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Sunday Poll: Should Gov Parsons Sign Bill To Ease Motorcycle Helmet & Vehicle Inspection Requirements; Increase Vehicle Registration Fees?

May 26, 2019 Board of Aldermen, Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Gov Parsons Sign Bill To Ease Motorcycle Helmet & Vehicle Inspection Requirements; Increase Vehicle Registration Fees?
Please vote below

A bill on the desk of Missouri Gov Parsons, if signed by July 14th, would change a number of things, including:

  • Allow motorcyclists 18 and older, with health insurance, to ride without having to wear a helmet.
  • Cars 5-10 years old, with less than 150,000 miles, would no longer need safety inspections every two years. Vehicles older than 10 years or with 150k miles would still need state inspection. No mention of emissions testing.
  • Increase vehicle registration and drivers license fess.
  • Allow a left turn on a red light. Currently Missouri law doesn’t permit these turns. I blogged about this in 2015, see Left Turn On Red Not Allowed In Missouri.

This bill on the governor’s desk is the subject of today’s poll.

Today’s poll will close at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Not OK With Legislators Introducing “Bait” Bills

March 27, 2019 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Readers Not OK With Legislators Introducing “Bait” Bills
Missouri Capital, Jefferson City, MO, April 2011

When I first read about a Missouri legislator’s bills requiring gun ownership I quickly became upset. I became more upset when I read he’d introduced them to “bait the left.” Then I remembered applauding when I heard about a bill in Georgia:

HB 604 would amend Chapter 1 of Title 35 of the Official Code of Georgia so that “any male 55 years of age or older shall immediately report to the county sheriff or local law enforcement agency when such male releases sperm from his testicles.”

The bill was sponsored by five female Democratic representatives, including Rep. Dar’Shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia). 

Kendrick made waves online after she tweeted she intended to introduce a “testicular bill of rights” that would seek to regulate male sex organs. It was in response to the House’s passage of HB 481, dubbed the “heartbeat abortion bill,” that would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected – usually at around 6 weeks. (WCNC)

Most likely this is a case of people object to such bills when they’re opposed to the point being made. Although the Georgia bill is in response to other legislation that had passed, that’s not the case with the Missouri bills.

Here are the non-scientific results of the recent Sunday Poll:

Agree or disagree: I’m OK with legislators introducing bills simply to “bait” those with opposing views.

  • Strongly agree: 1 [3.57%]
  • Agree: 2 [7.14%]
  • Somewhat agree: 1 [3.57%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 2 [7.14%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 2 [7.14%]
  • Disagree: 5 [17.86%]
  • Strongly disagree: 15 [53.57%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Skeptical About Major Earthquake in Their Lifetimes

December 19, 2018 Featured, Missouri, STL Region Comments Off on Readers Skeptical About Major Earthquake in Their Lifetimes
The elevated sections of I-64 in St. Louis have been retrofitted to hopefully withstand a major earthquake.

Earthquakes happen all the time, we just don’t feel them. I’m nearly 52 and have never felt an earthquake.

My oldest brother was living in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, my other brother was living in the Los Angeles area during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. A close personal friend was living in Seattle during the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake. My relatives in Oklahoma have all felt their frequent, but minor, earthquakes. I’d be ok with never feeling one, but that time may come.

Here in St. Louis we’re part of at least two seismic zones:

With the New Madrid fault just a hundred miles south of St. Louis, it’s long been known that the region is at a greater risk for an earthquake than other parts of the Midwest. But new research indicates that St. Louis is part of an area that has seismic activity of its own.

Geologists have identified a new seismic zone stretching from St. Louis to Cape Girardeau along the Mississippi River called the Ste. Genevieve Seismic Zone. Their research indicates that the zone is capable of producing moderate earthquakes every few decades and has the potential to produce a major earthquake every 2,000 to 4,000 years.

“It’s a roll of the dice, right. If you’re unlucky, it could happen in your lifetime. The odds are not high,” Indiana University Geologist Gary Pavlis said.

A moderate earthquake measures about a magnitude 5 on the Richter scale. Pavlis said they can be felt but would only dislodge a few bricks here and there.

While the Ste. Genevieve Seismic Zone may not produce anything major in our lifetimes, the same can’t be said of the New Madrid Seismic Zone. OK, someone who’s 90 might not see the big one in their lifetimes, but those in your 20s may. It might happen next week.

