Building the World

September 22, 2022
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Tunnels – Environmental Option

“Hamburg-Mitte-Elbe Tunnel” by Anita Janda, 2019. CC4.0 wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Ten years to plan, nine years to build, seven billion to budget: the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link Tunnel will offer an alternative to a 45-minute ferry between Germany’s Fehmarn island and Denmark’s Lolland isle. The new tunnel will clock travel time to ten minutes by car and seven minutes by train. Not just a faster trip between islands, Fehmarnbelt will reduce passage duration between Copenhagen and Hamburg.

Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link Tunnel will shorten the travel time between Copenhagen and Hamburg. Image: “Fehmarn bridge” by Bowzer. CC by SA 3.0, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

It will be the world’s longest immersed tunnel, although at 11.1 miles long (18 kilometers) shorter than the Channel Tunnel stretching 31 miles (50 kilometers). Other differences include construction methods. The Channel Tunnel was built using a traditional boring machine. Fehmarnbelt will be pre-fab: tunnel sections completed on land will be submerged and then connected. Each section is 711 feet long (217 meters) – about half the size of a large container ship. All that length is heavy – each section weighs as much as 13,000 elephants.

One section of the tunnel’s pre-fab building blocks weighs as much as 13 elephants. Image: “Elephant,” by Felix Andrew, 2005. Public domain gnu. Included with appreciation.

In a world where the environment is part of every decision, Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link will include newly established stone reefs on both Danish and German sides, similar in some ways to the natural paths fashioned along the New River of England. Tunnels offer other environmental advantages, bringing automobiles, trains, and trucks below the surface where emissions be captured, if the tunnels are so equipped.

SMART Tunnel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, combines transport and flood control. Image: “SMART tunnel entrance,” by David Boey, 2018. Wikimedia CC4.0. Included with appreciation.

Another environmental advantage of tunnels is response to flash floods. The Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is designed to divert rainwater into a lower section, allowing the upper section to remain open to vehicular traffic. Floodwater diversion, storage, and reuse options are certain to present problems (and opportunities) in our future: can tunnels be part of the solution?

Thanks to Cherie E. Potts for suggesting this post, and to Frank P. Davidson for proposing and achieving the success of the Channel Tunnel.

Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link. “Why we’re building the Fehmarnbelt fixed link.” Femern. https://femern.com

Prisco, Jacopo. “Denmark and Germany now building the world’s longest immersed tunnel.” September 2022, CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/fehmarnbelt-longest-immersed-tunnel-cmd/index.html

SMART. https://smarttunnel.com.my/smart/what-is-smart/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

September 2, 2022
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Origins of Labor Day

“Golden Spike Ceremony: Promontory Summit, Utah, 1869” marked the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Soon, the new railroad industry would be linked to Labor Day. Image: National Archives and Records Administration (NAI #594940. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

When the Transcontinental Railroad, with more than 1,800 (2,900 kilometers) miles of track, opened in 1869 with the driving of the Golden Spike in Utah, thousands of workers had toiled to complete what had been the largest government project in history, to date. A cross-country trip that had previously taken months of overland perilous journey across deserts and mountains, or a sea-voyage around South America, was now possible. But working conditions were arduous and dangerous. Rail travel proved more comfortable: George M. Pullman began converting passenger cars into sleepers, employing “Pullman porters” to work aboard. Hiring practice discriminated racially, and enforced extremely long working hours – 400 per month.

“Pullman strikers and Illinois National Guard at Arcade Building,” 1894. Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project. Image: wikimedia, public domain, Included with appreciation to all workers on Labor Day.

When Pullman laid off 30% of the workers in the recession of 1893, Pullman porters and employees walked out on strike. Train travel stalled in 27 states from Illinois, home to the Pullman company, and the West Coast. In the Chicago suburb of Blue Island, a crowd derailed a locomotive pulling a postal train, and the U. S. Attorney General enacted an injunction against the striking workers. President Grover Cleveland sent troops. Riots broke out, hundreds of rail cars were ravaged and burned by protestors; the National Guard fired into the mob, killing 30 people and wounding many others. This was in July 1894. Ironically, Cleveland had just signed, in June, a bill declaring a new holiday to honor workers and promote good conditions. The first Labor Day was celebrated on the first Monday in September of that year.

“A. Phillip Randolph – political and social leader.” Founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Image: wikimedia, public domain. Included with appreciation to A. Phillip Randolph and those in the BSCP union.

