Friday, August 11, 2017

The Body Language of Power

The Body Language of Power: In a world of bullies and machos, Angela Merkel keeps ending up on top. Andreas Kluth, our editor-in-chief, deconstructs how.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Engineering Permanently Temporary

From Meeting of the Minds -
"A ubiquitous travel trailer is the building typology that’s most resilient to rising sea level. A coastal resident can park her dwelling unit right on the waterfront and then, as the water level rises, simply tow it uphill.To make maximum advantage of the resilience of recreational vehicles, perhaps we should design coastal communities that operate more like long-term campgrounds than permanent cities. But do we really want all of our shoreline cities to look like RV campgrounds?"

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Update on The Yield Curve

From the New York Times:
"That is probably not what most people want to hear — stock investors especially. In the first half of the year, after all, stocks have performed spectacularly. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index returned 9 percent through June, churning out gains so regularly that it may seem churlish to note that clouds are appearing on the horizon.
Yet like a long-range forecast about a possible storm, an old and trusted financial indicator is telling us that trouble may be looming.
Simply put, while the Federal Reserve has been raising short-term interest rates since December, the bond market hasn’t gotten the memo. The longer-term rates that are set through bond market trading have, for the most part, been declining, though there was a brief reversal in the last few days. But the disconnect over the last few months is a sign that bond investors believe economic growth and inflation are still weak and the Fed’s actions are premature."
A good primer on The Yield Curve - -

App - The Human Story

An Idea Worth Considering - Owning Your Social Media Data

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Mind Game of the Week - How Would Jeff Bezos Run a [Fill in the Blank]?

No Longer Accustomed to Manufacturing

From The Atlantic - article on Chinese investment and management of manufacturing operations in the U.S. - -

"It’s possible that the U.S. workforce is not as skilled at manufacturing as it used to be. Many of the people who worked in manufacturing in the 1980s, before the wave of offshoring, have since retired, and younger people don’t have as much experience in factories. The economist Tyler Cowen has argued that Americans are more averse to adjusting to change than they were in the past, which potentially makes them less likely to take jobs in new fields. “You could say we got a little spoiled” as America created better and better jobs, Cowen told me. While Cowen sees this as a negative, it’s the result of a positive development: American workers are no longer interested in low-paying, backbreaking jobs like picking crops, for example. “People are not willing to become a wreck by age 60 or 65 anymore,” he said. But it makes life more difficult for employers who don’t want to (or can’t) pay workers more or improve the jobs that are available.

Cowen also pointed me to a study published last year in the Journal of Hand Therapy that indicates that today’s workers might be physically weaker than American workers of the past, which would explain some of why it’s harder to find good factory workers. Men younger than 30 have weaker hand grips than their counterparts in 1985 did, the study found. Grips might have gotten weaker because men are no longer accustomed to working in manufacturing or farming, but are instead prepared to sit at desks and work on computers."

Modeling the Oroville Dam Spillway Failure

The Impact of AI on Sports Viewing

Summer Reading List

New to the book bag - -

  • The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are Changing the World by Brad Stone
  • Love, Africa: A Memoir of Romance, War, and Survival by Jeffrey Gettleman
  • One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams by Chris Fussell
  • Qatar: A Modern History by Allen Fromherz
  • Churchill & Orwell: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas Ricks
  • CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping by Kerry Brown
  • Island People: The Caribbean and the World by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

Wheat Outlook

The Big Four of Transportation Trends

Great overview in Meeting of the Minds:
"The general press and transportation specialty publications are bursting with reports of new developments in four major disruptive transportation technologies:
  • Shared rides
  • Electric vehicles
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Connected vehicles
As we look back on the auto revolution since 1945, we have spent trillions of dollars on cars and related infrastructure. These investments transformed our country and greatly assisted us to an unprecedented level of prosperity. Yet there are many things we would no doubt do differently with 20/20 hindsight to shape the use of cars in relation to other modes of travel and in relation to the urban forms we want to live in. As we look on in amazement at the current technological prowess on display in the auto and mobility industries, it is important that we learn from the automobile revolution of the last 75 years. We can learn from the past to shape new developments to meet shared goals as these technologies unfold, rather than suffer the impacts of unintended consequences."

