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TSA=Terrorist Win

Seal of the Transportation Security Administra...

Image via Wikipedia

Regardless of the question of civil liberties and constitutional rights, there’s another problem with the TSA.

The terrorists are still killing people, indirectly, thanks to their 9-11attack. They are doing this by changing American habits in regards to transportation.

And the executor of their success is the TSA.

First, an assumption: The expanded TSA security procedures discourages people from flying.

If people avoid flying, they either stay home or travel by car. How many people? We can’t be too sure. I went looking for a graph, and here’s one from BTS:

It’s hard to see exactly what’s going on in the graph, so I amateurishly added some trend lines to the above graph in MSPaint:

Right after 9-11, there was a huge drop in travel. There was a decent recovery, then a plateau until about 2006-2007. Since then, there has been a severe downtrend in travel passengers. We can’t be sure exactly why. The recession plays a big role, increasing fuel prices could be another culprit. We can’t be too sure. But people aren’t flying like they used to.

[No matter what, that beautiful linear trendline before 9-11 is gone and gone for good.]

We also need to remember that added security adds time. Suddenly a 45 minute flight from Minneapolis to Milwaukee absorbs three to four hours. For someone living in Woodbury, it makes more sense just to drive to Milwaukee. I think it’s obvious that more people will drive medium-length (500-1000 miles) trips instead of fly because of the hassle flying has become.

As just a rough guess, let’s say that all this hassle has reduced the total number of air travelers by just 2%. If most of these people drive to their destination instead of staying home, that means about a million people a month who would have flown are driving.

For ease of calculation, let’s say these people each drive 1,000 miles. This is a billion extra car miles. According to the NHTSA, there are 1.13 deaths per 100 million miles driven. So there are an additional 11.3 deaths per month because of the TSA hassle. This is an extra 135.6 deaths per year, which is equivalent to a major aviation disaster.

[I know this from experience, long distance travel is dangerous. You drive tired, lost, frustrated, at night, on unfamiliar roads and in whatever weather conditions are handed to you. So this might be an underestimation of the danger.]

This ain’t good.

There is more evidence supporting my hypothesis. I found a poll on pollingreport.com (21 November, ABC News/Wash. Post) that shows 20% of people say these new security procedures make them less likely to fly, in comparison to the 10% who say more likely, and 70+% who say it doesn’t matter. So these security procedures drive away twice as many people as it attracts (bad business model).

[This is ignoring the fact TSA may be encouraging the spread of communicable diseases by not changing their groping gloves.]

Play with the numbers. Find your own estimate. No matter what, you can’t help ignoring the conclusion that the terrorists are still killing people without even trying, a decade after their last successful terrorist attack on US soil.

Sources:

http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx
http://www.bts.gov/press_releases/2006/bts020_06/html/bts020_06.html

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Random Link o’ the Day:

http://www.aircaraccess.com

From the Notebook

I often don’t have time to tackle some issues as in-depth as I’d like, so I’m creating a category of posts called “From the Notebook” in which I’ll tackle briefly issues I can’t get to in more detail.

-There have been some public complaints from pundits and politicians regarding oil prices, including attacks on speculators betting on higher oil prices and making money. Somehow, speculators are to blame for high oil prices, not a weakened dollar, limited supply, national and international growth, lack of domestic development, shortage of refineries nor the lack of economically feasible alternatives. Nope, let’s blame speculators for creating an oil bubble. Look, if you believe there’s an artificially high price on oil right now, then it’s time to short oil. Put your money where your rhetoric is. (In fact, there was a little bit of a downturn in price on oil recently). But, if you believe gas prices will go down if you just get rid of speculators, you’re probably too naïve to reason with.

-I’m a regular reader of Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. They are two great magazines and one of the reasons for this is the absolute optimism pervading every article. Nothing makes a person more optimistic for the future than regularly reading these magazines. Energy crisis? Bah, there will be dozens of alternatives for the enterprising engineer than using an internal combustion engine, there are hundreds of projects to help get people off the grid. Healthcare? There are miraculous feats of scientific magic on the way, some even affordable. As a prescription for my friends on the left suffering from incurable pessimism, I would suggest reading these magazines. To my conservative friends, the same applies.

-Trucker transport service. This is perhaps one of the odder ideas I’ve had lately but with gas prices the way they are I think it’s rational to look for alternatives than to pay hundreds of dollars every month. Truckers, big rig guys, have more experience and training driving vehicles than anyone else on the road. I’d rather ride with a trucker than drive myself. Truckers also have cabs with more than one seat in them. There are tens of thousands of truckers on the road every minute. Why couldn’t it be possible to create a system where people could basically hitchhike with truckers in an organized and plan-able way? It could easily be done with modern technology, truckers could sign up for a website, schedule regular stops and riders could plan out their trips as well. Tax incentives could be given for truckers who sign up and give regular rides. Private companies could do background checks on riders and give an added layer of security to truckers worried about the creepy creepies out there.

-No more than a few hours after I posted on the Portugal/Germany Soccer game the Portuguese surrendered like they surrendered India to Britain. More proof that all the good Portuguese left a long time ago.

A University Avenue Proposal

While I was traveling to and from my Great-Grandfather’s funeral last week I had time to read through William Buckley’s “The Unmaking of a Mayor.” Like all of Buckley’s works, it is excellent, but I’d like to here focus on a specific proposal Buckley developed for New York City in 1965 to address some transportation issues.

He suggested a raised bicycle trail which would allow cyclists to stay above the traffic. His proposal involved specifics not important here but I have borrowed from his idea extensively so be forewarned, this can barely be considered a post of mine.

Instead of taking University Ave. and ripping it up to try to fit a lightrail line between the two downtowns, might we try a raised and covered bicycle trail instead? Putting in a lightrail line will be very expensive. On top of the expense of building the rail line there will be the cost of running and maintaining the line. The present lightrail line in Minneapolis requires perpetual subsidy and another line will double the cost.

Building the University ave line will also endanger some of the businesses located there. What is also forgotten is that University Ave. is already well served by a bus line which runs and stops regularly and is cost effective (at least as far as government transportation goes).

So, I say keep the bus line as it is and don’t build the rail. To increase the transportation options, if you really need to spend money, build the raised bicycle line. A few benefits:

-Bicycles don’t create greenhouse gasses.
-Pedicabs could provide jobs.
-Kiosks could be set up to charge cyclists a nominal fee to use the raised and covered bicycle trail on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis (with higher fees for the pedicabs).
-The line would be able to tap right in to existing bicycle trails in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
-The trail might even pay for itself, between the riding fees and pedicab taxes, over the course of its expected lifetime.
-University is already divided and construction could be incorporated in such a way as to not disrupt traffic as much as a rail line would.
-Increase healthy living potential.
-A raised trail would not disrupt traffic.
-Security could easily be provided by two or three bicycle police officers and cctv cameras. Maintenance would be much cheaper than a rail line, involving trash pickup and some snow removal (remember, I would have it covered though that wouldn’t be necessary).
-Requiring people to pay to use the trail should make it easier to keep the riff raff out.
-Ramps could be used to deposit cyclists just off of University Ave to avoid traffic issues.
-The trail would not serve as a criminal transportation system (like the lightrail and busses are).

Yes, the trail would be less popular in the winter time but you need to balance that fact with the costs of operating a rail line. Not everyone would use the trail and it would probably be a God awful eyesore but it seems to me a more rational proposition than the lightrail. Bicycles would actually be able to serve some of the neighborhoods of the area the lightrail line fails to do so.