Thursday, March 28, 2013

How to decrease bus traffic at the GWB bus terminal

I often take the Express Service "jitney" from the George Washington Bridge Bus Station to get home from work. These small buses arrive and leave the bus terminal at fairly short intervals; I haven't timed it, but I'd estimate on the order of 5 minutes between each bus. This means there tends to be a lot of buses arriving and leaving on a regular basis. This is a good thing, since it usually takes only seven minutes from the time you leave the subway till you're on the bridge (more on that another time). The problem, though, is the route the buses take. Let me walk you through it in the map below:

View Broken Bus Route in a larger map
  • The blue line shows the path a bus takes leaving the GWB to discharge passengers on the upper deck of the bus terminal.
  • After dropping off the passengers, it takes the green path, down a ramp from the upper deck, onto an off-ramp from the bridge. It then needs to make a left-hand turn on to Broadway, shown in yellow, sitting at one traffic light (red triangle) before making another left turn on to W179th St after sitting at another traffic light. Then, it finally makes a left into the lower level of the bus terminal.
  • After picking up riders, the bus exits the station on the red path, making a left onto W178th St, and repeats the loop via Broadway, re-encountering the two traffic lights, before picking up an on-ramp to the bridge.
tl;dr: Each bus does a double loop around the block hitting two traffic lights twice.

This is highly inefficient. These two loops around the block, sitting at two traffic lights, wastes a huge amount of time and money, and adds a lot to traffic. Let's say two buses (there are jitney two lines that do this) arrive and leave every five minutes, i.e. four buses going through this loop every five minutes clogging the roads, for a total of 4 x 288 = 1152 bus trips around this loop daily.

Google Maps says this extra portion of the loop takes about 3 minutes, so it's an extra 6 minutes per bus per trip across the bridge, for 3,456 wasted bus driver hours per day. If each bus holds around 20 people, that's 34,560 passenger hours wasted each day. (I know some buses aren't totally full, but some are overfull and/or seat more people.) If everyone on the bus is earning NY's minimum wage ($7.25/hr) that amounts to over $250k in wasted money every day. Keep in mind, the total time from subway to bridge is usually 7 minutes (I've timed it as low as 4.75 minutes), so nearly half of the time is taken sitting in local street traffic; if local traffic is bad, this can actually nearly double the time (the most I've timed is over 14.5 minutes). In fact, many people pick up the bus from the side on W179th St (this is illegal) to avoid this waste of time. And, this is before estimating the cost in wasted fuel, wear and tear on the roads, added pollution, etc...

Fortunately, there is a really simple solution: Change the direction that the buses go through the lower level of the terminal. Instead of the buses going south, from W179th to W178th, they should go north from W178th to W179th:

View Fixed bus route in a larger map
  • Here, again, the blue line shows the path a bus takes leaving the GWB to discharge passengers on the upper deck of the bus terminal.
  • After dropping off the passengers, it takes the green path, down a ramp from the upper deck, onto an off-ramp from the bridge. Under this scheme, though, it simply needs to turn directly into the lower level of the bus terminal, completely bypassing Broadway and the two traffic lights.
  • After picking up riders, the bus exits the station on the red path, making a left onto W179th St, and immediately picking up the on-ramp to the bridge, skipping the repeated loop via Broadway and the two traffic lights.
tl;dr: Each bus goes directly into station, and from station to bridge without looping around the block

That's it -- it's as simple as changing the direction of the one-way signs and moving the "Do Not Enter" signs to the other side of the building:
This will reduce congestion, pollution and commute time with essentially no cost. I will be forwarding a link to this post to the Port Authority, so we'll see if something happens.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Loud Bicycle horn update

So the Loud Bicycle horn successfully passed the funding goal on Kickstarter. With 600 backers we raised exactly $52,837 which is a prime number. My friend Eliyahu was the very last backer and said that it was "if you decide to take the money and split it with your cohorts, you will not be able to." LOL

There has been a lot of progress over the past few months on the path to production - you can read about the updates on Kickstarter here. I am planning on another update later this week.

