Monday, April 19, 2021

Irrational Covid Vaccine Fears

Excerpts from an article titled Irrational Covid Fears by David Leonhardt, of The NYT


Guido Calabresi, a federal judge and Yale law professor, invented a little fable that he has been telling law students for more than three decades.

He tells the students to imagine a god coming forth to offer society a wondrous invention that would improve everyday life in almost every way. It would allow people to spend more time with friends and family, see new places and do jobs they otherwise could not do. But it would also come with a high cost. In exchange for bestowing this invention on society, the god would choose 1,000 young men and women and strike them dead.

Calabresi then asks: Would you take the deal? Almost invariably, the students say no. The professor then delivers the fable’s lesson: “What’s the difference between this and the automobile?”

In truth, automobiles kill many more than 1,000 young Americans each year; the total U.S. death toll hovers at about 40,000 annually. We accept this toll, almost unthinkingly, because vehicle crashes have always been part of our lives. We can’t fathom a world without them.

It’s a classic example of human irrationality about risk. We often underestimate large, chronic dangers, like car crashes or chemical pollution, and fixate on tiny but salient risks, like plane crashes or shark attacks. [Or thrombosis from a vaccine.]

The vaccines have nearly eliminated death, hospitalization and other serious Covid illness among people who have received shots. The vaccines have also radically reduced the chances that people contract even a mild version of Covid or can pass it on to others.

Yet many vaccinated people continue to obsess over the risks from Covid — because they are so new and salient.

To take just one example, major media outlets trumpeted new government data last week showing that 5,800 fully vaccinated Americans had contracted Covid. That may sound like a big number, but it indicates that a vaccinated person’s chances of getting Covid are about one in 11,000. The chances of a getting a version any worse than a common cold are even more remote.

But they are not zero. And they will not be zero anytime in the foreseeable future. Victory over Covid will not involve its elimination. Victory will instead mean turning it into the sort of danger that plane crashes or shark attacks present — too small to be worth reordering our lives.

That is what the vaccines do. If you’re vaccinated, Covid presents a minuscule risk to you, and you present a minuscule Covid risk to anyone else. A car trip is a bigger threat, to you and others. About 100 Americans are likely to die in car crashes today. The new federal data suggests that either zero or one vaccinated person will die today from Covid.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Finally an Article that Describes Me Well: Why Some People Are Willing to Challenge Wrongs


"The traits of a moral rebel

First, moral rebels generally feel good about themselves. They tend to have high self-esteem and to feel confident about their own judgment, values and ability. They also believe their own views are superior to those of others, and thus that they have a social responsibility to share those beliefs.

Moral rebels are also less socially inhibited than others. They aren’t worried about feeling embarrassed or having an awkward interaction. Perhaps most importantly, they are far less concerned about conforming to the crowd. So, when they have to choose between fitting in and doing the right thing, they will probably choose to do what they see as right."


That's right!


SOURCE:  Analysis: Why some people are willing to challenge behavior they see as wrong despite personal risk


Friday, April 9, 2021

Urban Transit After COVID-19

 Excellent input by transportation experts Robert Poole and Steve Polzin.

==============

Urban Transit After COVID-19

Here is a recent set of headlines from a couple of reputable sources, to introduce a discussion of how urban transit will need to change when we enter the post-pandemic period:

The reporters of these stories reflect genuine concerns, but my impression is that many in the transportation community have not fully thought through the implications for urban transit in the “after” COVID-19 times.

One expert who has is Steve Polzin, a former transit official, university professor, and most recently as a senior advisor for research and technology at the U.S. Department of Transportation. After reading a detailed paper that he and a colleague produced while at DOT last fall, Reason Foundation commissioned Polzin to write a policy brief focusing specifically on how transit will have to change, and why. The new report, “Public Transportation Must Change after COVID-19,” was published last week and you can find it here.

Polzin first reminds us that in the five years prior to the coronavirus pandemic, transit experienced a significant loss of ridership, before appearing to stabilize at a lower level by 2019. Then the pandemic led to former transit riders avoiding buses and rail transit in favor of cars, bikes, walking, and working at home. Comparing January 2020 (pre-pandemic) with January 2021, unlinked transit trips were 65% less (though transit vehicle miles of service decreased only 23% for the same months).

Alas for those hoping for a post-pandemic return to “normal,” among the factors leading to permanent changes are, of course, some degree of permanent shifts to working from home, either part-time or full-time, along with the continued popularity of network companies like Lyft and Uber, a millennial generation that is getting older and buying houses in the suburbs, and a general movement of people and companies from higher-density to lower-density locations.

Polzin points out that even if many people work at home Mondays and Fridays, but still work in the office mid-week, this will “make it harder to justify peak capacity capital investments and complicate service scheduling.” In terms of permanent work-at-home shifts, he notes that if this share doubles from pre-pandemic levels of 5.7% to about 12% of people working from home, that could mean 15%-to-20% fewer downtown workers, a major change for downtown-focused rail transit systems.

Another section of the brief looks at declining vehicle occupancy by transit mode: bus, light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail. All four are down significantly, but some much more than others. And this makes a surprising difference in the environmental friendliness of these modes. Here is his comparison of pre-pandemic vs. December 2020 fuel economy of various commuter modes, drawn from the U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center plus estimated occupancies from the National Transit Database. The metric is passenger miles per gasoline gallons equivalent; hence the highest numbers are best.

