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13th December 2018

3:20pm: MBTA fare collection meeting.
I went to the MBTA's public outreach meeting on the new fare collection system Tuesday. There were many details, some of which are being discussed on my earlier post.

One important detail is that cash will no longer be accepted on board any vehicles, either for fare payment or topping up the balance on a CharlieCard. The proposal includes a rollout of more ticket vending machines and more third-party vendors.

They offered a website for suggestions on where new machines should go. That site is: http://gisdev.massdot.state.ma.us/planning/proposedafclocations/

(The URL they gave at the meeting was actually www.mbta.com/AFC2-locations, but it redirects to the above.)

So if you want to tell the T you want a machine near you, this is a chance to say so.

Edit to add: Here is the text from the suggestion website.

"As part of the MBTA’s new Charlie fare collection system rolling out in 2020, we will be installing fare vending machines (kiosks) at some bus stops and partnering with businesses to vastly increase the locations where people can add money to their MBTA transit account. In addition to these locations you can add money online and then tap your new Charlie Card, smartphone or credit card to board. Riders won’t be able to add cash onboard buses and trains in the new system, so we want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to reload their account in convenient locations.

This feedback tool allows you to give input directly to the MBTA on where you think it’s most important to have the fare vending machines or retail locations. Zoom into the map to see the locations of our current fare vending machines (yellow flags). The new system will include all of these locations, in addition to hundreds of new locations. Please select “Propose New Fare Vending Location” to add a pin for the locations you propose. You can also agree with locations already proposed by selecting them from the list and clicking “I Agree”. For more information about the project please visit our website https://www.mbta.com/afc2"

11th December 2018

10:22am: https://www.mbta.com/events/2018-12-11/afc-20-public-advisory-meeting

Edit: I had initially posted that the meeting location was not easily reachable by transit. Turns out that the routing I was given by Transit app was incorrect, and there's a stop quite near the meeting location.

(Original post: The MBTA put a public advisory meeting more than 15 minutes walk away from the nearest public transit stop (a bus stop).

Guess they'll be surprised when no one shows up by T.)

I should verify routes with an actual map, as I'm inclined to do, instead of relying on strictly on apps, as I did this time. My bad.

24th November 2018

2:12am: Have a howly Wolfenoot!
Since it is still before midnight Pacific Time, I'd like to take the chance to wish everyone a “howly Wolfenoot”.

From https://www.facebook.com/events/2133001853619644/:

"My son has invented a holiday called Wolfenoot.

It is when the Spirit of the Wolf brings and hides small gifts around the house for everyone. People who have, have had, or are kind to dogs get better gifts than anyone else.

You eat roast meat (because wolves eat meat) and cake decorated like a full moon.

A holiday to the spirit of wolves that celebrates people who are kind to dogs? I can 100% get behind this. So we will be celebrating Wolfenoot. It's on the 23rd November if anyone else is moved to celebrate it. ;) If you do, please post pics, so he can see how his idea has spread.

If you're posting publicly about it, use #wolfenoot."

More info at https://wolfenoot.com/wolfenoot-faq/.

20th November 2018

2:20pm: Fires, air quality, etc. Resources for Oakland and SF
Getting the word out for all my friends in the Bay Area.

12:06pm: Cursor movement control from the default keyboards on Android and iOS.

This image has been going around Facebook for a bit. It's a great quick graphic to get the word out, and it's true as far as it goes.

But there's more to know which won't fit on a graphic:

First, this function has been available for iPhones with 3D Touch for about three years. The news is that with iOS 12, it's been rolled out to iOS devices without 3D Touch. So if it's not working for you, you probably need to upgrade to iOS 12: https://9to5mac.com/…/how-to-use-keyboard-trackpad-mode-on…/

Second, this function is also available for the Gboard keyboard for Android (recently released for iOS as well) and has been for over two years: https://www.cnet.com/…/googles-secret-keyboard-feature-giv…/

11:16am: I've started seeing friends posting about the start of their Thanksgiving trips.

Wishing everyone safe and easy travels.

19th November 2018

6:30pm: On Friendsgiving.
Thanksgiving was never our family's holiday. Our attempts to observe it always had a rather forced, imitative quality. There were no family traditions or recipes related to the holiday. The food was alien and not very tasty (unsurprisingly, when one has no idea how it is supposed to taste or how to prepare it).

Our family holiday, then and now, is Chinese New Year, for which I have a non-negotiable summons home. (I give thanks for not having to participate in the annual insanity that is the migration home within China for the New Year, which dwarfs the American travel crunch at Thanksgiving.)

So when columnists try to describe Friendsgiving as some millennial innovation, I just think they're out of touch and full of crap. My best Thanksgiving experiences have been with friends, on the days around Thanksgiving itself, and have been for decades. Many a year the Thursday of Thanksgiving has been just the opening night of a multi-evening production with different groups of friends on each night.

