate. Anyone got ideas?

*On the subway, anyway. No word as to whether this works on the bus.

P.S. – For those not familiar with bus luh: a definition.

“Public transportation is paying for my Porsche.”

You don’t have to be a car hater to understand the benefits of transit. From a recent Slate article (via: Streetsblog Network):

In spring 2007, my wife and I sold our Volvo and committed to public transportation. Since then, it’s been no traffic jams, no mechanics, no gasoline, and no insurance bills. With the money we saved, I started a “hot rod” bank account dedicated to making driving fun. Public transportation is paying for my Porsche.


Like many Americans, I love to get out and drive. But in and around major cities, “driving” usually means idling in traffic while trapped in cars as utilitarian and uninspiring as washing machines. It’s soul-sucking and dirty. It’s also expensive. According to AAA, if I were to commute 20,000 miles in a Toyota Camry, I would burn through $9,100 a year in fuel and ownership costs that include insurance, maintenance, and depreciation. If a dash gauge measured money per mile, the needle would be pegged at 45.5 cents. And, according to Department of Transportation statistics, that much commuting would release more than 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A Prius cuts that almost in half–a green boost for sure, but nothing compared with pairing public transportation with weekend joy rides in a classic car.

And I thought I was the only transit geek with a weakness for old-school, gas guzzling rides.

The biggest transportation subsidy

A tidbit from an interesting (read: transit-friendly) article in Slate:

You think the government is wasting a few billion a year on mass-transit subsidies. But what about the huge subsidies for cars and trucks?


What hasn’t been acknowledged is that the automobile is supported by a government subsidy that dwarfs anything provided to mass transit. How big is the subsidy? By my (admittedly extremely crude) calculations, it could total nearly $100 billion per year.

Can I get an amen?

There’s more to it, of course–but that’s what the link is for.

Wasteful subsidy


Dear Bus Chick…

OK, so I don’t have an advice column, but after reading today’s installment of Prudie in Slate, I’m considering starting one. I’m so not feelin’ her advice on this:

Dear Prudie,

My sister-in-law and I ride the same bus to work. It’s a 30- to 40-minute ride, and we like to spend it catching up with each other. About half my time is spent traveling for work, so when I’m in town, we enjoy catching up on the latest family news and my travel adventures. Some mornings, people complain that we’re talking on the bus. In fact, some people groan when they see us coming. We try to be pretty quiet when we talk and we don’t use profanity or talk about things that could be offensive (sex, drugs, etc). However, the atmosphere on the bus is like someone died, complete silence! We have pretty tough skins but I would like some ideas on how to keep the peace on the bus.

–Bus Stop

Dear Bus,
Groaning at the sight of you two is rude, but it’s understandable that people hoping for a bubble of silence between family life and the work day look on you happy in-laws with dread, knowing that for the next 40 minutes they’ll get to hear about Aunt Edna’s goiter and that great Thai place you found in Akron. I’m sure you two think you’re being quiet, but animated conversations tend to be voluble. If the bus isn’t full, could you both sit in the back and really make an effort to speak sotto voce? If that doesn’t work, could you spend the first 10 minutes catching up, plan to meet for lunch during the week so you can talk, then spend the rest of your ride doing the crossword? It is public transportation, and you two are entitled to conduct a conversation, but my heart is with the commuters who prefer a moving sarcophagus to a family reunion.


My version:

Dear Bus,

There is no requirement for silence on any form of public transportation. Chatting with friends (and even strangers) is a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time on your rides. (Shoot, the guy behind me on my evening 48 passed the time by chatting with himself. But I digress.) It’s true that some bus riders like to use their commutes to read, nap, or catch up on work, so it’s certainly good manners to keep your voice down; however, there is absolutely no reason to shorten or otherwise constrain (unless you’re sharing TMI, which is a major bus foul) your conversations.

To those commuters who still find themselves distracted by your chatter, I recommend: headphones, earplugs, or improving those all-important tuning-out skills. (These skills are not rare; anyone with a mother, a spouse, or children–or who has attempted to cram for exams in an undergraduate library–has them.) If, none of these options is effective, they should learn to take more interest in other folks’ business. For me, eavesdropping rivals reading as one of the great joys of the ride.

– Bus Chick

Your turn. Should this woman and her sister-in-law zip it for the benefit of their anal–ahem!–silence-loving fellow riders?