In the Market for a New Name

In the Market for a New Name

I want a new name.

Not personally, but for my little piece of real estate on the internet. I selected “One Night Lemonade Stand” in the middle of the night and it is too long and too irrelevant to stick with for much longer. I had no idea when I started this blog that I’d do it for longer than a minute and so it seemed important just to start writing instead of wobbling indecisively trying to think of a brilliant name.

I’ve had a number of people offer to help redesign the layout, but it seems like a waste of time and effort while I’m stuck with this clunky web address.

“Reimagine an Urban Paradise” is more to the point but is also a burden to the mouth to say and for the ear to hear. It feels like I have marbles and bricks in my mouth every time I say it. So I’m looking to you, gentle readers, for your feedback and opinions.

I like cities, density, the transformative power of bicycles, public transportation, people, trains, gardens, being car-free and making it possible for people to live that way, clean air, safe streets, art, public art, murals block parties, getting to know my neighbors, libraries, and you.

If you have a succinct idea for my website’s new name that can convey this, I will give you credit on new flashy site as well as buy you an ice cream at Oh Yeah! if you’re in Pittsburgh, or the next time you come here.

How can you resist that? Eternal internet fame and an ice cream cone! Here are some images from a mural in the works in my neighborhood to help inspire.

Mural in the works on the Northside

This mural is being painted on the side of one of the buildings of the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh which provides a furnished house, a living stipend, medical coverage, and help to writers who have been persecuted or threatened with death in their native countries.

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Planes, Trains, Automobiles: Dancing in the Street

Planes, Trains, Automobiles: Dancing in the Street

I’m prone to spontaneous dancing whenever I hear a song that I really love, which is one of the reasons why I no longer drive.

I think you’ll agree with me that dancing while operating a multi-ton vehicle is not a stellar idea.

I know that there are some people who simply should not be drivers and I am one of them. I’m pleased to be aware, and I suspect that more people are alive because of this realization. I drove a car occasionally in high school and regularly from September 1999- May 2001 and I was a terror behind the wheel. I was constantly getting distracted by some catchy jam and losing track of the steering wheel. More on that in the future post on Why I Don’t Drive.

That’s just one of dozens and dozens of reasons why Riding a Bike is Perfect for Me.

I like to travel with no hands, arms sometimes crossed, but normally raised above my head in a V shape, this is best and most safely accomplished on a bicycle.

Sometimes I imagine I’m in a remake of this superb scene from the Indian film Dil Se. And that this scene happens on a giant caravan of bikes.

In the meantime, there several excellent bicycle dance troupes that use synchronized moves, and I’ve been lucky to see two of them, the Sprockettes from Portland, OR, and the B.C. Clettes from Vancouver, BC.

Here’s the BC Clettes performing Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack:

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I’m going back to DC on Monday and there are a few ways to get there from Pittsburgh. Most of them wholly undesirable for a number of reasons.

1. Bus: Greyhound is the only bus service that runs, at this point, between DC and Pittsburgh. A one way ticket costs $39 for a seat on an uncomfortable bus for 6.5 hours. The last time I took this bus route a woman rapped on my head three times to indicate she wanted to share my seat and then fell asleep on me.

2. Train. Amtrak is $6 more expensive and one hour longer than Greyhound.

3. Rideshare: So far, no one seems to be going to the same place at the same time.

4. Renting a car: Not really an option for me because I let my license expire since I don’t plan on driving ever again.

5. Airplane: I’m not going to spend that kind of money and get hopped up on that much jet fuel for such a short trip. Plus the process of going to the airport, invasive security procedures and additional waiting means that planes are less convenient and slower than they’ve been in the past.

6.  Bicycle: I forgot to include my favorite vehicle, the bicycle! It doesn’t work for this trip since I will only be away for five days and it takes nearly that long to ride on the glorious Great Allegheny Passage.

Which is the best option?

Unfortunately the way our transportation system is presently organized, the most time and cost efficient way to travel is by car for this particular trip. A tank of gas costs approximately $25 for a compact-ish (3,000 lb) car, plus $8 in tolls. This is not a heavily traveled route so there isn’t much traffic and the trip takes 4-4.5 hours.

I prefer to ride the train because it is scenic and lovely. The route winds through gorgeous mountains and has a cafe car with windows from floor to ceiling for sightseeing. There are tables and comfy chairs that are perfect for writing, reading, drawing, anything you can think of, all while being chauffeured in the most comfortable setting with superb views. It’s pretty glamorous, actually.

Who in America has the time for such an extravagant trip? We are busy people!

Hey there, Mr. LaHood, you seem to be brimming with sound ideas. What about improving some of the current train routes so we don’t have to wait decades for high speed rail? I don’t need a bullet train everywhere, but the train should be at LEAST as fast as a car or we will never be able to move people away from that individualistic mode of transportation.

Traveling by Amtrak in the Northeast Corridor is the only quick route, faster than driving, by far, and it is always packed. There is clearly a high demand for trains, but trains that are faster than cars.

I want to support trains, I love taking the train.

The U.S. Finally Embraces High Speed Rail

The U.S. Finally Embraces High Speed Rail

As Ray LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation says: “cars are the least efficient method of travel”, and last week the Obama Administration backed that up by investing $8 billion in high speed rail.

The money will be divided between 31 states and the disenfranchised District of Columbia to pursue high speed trains that will connect corridors and move cars off the road.

Some notable lines from our forward-looking Secretary of Transportation:

“I am very proud of what our transportation infrastructure helps us achieve every day… But it’s not good enough. It’s the infrastructure of a previous century, one with plentiful energy and no sense of the role carbon emissions play in our health and the health of our planet. And it’s not adequate for the growth of our nation’s population, its commerce, its mobility.

We need an expansive, safe and energy efficient rail transportation network. We need to generate economic development. We need to reposition our infrastructure for the 21st century.”

He cites the benefits of investing in rail:

  • High-speed rail travel offers competitive door-to-door trip times
  • It reduces congestion on key routes between cities
  • It reduces transportation emissions
  • And, most of all, it creates the jobs of the future, the jobs America needs right now

It’s about time America wakes up to realize that mass transit in all forms is the way of the future and that we need to begin moving out of our cars and more quickly into trains, buses, onto bicycles, and our legs.

Nice work, Mr. Secretary, let’s keep going in this smart direction.