I'm looking forward to that being true again this year.

Friendsgiving. A venerable tradition. Long may it continue.

11th June 2018

2:21am: en dollars for unlimited rides on commuter rail all weekend.

I took a photo of the ticket so people would know what it looked like.

This weekend was the first weekend of the MBTA's new $10 weekend fare. For ten dollars you can ride Greater Boston's commuter rail network as much as you like.

This weekend we already had a commuter rail trip planned. This $10 weekend ticket was the price of a single one-way ticket to our destination at normal prices, so it really made sense for us to buy the unlimited-ride ticket.

The pictured ticket is the one you get if you buy one at the staffed ticket window at North, South, or Back Bay stations. You can also buy one on board the train, but that one is only valid for the weekend you buy it, whereas the pre-printed ticket can be bought in advance and validated on the weekend you want to use it. This ticket is also available through the MBTA commuter rail mobile app, but I don't know what the restrictions are for that ticket.

Some conductors on board the trains were being proactive and telling people about the weekend ticket, but not all of them. For some people the $10 weekend ticket was less than the normal one-way fare to their destination so it really would have been a no-brainer.

By the end of the weekend I'd taken five rides on commuter rail, which works out to $2 a ride. Less than a ride on the T's urban rail lines! Quite a good deal.

28th May 2018

10:14pm: (Inter)national Burger Day.

R.F. O'Sullivan & Son
282 Beacon St, Somerville, MA 02143
Phone:(617) 491-9638

Open daily · 11:00 am – 1:00 am
Kitchen closes at 10:30 p.m.

#nationalburgerday #internationalburgerday

27th May 2018

6:21pm: Posted May 24: Zagster in Salem.

I think they're doing both docked and dockless bikeshare.

Note added today: When I first read about Zagster it seemed like they were entering the dockless bikeshare market, but so far all the ones I've seen have been docked.

However, it looks like their bikes can be used either as docked or dockless. Their only connection to the dock was a cable that locked to the integral wheel lock. It also looked like the dock itself was simply a frame for each bike with the cable that attached to the bike. I've since read that Zagster is doing both docked and dockless bikeshare in different places. This bike/dock combination certainly makes it look like the bikes could easily be used as dockless bikes if they decided not to use the dock. The checkin/out procedure looks like it works just like some other companies whose bikes are all dockless, as it doesn't actually the docks to process the rental at all.

This is clever, because it means their bike inventory is flexible between docked and dockless systems, and when they do use docks their docks are cheaper because they don't have to have processing power or locking systems in the dock. The bike and the app do it all, leaving a dock that's little more than a bike rack with some attached cables and a branded sign.
6:09pm: Posted May 21:
Matt Levine posted an article Friday about "the venture-capital-subsidized perpetual-loss-leading user-growth-at-any-cost economy". It seems applicable to the dockless bikeshare business.

(As of this weekend, I count five companies with bikes on the ground here in Greater Boston: Ant Bikes, LimeBike, ofo, VBikes, and Zagster. One other operator, Spin, has announced they will be bringing bikes here soon as well.)

Note added today: There's quite a lot of underpants gnomes about the business model around dockless bikeshare. In its most irresponsible form, the model goes something like this:
  1. Have lots of cheap bikes built, rentable with an app

  2. Dump them all over the place

  3. ...

  4. Profit!
The world's biggest dockless bikeshare operator, ofo, has raised something over $2 billion with this kind of model. Their next biggest competitor, Mobike, has raised on the order of a billion and a half dollars.
6:03pm: Posted May 20:
‪I'm idly wondering whether anyone would be upset if I started moving dockless bikeshare bikes out of the prohibited cities before they get impounded. Or even if anyone would care.

From https://boston.curbed.com/2018/5/17/17363534/boston-bike-sharing-ant-blue-dockless:
The flareup involves a Cambridge startup called Ant Bicycle. Its dockless bikes—which users unlock with an app—can be left anywhere, though they’re not welcome in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville, which have an exclusive deal with the more traditional bike-share system Blue Bikes (formerly Hubway), wherein users return the bikes to special kiosks about the towns.

Boston has been impounding the Ant bikes, and Somerville and Cambridge are warning the company to stay off its streets.
Note added today: I'd like to have some bikeshare bikes nearby, and my town has not joined the agreement, so there are no bikeshare docks near me. If these bikes are going to be impounded by Boston, wouldn't it be better if I moved some of them out of those cities and nearer to me?

Probably it'd be better if I used a truck.
5:18pm: Posted May 19: VBikes? I've never even heard of these guys! But here's one of their bikes...
...right on the Somerville Community Path.