The Labor Day announcement raised national attention regarding Pullman workers. The Guard was recalled and the strike was over by August. While Labor Day began a new era of awareness of worker health and safety. Pullman porters now worked in better conditions: some earned more money, others advanced to management positions. But hours remained long. In 1925, Pullman porters, organized by A. Phillip Randolph, formed a union: Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP). It took more than ten years to negotiate better working hours – 240 per month.

Transport has always initiated economic and social change. Ships, rails, wheels, and wings caused major shifts in commerce, communication, and culture. Labor Day honors all workers. Around the world, there are Labor day celebrations, some in May. But in the United States, the holiday is always observed in September, and we have transport to thank for its origin and celebration.

“Labor Day” by S.D. Ehrhart, 1909. Image: Library of Congress #2011647501. Public Domain. Included with great appreciation to all who labor.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

Davidson, Frank P. and K. Lusk Brooke. “The Transcontinental Railroad,” Chapter 17, Building the World. Pages 205 – 238. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2006. ISBN: 0313333734.

Loomis, Erik, A History of America in Ten Strikes. The New Press,  2018. ISBN-10: 1620971615.

United States Department of Labor. “History of Labor Day.” https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history

Whitney, Asa. A Project for a Railroad to the Pacific. New York: George Ward, 1849. Text available in Building the World, pages 215-227.

August 26, 2022
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Tunnel Visionaries

Underwater tunnels like the Channel Tunnel, and Japan’s new tunnel under the Tsugaru Strait, are engineering feats. Here, “Underwater tunnel in Mandalay Bay Aquarium” photo by Daniel Ramirez, 2014. Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Walking on water takes a miracle, but walking through water requires excellent planning. When the Channel Tunnel was first designed, over a luncheon meeting in New York City hosted by Frank P. Davidson, Thomas Lamont, and representatives of Bechtel, Brown & Root, and Morrison Knudsen Company, a 1959 decision saved lives in 2022. The group engaged Charles Dunn of International Engineering Company of San Francisco, CA, to design the project. Dunn added a service tunnel. It was not mandatory, but it proved prescient.

Channel Tunnel has three tunnels – two rail lines and a service tunnel between. The design by Charles Dunn has saved lives. Image: “Cross section with service tunnel in between two rail lines,’ by Commander Keane and Arz. Wikimedia commons. Public domain. Included with appreciation.

The three tunnels under the Channel (in French, “La Manche”) are a north-running tunnel, a south-running tunnel, and – between them – a service tunnel. During an August 2022 incident, a train experienced an alarm warning, stopped, and held for assessment. Passengers walked for 15 minutes from the rail shuttle to a freight train that conveyed them through and out of the service tunnel. That freight train did not have the usual accommodation for passengers: no elegant meal service, not even seats. But with Dunn’s design, the service tunnel, and its freight train did provide safety. When passengers arrived in Folkestone, terminal restaurants welcomed them with free food and beverages.

Strait of Dover between England and France. Image: NASA, 2000. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

The service tunnel in the Channel Tunnel has proven its worth before. In 1996, a fire broke out in the Channel Tunnel when a train carrying heavy goods vehicles (there are passenger trains as well as freight trains carrying trucks) sparked a fire. The train was brought to a controlled stop adjacent to an entrance to the service tunnel. While there were no reported fatalities, some people suffered from smoke inhalation. The fire was fought by English and French teams who extinguished the flames after considerable effort. Tunnel repair was carried out by Freyssinet, a French engineering firm. Bi-national Channel Tunnel Safety Authority (CTSA) chaired one of three inquiries: the result was regular bi-national team practice exercises and shared operational procedures. In 2008, a fire in the Chunnel, started by a truck that spread to other vehicles, caused damage but no fatalities or serious injuries. It is worth noting that when the Channel Tunnel project began, the service tunnel was the first built.

“Tsugaru Srait” by Kyoyaku, adapted by Bourrichon, 2019. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

How can the Channel Tunnel’s design inspire the future? Japan, home to many tunnels that connect the nation composed of four main islands – Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku – is currently planning a new tunnel across the Tsugaru Strait for automobile traffic between Honshu and Hokkaido. The tunnel would span 31 kilometers (19. 26 miles) and cost about $7 billion (720 billion yen). In the new Tsugaru Strait tunnel, there will be two decks: the top for autonomous vehicles like self-driving cars; the lower for freight trains. Economic benefits include increased ability to transport agricultural produce from Hokkaido, estimated at 34 billion yen ($249 million).  The project will take 15 years to build; construction costs would be recouped in 32 years. Tolls are estimated to be 9,000 yen for cars ($65).