A Paragraph to Ponder

From the New York Times:

"For example, about half of all Canadian immigrants arrive with a college degree, while the figure in the United States is just 27 percent. Immigrant children in Canadian schools read at the same level as the native born, while the gap is huge in the United States. Canadian immigrants are almost 20 percent more likely to own their own homes and 7 percent less likely to live in poverty than their American equivalents."

A New Rule of 3s for Survival

My new rule of 3s for survival - - three weeks without food, three days without water, three minutes without air, and three seconds without an Internet connection!!  From Fast Company - the impact of the Internet in your pocket and how it changed everything.
"In 2007 we were still thinking, “Why would I want the internet in my pocket when I’m walking around? If I want to get on the internet I’ll sit down in front of my computer.” So 50 years from now, we’ll look back and see the iPhone as the demarcation point between when the web was growing, and the era when the web was ubiquitous and something where everybody, even your grandmother, is using it–not only daily, but on an hourly basis.
And 2007 is around the same time that Facebook was discovered by everybody. I think it’s really the combination of the iPhone/smartphone and the rise of social media that really leads to the internet as we understand it today. I’m looking out on the street in Manhattan right now, and seven out of 10 people walking by are looking down at their screen."

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Round One of the Driverless Revolution

From Medium - - might be where the initial wave of driverless investment is focused.

Rethinking Toll Roads

The iPhone Anniversary

Great stats from The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone by Brian Merchant - -

Sales by brand in the best selling categories - - Toyota Corolla (43 million units), Sony PlayStation (382 million units), Harry Potter series (430 million books) - - and the iPhone with one billion units.

Sell or No-Sell: Design Firms Weigh Choices for Future Growth

Sell or No-Sell: Design Firms Weigh Choices for Future Growth: In a more dynamic marketplace, architects, engineers and consulting firms take stock on why being acquired or staying independent best fits growth plans and culture.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The New American Heartland

A 10-Year Education Plan

A Paragraph to Ponder

From TPM Cafe:

"Like most everything with Trump, I think there is a significant element of truth in the causes that he picks up. He is addressing some real grievances. But then the manner in which he addresses them is completely bonkers. So in the case of Germany, I do think Germany is the world’s greatest mercantilist power right now. It used to be China. China’s surplus has gone down in recent years, but Germany’s trade surplus is almost 9 percent of GDP. And they are essentially exporting deflation and unemployment to the rest of the world... it is not a trade problem. It is a macro-economic problem. The solution is to get German consumers to spend more and save less and the German state to spend more and to increase German wages. It is not the trade policies of the US or any other country that is going to be able to address this issue. It is similar to the way Trump has picked up grievances about how trade agreements have operated in the United States. These agreements have created loses, and grievances that have not been addressed, and I think there is a lot of truth to those kind of things, but I don’t think he has any realistic way of dealing with those things."

The Grenfell High-Rise Fire: A Litany of Failures?

Highlights the disfunctional nature and building environment we work in - - The Grenfell High-Rise Fire: A Litany of Failures?

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Paragraph to Ponder

From the Wall Street Journal by Lawrence Haas - a review of Edward Luce's The Retreat of Western Liberalism -

" . . . every single of America's 493 wealthiest counties, almost all of them urban, voted for Hillary Clinton.  The remaining 2,623 counties, most of them suburban or small-town, went for Donald Trump."

Graph of the Week

The Golden Age of Landscape Architects

Monday, June 12, 2017

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Paragraph to Ponder

From MIT Technology Review:

"When Lois Seed wakes up in the morning, one of the first things she says is “Alexa, what is the weather?” Seed, who is 89 and has low vision because of macular degeneration, finds it convenient to get weather information by speaking to the Alexa voice-activated assistant on her Amazon Echo. She also asks her Echo to tell her the time and to play classical music from her former hometown radio station.