Note added today: I found this bike while I was riding on the Somerville Community Path. The reason this is noteworthy is that another part of the docked bikeshare agreement signed by the four cities stipulates that no other bikeshare is authorized to operate in those cities.

This bike from VBikes, another bikeshare operator, is obviously in Somerville and is available for rental, and so according to many interpretations in violation of the agreement.

The issue is that this VBike is a dockless bike, and so it can be left by a user anywhere after that user is finished with rental.

The difference between docked and dockless bikeshares is pretty clear from the name. Docked bikeshare uses physical docks. You check out a bike from a dock when you want to ride it and must return it to one when you are finished. This makes for an orderly system with bikes in specified places, but it does so at increased cost: the docks are additional infrastructure, and docked bikeshare systems spend money rebalancing their bike inventory so that docks have some bikes but are not completely full (so that returning riders have an empty dock to return a bike to).

Dockless bikeshare has no docks but uses a lock integral to the bike which is controlled electronically, usually by smartphone app. A user downloads the app, which has a map showing the current location of bikes which are available to rent. When the user finds a bike they want to rent, they can unlock the bike with the app. They ride the bike to wherever their destination is, then lock the bike. The system then ends the rental.

Dockless bikeshare requires much less infrastructure but it also relies on renters to put their bikes somewhere reasonable at the end of the rental. This has often been a problem in other countries, including China, where the dockless bikeshare boom really took off. In general it's less of a problem when there are fewer bikes around, but because there aren't docks where you can reliably find a bike, it's important for convenience to have a number of bikes scattered around a neighborhood so people can find a bike when they need one.

VBikes and Ant Bikes (a company whose bikes I found in Harvard Square) are two dockless bikeshare operators in the Boston area who seem to have decided that the agreement between Blue Bikes and the four cities is something they're not going to worry about, and have placed bikes in those cities.

Other dockless bikeshare operators, including LimeBike, and ofo, have concentrated on towns outside of the four cities with an agreement with Blue Bikes. Last fall, I ran into bikes from both ofo and LimeBike in Malden. LimeBike in particular has indicated regions on the map in its app showing areas to which you are encouraged to return a bike and areas where you should not return bikes.

However, these areas are just a suggestion. No dockless bikeshare operator I'm aware of actually prevents you from locking a bike and thus ending its rental in a location they're not allowed to operate.

What is supposed to happen, and what the dockless bikeshare operators say they will do, is that they will collect bikes that have ended up in places they're not supposed to be and move them to places they belong.

In practice, this does not happen in any sort of timely manner. This is because the dockless bikeshare operators have all embraced a low-cost, minimal infrastructure model, and have few employees dedicated to moving bikes compared to docked bikeshare operators. Part of the point of the dockless bikeshare business model is to operate at lower cost and offer bicycle rental at a cheaper price.

So far, the bikeshare situation in Greater Boston has not gotten out of hand the way it has in various cities around the world, where bikes have ended up clogging popular locations, like the entrances to metro stations and other transit hubs, or in front of large buildings. But it is something to watch for.

The city of Boston has also begun impounding dockless bikes found in the city at a facility in South Boston, as they are in violation of their agreement with Blue Bikes. Where they will find additional labor to continue doing this and money to pay for that labor remains to be seen.
4:51pm: Posted May 19: Four miles down the Bikeway on a heavy, slow bike.

Note added today: I wanted to ride part of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway, as much as I could in a two hour rental at least. I had to start from Alewife, because that's where the nearest Blue Bikes bicycle dock is. As it turned out I could have gone much farther than four miles from Alewife, but I got cold and rode back home to get warmer clothes.

The bicycle is heavy and only has three gears, so it is pretty slow. However, I didn't mean that as a criticism: it's really durable and solid, as it's meant to be. It's great for riding on the flat, or on gentle grades like the Bikeway.

Aside from riding out to Lexington and back, I also rode the length of the Fitchburg Cutoff Path into Belmont and back, and the whole Somerville Community Path and back. I'd wanted to ride all of these paths because I'd walked them all in the past, although in the case of the Fitchburg Cutoff Path it was before it was improved into the state it is in today.

This was fun and I'd recommend it to anyone who lives near the bikepath network. Some care is required crossing Mass Av. at Arlington Center and at Cameron Av. in Cambridge, as well as crossing Davis Square in Somerville, but aside from that it's quite isolated from vehicle traffic. Aside from having to cross some side streets what you contend with while biking is pedestrians and rollerbladers.

The Fitchburg Cutoff Path in particular was very lightly used that day. Traffic on the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway got sparser as I went west.

Mostly I wish for bikes to be available farther out along the bikeway. However, the agreement that Blue Bikes has signed with the cities of Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville means that their bike docks are only found in those cities. Unless and until other cities join that agreement, Blue Bike docks will not appear there.