“Platooning” is a method for linking controls of lines and groups of autonomous vehicles. Could this be used in the new Tsugaru Strait Tunnel? Image: “Platooning Back” by U.S. Department of Transportation, 2019. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Tsugaru Strait is also the location of Japan’s Seikan Tunnel, serving only trains; it was not built with a separate escape or service tunnel, but with two emergency escape points in the system, Tappi-Kaitei station and Toshioka-Kaitei station. Shinkansen trains in Japan’s high speed rail network use the Seikan system. Fifty trains traverse the Seikan Tunnel every day, and night trains offer sleeping accommodation. Seikan suffered inundation accidents during construction but no fatalities.

“Cross-Harbour Tunnel Bridge Fire,” in Hong Kong, 2019. Photograph by Studio Incendo. Wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Other tunnels around the world have experienced accidents, fires, and floods. In Hong Kong, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel was the first built there for underwater transit; in 2019, protestors set fire to tollbooths, causing the tunnel to close but avoiding any fatalities. In 1991, two trains collided in the Severn Tunnel joining England and Wales; 185 passengers were injured but none fatally. In 1999, a fire in the Mont Blanc Tunnel joining France, Italy, and Switzerland, caused 39 deaths and 14 non-fatal injuries. These examples point out the wisdom of Dunn’s design of an extra service tunnel for the Channel Tunnel.

“Shadertoy Tunnel Example,” by Inigo Quilez, 2016. Creative Commons, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

In a time of budget cuts, along with an increased focus on transportation infrastructure, this week’s Channel Tunnel problem and its successful rescue solution may serve to underscore the importance of safety, and its support by budget and planning. In a new era when safety measures for autonomous vehicles and driverless cars are forefront, Japan’s new tunnel may set an important example for tunnel transport infrastructure for autonomous vehicles. What safety measures should be included?

Bove, Tristan. “Passengers forced to walk through ‘terrifying’ emergency tunnel under the sea after France-England train breaks down.” 24 August 2022. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2022/08/24/eurotunnl-evacuation-passengers-walk-terrifying-service-tunnel-between-france-england/

Davidson, Frank P. and K. Lusk Brooke. “The Channel Tunnel,” pages 761-804, Building the World (2006) ISBN: 0313333742.

Failure Knowledge Database. “Train Fie in Hokuriku Tunnel.” http://www.shippai.org/fkd/en/cfen/CA1000605.html

Rosenberg, Jennifer. “How the Channel Tunnel Was Built and Designed.” 12 August 2019. ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-channel-tunnel-1779429

Takahashi, Toru. “$7bn plan for new Japan undersea tunnel warms up after years on ice: Project would allow auto traffic between Honshu and Hokkaido.” 3 January 2021. Nikkei Asia. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Engineering-Construction/7bn-plan-for-new-Japan-undersea-tunnel-warms-up-after-years-on-ice

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

 

July 22, 2022
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Heat melts airport runway

“Aircraft landing at Zurich International Airport” by Kuhnmi_DSC-3711.2, 2014. Creative Commons license 2.0, wikimedia. Included with appreciaiton.

Airline woes have lately taken a toll on passengers, crew, aircraft maintenance, and profits. But during this week’s heat wave, an airport runway melted. When London, England, UK suffered a temperature rise to 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), Luton airport had to suspend flights to repair a runway damaged by intense heat. Transport infrastructure is made of materials susceptible to heat. Roads buckle, and airport runways are specialized roads.

“Hammersmith Bridge, 1827.” Original drawing scanned by Project Gutenberg. Public Domain, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Bridges are also vulnerable. City of famed London Bridge saw some structures falling down. Hammersmith Bridge was wrapped, Cristo style, in a cooling material designed to reflect sunlight away. The temperature control system, costing about half-million dollars (420,000 Pounds), is designed to keep the 135-year-old bridge from melting and placing an untenable load on its support pedestals that are made of cast-iron, also vulnerable to heat.

“Three Rail Tracks” by photographer G-Man, 2003. Dedicated to the public domain. Wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Railways become hot grids when sunlight sears the rails. With the high ambient temperatures combining with sun rays on the rails, the heat reaches 48 Celsius (118 Fahrenheit). The solution? Painting the rails white.

