Living the Jams


Facing an extreme level of traffic everywhere and all the time, I have even considered giving up driving. That’s how tired I am of a ten minute commute taking three times as long, maybe more. I am sure I am not alone in feeling this. (It’s another story that I actually haven’t.)

The point is, something needs to be done. Steps towards a concrete solution are direly required. No, mention of concrete does not mean a new road, which has sadly become the go-to for traffic problems from what I observe in Lahore at least. Building and/or expanding roads, bridges, underpasses, highways, might actually be not the solution as the following article from the NY Times’ Economix by Nancy Folbre explains.

The actual piece, with all its links, is pasted below:

Sometimes, trying to get someplace faster, we end up slowing one another down. Traffic jams try our patience, waste our time and worsen the quality of our air.

Urban congestion exemplifies the larger problem of effectively coordinating individual decisions to use largely unpriced goods like roads. Drivers are adept at anticipating delays and factoring them into decisions on whether and when to hit the road. But, absent tolls, they are not compelled to factor in the delays their driving imposes on others.

One recent estimate puts the price of commuter delays alone at more than $100 billion in the United States in 2010, or nearly $750 for every commuter in the country.

Some efforts to solve the problem, paradoxically, make it worse.

For instance, a recent article in The American Economic Review by Gilles Duranton and Matthew Turner shows that road construction in the United States typically leads to a proportionate increase in utilization, leaving congestion unchanged. Build more roads and more cars will come.

As a clever summary posted on Streetsblog.org (a fascinating platform for debates on urban transportation) waggishly puts it, “Roads cause traffic.”

Similarly, adding more taxis in an urban area can slow not just cabs but all traffic, making urban driving less efficient for everyone.

A new plan to increase the number of cab medallions — and hence the number of taxis — in New York City has been greeted with enthusiasm. But the plan could backfire.

The economist Charles Komanoff has developed a computer model that estimates the impact of the planned addition of about 2,000 taxicabs (all of them wheelchair accessible) to Manhattan streets.

Cars in the central business district of Manhattan, already hampered by traffic, currently average about 9.5 miles per hour, a speed that many bicyclists can match. Cabs spend far more time than private cars cruising the streets. Mr. Komanoff estimates that adding one cab to the transportation mix is the equivalent of adding 40 private cars.

His model predicts that a 15 percent increase in taxi traffic (equivalent to the planned increase in cab medallion sales) will cause travel speeds across all of Manhattan south of 60th Street from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays to fall by 12 percent.

Called by Wired magazine “The Man Who Could Unsnarl Manhattan Traffic,” Mr. Komanoff has long been developing his model of the city’s transportation system. He makes a passionate and detailed case for a congestion pricing policy — essentially a toll to drive into congested areas — that would discourage auto trips to the city’s central business district.

Many economists favor the concept of congestion pricing (sometimes called road pricing) because it requires private users to pay for delays they impose on others. A clever animated version of the arguments in its favor is available online at Streetsblog.org.

London, a city that resembles New York in many ways, introduced congestion pricing in 2003. The widely heralded results include a decrease in traffic, improvement in air quality and expansion of bus travel and biking. Two-thirds of Londoners express support for the policy, including members of the business community, who were initially nervous about its possible effects.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pushed hard in 2008 for New York City to put a congestion pricing plan into effect, but opposition was fierce from those living or working in other boroughs, and the state Legislature never came close to authorizing the plan.

Mr. Komanoff asserts that this opposition could be overcome with a clear plan to use the revenues to expand and improve public transportation in the city. His proposal would impose a price of $8 to $10 on cars entering the central business district, with lower rates for nonpeak hours and weekends.

Modern electronic toll collection systems make it easy to accomplish important details. Deliveries of food and other supplies to the area could be timed at nonpeak hours. Other policies, like reducing bridge tolls that do not help improve traffic flow, could help buffer the economic impact. Drivers would be allowed one free trip a month.

More than $1 billion in projected annual revenues from this plan could significantly improve the bus, subway and bike-lane systems that many New Yorkers rely upon. The resulting changes could make it easier for residents of the boroughs and suburbs to get into and out of the central business district.

Sometimes, paying money upfront saves everyone money in the end. Not to mention saving time, air and the energy we need to solve a variety of other environmental jams.

Why can’t we at least think like this?

From The Top Of My Head


For the past so many days, I’ve been wanting to write. Desperately.

And the testament to the desperation are the numerous drafts sitting in the All Posts section. Including this one, so far.