“Life is more enjoyable [with Alexa],” she says, proving that the recent Saturday Night Live spoof about Alexa and seniors couldn’t be further from the truth."

The Future of Retailing?

Car Code

"Twenty years ago, cars had, on average, one million lines of code. The General Motors 2010 Chevrolet Volt had about 10 million lines of code — more than an F-35 fighter jet.
Today, an average car has more than 100 million lines of code. Automakers predict it won’t be long before they have 200 million."

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Voting for Trump and Renewables

From the New York Times:
"Two years ago, Kansas repealed a law requiring that 20 percent of the state’s electric power come from renewable sources by 2020, seemingly a step backward on energy in a deeply conservative state.
Yet by the time the law was scrapped, it had become largely irrelevant. Kansas blew past that 20 percent target in 2014, and last year it generated more than 30 percent of its power from wind. The state may be the first in the country to hit 50 percent wind generation in a year or two, unless Iowa gets there first.
Some of the fastest progress on clean energy is occurring in states led by Republican governors and legislators, and states carried by Donald J. Trump in the presidential election.
The five states that get the largest percentage of their power from wind turbines — Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma and North Dakota — all voted for Mr. Trump. So did Texas, which produces the most wind power in absolute terms. In fact, 69 percent of the wind power produced in the country comes from states that Mr. Trump carried in November."

One Reason for Our Infrastructure Woes

From economist Matthew Kahn - - 

"Yes, NYC has an old subway system but that doesn't explain the interesting fact presented in the NY Times today that the C trains are over 53 years old.   Binding budget constraints provide the explanation for why this rich city (that relies on public transit) isn't investing in public capital.  As we document in this NBER Paper,  progressive big cities generously pay unionized public sector workers.   Due to the Buy America Mandate, such cities also pay more than the international price for pieces of capital (read our 2015 JUE paper).  The combination of paying public labor a very high salary and benefits plus high capital purchase costs means that there is little $ left for investing in capital replacement and upgrading.  #budget_contraints_matter"

Should Engineers Study Seussism?

Cyborg Dragonfly

Leaders Make the Future

The Future of Work

Monday, June 5, 2017

Engineering in The World of a Declining Middle

Graph of the Week

A Paragraph to Ponder

From and the path to autonomous trucks - -

"Truck driving is among the deadliest occupations in America, with 745 drivers killed on the job in 2015, the latest year for which there is federal data. Trucking transportation occupations accounted for slightly more than a quarter of all work-related fatalities in 2015, more than any other U.S. job, according to an annual workplace fatality report from the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics."

A Story of Flutter

Monday, May 29, 2017

Civil Engineering and Infrastructure Cost Control

Points out the two major problems with infrastructure investment in the United States - -

Sky Robot

Embrace the Right Kind of Failure

India's Port Infrastructure

Graph of the Week


Link to the website.

KFC Drones

Engineering the Perfect Conversation

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Death of an Oil Rig

Regulatory Barriers Stymie Onsite Potable Water Systems

Regulatory Barriers Stymie Onsite Potable Water Systems: California, Oregon and Washington are among the states moving forward with regulations and road maps for the construction and operation of building- and district-scale graywater capture and treatment systems for non-potable-water use, such as toilet flushing and irrigation.

The Impact of Declining Retail

From CityLab:

"Nationwide, sales taxes comprise nearly one-third of the taxes that state governments collect and about 12 percent of what local governments collect, according to Lucy Dadayan, a senior researcher at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, a New York-based research group. “The epic closures of the brick-and-mortar stores is troubling news for state and local government sales-tax collections,” she said. They’re already feeling the hit: States’ tax revenues grew just 1.9 percent between 2014 and 2015, after growing 5.8 percent in the previous four quarters, according to the Rockefeller Institute. Local-government sales-tax collections grew just 1.7 percent, after growing 7.5 percent in the previous four quarters. In Ohio, state tax revenues grew just 0.1 percent, when adjusted for inflation, between 2015 and 2016, according to Dadayan. When revenues don’t continue to grow, governments have to slow down spending and can’t readily invest in long-term projects."