Wildfires cause damage to people, animals, plants, and also to the atmosphere. “Carbon Monoxide from Amazon Wildfires in 2019.” NASA/JPL-Caltech. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

In Europe and the UK, heat is causing wildfires: 27,000 acres scorched in southwestern France, causing 32,000 people to leave their homes. Spain’s wildfires caused the state railway to suspend service; in Portugal, one person died every 40 minutes between July 7-13. In the United States, over 100 million people are sweltering in record-breaking heat. In China, heat melted the roof of the museum housing cultural treasures of the ancient Forbidden City. Sadly, each season brings the same dangers and the same warning: according to World Weather Attribution (WWA), the 2021 heat wave was “virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” In addition to human and natural resources suffering, heat waves damage economies: projected economic impacts in Europe by 2060 are expected to increase five-fold (García-León 2021).

“How a heat wave forms.” by U.S. weather.gov. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons. With appreciation.

Bad as that news is, it is also an indication of the potential savings – in human, natural, and economic resources – of innovations that can halt and reverse climate change – and also innovations in materials more suitable to a warming world. Even with climate goals met, warming will continue for some decades. Aging transport infrastructure is due for rebuilding: bridges, roads, and runways need an upgrade. What kinds of materials can be developed for a changing climate?

García-León, David, et al., “Current and projected regional economic impacts of heatwaves in Europe.” Nat Commun 12, 5807 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26050-z

Hammersmith & Fulham Council. “Keeping Hammersmith Bridge cool- and open – in the heatwave.” 13 July 2022. https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/articles/news/2022/07/keeping-hammersmith-bridge-cool-and-open-heatwave

National Weather Service, NOAA. “WetBulb Globe Temperature.” https://www.weather.gov/tsa/wbgt

Vera, Amir. “It’s so hot, roads are buckling, they’re putting foil on a bridge, and roofs are melting around the world.” 22 July 2022. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/21/weather/global-infrastructure-its-so-hot-extreme-heat/index.html

World Weather Attribution (WWA). “Western North American extreme heat virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” 7 July 2021. https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/western-north-american-extreme-heat-virtually-impossible-without-human-caused-climate-change/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

 

 

 

May 28, 2022
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Highways and Wildflowers

“Balsamroot and lupine wildflowers near Tom McCall Preserve along the highway.” by photographer Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives, 2014. CC 3.0. Included with appreciation.

On Memorial Day weekend, 34 million Americans will travel by car. It’s the first long weekend of spring: a time of flowers, especially wildflowers. Parks play a role, and so do household and campus lawns participating in No Mow May. But highways can also provide miles of sustenance for spring pollinators like bees.

Highways will be an area of innovation in climate change. “Interstate 80, Eastshore,” by photographer Minesweeper 30. CC3.0. Included with appreciation.

Concrete is efficient, but highways could be improved. In 1965, the United States passed the Highway Beautification Act, providing funding for planting and protection of wildflowers along median and shoulder strips of American highways. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill into law, stating “We have placed a wall of civilization between us and the beauty of the countryside. Beauty belongs to all the people.” (Johnson, 1965) Encouraged by his wife, Lady Bird Johnson who advocated the program to beautify American roads. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center also honors her vision.

“Highways UK-EI.” by SPUI, dedicated to the public domain. Image: wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

In the United Kingdom (UK), the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) launched the “Big Biodiversity Challenge” with Highways England. Realizing that the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since 1930, road construction crews finish highways by preparing a side strip or verge for wildflower planting. Highways England plants the flowers. Recently, a section of the A38 from Ashburton to Ivybridge in Devon won the Biodiversity Pollinator Award. France places stormwater ponds every two kilometers along major roads: a recent survey found the ponds have welcomed many amphibian species. Across the UK, B-Lines have mapped a kind of bug highway across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Belt and Road Initiative. “One-belt-one-road,” by Lommes. Creative Commons 4.0 International. Included with appreciation.

As the world builds more roads, including space for wildflowers and wildlife is an opportunity to be noted. Will China’s Belt and Road Initiative  (BRI) connecting China, Central and West Africa, parts of Europe, Indian sub-continent, Indo-China, Mongolia, and Pakistan may be the largest road building project in history. Now, as 37,000 miles (60,000 kilometers) of roads are designed and built, would offer an un-precedented chance for environmental inclusion. Should environmental provisions be stipulated by banks, including multilateral development banks and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), funding and overseeing the BRI? What of the roads of India? Africa? The Pan-American Highway?

“Wild-flower” by photographer Anilmahajan19, 2017, in Nagpur, India. GNU license. Included with appreciation.

It has been the practice of some highway systems to seed the median strip between divided highways with grass. But grass can be thirsty, and yet yields relatively sparse benefits. In fact, some states in the Colorado River Compact are outlawing non-functional turf due to the shrinking of Lake Mead and Lake Powell, water reservoirs for the river that supplies both drinking water and electricity to 40 million people. Drought in the area is causing water shortages and also wildfires.

