The other day I was reading this article from the September 20th edition of The Economist while riding a crowded MARTA train:
And that's not all -- then there is the loss of poultry and pigs:
You could buy a lot of greenhouse gas-reducing public transportation for that kind of money and maybe save yourself the expense of a hurricane or two:
But either way, those chickens are not coming back...
When I have to share the already narrow, crumbling sidewalks of Midtown Atlanta with speeding, silent scooters, ridden by well balanced, carefree, young people, I will I admit I have evil thoughts about vandalizing the offending vehicles. And I am not only one, as reported in the August 18, 2018 edition of The Chicago Tribune.
"You could say the scooters have created a buzz — not necessarily the good kind — in select cities. In Cleveland, city officials ordered Bird, another dock less scooter-sharing company, to remove its equipment, citing safety concerns and a lack of city permits that would allow the scooters to be parked on the sidewalk, The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper reported.
But in cities like Los Angeles, scooters have been set on fire, tossed off balconies and even dumped into the ocean — a backlash that is a melange of anger over so many tech companies popping up in Southern California and anger that they’re clogging up public spaces, according to news reports . That has resulted in cities in California limiting or outright banning the scooter-sharing services, the Los Angeles Times reported."
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the famous photographer Walker Evans took black and white photographs of riders on the New York City subway. The book Many Are Called includes 89 of these photographs with an introductory essay by James Agee. It was not published until 1966 because Evans was initially concerned that since these passengers were photographed secretly without their permission, there were issues surrounding privacy and worries about possible legal problems. Moreover, the idea itself was not particularly well-received at the time by publishers and galleries and was mothballed along with Agee's introductory essay until Evans began to revive the project in 1958 (Agee died in 1955).
Agee immediately understood the significance of Evans' s work because riding a subway as a commuter (even today as then) is one of the few times that people let their guards down revealing "a wound or nakedness" that we often conceal from others. Until I studied the words and pictures of Many Are Called I didn't realize that this is the underlying reason that people do not like to be stared at on the subway. You should always avert your eyes -- gaze at the oracle that is your cell phone, read a book or peer into the dark tunnels instead. Avoid looking at people when they are the most weary and vulnerable.
March 30th, 2018 was the first anniversary of the I-85 bridge burn and collapse here in Atlanta. We all remember where we were when we saw the black plumes belching over the late afternoon skyline. As I was taking a MARTA train from downtown Atlanta to my home Decatur, I gazed northward and I said to myself, "Must be a hell of a tire fire somewhere." Well, I was kind of correct.
This was supposed to be the opportunity for MARTA to "show its stuff" etc. Capture the hearts and minds of the Atlanta commuter, so to speak. At the end of the year I went to one of those transit conferences hoping to connect with liked-minded people, but really these breakfasts are just business leader schmooze sessions. This one was held at the W Hotel in Midtown and I was one of the few people who actually took mass transit to get there and you could hardly get into the place because the valets were overwhelmed trying to park cars. Nice cars. Expensive cars. No PT Cruisers.
No amount of bacon, runny scrambled eggs, and multiple PowerPoint presentations could redeem the experience, but I did learn one little fact about the bridge collapse and subsequent transit crisis -- MARTA ridership dipped in 2017! Yeah, thousands of drivers had to find new ways to get to work for a couple of months and at the end of the day MARTA could not keep that momentum. No one really addressed that interesting fact. Sometimes they say off-handedly that the low price of gasoline is the main factor, but I disagree. My explanation is twofold. You can ride MARTA a few times and think it's decent, but ride it consistently for a few weeks and you'll notice that the schedules are sporadic, and you will have the experience of standing on a platform for 20 to 30 minutes waiting on train during rush hour. At some point, you will be panhandled or preached to while on the train. And then once you are at your destination, you take your life into your hands trying not get run over as a pedestrian. You will consider yourself lucky if there is sidewalk or it's not closed by construction barricades.
In this scene from movie "The Darkest Hour" Winston Churchill, played by Gary Oldman, queries riders on the London Underground whether Great Britain should sue for peace or fight the Nazis on the beaches, the landing zones, fields and streets etc. It was the emotional zenith of the movie, but as it turns out totally fictitious. Rats.
One. Building construction obliterates sidewalks for months at a time.
Two. The crosswalks near these construction sites have long been erased or painted over by unintelligible, utility company hieroglyphics, which can be interpreted by only a select few. (If a graffiti artist defaced public areas this way he or she would be arrested.)
Three. Yelling at a motorist does no good because they cannot hear you in the din of Midtown traffic. Dirty looks and non obscene gestures are more effective and does not place one in immediate peril. Such vehicle-pedestrian confrontations inspired this poster, which is available at downandoutbound.com.