The Big Book of Dashboards

Infrastructure Inc.

A Paragraph to Ponder

From Tyler Cowen:

"What’s also striking is that, if the Trump budget can work at all, the spending cuts are probably not needed. It would suffice to cut taxes only, and allow the economy to grow out of an even-greater budget deficit. In this regard, the Trump budget reflects a deep incoherence, and it inconsistently mixes various optimistic and pessimistic scenarios. If the spending cuts are required for fiscal stability, then we probably shouldn’t be doing the tax cuts.

This framework allows us to pinpoint the huge and, I would say, excessively dangerous gamble in Trump’s budget. There is no guarantee that the growth rate of the economy remains higher than the government’s borrowing rate. It is common in American history that government borrowing rates run 5 percent or higher, and the aging of the American population, or perhaps an unexpected catastrophe, such as a war, could lower the growth rate. 1 And once a government becomes addicted to borrowing, it is hard to shake the habit, as subsequent tax increases damage economies."

Monday, May 22, 2017

Graph of the Week

Not Looking Like the Road to Blade Runner 2049


From the New Yorker - The World is Running Out of Sand:

"Pascal Peduzzi, a Swiss scientist and the director of one of the U.N.’s environmental groups, told the BBC last May that China’s swift development had consumed more sand in the previous four years than the United States used in the past century. In India, commercially useful sand is now so scarce that markets for it are dominated by “sand mafias”—criminal enterprises that sell material taken illegally from rivers and other sources, sometimes killing to safeguard their deposits. In the United States, the fastest-growing uses include the fortification of shorelines eroded by rising sea levels and more and more powerful ocean storms—efforts that, like many attempts to address environmental challenges, create environmental challenges of their own."

Friday, May 19, 2017

This Cannot Be Healthy

Google Looks as AR

The Zero Sum Retail Game

From Wharton:
"More than a dozen clothing retailers that have traditionally populated the American mall landscape have announced bankruptcy, shuttered locations or closed down completely in the last several years, including Macy’s, The Limited, Wet Seal, Bebe, Guess, Payless ShoeSource, BCBG Max Azria, Abercrombie and Fitch — the list goes on. Those who haven’t shut down or scaled back are stagnant, such as Target and Kohl’s.
“The legacy retail business is in terrible shape,” Cohen says. “For big players like Macy’s — who are not in imminent danger of bankruptcy but, frankly, don’t have a strategy to go forward — this is breakage that is just starting to reveal itself. We’re looking at a paradigm shift that’s just getting started.”"

Graph of the Week

No automatic alt text available.

Monday, May 15, 2017

What Is Texas Thinking?

From City Lab:

"But Michigan’s strategy of linking research to AV development is unusual. More common are state initiatives that invite AV testing without building connections to universities. The Texas legislature, for example, introduced multiple bills to encourage AVs but declined to fund the Texas Department of Transportation’s request for $50 million in AV research for the University of Texas System and Texas A&M. If the state really wants to grow an AV industry, that doesn’t make a lot of sense."

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Paragraph to Ponder

From the Economist - 

"Two new aircraft—the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350—make it profitable to carry smaller numbers of passengers over long-haul routes. Secondary cities half a world away from each other can increasingly sustain direct connections. That eliminates the need to change planes in the Middle East. Big legacy carriers, in addition to long-haul, low-cost pioneers such as Norwegian and AirAsia X, are buying these planes in huge numbers. The fact that Airbus has 750 outstanding orders for its A350, compared with just 107 for the A380s that Emirates flies, shows where airlines think the future of aviation is heading."