“Lake Mead and Hoover Dam with water intake towers, seen from Arizona side of Hoover Dam,” by photographer Cmpxchg8b, 2010. Generously dedicated to the public domain by the photographer.Image: wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Should highways be planted, instead, with wildflowers? If you hit the road this weekend, take a look at the wildflowers along highways and also country roads. It’s a natural resource, not often noticed, but increasingly important to the future of climate and environment.

What if all highways and roads hosted wildflowers? Could the world look like this? “Bitterwater Road Wildflowers,” by photographer Alan Schmierer, generously dedicated to the public domain CC1.0. Wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Conniff, Richard. “Green Highways: New Strategies To Manage Roadsides as Habitat.” 10 June 2013. Yale Environmental 360, Yale University School of the Environment.

Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA).  https://www.ciria.org

Forman, Richard T.T., et al., Road Ecology: Science and Solutions. Island Press, 2003. ISBN: 1559629326 and 1559639334.

Highways England. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/highways-england/

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. https://www.wildflower.org

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the Global Trade, Investment, and Finance Landscape.” OECD Business and Finance Outlook 2018. https://www.oecd.org/finance/Chinas-Belt-and-Road-Initiative-in-the-global-trade-investment-and-finance-landscape.pdf

United States Highway Beautification Act of 1965. Public Law 89-285, 22 October 1965. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/STATUTE-79/pdf/STATUTE-79-Pg1028.pdf

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

March 29, 2022
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Ten Mile Markers on the Road to the Future

Ten Mile Markers to the Future. Image” Numbers 1 to 10 Rotation Illusion” by Nevit Dilmen, 2012. Wikimedia: Creative Commons 3.0. Included with appreciation .

Many governments, and most scientists, are clear that we need to stop using fossil fuels to halt climate change (and perhaps geopolitical conflict). But transitioning from today’s energy sources and systems to a new energy paradigm is not as clear. Where and how to start?

“500 Series Shinkansen train at Tokyo Station,” 2005. Photographer ⊃ Wikimedia: CC 3.0. With appreciation.

Let’s start with transport, because it is a sector already altered by the recent viral pandemic. Can we preserve some of the energy-saving practices as we move into the future? Here are ten steps recommended by the International Energy Agency:

TEN MILE MARKERS ON THE ROAD TO THE FUTURE

REDUCE SPEED: cut speed limit on highways by 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) per hour

TELECOMMUTE: work from home 3 days per week if possible

CAR-FREE DAY: large cities could ban cars from central urban roads one day per week

MICRO MOBILE: build bikeways, skating lanes, and walking paths

CAR SHARE: take an Uber; get a Lyft; commute with buddies

DELIVER THE GOODS: redesign freight trucks and trains for better energy use

EV: accelerate use of electric vehicles by financial incentives and supportive infrastructure

ZOOM: cut all non-essential business travel in favor of teleconferencing

TRAIN: incentivize high-speed, maglev, and hyper-loop trains with overnight sleeper cars

If the above actions were achieved, “Full implementation of these measures in advanced economies alone can cut oil demand by 2.7 million barrels a day within the next four months.” (IEA 2022)

Logo of International Energy Agency. www.iea.org. Image: wikimedia. With appreciation to IEA.

The International Energy Agency was founded (November 1974) to set up a collective action system to respond to disruptions in energy (then, mainly oil) supply. The IEA was created with a treaty: “Agreement on an International Energy Program.” Today, the IEA represents 75% of global energy consumers.

Can highways change energy use? “Car dashboard on highway,” by Arkady Lifshits, photographer. Generously dedicated to the public domain. Wikimedia: Creative Commons 1.0. With appreciation.

While the IEA can act collectively (It did in 1991, 2005, and 2011: could there be another soon?), countries often set energy-saving policies during shortages. In 1973, the United States Federal Highway Interstate System reduced speed limits to 55 mph (89 km/h) by passing the National Maximum Speed Law. As a result, lives were saved as well as energy: road fatalities declined by 16% (Friedman 2009).

England’s New River has walking paths. “New River Bowes Park,” by Nick Cooper, 2009. Creative Commons 3.0 with appreciation.

Walking paths were installed alongside England’s New River in 1603. Japan’s high-speed rail system, Shinkansen, (see above) built for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 (and upgraded for the recent Summer Olympics in 2021), was profitable from day one.

“Eurotunnel: Folkestone Terminal,” by Ed Clayton, 2012. Creative Commons 2.0. With appreciation.

