Austin airport 3rd-best in North America, 5th in world

28 Nov

Anyway, the Indianapolis airport came in first in North America, followed by Ottawa, Ontario, and then Austin’s 12-year-old facility. The best airport worldwide of any size, by the council’s lights? Incheon International near Seoul. Almost makes you want to go to South Korea. Almost.

I hear all the time from people complaining about Austin’s traffic lights not being synchronized, or least not synchronized enough. This is not a perception unique to Austin (unlike cleanliness), according to Science News, a publication of the 90-year-old, Washington-based Society for Science and the Public.

The problem, according to an October article, is that traffic light control is top down, rather than bottom up.

City signal light systems, like Austin’s, are typically controlled by traffic engineers at a central office who — using commonly accepted principles, cameras and some traffic sensors — program the entire system to try to generate as many “green waves” as possible.


But traffic is so complex and variable, the article says, that the modeled situation rarely occurs, and those green waves of synchronization habitually are choppy seas instead.

The solution, according to a study in Dresden, Germany, is to have the actual traffic flow control the signals, rather than the other way around. Sensors put in the pavement at an intersection, in conjunction with sensors on adjacent intersections, would constantly adjust the lights to maximize synchronization.

In the Dresden study, the sensors reduced waiting time by 9 percent, the article says, and Dresden officials are preparing to take the new system citywide.

The odds just went up that a trucker, the one driving that massive vehicle four feet away from your bumper, is not talking on a cellphone. The U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday issued a final rule making it a violation of federal law, subject to a $2,750 fine, for commercial truck or bus drivers to talk on a hand-held cellphone while their vehicle is in motion. Their employers, if they allow the practice, face a possible $11,000 fine. Hands-free mobile phones are still legal for truckers and bus drivers.

Research by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an office of the federal Transportation Department, has shown that truckers are three times as likely to have an accident while they’re merely reaching for a cellphone. Actually dialing the phone doubles that to six times the normal chance of an accident. Not a comforting thought when you’re trying to pass an 18-wheeler.

The agency had already banned texting by commercial drivers in September 2010.


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