The STEM Outlook in North Texas

What I Learned About the Dismal State of U.S. Retailing

From the Economist - Briefing American Retailing:

  • Last year 4,000 stores closed - in 2017, it is estimated that twice this number will close.
  • Standard & Poor's predicts more retailing defaults in 2017 than in 2009.
  • Since January, the retailing industry has shed 50,000 jobs.
  • To match demand - 30% of space could close permanently.  This would constitute job losses of potentially 4.8 million retail workers.
  • Retailing makes up 31% of all U.S. commercial property.
  • Just 20% of retail store workers have a college degrees.
  • Malls account for 8% of U.S. retailing.
  • Retailers have a market value of $1.6 trillion - how much will vanish during the structural correction?
  • By July 2018 retailing will have shed three times as many jobs as Amazon is due to create.
  • E-commerce jobs will require a college degree - - traditional retailing does not.  
  • More retailing jobs than coal mining jobs by a factor of 300.

From Toilet to Tap

Indian Engineers

From the current issue of Bloomberg Businessweek on the tragedy of the murder of an Indian engineer in Olathe, Kansas:

"Because of a glut of green-card applications, Indian workers in the U.S. wait, on average, more that 10 years to gain permanent-resident status.  That's already prompting engineers, scientists, and students in India to seek other destinations or simply stay at home - a trend that may accelerate if Trump pursues tougher immigration laws."

Economists at Amazon

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Déjà Vu and the Dilemma for Planners

Déjà Vu and the Dilemma for Planners from NewGeography.

Education as How versus What

From the Tom Friedman column in the New York Times today - - Owning Your Own Future:
"If you think machines are smart today … wait a year. It’s this move from 14-nm to 10-nm chips that will help enable automakers to shrink the brain of a self-driving car — a brain that has to take in sensor data from 360 degrees and instantly process whether it’s a dog, a human, a biker or another car — from something that fills a whole trunk to a small box under the front seat, so these cars can scale.
When you get that much processing power, putting out that much data exhaust with ever-improving software, you create a world where we can analyze, prophesize and optimize with a precision unknown in human history. We can see trends we never saw, predict when engine parts will break and replace them before they do, with great savings, and we can optimize everything — from the most energy-saving flight path for an airplane to the ideal drilling path for a natural gas well."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Communicate on Their Level

From KelloggInsight on the challenges of managing and retaining US Army millennials - -

"“Leaders tend to get frustrated when millennials challenge them,” Carr says. “And it’s true that some millennials can be very outspoken. But usually what they’re doing is stretching, which isn’t always a bad thing. As a senior leader, you have to have the discernment to say: ‘This millennial isn’t challenging authority; they’re challenging the way things have been done,’ which forces you to be more agile, flexible, and innovative.”"

Has CVS crafted a promising new drugstore shopping journey? – RetailWire

Has CVS crafted a promising new drugstore shopping journey? – RetailWire

Blade Runner 2049 - Picking the Winners and Losers by Mid-Century

A Gallup Predicted World of Over 65-Year Old Engineers

Civil Engineering and the Tyranny of Sunk Costs

Black & Veatch 2017 Strategic Directions Report

Report from B&V with a focus on smart city strategic directions.

Your Next Project Management Assistant

Probably will include some of the following three features - link:

1. Make easy phone calls

We call them smartphones, but I know a few millennials who don’t ever make calls. They text all day, and when they do place a phone call, it’s maybe once per week. In the living room, if you could make a quick call, it would save time. “Hey Siri, find an appliance repairman and make the call,” would be much faster than using Google Chrome or scrolling through contacts. Today, that doesn’t really work on an iPhone, so the speaker would have to use added intelligence to parse out what you want to do.

2. Engage in real dialog

Siri is pretty dumb, actually. The voicebot doesn’t really engage with you, and the best bot we have for dialog is the Assistant on Google Home. You can ask a question like “Who is Steph Curry?” and then say “When was he born?” and that works. It doesn’t work with Echo or Siri today. Apple could go much further with the speaker and let it converse with you about a wide range of topics; that's important since the speaker will become such an important part of your day (and your morning and your evening).