The Channel Tunnel, providing train transit from London to Paris, has brought increased economic and environmental benefits. Every new form of transport has caused changes in civilization: from the Silk Road to the Lunar Landing. Transport has the opportunity, and perhaps obligation, to develop mile makers on the road to the future. 

 

Buttigieg, Pete, United States Secretary of Transportation, and Cristiano Amon, President and CEO of Qualcomm. “The Future of Transportation is Driven by Tech.” CES 2022. VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59HgM5gwmFI

Friedman, Lee S. el al., “Long-Term Effects of Repealing the National Maximum Speed Limit in the United States.” September 2009. American Journal of Public Health: 99(9): 1626-1631. https://www.ncbi.nlm.gov/pmc/articles/PM2724439/ and doi: 10.2015/AJPH.2008.153726

International Energy Agency (IEA). “A 10 Point Plan to Cut Oil Use.” March 2022. https://www.iea.org/reports/a/10-point-plan-to-cut-oil-use

United Nations. “Agreement on an International Energy Program (with annex).” and “Accord relatif à un programme international de l’énergie (avec annexe).” Number: 15664, 18 November 1974. https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume%201040/volume-1040-A-15664-English.pdf

United States. “National Maximum Speed Limit (NMSL)” as part of the “Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act.” Public Law 93-239 – Jan. 2, 1974. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/STATUTE-87/pdf/STATUTE-87-Pg1046.pdf

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

 

December 7, 2021
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Sugar High

“United Boeing 767-300ER taking off from London Healthrow” by photographer and aerospace engineer Adrian Pingstone, 2007. Public Domain wikimedia commons.

Air transport, first achieved in December 1903, reached an important milestone in December  2021. United Airlines flew a commercial jet with a full complement of guest passengers entirely on renewable, non-fossil, fuel derived from sugar and corn. The flight Chicago ORD to Washington DCA flight carried 100 passengers using 100% sustainable fuel (SAF). The achievement followed United’s 2019 Flight for the Planet demonstrating biofuel blend energy, zero cabin waste, and carbon offsetting. The 2021 United success also announced new partners in the Eco-Skies-Alliance, and a pledge to purchase non-petroleum feedstocks to deliver the same performance of petroleum-based jet fuel but with a much smaller environmental effect.

“Sugarcane” by photographer Biswarup Ganguly, 2010. GNU Free/CC3.0 wikimedia.

Sugarcane ethanol is produced by fermenting sugarcane juice and molasses. Brazil and the USA are among the world areas engaged in biofuel production from sugar and corn, with scientific innovations on fermentative processes. There are concerns about land use for biofuel, and deforestation, but SAF remains an important element in new energy options. Brazil is a leader in sugar-based fuel, while U.S. expertise is mainly in corn. (Kang and Lee 2015). The U.S. biofuel industry has created 68,000 jobs, produced 17 billion gallons of sustainable fuel, and saved 544 million metric tons of Co2 from entering the atmosphere. (Minos 2021)

“Refueling a plane in Athens.” by photographer Jebulon. Wikimedia CC1.0 Public Domain.

While biofuels are arguably not as clean and green as electric or solar flight (achieved by small commuter planes such as eGenius), sustainable fuel is a practical step because it works with existing flight infrastructure like aircraft engines, refueling equipment, maintenance, and airport design.”SAF can be 100% compatible with our current aviation fleet and infrastructure,” observed Dave Kettner of Virent, among the partners who flew on the historic occasion, joined by World Energy biofuel producer and distributor, Boeing, CFM International, and U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office. Electric vehicles may be the answer for automobiles, buses, and trucks: the U.S. Federal Highway System and other major roads of the world will be rebuilt with charging stations and lanes for autonomous vehicles. The Canadian Pacific Railway or Japan’s Shinkansen can be adapted for maglev, electric, or hyperloop trains. But maritime shipping and aviation are not as easily converted from fossil fuels. Air transport has just taken an important step toward a more sustainable future.

Kang, Aram and Taek Sooon Lee. “Converting sugars to biofuels: ethanol and beyond.” 27 October 2015. Bioengineering. doi: 10.3390/bioengineering2040184.

