[ Ø ] Harsh Prakash – GIS Blog

Quiet Musings On Applied Spatial (Health, Disaster, Technology, Planning et al.)

Archive for February, 2011

Interview: Senator Cardin, Maryland, speaks on transportation (2009)

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This is a little fresh air for an old post that was collecting cobwebs as a draftee:

During this year’s Planner’s Day on Capitol Hill, I got an opportunity to interview Senator Cardin on changing federal policies that affect planning. This is an excerpt from our interview. The full interview can be found at the Division’s website.

Harsh – What are some of your main expectations from the next federal surface transportation bill?

Senator – We face three fundamental challenges with the new transportation bill –

With bridges failing, congested roadways, and transit systems strained to the limit, we need to make a major new investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure. According to the US DOT, the average annual cost to maintain both highways and bridges at their current level for the next 20 years could reach $78.8 billion, while it would take approximately $131.7 billion per year to improve the condition of both highways and bridges Those figures don’t include the billions more needed for our transit systems and their needed expansions. We must act to make a major new investment in a system that is under extreme stress.

Our transportation policy needs to be reoriented to the nation’s needs in the new century. We need to better integrate our various modes of transportation for handling the nation’s commercial goods. That includes freight rail, harbors, and highway trucking routes, including their interconnection to air freight facilities. Our current system for moving people to and from their work, schools, and recreation also will need to be fundamentally rethought. That will mean a much greater focus on mass transit, alternative modes of transportation, smart growth, reduction in the number of vehicle miles traveled as a policy goal, and so much more. We need a transportation policy that supports our goal of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reduces the generation of greenhouse gases. The new surface transportation law will not accomplish all of these changes overnight, but the new bill should put us on a fundamentally different path than we have taken in the past.

We will need to explore new ways to fund our national transportation programs. Our current reliance on a static “gas tax” is already coming up short: $8 billion in the current fiscal year. If we are successful in moving more commuters out of their cars and into buses and subways, we will see those gas tax revenues decline, not increase. If we are successful in encouraging people to live where they work and to telecommute, gas tax receipts will fall even further.

Harsh – Given the bridge tragedy in Minneapolis last year and the subsequent findings of the National Transportation Safety Board, do you support in principle the National Plan for Infrastructure Investment, and also as a way to stimulate our economy in a time of financial uncertainty?

Senator – The collapse of the I-35 Bridge was a tragedy for Minnesota and for the nation. The bridge failure resulted in 13 deaths. The accident has already spurred the nation into action.

There are approximately 600,000 bridges on highways throughout the United States. About 51 percent of bridges are state owned, 47 percent are locally owned, and less than two percent are owned by the Federal government or private entities. National surveys indicate that nearly one-quarter of all these bridges are structurally deficient.

In addition to the funds provided directly for the repair of the I-35 Bridge, the Congress provided $1 billion in special funding to address our structurally deficient bridges. Of the 2,584 bridges along the Maryland State highway system, 411 (16 percent) are classified as functionally obsolete.

The American Society of Civil Engineers, the Nation, and others are calling for major infrastructure investments. I support a sustained effort to rebuild our national infrastructure. Doing so will provide an immediate stimulus to our economy and give us the network we need to restore the health of our commercial sector.

PS: Thanks to Mike Burke for arranging this!

Related:
* Senator Benjamin Cardin (Wikipedia)
* US Department of Transportation
* US National Transportation Safety Board
* Planning & Technology Today (2009)
* US GPO
* US Green Building Council
* Data 360

Written by Harsh

February 18th, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Verizon iPhone or iNot?

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Back in the summer of 2010, as one of the million proud owners of iPhone 4, I noticed a certain setting to switch phone carrier. That setting then portended the change we will see tomorrow. But should you bite the bait? Assuming CDMA and GSM don’t matter, here’s part 1 of my guide:

There is a lot of spin around Apple’s flagship cash cow, or as we have come to know it- the iPhone, which only recently represented about 43% of its overall sales. Not all of the coverage is positive (remember Foxconn?). Apple’s growing pains also include a big lawsuit fight. But for those with out a blind searing faith in Steve Jobs, the genius patriarch, the iPhone may very well be suffocating. If true, could Jobs be repeating his original sin? And if so, should your phone follow his sin to the grave?

iOS works better than Android out-of-the-box. To better understand the genesis of its famed usability and cool minimalism, watch Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address. If you decide to switch, be prepared to shell out monies in cool apps and media. From a quick glance, I paid around $750 over 2 years. To Apple. Not AT&T (that averaged around $2,400 for the same time). And remember that MP3s from Amazon, somethings you can’t buy on your iPhone, tend to be less expensive and redownloadable – a big plus for some. And all that precious data would cost even more to put into MobileMe, Apple’s own cloud solution, never mind the naysayers. So more additions to your ever burgeoning monthly bill (Tethering, Personal Hotspot, …).

iPhone’s Mythical Advantage: Apps

Apple still disallows Adobe Flash (or Oracle Java) from iOS. It appears to be more a business decision than a technology constraint, designed to control the sprawl of Flash-based gaming mobile websites where you could buy outside of Apple’s walled-garden. How this affects HTML5 gaming websites is still unfolding, but it certainly helps the lagging QuickTime in the meantime. In any case, it goes against the customer’s best interests by taking away her choice to enjoy multimedia content in one of the industry’s most prolific formats. But Apple has you covered with the most commonly used app: the browser. Mobile Safari, hands down is the best mobile browser out there between the platforms that I tested, namely iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. For the GIS pros among you, Joben blogs about GIS apps for the iPhone. You can always find an increasing number at the App Store, like the iGIS.

Jailbreaking Folsom

So you switch and finally get that toy you were waiting for? Why jailbreak it? Jailbreaking the iPhone isn’t worth the effort, even if it is legal. And even if not upgrading to the latest and greatest release (something that iTunes would handle seamlessly for you, but something that you can’t always do with Cydia because Cydia often trots a step behind) is an acceptable risk, ask yourself if your precious data is too important to jailbreak. After all, you could brick your iPhone and quite possibly provide no way for iTunes to restore it. But if your phone data is not critical ahem, then you can add some developer functionalities by jailbreaking and escape the infamous iTunes bloat. Now jailbreaking could also introduce your spanking iOS to new viruses, but if you must, hope over to Cydia. If you need a copy of the old firmware during jailbreak, grab it from here. Once you jailbreak, remember to download a file browser or explorer, like iFunBox or iPhoneBrowser. You may also want to jailbreak if you want to install a phone firewall out of privacy concerns. After all, Apple did confess to collecting GPS data from iOS 3 and iOS 4 daily. Then again, if that is what propels you, why share your payment info with Cydia’s marketplace (just asking)?

Some quick notes on iFunBox or iPhoneBrowser – You can’t watch your uploaded pics or videos, or play your uploaded songs in their native app, even if you upload them to the folders that the iPhone looks under, say //var/mobile/Media/DCIM/100APPLE/. This is because the iPhone, much like the Android, extensively uses SQLite as its Swiss Army database, and all your uploads need to be first registered in the database, say //private/var/mobile/Media/PhotoData/Photos.sqlite which links your IMG_0001.JPG or IMG_0002.MOV. Now there are Cydia apps like iFile that help add your photos, but videos are still no go. But if you are brave enough to try, download the SQLite Manager add-on for Firefox and test your luck.

PS: More

Written by Harsh

February 9th, 2011 at 7:44 pm