I wanted to write about so many things but things got in the way.

Time has started running away from me. When there was time, there were no words. And when there were words, there was no energy.

Soldiers died. Indignation and uproar was created; action was taken. Finally, a stand was taken. Maybe. You can’t be too sure of anything these days. People kept dying, crimes kept happening. The politicians kept up their talking. Nothing can stop them. If anything, it became even more outrageous. Oh wait, I think they are beyond that. And it’s all a conspiracy anyway. Just like the Boy who Cried Wolf – he was framed!

And we have also become an undemocratic nation, haven’t we? I mean, banning an international news channel…what guts we seem to have acquired. How dare we deny freedom of speech in any way. Even if not doing so meant we are axing our own metaphorical foot. Oh, who cares what a bunch of terrorists say!

The best possible thing to do is to divert attention by floating around a memo that may or may not have been written by the named author. And if that doesn’t work, we always have one actress short of a brain and short of publicity. What she isn’t short on is skin, ladies and gentlemen. So why not show it off a little and stir up the hornet’s nest a little more?

Not really. For that, we have our president to thank for mysteriously going for some check-up in Dubai in the middle of the night. Abandonment or a real ailment, I can guess as much as the next person and I don’t blame you for being nervous. All I know for sure is that he definitely knows how to have all the attention focused on him.

But too many bytes have already been spent on these topics. I wish the process of writing was cathartic. Even just a tiny bit. But “words” on a piece of screen don’t really amount to anything. They just remain bits of code, forever lost in cyber space. Otherwise, they just evade you and all you can do is watch silently the new catastrophe that awaits you.

Or else, there is always That 70s Show to amuse you.

No To Slave Government


That was one of the slogans of the protesters gathered at Liberty roundabout. I only managed to read one as I passed them on my way home, half an hour ago.

Yes, there was a rather small bunch (so far) of university students, dressed up against the light cold weather, holding a peaceful protest against the NATO attack on one of Pakistan’s bases. Just standing quietly on the perimeter of the roundabout, hoodies up, facing the busy market place, holding their signs and rallying forces.

Sure there needs to be noise. But the noise will only be effective when it is not painful for anyone to hear. Bangs and smoke are  usually the distraction, not the real magic.

I highly commend their effort.

And any anger that I felt at once again being stuck in traffic immediately vanished.

It’s the least I can do, considering I’m not standing there with them right now but sitting cozily in my room, having a snack, and writing this post which won’t even probably be read by many.

NO to slave government! NO to slave government! NO to slave government!

Twenty Four Beats


Beat.

One. Two.

Twenty-four is not a big number.

Three. Four.

You can count to twenty-four in a matter of seconds even less than half of twenty-four.

Five. Six.

Only, it becomes a really heavy number once it is twenty-four heart beats that are no more.

Seven. Eight.

Dead for their country, in an unprovoked attacked by NATO helicopters and fighter jets, as they manned their posts.

Nine. Ten.

Quick, sharp response from the Pakistani government officials and condemnation all around.

Eleven. Twelve.

“Culprits” banned out of an airbase.

Thirteen. Fourteen.

Decide to block NATO supply routes indefinitely.

Fifteen. Sixteen.

Protest! “Sovereignty” under attack.

Seventeen. Eighteen.

Oops. NATO and US officials say they will investigate fully.

Nineteen. Twenty.

NATO chief tweets condolences.

Twenty-one. Twenty-two.

A tweet is better than another raid.

Twenty-three. Twenty-four.

Twenty-four is not a big number.

Beat.

Minus twenty-four.

Imran Khan = X ?


So the turn-out was pretty amazing at Imran Khan’s jalsa yesterday. But you would have to be living under a rock like Patrick to not know all about it.

It is really heartening to see such a positive reaction. Finally, we have something proper to rally about and someone to rally around. We have a leader, Imran Khan, to believe in. We believe that he is going to be the change he has been talking about. We believe that he can bring about the change we have all been wanting. We believe that he really could be the start of something new.

Other major players tried their best to jump on the bandwagon. PML-N held a rally three days ago following a quick gimmick by Abrar-ul-Haq (Really, Abrar? Politics? Just because you also have a hospital now…’nuff said!). And everyone knows about the party MQM hosted yesterday.

The best part? They all announced their specific rallies and agendas after Imran Khan had announced Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s rally.