I also owe a thanks to Eli for his great name suggestion - we are now featured nicely atop Google searches for a loud bicycle horn, which in the words of Tim Maly is "Exactly what it says on the tin."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

To The Edge of The Atmosphere: Attempt 2

A year ago (one day off) I blogged about launching a balloon to 70,000 ft.  Well last Thursday we tried again.

 Vince using an interesting strategy to hold the bottom of the balloon while Pasha starts the inflation. You can also figure out that it was much colder this year from last, it was also incredibly windy.

 Pasha reading on his Kindle while taking his turn holding the bottom of the balloon.

 The point and shoot camera (top left), the video camera (bottom right) and the GPS phone (bottom left) waterproofed in a plastic bag.  Also a bunch of hand warmers to keep the batteries working.

 Me taking my turn holding down the balloon.

 Me just standing around.

The crew carrying the balloon to the top of the hill to release it (from left, Pasha, Mike, Sergey, Max and Vince). We had been releasing a number of party balloons to work out the air currents.

 The last picture the camera took before it was in the air, notice the chute.

 The first picture taken from the air.

 My first picture of the balloon I took after it was off the ground.

 The last picture I have of the balloon without zoom.  It is in this picture, its in the center, and very pixelated.

Last picture I have of the balloon with zoom and pointing at the right point of the sky.

 We launched near a nuclear power plant, and this is a picture from the balloon of the cooling towers.

 Just a nice picture.

I cant really put off letting you know we found the balloon since I am showing you picture from the air.

The highest picture we have.  The balloon popped within a couple of minutes of this picture.  We know when the balloon popped from the camera footage, which was almost entirely blocked by the parachute.  We have a lot of video of the parachute.  And 15 seconds of no chute after the balloon burst, then the battery died.

Here is the tracking data being overlaid on Google maps thanks to a program written by Mike.  We got the landing ping while in a restaurant in the middle of Pennsylvania.

It went far farther than we had anticipated.  It landed about 5 miles as the crow flies from my house, 700 feet from the Raritan River and about 2 miles from the Atlantic ocean.  This information started the hour and a half drive to this point complete with pit stops for flashlights.

This is where the balloon landed.  It is a swamp.  It had about a foot of blown down reeds that you would go right through with a bit of water below.  Max decided that four inches of water was a reasonable depth to step into, his pants said otherwise.

 Sergey clearly didn't make as big a mistake.

The crew with the balloon when we got back to the cars.

Sergey cutting open the box when we got back to his house.

Simply the best thing to do with a popped balloon.

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Office Decorations at Aptima

Back when I started at Aptima - I also started to decorate my office, I posted about the first decoration out of a phone sticker here. More recently I posted about my bookcase standing desk and  my satellite made out of extra business cards .

While I'm at it I thought I would share a few more office decorations with you.

When I had those Escher sketches framed, I noticed a cicada bug in a ugly golden frame with a comic book caption "I'm watching you." It wasn't for sale but the employees just gave it to me after I promised to actually hang it up in my office.

there it is hung next to my standing desk.

Also there is my poster of the James Webb Space Telescope which I am really excited for (thanks Paul!)

In the last corner, I have this plane hovering over a picture of a bird. I took that bird photo last summer when Aryeh+friends road tripped to the last shuttle launch (parts I, II and III).

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Don't Become a Statistic

The MTA is running a series of ads in NYC subways:
They have newer ones with "preliminary 2012 data," but I don't have a picture of it. I honestly don't understand this "Don't Become a Statistic" to mean "Don't do something stupid that might get you killed" business, because all 1,640,434,526 other people who were not hit by a train are all also a statistic, yet there are no signs up about that! After all, only 0.0000089% of the subway ridership was hit by a train. So, don't feel bad, all 99.9999911% of you who successfully managed not to be smacked by a subway train -- you're a statistic too! Maybe the signs should read:

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Single pendulum harmonograph

A really long time ago, before this blog, before youtube and just as digital cameras were starting to become cool - I made a harmonograph with a neat single pendulum design.

I borrowed my friend's Etan's camera and took some video footage  - and recently decided to upload it to youtube.

To make a complete drawing took about ten minutes from when you let go of the weights. You can read more about the project, and the neat drawings I made on my website here.