Four. Driving and texting, though unlawful, is so commonplace that at waiting for a crosswalk light one often makes a game of counting consecutive violators. Entertaining but not comforting.
Five. Automobile detritus (bumpers, side view mirrors, headlights) and other urban trash like this decapitated sign often make passage on the sidewalk difficult.
Six. The 10th Street bridge: Narrow, filthy, noisy.
Seven. Cyclists often ride on the sidewalks. Understandable in some sense, but still scary.
Eight. Street lights -- even decorative ones -- are often out of service for weeks at a time.
Nine. On sunny days, notice the brown haze hovering on the horizon. We are breathing that.
Ten. Have I missed something? Please add your #10 to the comments.
I know that motorists are often asked to "Share the Road" with cyclists, and cyclists often ride on sidewalks (which is understandable in some instances, but dangerous to pedestrians), but when drivers insist that we share the sidewalks is when I take it personal. This vodka truck came right at me on a Midtown Atlanta sidewalk last week. Join me in boycotting Epic Vodka.
The sad part is that this really didn't shock me as both sides of 10th street sidewalk from the Midtown MARTA station to across the I-75/85 bridge are nothing but dangerous.
In a rare public appearance, discounted copies of my book Down & Outbound: A Mass Transit Satire will be available for perusing and sale at the Root City booth #528 at the Decatur Book Festival being held September 2nd and 3rd. This is your opportunity to experience a book about the absurdities of public transportation, which has been specifically designed for those who ride buses and subway trains. (You can read it with one hand. See video below.) At the booth, which will also have cards, notebooks and other writerly accessories, you can experience how Down & Outbound's soft plastic comb massages the tender spot between your thumb and index finger while you read. This book tickles.
"Will the reclusive D & O author be available?" you ask.
Only late Sunday afternoon at the Baptist Church venue, but not as an author but as a Festival volunteer during the Ernie Johnson appearance. Maybe I can get the famed sportscaster to hold my book. Hmmm. Good idea.
As I read Rob Walker's article "How to Trick People into Saving Money" in the May, 2017 issue of The Atlantic magazine, I drew a connection to behavioral economist Daniel Eckert's thoughts about saving money and how it relates to saving the environment. Walker writes, "Americans difficulty saving, Daniel Eckert* told me recently, is a textbook example of how brains wired to reckon with short-term threats and opportunities struggle to think about long-term consequences -- and struggle even harder to take current action to stave off future disaster."
Perhaps that is where the solution to slowing down climate change lies, tricking people into saving the environment.
*Footnote: Walker's article covers how Walmart is marketing a Moneycard type app to get their customers who don't normally save, to stash away money. Eckert oversees Walmart's financial service businesses.
On Thursday, May 4th, I was on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) train that filled with smoke during my evening rush hour commute. I ended up having to evacuate the train and take a tunnel catwalk back to the Midtown Station. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the following Saturday that, "MARTA Police and Emergency Management said an arc of electricity from a high voltage rail -- not a fire -- apparently created smoke that filled the train." My re-occurring thoughts include:
My prediction is that once the I-85 bridge is repaired, commuters will return to their car driving ways, especially since gasoline prices remain low and they will know that the MARTA experience often requires passenger patience.
Because of the I-85 bridge collapse, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is experiencing a major increase in subway ridership. (This is what it takes to get people to try public transportation in Atlanta.) Many of these new riders might be unfamiliar with this mode of transportation so here are five helpful tips from someone who has ridden the rails for years:
This is a vivid reminder that Friday, March 31, 2017 is the last day you can load rides on the blue Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) Breeze Card. They have been replaced with the new, chipped MARTA Silver Card. Veteran MARTA riders will immediately recognize that this inflamed card is not the blue card, per se, but the temporary ride card which has long been abolished.
Still for me, the early Breeze cards were my first public transit card that I carried around on a daily commute. You always remember your first.
Here's a screenshot further explaining the transition.
Columnist Mary Wisniewski writes about the controversy surrounding the transit musicians in yesterday's Chicago Tribune.
Coincidentally, one of the chapters (#110 Flash Band) in Down & Outbound: A Mass Transit Satire covers the same territory when a small orchestra known as Subterfusion plays an impromptu concert and the "authorities" try to stop it. Here's a poster from the concert (and the book):
Check out the video of the art behind New York City's Second Avenue Subway system. Atlanta residents may be familiar with one the artists -- Vik Muniz. The High Museum in Atlanta did a large Muniz exhibit last year, which was sensational. To see installations like these when you ride the subway everyday would certainly soften anyone's daily commute.