If they could have done anything to ensure a good turnout and support for Imran Khan, it was this: having their rallies before so that the whole world can now contrast and compare. I could almost hear the numbers being crunched up. And all the comparing and contrasting and number-crunching lead to only one conclusion: Mr. Khan seems to have the lead.

For now, at least.

Pity the PPP did nothing. I would have loved to see the number of people who would attend theirs. Sure, anyone can be bribed, and considering how bad the poverty situation of the common man is, I guess it could be managed easily. But I think people have realized that ‘Bhutto’ is technically dead. And no one from that blood line is actually in power. And of course, how the current President is understood to be the corruptest yet. It’s just that no one has been able to say it to his face yet, I suppose, since he has been able to ‘cover’ his tracks.

And what I love is how social media is such a big part of this upcoming revolution with people uploading statuses and pictures and comments and notes and tweets and blog posts and what not.

But of course, there is no need for any verification or analysis from me about any of this.

I am just confused and this is my way of trying to make some sense of it. Is Imran Khan the solution? The value of ‘x’? Is this all really going to pan out?  Is this a political change or a social one? Can one rally be the determinant? All his statements and questions and demands…can he deliver?

I am just confused.

And I can’t deny the appeal of someone – anyone – to come and rescue us from the current “bad” situation. For most people, I would say it’s more the fact that Imran Khan is “untested” territory. He has not been in power and so, no one knows what he will do – or not do. Since everyone has been fed up with the current plethora of politicians, change basically translates into giving a new face a chance. Things are already not good generally – would it make a difference?

People are so geared towards giving him a chance that everyone is taking voter registration very seriously. Very seriously.

The ironic part of this won’t-make-a-difference attitude is that we’re all secretly hoping that it will work out for the better. Fingers-crossed, knocking-on-wood, wishing-on-shooting-stars kind of hoping.

Imran Khan, please don’t let us down.

Wake Up In The Morning…


Feeling like P Diddy?

I would say something really witty here except that I don’t know what it would be to feel like P Diddy in the first place. Or what Ke$ha thinks feeling like P Diddy means. Maybe she wants to start rapping now and this is just a way to let us know. Or be *ahem* an African-American man?

For some reason, I think she was only trying for some rhyming in her song, if anything.

And this is how productive your mornings become when you get ready for ‘work’ and turns out that your office is also observing the Public Holiday in lieu of Nusrat Bhutto‘s death.

We’re all going to be mourning the passing of a great woman. So schools are off and offices are off and only a few markets would be open. It’s a good thing, right?

Actually, every one who is off will probably spend a lazy morning in bed and then chill out at home or find places to visit and things to do.

Too bad the only reason most of the country is halted today is because she was the mother of the current President’s late wife. And since the Pakistan Peoples Party tries to link up to the name ‘Bhutto’ every chance they can get, here was another opportunity. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the woman but I feel that under any other party’s rule, I would not be sitting in my bed, writing this post.  After finding out that I am off too the moment I was leaving my home.

Yes, this is what it boils down for us: being happy that we don’t have to go to work.

May God bless the soul of the deceased woman and give all of us, government, relatives, common man, some consideration and better motives.

I should go change into ‘home clothes’ now and watch some TV.

But the party don’t stop. No- Oh- ooh- oh oh oh. Oh- ooh- oh oh oh.

The Tip Of The Q


I wonder why they are called Q-tips.

There is nothing Q-ey about these tip. They’re trying but they are not there yet. More like dew drop-shaped maybe, if you have to give their shape a name. Or if you have to name them on their shape, that is.

Not necessary, I would say. We don’t name other things based on their shapes do we?

Would calling the TV ‘Rectangular Tube’  mean that I have an option of buying a triangular one? Would a ball be a ‘Circular Cube’? How did ‘circle’ come about, eh? We could totally continue to use alphabets you know. Imagine kids playing with O’s.

I would totally overlook all this if the dew drop-shaped piece of cotton (it is cotton, right?) on my Q-tip was size-able enough to not feel as if I have just struck a plastic rod in my ear.

Oops!

And now Google asks me whether I want to find out about ‘Q-tip rapper’? Really? You’re a rapper and your name is ‘Q-tip’? What, does ‘listening’ to you result in hear loss or something?

I guess this is why in countries like Pakistan, they are referred to as ‘cotton buds’ so that there is no confusion, you know. We  third world uncultured places are not stupid you know. Dumb maybe, but not stupid.

What are you saying? What is the point of this toast?

I can’t hear you. Please speak up!

[picture from: http://gullscomic.blogspot.com/2009/11/q-tip.html]