Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cincinnati / Ohio / Wikipedia Loves Art Meetup

I'm going to plan on being at the Taft Museum for the Wikipedia Loves Art event / contest on this coming Sunday the 22nd from 11-12. I'm hoping I'll get a chance to meet up with other Wikipedians, photographers, and art lovers. Although this is a way to hopefully encourage participation in that project, I hope other Wikipedians will feel free to come and chat. It is not necessary to pay admission to come into the cafe portion of the Taft. Please stop by and see me!

See my previous post, the Wikipedia project page, or the Flickr group for more about the Wikipedia Loves Art project.

Which reduces congestion better: adding lanes or streetcars?


I started this post with the intention of finding some facts on whether or not a streetcar would be a waste of money compared to investments in highways. Even though I believe streetcars are a good investment for more than one reason, I wanted to address the congestion question directly, since it is seemingly the easiest question to get data on. (We shall see that I was in part wrong about this.)

About adding lanes

Scientific studies have shown that adding new lanes to highways does not necessarily reduce congestion; instead, adding lanes often makes congestion worse. This is often referred to as "Induced Travel".

The best and most neutral source I've found on this topic is at the Federal Highway Administration's website.

One way to think about this is to think to think of highways lanes as something similar to what economist call a "free good". What this means is that people will use up as much of the resource as there is. If more of the resource is added, people will just use that up as well. One way to change model is congestion pricing which makes the resource no longer "free".

See also:
+ http://bicycleuniverse.info/transpo/roadbuilding-futility.html
+ http://bicycleuniverse.info/transpo/planning.html#futility
+ http://www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/transportation/seven.asp
+ http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=4197&type=0

Here is the big study OKI did on congestion in our region: http://www.oki.org/transportation/congestionmgmtanalysi.html (direct link to PDF)

If you turn to page 30 (page 36 of the PDF), you'll see OKI's evaluation of many strategies for reducing congestion including congestion pricing, rail transit, and additional lanes. If you look at table 10-1 (page 39 of the PDF) you'll see an analysis of which strategies could be used at which locations across the county. You'll see that on I-75, both rail-transit and additional lanes are give black squares which indicates high-cost/high-impact. (I don't see any way of knowing what ranges of costs are represented by the shapes. Perhaps a $100 million streetcar and a $800 million highway project are both squares.) There are also a number of X's which I'm not exactly sure how to interpret. I'm guessing either the analysis wasn't done there, or that strategy is infeasible for that location. If you turn a few more pages, you'll see that I-75 widening to four lanes in both directions is listed as an underway project.

More about the transportation projects in this particular corridor can be found at http://www.i75millcreekexpressway.com/ and http://www.thruthevalley.com/.

About streecars

I tried browsing through here for more info on what OKI has published relating to the streetcar, but couldn't find anything showing it's estimated effect on highway congestion (or any road congestion at all). Mostly I'm finding cost esitmates and ridership estimates.

There are some up-to-date presentations on the city's website here but there isn't a whole lot on the congestion question there either. Again these focus more on cost and ridership. One study showed impacts on local traffic, that is to say traffic on the sames streets as the streetcar runs; but they didn't mention impacts on regional traffic.


I'm guessing that the reason that the question I originally set out to answer hasn't been answered is that the effect of a streetcar on highway congestion is probably pretty small. The number of people that forego a car trip on the highway to ride a streetcar instead are probably small to non-existent. Travel between areas served by a streetcar is probably already accomplished without using highways.

Thus, I've come to the conclusion that at least in terms of their effects on congestion comparing highway investments with streetcar investments is probably like comparing apples to oranges.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Homemade Root Beer

Root beer, originally uploaded by Pez King.

homemade root beer = awesome

I have recently starting getting into the exciting world of brewing my own root beer and I'm loving it. Over the past few months I've been learning about sourdoughs (which may lead to a separate post sometime), and that led me to learn about other fermented foods. Two things have really inspired me to start trying things on my own at home that I never would have thought I could do.

The first is an incredible website belonging to Professor David B. Fankhauser. The second is a book called Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.

Dr. Fankhauser's Cheese Page is one of the best sites out there covering the basics of home cheesemaking. (And he's local!) I haven't tried any cheeses yet, but as I was browsing through the site, I saw the root beer recipe and knew that I had to try it right away. It's really easy, and I think the results are pretty tasty. The root beer does have a beery / yeasty flavor to it that I don't mind, but my girlfriend is not a big fan. This brew is definitely not like the liquid candy that you would buy at the grocery store. Here's the basic recipe (but definitely check out Fankhauser's page for the full details):

1 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp. yeast, 1 tbsp. root beer extract, 2 liters water.
Leave out on the counter for 3 - 4 days; put into fridge overnight.

That's it!

I also tried the ginger ale and cream soda recipes on the site and I came up with somewhat less drinkable sodas. The root beer extract is a really powerful flavor and I think it matches up a little better with the beery flavor, whereas the lighter flavors of the ginger ale and cream soda are more easily over-powered. I plan on trying again with some champagne yeast I got from The Party Source. The first time around I just used regular old baking yeast from the grocery.

In my most recent batch of root beer I made a minor modification in an attempt to make it at least a little bit less bad for me (since I've started drinking the stuff all the time). I substituted some of the sugar with a sweetener called agave nectar. The main advantage of agave is that it has a lower glycemic index. I substituted half of the sugar (1/2 cup) with agave. Most everything I could find said to reduce the volume of agave when substituting it for sugar since agave is supposed to be sweeter so I used 1/3 cup in place of the 1/2 cup sugar. After I mixed it up I started reading more about agave and I found out that this is the same plant that is fermented to make tequila -- I was starting to worry that I was making tequila flavored root beer! But no worries, it tastes just fine. Another way to have approached it would have been to try brewing the root beer with less sugar and then adding in the agave after. There is a limit to how low you can go with the sugar because that's the food for the yeast, and I don't know what the limit is yet.

I haven't made any sodas with the champagne yeast yet, but if it turns out well I've got all kinds of crazy ideas for sodas I could make. I've started the search for unusual flavoring oils and started researching other beverage recipes. :) I can't wait to do more experimenting!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Wikipedia Loves Art @ The Taft

Wikipedia Loves Art is a scavenger hunt and free content photography contest among museums and cultural institutions worldwide, and aimed at illustrating Wikipedia articles. The event is planned to run for the whole month of February 2009.

The Taft Museum of Art in downtown Cincinnati is one of many museums particpating all across the country.

To join in the fun:

1. Find the goal list for the museum(s) you plan to visit. The goal list for the Taft can be found here.

2. Photograph as many things on the list as you can (make sure you're allowed to) and upload your photos to the Wikipedia Loves Art photo pool on Flickr.

3. Museum staff will award points and choose the best photos to be uploaded to Wikipedia to help illustrate articles on the site.

The prize being offered by the Taft is museum membership for each member of the winning team!