The Expo Line unsafe?

Yesterday the LA Times had a feature with my colleague from Viterbi Najmedin Meshkati discussing the physical design of LA’s new light rail:

Najmedin Meshkati, a professor and safety expert at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, asserts that precautions at three crossings along the 7.9-mile route between downtown Los Angeles and the Westside are “woefully inadequate.”

Two of the crossings at Western and Denker avenues bracket the Foshay Learning Center, which has about 3,400 students in kindergarten through high school. Meshkati, who has studied the Expo project for years, says Metro needs to add signs at crosswalks specifically designed to warn children of oncoming trains.

He says there are more potential safety problems at Rodeo Road and Exposition Boulevard, where parallel streets cross forming an X, with Expo trains traveling at 35 to 40 mph cutting through a complex array of traffic signals, signs and pavement striping.

Great picture of him, too. I have no comments, as I know nothing here–just trying to get more people thinking about these issues.

Help for Ann Romney’s speech writers

It’s hard to tell what actually got said in this bit from the HuffPo, but…Ann Romney’s comments about not feeling wealthy because she has MS rather reinforces the criticisms of clueless wealthy people:

In an interview Monday on Fox News, the wife of the Republican presidential front-runner, Ann Romney, was asked about criticism that her husband can seem out of touch with average Americans. His worth has been estimated as high as $250 million.

Mrs. Romney said her struggle with multiple sclerosis has given her compassion for people who are suffering from multiple sclerosis, cancer or other diseases.

“We can be poor in spirit, and I don’t even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing,” Mrs. Romney said. “It can be here today and gone tomorrow.”

The last bit of that quote makes me think she was saying something that had more to do with health as being realwealth.

But still.

MS is terrible disease, but I’m pretty sure that being a millionaire helps out there. Rather a lot. MS symptom management medications are wildly expensive. And while your husband is zooming around talking about undoing Obamacare, pointing out that you don’t “feel” rich because you have a disease that is much, much more manageable when you have money and insurance than when you don’t does not help your case that you understand what others in America, even others in America who share your suffering with this horrible disease, struggle with.

I don’t feel fat, either, but the BMI says I am. Majorly. Just like she’s pretty well-to-do, and always has been.

So what’s the stronger approach for Romney here, to win more empathy and respect? Here’s one:

Frat boys burning text books to celebrate graduation burn down frat house | Melville House Books

Oh for God’s sake:

Frat boys burning text books to celebrate graduation burn down frat house | Melville House Books:

A group of fraternity brothers from Lousiana Tech University burning their textbooks in celebration of the end of the school year are believed by local authorities to have caused a fire that burned down their fraternity house.

According to a report from KSLA News by Carolyn Roy, the Pi Kappa Alphafraternity house, and an apartment building next door, were completely destroyed in the fire.


At least everybody seems to be alive, even if there seem to be some pretty bad injuries.

NY Writers Coalition Offers an Opportunity on a Subway Car –

I can not form words on how much I love:

NY Writers Coalition Offers an Opportunity on a Subway Car –

The man, Aaron Zimmerman, is the executive director of the NY Writers Coalition, and he and several volunteers were leading one of several free writing workshops that the coalition was holding throughout the city on Friday, including one in Coney Island and another aboard the Staten Island Ferry.


Bike corporate sponsorship…yeah, ok, I guess

Here is a boosteristic op-ed praising CitiBike from Steve Smith in the New York Daily News. It came through my Twitter Feed via Richard Florida. I was suspending judgment until Smith overplayed his hand in the last, chirpy line:

Public services are expensive. Taxpayers are stretched. Let companies be part of the solution.

Or, companies and their elite managers could just pay their taxes, stop putting the screws on cities for endless corporate perks, and stop hollowing out governments so that people could just have public goods in their cities.

But then, companies and their apologists couldn’t ride in on white horses so that they can slap their logos on every square inch of New York and expect the glowing gratitude of the hoi polloi in return.

Farewell, John Quigley

This is one of those posts I’ve put off writing because writing it means I have to admit that John Quigley is really gone, and I really don’t want to. John was a giant in urban economics, and his students are among my favorite scholars, including three of my most valued colleagues: Chris Redfearn, Juliet Musso, and Gary Painter. John Quigley passed away last weekend. Here is a lovely obituary written by his colleagues.

Keep in mind, I only met Quigley once, last year, at a function for the Goldman School. I’ve been at the academic rodeo for a little while now, and I can tell you: you meet your intellectual heroes, and many of them are jerks. By contrast, John was an intellectual hero of mine, largely because of his work on housing markets, and honestly, even my fangirl crush couldn’t have constructed a warmer, more decent man to go along with my image of what a great scholar should be: brilliant, humble, accessible, and as interested in your ideas as he is in his own. In our brief interaction, Quigley embodied all of those things.

Here are three of my favorite papers:

Quigley, J.M. Urban Diversity and Economic Growth. The Journal of Economic Perspectives. Vol. 12, No. 2 (Spring, 1998), pp. 127-138

Quigley, J.M. and S. Raphael. Is Housing Unaffordable? Why Isn’t It More Affordable? Journal of Economic Perspectives, Volume 18, Number 1, Winter 2004 , pp. 191-214(24)

Quigley, J.M. and S. Rapheal. Regulation and the High Cost of Housing in California. The American Economic Review.Vol. 95, No. 2, Papers and Proceedings of the One Hundred Seventeenth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association, Philadelphia, PA, January 7-9, 2005 (May, 2005), pp. 323-328

The good kind of scared

Yesterday, I admitted at lunch to a colleague that I was nervous about letting myself invest so much time in a book. It’s a weird thing, trying to go from being a five-papers-a-year kind of person to saying “I have this book, and it might take me two years, or it might take me five years. Or longer.” The external validation for the latter is very hard to find. There’s plenty of external validation for somebody who writes a book a year. However, you can always tell when it’s only taken somebody a year to write a book, too; it’s thin and unbaked, usually.

There are, of course, people who write really good books in a year. But as Annie Dillard notes in The Writing Life, there are people who lift cars, too. Even people who eat cars. Why act like that’s the norm?

Yesterday, I got the worried feeling in the pit of my stomach: “I don’t know if I can do this.” One of the people I used to consider a mentor said to me, too, “I doubt you will be productive writing books.”

The feeling bothered me all day. It hung around my office. It shadowed me all over.

When I went to bed, the feeling stayed there, and I recognized it, and I laughed and laughed. I’m smiling as I write this. It was the same feeling I had before I went to grad school. And before I took my quals. And a million times as an assistant professor, whether standing in front of a class or submitting a paper.

Performance anxiety.

Hello, friend.

I seem to have found the challenge I’ve been looking for.