3. Summarize my email

Siri lets you dictate a text message pretty easily, but I’m not as interested in that. What I really want it to do is summarize my texts and emails, and then I'll keep typing emails on my laptop. The bot should know which ones are important, based on my frequent interactions and machine learning. For example, the boss needs me to call her right now. I’d like Siri to be able to let me know when that happens. And, the bot could tell me a quick synopsis of less important emails, set reminders, and ignore email fluff.

Sunday, May 7, 2017


The Man From FAIR

History in the Making

How Managers Become Leaders

Tidal Lagoon Power

UK National Infrastructure Forum

The Rise of Machines - Coal Edition

From an excellent article in the Washington Post.

"The average miner underground in West Virginia produces three tons of coal per hour. The average miner at a strip mine in Wyoming produces nearly 28. That is not the fault of the miners but of the mines’ geology."

Construction Asks: 'Where's the Infrastructure Program?'

Construction Asks: 'Where's the Infrastructure Program?': Trump's executive orders so far are his most effective tool, but the infrastructure 'plan' remains a mystery.

Civil Engineering as Data Extraction Profession

From The Economist - data at the center of the new economy.  Civil engineering has always been at the center of the extraction economy - from oil to natural gas to mining to water.  The evolution of homo civil engineerius needs to look at civil engineering as a data/information extraction profession.

"AN OIL refinery is an industrial cathedral, a place of power, drama and dark recesses: ornate cracking towers its gothic pinnacles, flaring gas its stained glass, the stench of hydrocarbons its heady incense. Data centres, in contrast, offer a less obvious spectacle: windowless grey buildings that boast no height or ornament, they seem to stretch to infinity.

Yet the two have much in common. For one thing, both are stuffed with pipes. In refineries these collect petrol, propane and other components of crude oil, which have been separated by heat. In big data centres they transport air to cool tens of thousands of computers which extract value—patterns, predictions and other insights—from raw digital information.

Both also fulfill the same role: producing crucial feedstocks for the world economy. Whether cars, plastics or many drugs—without the components of crude, much of modern life would not exist. The distillations of data centres, for their part, power all kinds of online services and, increasingly, the real world as devices become more and more connected.

Data are to this century what oil was to the last one: a driver of growth and change. Flows of data have created new infrastructure, new businesses, new monopolies, new politics and—crucially—new economics. Digital information is unlike any previous resource; it is extracted, refined, valued, bought and sold in different ways. It changes the rules for markets and it demands new approaches from regulators. Many a battle will be fought over who should own, and benefit from, data."

Passenger Focused Design

From Arup:
"A human-centred design approach to the rail passenger experience would enable operators to deliver real delight. To better understand these issues, Dutch rail operator NS has developed a pyramid of customer needs. In their assessment, travel time, safety and ease of use only meet the baseline of an ‘acceptable’ experience. To reach customer ‘delight’ however, means providing useful amenities like power and Wi-Fi, providing above-average levels of comfort and cleanliness, and engagement with friendly staff.
This approach has been adopted by Transport for London in its ‘Strategy for Improvement’ approach, which includes ‘Delighters’ – customer service measures that improve overall satisfaction, such as receiving local information or personal assistance.
Examples of passenger-centric design thinking might include user-centred technology, such as Citymapper or electronic ticketing on your smartphone, enhancing the passenger experience through great station design, such as King’s Cross/St Pancras or Birmingham New Street station, or perhaps smaller scale measures such as Olympics medal news on display screens at stations to cheer up the weary commuter.:

Are We All Flint?

From the NRDC:
"America has a drinking water crisis. An NRDC study has found that contaminants that may harm human health are found in tap water in every state in the nation.
Established in 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act is one of our bedrock environmental laws, consisting of rules that regulate about 100 contaminants found in drinking water. NRDC has documented serious problems with our outdated and deteriorating water infrastructure, widespread violations and inadequate enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act for more than 25 years.
Our analysis shows that in 2015 alone, there were more than 80,000 reported violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act by community water systems. Nearly 77 million people were served by more than 18,000 of these systems with violations in 2015. These violations included exceeding health-based standards, failing to properly test water for contaminants, and failing to report contamination to state authorities or the public. What’s worse, 2015 saw more than 12,000 health-based violations in some 5,000 community water systems serving more than 27 million people."

