Transportation doublethink

Saturday, the first day of May. It’s Calamity Jane‘s birthday.

There’s a chicken shortage. And the price of wings is going through the roof.

Should city bus fares be free? In a healthy, financially self-sustaining system that might make sense. But the MBTA is not that and introducing free bus service brings lots of hidden costs. One transportation analyst interviewed by the Globe, Phineas Baxandall, says that those costs are not really costs. “You can define that as a cost, or you can define that as an enormous policy achievement,” Baxandall said. “In the face of possibilities of actually increasing transit ridership, it shouldn’t be seen as just a cost.” That sounds a lot like me trying to justify a new camera purchase to my wife.

Some voices are more soothing than others. (Gilbert Gottfried comes to mind as an exception that proves the rule.) The BBC explores the role our voices play in social settings.

Fireworks season is coming. The City Council is going to handle it this year.

And a group of folks in Japan decided to carry 6 ordinary stones around for 1300 years (scroll down for English). They started the project in 2014. Only one thousand, two hundred and ninety three years to go.

It’s a two way street

Happy Tuesday. It’s a birthday for Beckett and Heaney.

Starting this week, the Sagamore Bridge will lose a lane for maintenance work. Just in time for early-spring travel to the Cape, although the plan is to finish the work before Memorial Day.

Boston needs its police department and the department needs the support of the people of the city. But today, going into the summer, the relationship is dysfunctional. As Ally Jarmanning points out, we’ve been in this situation before. We worked our way out of it. It takes time and effort to rebuild trust and there’s no time like the present to start that work.

Half of Massachusetts residents have had at least one shot. So we’re getting there.

The MBTA is pushing ahead with a one year, $2 billion dollar capital spending plan. Why one year instead of the typical 5 year plan? Mostly funding uncertainties, which doesn’t bode well for any kind of real strategic planning at the T.

And Apple, the company, is very secretive about upcoming events and products. When someone inside Apple gets caught leaking information they usually get fired. So what’s going to happen to Siri?

Pie in the sky

Friday. This week’s a wrap.

Tourists are returning to New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New Orleans. What about Boston? Uber and Lyft rides are getting harder to find in the city. That could be a good thing.

Kim Janey was asked about eliminating fares on the T. She’s in favor. But it’s going to cost money, she admitted to listeners on GBH radio. She would look for federal money to subsidize free bus service in the short-term. There is an argument to be made that public transit should be a free-to-use public amenity but I don’t think we’re anywhere close to having a sustainable financial model to support that idea.

The last 14 months wasn’t an aberration. According to intelligence analysts it was a trailer for the future.

Comedy writer Anne Beatts has died. I was a fan of her work since the early days when she wrote at the National Lampoon.

And Neuralink, Elon Musk’s mind chip company, put an implant into a monkey’s brain that allowed it to play video games by thought. So this is how it begins.

Coming down the tracks

Tuesday. Van Gogh was born on this day in 1853.

Is Volkswagen changing its name to Voltswagen? As in Volt? That would be weird.

The Orange Line derailment from last month looks like it was caused by an old switch rather than a new train. With stimulus money expected to hit the books soon, the MBTA is preparing to improve maintenance and restore service levels. But long lead times for staffing and training are frustrating some of these efforts, managers told the Control Board. And what happens when the stimulus money runs out? It’s an open question. “The T that exists today cannot continue to exist in fiscal 2024 and fiscal 2025,” one Control Board member remarked. Indeed.

Andy Warhol may have been borrowing from Marshall Mcluhan when he said “art is anything you can get away with.” But he didn’t get away with anything this time.

More Walsh loyalists are leaving City Hall. Not unexpected, but the city will be fine. Operations will go on just as efficiently under Dion Irish and financial management of the city will be in good hands with Justin Skerrit.

And a team for the billionaire funded Space X ride has been selected. All regular people. Fast Company interviews one of the crew, Sian Procter, a community college professor who says, “Strap me in—I’m ready to go.”

Here comes the pain train

A happy, spring-like Tuesday.

We used to burn draft cards and bras, and blow up disco records. Now we burn masks.

Less riders. Less funding. The post-pandemic future will be difficult for the MBTA. Capital projects may be suspended and maintenance deferred, potentially leading to more unreliable service, leading to less riders and even less funding. A death spiral. But what if the riders miraculously reappear? Well, that might be a problem too.

It was the Day of the Triffids in northern Vermont. And in England, a rare carbonaceous chondrite meteor landed in a driveway in the town of Winchcombe not far from Stonehenge. Many a Creature Feature started out just like this.

One in ten jobs worldwide is dependent on tourism. That’s averaged out. In some places it’s much higher. These NYT charts show just how hard the pandemic has hit the people dependent on tourism.

And there’s been a report of aggressive, out of control, threatening behaviour in the White House. But this time it wasn’t a high-level official. It was just the dog.