However, the bikeshare docks are not the only way to do bikeshare. This leads to my next post.
4:46pm: Posted May 18: National Bike to Work Day!

Note added today: For National Bike to Work Day, Blue Bikes had a promotion offering a free day's membership for their system. (Blue Bikes is the new name for Hubway now that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts has taken over sponsorship of the docked bikeshare system.)

This membership was a standard daily membership, which meant that for the day you could check out any of their bikes for a two hour rental for free, as many times as you liked during that day. I checked out two bikes, all starting at Alewife and rode for about three and a half hours total.
4:37pm: Posted May 16: At the Mass. Av. BRT Pilot Community Forum.

Note added here today: This was kind of relevant to bikeshare. The Q&A for this presentation ended up including arguments over the bike lanes that were painted onto Mass Av. a couple of years ago, after much debate. Both sides took advantage of this venue to reopen an issue I thought was settled already. Clearly some people still want the lanes to go away, and the people who got their lanes want to keep them.

I left after that because it seemed like the discussion was going to be about bike lanes rather than BRT.
4:25pm: Dockless bikeshare posts from Facebook.
I posted my first dockless bikeshare post here on dreamwidth, even before Instagram or Twitter, and certainly before Facebook. No one said anything here. That, and the fact that it was harder to post to dw while out riding around meant that I never posted to dw any of the followups that went out to other social media platforms.

They're going out now in a clump, following this post.

Better late than never! :)
4:18pm: Okay, Ramesh Ponnuru is funny today.
From Trump Is Right: Someone Is Out to Get Him:
President Donald Trump, “who has never been convinced that his aides have his best interests at heart, has felt increasingly aggrieved” in recent months. We have that word from two reporters for the New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers, and it fits with what we have seen from him in public.

The reporters explain Trump’s anger as a function of his “sense of paranoia.” But this is typical MSM nonsense. Trump is absolutely right that someone in his administration keeps undermining him.
Bonus best comment: "The call is coming from within the house!"
Current Mood: amused

10th May 2018

7:43am: Dockless bikeshare, Cambridge.

I took this photo in Harvard Square yesterday. Ant Bicycle's app shows lots of bikes available, primarily in the towns where Hubway has an exclusivity agreement. Interesting.

Anyone know if the agreement has been renegotiated? I suppose it's possible that along with Hubway's rebranding to Blue Bikes and its associated partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield there might have been a change to allow dockless bikeshare in the cities they operate in, but I haven't read any news about it.

If Ant Bicycle is operating in Boston I wonder if LimeBike and ofo will be expanding south from Malden.

27th February 2018

12:55am: Eggy Bread Emergency.
Here in New England we're familiar with the term French Toast Emergency. When a snowstorm is predicted, people rush to the grocers and buy up all the bread, milk, and eggs.

Apparently this happens in the UK and Ireland as well. (They're expecting some snowy weather over the next few days.)

I don't see anyone calling it an Eggy Bread Emergency, however.

15th February 2018

10:20pm: 新年快乐!
Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

Google's doodle for this Year of the Dog

6th February 2018

6:57am: FTAlphaville's Markets Live is always fun the morning after a "correction".

Wonderfully snide! Unlike the idiots on cable business channels with their mindless market-pumping, FTAlphaville are all for mocking financial folly. Of which there's always quite a lot. But a down market exposes what's been hidden during a boom, so it inspires more entertaining commentary.

As Warren Buffett said, “It's only when the tide goes out that you learn who's been swimming naked.”

Yesterday the ocean receded a bit.

(*bikergeek notes that the page is behind a wall. It's not a paywall but it does require registration, as does all of FTAlphaville.)

5th February 2018

6:08pm: Nice send-off for Chair Yellen today.
And an interesting first day on the job for Chair Powell.

S&P 500 Index
−113.19 (4.10%)

Dow Jones Industrial Average
−1,175.21 (4.60%)

Nasdaq Composite
−273.42 (3.78%)

Russell 2000 Index
−56.18 (3.63%)

NYSE Composite Index
−512.42 (3.92%)

(via Google)

2nd February 2018

4:45am: 2018春运
It begins.

Passengers wait to board trains at Shanghai's Hongqiao Railway Station as the annual Spring Festival travel rush begins ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Shanghai, China. REUTERS/Aly Song

See the rest of the slideshow of day one from Reuters at: https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/travel-chaos-in-china-idUSRTX4MZUC

This year, Chunyun's first day just happens to be the first day of February. The travel crush goes on until March 12th. Chinese authorities estimate that just under three billion trips will be made during those forty days.

My personal journey home to the family is only a little over 400km. By Chinese standards this is relatively short. Most importantly, no part of it takes place in China.

24th January 2018

1:28am: Hoisted from a private post written early this morning about some ancient history.
But if I didn't say it, well I'd still have felt it
Where's the sense in that?
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