Lewandowski, Jan. “Building the Evidence on Corn Ethanol’s Greenhouse Gas Profile.” 29 July 2021. U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2019/04/02/building-evidence-corn-ethanols-greenhouse-gas-profile

McCue, Dan “United Airlines makes history flying the most eco-friendly commercial flight of its kind.” 11 June 2019. Renewable Energy Magazine. https://www.renewableenergymagazine.com/biofuels/united-airlines-makes-history-flying-the-most-20190611

Minos, Scott. “United Airlines first passenger flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel is officially off the ground!” 1 December 2021. U.S. Department of Energy. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/united-airlines-first-passenger-flight-using-100-sustainable-aviation-fuel

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. “Inventing a flying machine.” https://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/wright-brothers-online/fly/1903/

United Airlines. “United to become first in aviation history to fly aircraft full of passengers using 100$ sustainable fuel.” 1 December 2021. United Airlines News Release. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/united-to-become-first-in-aviation-history-to-fly-aircraft-full-of-passengers-using-100-sustainable-fuel-301435009.html

World Energy. https://www.worldenergy.net

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

November 9, 2021
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Rebuilding Back Better

“Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge” by Eric Vance, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2011. Image: Public Domain, Wikimedia.

Transportation infrastructure is one of the paths to a better future. From electric vehicle charging stations, to bridge repair or replacement, American roads will soon experience the biggest rebuilding project since the US Federal Highway System of 1956. Here’s a summary of what to expect over the next five years (Lobosco and Luhby, 2021):

Roads – $110 billion for road repair and upgrades. It is estimated that 173, 000 miles of US roads are in bad condition;

Trains -$66 billion for passenger and freight trail, modernizing the Northeast corridor, and upgrading intercity rail to high-speed capability, with additional funds of $12 billion;

Broadband – $65 billion to improve reach and signal strength of Internet;

Bridges – $40 billion to repair or replace the 45,000 bridges in poor shape;

Public Transit – $39 billion to modernize and upgrade subways and buses;

Airports – $25 billion to repair aging airports and upgrade to low-carbon tech;

Marine Ports – $17 billion for improving marine ports, a major part of the supply chain;

Safety – $11 billion for better protection for cyclists and pedestrians;

Buses and Ferries – $7.5 billion for zero or low-emission ferries and school bus transport;

Electric Vehicles – $7.5 billion for a national network of electric charging stations;

Communities – $1 billion to reconnect neighborhoods divided by highways. This was one of the goals of the Central Artery Project in Boston.

In addition to the transport upgrades, the American Infrastructure Bill will begin rebuilding the electric grid ($65 billion) and correct water infrastructure problems from Flint to Benton Harbor and beyond, replacing lead service lines and old pipes. Finally, uncapped gas wells and abandoned mines will be remedied with a $21 billion fund. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (HR 3684) passed on 6 November 2021, as nations gather in Glasgow to address response to climate change at COP26. It is now time to rebuild the world.

Lobosco, Katie and Tami Luhby. “Here’s what’s in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.” 5 November 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/28/politics/infrastructure-bill-explained/index.html

United States Congress. “H.R. 3684: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/117/hr3684/text

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

 

October 15, 2021
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: supply chain reaction

The Silk Road was an early transport and supply chain network. Image: “Seidenstrasse GMT” 2005 by Captain Blood, GNU free license, wikimedia commons.

From the Silk Road to the Suez Canal, transporting goods has shaped civilization, stimulated cultural exchange, and truly united the world. Presently, the global supply chain is in the news. Cargo tankers are stalled in ports, dock unloading is stalled by COVID restrictions, trucks are waiting for drivers, warehouses are stuffed with unshipped goods, local stores are limiting purchases and warning shoppers to buy early. All this costs both time and money: McKinsey reports shipping costs are six times higher than in 2019. (Hall 2021)

“Where is shipping heading?” Photo: Fleet 5. by U.S> Navy/PH3 Alta I. Cutler. ID: 020418-N-1587 C-030. Source: United States Navy. Image: wikimedia commons.

While government has stepped in, opening certain ports 24/7; and private enterprise has stepped up, chartering their own ships and diverting them to less congested ports; what will happen after the holiday buying season? Some say it is an opportunity for autonomous transport. Maritime shipping is exploring options. Experiments on inland waterways by the Collaborative Autonomous Shipping Experiment (CASE) in cooperation with Belgium, China, Italy, and the Netherlands, noted that control algorithms should be coordinated. Vessels are usually owned and operated by different parties, and use proprietary systems for control and navigation. Results produced simulation models that may help develop shared systems.

“Will autonomous trucks change the supply chain reaction?” Photo by epsos.de, https://www.flickr.com/photos/36495803@NO5/5591761716. Image: wikimedia commons. CC2.0

When ships are unloaded, trains and trucks take over: autonomous trucking is advancing rapidly. Embark Trucks, and Locomation, join TuSimple, Plus, and Aurora in the race for innovation and investment in autonomous trucking. Advances in trucking will change the supply chain: 68% of all freight comes to you on a truck.