Commuting Mode Pre-COVID Current
Heavy rail 50.4 18.0
Automobiles 41.7 41.7*
Commuter rail 39.6 10.9
Light trucks/SUVs 36.1 36.1*
Transit bus 26.6 14.5
Demand response (Uber, Lyft) 9.2 9.2*

*assumed to be unchanged

As of December 2020, the most fuel-efficient means of commuting was the car, followed by light trucks—but only because occupancy embedded in the transit calculations was so drastically low. Obviously, when we get past the pandemic those figures should rise but whether mass transit will be able to rebuild enough ridership to be more fuel-efficient (and hence more carbon-friendly) remains to be seen, and as you can see from the current numbers, transit has a long way to go.

A major premise of the Biden administration’s transportation agenda is to greatly increase federal spending on transit, compared with only modest, constrained increases for highways (with very little scope for adding highway capacity). This approach poses major risks of putting billions of taxpayer dollars into projects that will have costs far greater than their benefits (e.g., light rail systems for medium-sized cities, megaproject expansions of heavy rail and commuter rail systems, etc.).

At the very least, it is premature at this juncture to commit funding for major new rail transit projects before we have some idea of the extent of transit ridership in the first several years after nationwide vaccinations.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Inspections Discover Cracks in Rail Line Tracks

 Rick Daysog: Inspections discover cracks in rail line tracks. Also mirrored at Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren.

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - During a recent inspection, rail officials discovered cracks in several crossover tracks along the line that could cause further delays for the embattled project.

According to Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation documents, the manufacturer of the crossovers ― called frogs ― was responsible for the casting flaws.

Recent inspections also found that some of the welds and surfaces on other parts of the tracks didn’t meet the specifications set under contract.

“Before we have an operating system, we have cracks and failures,” said rail critic and University of Hawaii Civil and Environmental Engineering Prof. Panos Prevedouros.

“That is really extremely disappointing. I don’t now how else to describe it. ... We’ve been had.”

Prevedouros said the rail system’s steel-on-steel technology was supposed to last for decades but can’t even last several hundred practice runs without cracking.


“We selected rail because supposedly it was bullet proof,” he said. “You build it out of steel and you’re done.”

How long the project is delayed will depend on how many of the cracked frogs need to be replaced and how long it takes to manufacture and install them.

Hawaii News Now asked HART spokesman Joey Manahan how many of these devices are damaged and how much of a delay replacing them will cause.

He declined to answer, saying that the rail authority planned to respond at its board meeting Thursday.

Prevedouros believes the initial opening of service between Kapolei and Aloha Stadium, which was scheduled for June, will now be delayed several months because HART won’t be able test their trains at normal speeds and under normal conditions.



HART Rail Cost Grows Past $12 Billion

 In January 2016, I projected that the cost to complete HART's rail will be $11 Billion (stated by HART as $6.9B at that time). Once again, that was the good news.

It's pretty clear that the people in charge need to do something about destroying the city's and state's finances while pursuing a largely useless, outdated and very expensive to run transportation "alternative."

We have great alternatives already... TheBus, Uber, Zoom, bikeways and soon enough, robotaxis. Plus people leaving Hawaii by the thousands

Monday, March 1, 2021

Why is My Car Insurance So High

 Quoted in this article on Why is My Car Insurance So High.

What steps can drivers take to get cheaper car insurance?

"Drivers need to do some comparative shopping for insurance rates every couple of years.

If they are considering purchasing another vehicle, they should investigate the insurance ratings and costs of their candidate vehicles and choose wisely; rates for vehicles in the same price range vary because of their varied repair costs, safety features and performance levels.

If the driver has a problematic traffic record, then he or she must consult with their DMV and insurance to go through re-education or other programs in order to lessen their risk score.

Other relevant decisions that affect insurance rates include location and distance driven. Some locations are much riskier than others (drivers who rent may have more flexibility to move to a safer area near by). Long commutes often correspond to higher annual premiums, so work or housing decisions affect vehicle operating costs including insurance."

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Car Insurance for High Risk Drivers.

Quoted by WalletHub on Car Insurance for High Risk Drivers.

Their slight editing made one of my comments non sensical..."such as the passing of a divided highway" should be ... such as passing on a divided highway.

What can high-risk drivers do to lower their car insurance?

They can do several things starting with re-reviewing the rules of the road and pledging to adhere to the rules. Besides, they can attend safe driving classes and, if available, simulation lessons that help realize the risk of crashes in a controlled environment.

What makes a driver high risk?

The typical ingredients of high-risk driving are inattention, aggression, distraction, and intoxication. These apply to drivers of both genders and all ages. Typically younger, male drivers are more susceptible to speeding and high-risk maneuvers such as the passing of a divided highway and aggressive cornering.

What can drivers do to become not a high-risk driver?

Drivers need to continually work on their safe driving habits such as never driving intoxicated, devoting full attention to the driving task, and leaving speeding and aggressive maneuvering for the racetrack (i.e., track days and exotic car venues.)

Friday, January 8, 2021

Updated Reality for Autonomous Vehicles

 Quote

In March 2018, Waymo confidently forecast that “up to 20,000” electric Jaguars “will be built in the first two years of production and be available for riders of Waymo’s driverless service, serving a potential 1m trips per day”.

Two months later, it added that “up to 62,000” Chrysler minivans would join its driverless fleet, “starting in late 2018”.

Today, there is little sign that any of these vehicles have been ordered and Waymo’s official fleet size remains just 600.

End Quote



  Financial Times, Rolling out driverless cars is ‘extraordinary grind’, says Waymo boss, January 4, 2021.