The Great (Bullet) Train Robbery

Graph of the Week

Not good - most of civil engineering is an extension of all levels of government.

What Infrastructure Dis-Investment Looks Like

From an excellent article in the New York Times:
Most of New York’s subway system still relies on antiquated technology, known as block signaling, to coordinate the movement of trains. A modern system, known as communications-based train control, or C.B.T.C., is more dependable and exact, making it possible to reduce the amount of space between trains. A computerized signal system like C.B.T.C. is also safer because trains can be stopped automatically. New York’s quest to install the new system began in 1991... More than 25 years later, the authority has little to show for its effort to install modern signals. The L line began using computerized signals in 2009 after about a decade of work. A second line, the No. 7, should have received new signals last year, but the project was delayed until the end of this year.
The process is complicated. It requires installing transponders every 500 feet on the tracks, along with radios and zone controllers, and buying new trains or upgrading them with onboard computers, radios and speed sensors. The authority also had to develop a design and software that was tailored to New York’s subway. Over the years, the authority has kept pushing back the timeline for replacing signals. In 1997, officials said that every line would be computerized by this year. By 2005, they had pushed the deadline to 2045, and now even that target seems unrealistic. Upgrading the signals is expensive, but an even bigger challenge is scheduling work on such a vast system where ridership is always high, even on weekends... (In London) The rollout of modern signals on four lines has significantly reduced delays, making travel across this huge city of nearly nine million people more efficient. This month, the Victoria line will reach a peak of 36 trains per hour — compared with 27 trains per hour a decade ago, and among the highest rates in Europe. In New York, the Lexington Avenue line, the nation’s most crowded subway route, runs a peak of 29 trains per hour.

Crossrail - Successful Infrastructure Project?

Out of Africa

From The Economist:
"Several African countries have tried in the past to become tailors and cloth-makers to the world. Nigeria’s northern cities of Kaduna and Kano were once home to textile mills that employed 350,000 people. Yet these factories are now rusting, and employ perhaps a tenth of that number.
This mirrors a wider trend. In 1990 African countries accounted for about 9% of the developing world’s manufacturing output. By 2014 that share had slumped to 4%."

Thursday, May 4, 2017

P3 Water Summit

Attention Bargin Shoppers

Water Markets

From Grist:

"Wateria’s popularity demonstrates the unique culture immigrants have forged in Los Angeles, and the distrust many of them have for public services. Customers pay a premium of hundreds of dollars a year to drink filtered water instead of tap water because they’re more confident in its safety or think it tastes better. Communities of color and low-income areas in the United States are more likely to have contaminated drinking water supplies, and trust in public water systems has been further battered by the lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan."

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Characteristics of Hierarchical versus Networked Organizations

From Anne-Marie Slaughter in The Chessboard & The Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World.

Fordism: workers perform specialized tasks over and over as part of defined sequence
Flexible specialization: small-scale production teams simultaneously work on complementary projects
Employee traits: deference to authority, obedience, conformity
Employee traits: autonomy, adaptability, problem solving, collaboration
Ties are strong but few
Ties are loose but many
Tasks, managers, and departments are organized by function
Tasks, managers, and departments are organized by project
Communication is vertical command through defined channels
Communication is lateral as well as vertical consultation
Management derives authority from title, rank, and seniority
Management derives authority from expertise and contribution
Job description and areas of control are narrowly defined
Job descriptions are broad and boundaries are permeable
Transaction and payment are the glue of relationships
Trust and reputation sustain relationships
Slow to adapt, difficult to change
Quick to adapt, easier to change
Key decisions are centralized so coordination costs are low
Decentralized decision making so higher employee satisfaction and loyalty
Performs well in stable, predictable environment
Performs well in ambiguous environment that require efficiency and flexibility