“Supply Chain Network” graphic by David Pogrebeshsky, 2015. Image: wikimedia commons cc4.0

Analysts predict the supply chain will recover by 2022, but will it ever be the same? We hear a lot about self-driving cars, but there is also significant innovation in shipping and trucking. Autonomous transport may cause a supply chain reaction.

Aurora. https://aurora.tech

Efrati, Amir. “Two More Self-Driving-Truck Developers Consider Public Offerings.” 9 June 2021. The Information. https://www.theinformation.com/articles/two-more-self-driving-truck-developers-consider-public-offerings

Embark Trucks. https://embarktrucks.com

Farooque, Faizan. “4 Self-Driving Truck Stocks You Need to Keep an Eye on.”  9 September 2021. NASDAQ.com. https://investorplacecom/2021/09/4-self-driving-truck-stocks-you-need-to-keep-an-eye-on/

Hall, Claire. “Supply Chain Disruptions Create Shortages of Goods Just in Time for the Holidays.” University of Connecticut interview with Professor Tao Lu, Operations and Information Management Systems. 12 October 2021. https://today.uconn.edu/2021/10/supply-chain-disruptions-create-shortages-of-goods-just-in-tme-for-the-holidays/

Haseltalab, Ali, et al., “The Collaborative Autonomous Shipping Experiment (CASE): Motivations, Theory, Infrastructure, and Experimental Challenges. International Ship Control Systems Symposium (ISCSS) 2020, Delft, The Netherlands. For Project: Navigation and Path Planning of Marine Vehicles. DOI:10.24868/issn.2631-8741.2020.014

Inland Waterways International. https://inlandwaterwaysinternational.org

Locomation. https://locomation.ai

Metzger, Joe, Executive Vice President, Supply Chain Operations, Walmart US, “How Walmart is Navigating the Supply Chain to Deliver this Holiday Season.” 8 October 2021. https://corporate.walmart.com/newsroom/2021/10/08/how-walmart-is-navigating-the-supply-chain-to-deliver-this-holiday-season

Plus. https://www.plus.ai

TuSimple. https://www.tusimple.com

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

 

August 27, 2021
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Caring Cars

Could cars be taught to care? “Ford Argo AI,” 2019. Photo by Tony Webster. Creative Commons, Wikimedia.

“Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are never drunk or tired or inattentive,” states Julian De Freitas, of the Harvard Business School and Ethical Intelligence Lab. Over 90% of traffic accidents and deaths (1.35 million fatalities globally) are due to driver error. Smarter vehicles could save lives to an extent equal to the discovery of vaccines and antibiotics, but will consumers trust these cars? Can vehicles evaluate, think, and drive with “common sense?” Ethical dilemmas such as whether an AV should save pedestrians or passengers is one of the pressing issues facing car manufacturers giving brains and hearts to their products. Will highway systems, like the Germany’s Bundesautobahn System of 13, 183 km (8. 192 mi), or US Federal Highway System, develop dedicated lanes for AVs? Insurance and legal concerns will set new regulations. Does technology carry the liability, or human operators? Many people feel they identify with their cars: will cars become more like people? Want to take a drive?

Argo AAI. www.argo.ai

Associated Press. “Ford, Argo AI to Deploy Autonomous Vehicles on Lyft Network.” 21 July 2021. US News. https://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2021-07-21/ford-argo-ai-to-deply-autonomous-vehicles-on-lyft-network

Blanding, Michael. “Can Autonomous Vehicles Drive with Common Sense?” 17 August 2021. Working Knowledge, Harvard Business School. https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/can-autonomous-vehicles-drive-with-common-sense

De Freitas, Julian, et al., edited by Susan T. Fiske. “From driverless dilemmas to more practical commonsense tests for automated vehicles.” 16 March 2021.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 118 (11) e2010202118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2010202118.

Maurer, M. et al., editors. Autonomous Driving. Berlin: Springer, 2016.

Nader, R. Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile. New York: Grossman, 1965.

Pogue, David. “Self-Driving Cars.” 17 May 2019. CBS Sunday Morning. VIDEO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugNJJf2QW0E

Schmelzer, Ron. “What Happens When Self-Driving Cars Kill People?” 26 September 2019. Forbes. AUDIO and print article. https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognitiveworld/2019/09/26/what-happens-with-self-driving-cars-kill-people/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

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