There is broad agreement in the scientifc community that a continuing concern exists for a major destructive earthquake in the New Madrid seismic zone. Many structures in Memphis, Tenn., St. Louis, Mo., and other communities in the central Mississippi River Valley region are vulnerable and at risk from severe ground shaking. This assessment is based on decades of research on New Madrid earthquakes and related phenomena by dozens of Federal, university, State, and consulting earth scientists. (USGS)

Those in floodplain areas might experience the worst of it, because of liquefaction of the soil.

In the recent non-scientific poll more than half don’t expect the big one to hit St. Louis in their lifetimes:

Q: Agree or disagree: A major earthquake will “wreck” St. Louis in my lifetime.

  • Strongly agree: 3 [10.71%]
  • Agree: 2 [7.14%]
  • Somewhat agree: 7 [25%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [3.57%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [10.71%]
  • Disagree: 6 [21.43%]
  • Strongly disagree: 3 [10.71%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 3 [10.71%]

Hopefully they’re correct.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Split on Missouri Hyperloop

October 24, 2018 Featured, Missouri, Transportation Comments Off on Readers Split on Missouri Hyperloop

My grandfathers saw many new things during their lifetimes. Both were born in the 19th century, 1886 & 1899. Transportation changed dramatically during their lifetimes. With that in mind, I’d like to think the hyperloop concept can become a reality in my lifetime.

A Hyperloop is a proposed mode of passenger and/or freight transportation, first used to describe an open-source vactrain design released by a joint team from Tesla and SpaceX. Drawing heavily from Robert Goddard’s vactrain, a hyperloop is a sealed tube or system of tubes through which a pod may travel free of air resistance or friction conveying people or objects at high speed while being very efficient.

Elon Musk’s version of the concept, first publicly mentioned in 2012, incorporates reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on air bearings driven by linear induction motors and axial compressors. (Wikipedia)

Being among the first in the world to have a hyperloop, St. Louis to Kansas City, is great for the imagination. We spent 2 nights last weekend in Kansas City, I drove all but about 45 minutes of the round trip. The idea of getting there in a half hour rather than nearly four hours is incredibly appealing. The boost to both regions, and to Columbia MO at the halfway point, would be huge.

The skeptic in me, however, takes over my brain — kicking aside the dreamer who’d go to KC just for lunch. The season 4 episode of The Simpsons called Marge Vs The Monorail keeps coming to mind.

The tube would utilize the existing I-70 right-of-way

Driving the route for hours helped me see lots of potential problems. The engineers that say, for nearly $10 billion, a St. Louis to Kansas City hyperloop is feasible likely figured a lot of this into the costs.

The median in many places is narrow, and is designed to drain water. Guard rail would need to be used on both sides to prevent cars from slamming into new center supports.
Other areas a very wide
The most common issue is bridges & power lines over the highway. Presumably the tube would go up & over these bridges, power lines would be raised clear the top of the tube.

Despite the numerous obstacles, I do think it’s worth keeping tabs on to see if it develops into a viable transportation option. It was in the recent news:

Saudi Arabia has pulled a planned deal with Virgin Hyperloop One after Sir Richard Branson said he would freeze ties with the kingdom until more details are known about the disappearance of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to people briefed on talks between the parties. The two sides were planning to sign a deal for a new feasibility study at a ceremony during the upcoming Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, the people familiar with the situation added. The deal would have focused on manufacturing, knowledge transfer and route alignments for the futuristic transport system. (Financial Times)

Another source says Virgin HyperLoop One says the project has not been cancelled. Undisputed is the fact that billionaire Sir Richard Branson resigned as chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One.

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll readers were split:

Q: Agree or disagree: Missouri can’t afford a “HyperLoop” between St. Louis and Kansas City.

  • Strongly agree: 6 [25%]
  • Agree: 3 [12.5%]
  • Somewhat agree: 2 [8.33%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [4.17%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 2 [8.33%]
  • Disagree: 4 [16.67%]
  • Strongly disagree: 4 [16.67%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 2 [8.33%]

The agree group totaled 45.83% while the disagree group totaled slightly less at 41.67%. Again, these are non-scientific.

If hyperloop becomes viable, being among the first in the world would bring positive attention and money to Missouri. In the meantime hopefully voters will approve Proposition D on November 6th.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Sunday Poll: Can Missouri Afford A Hyperloop Between St. Louis & Kansas City?

October 21, 2018 Featured, Missouri, Sunday Poll, Transportation Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Can Missouri Afford A Hyperloop Between St. Louis & Kansas City?
Please vote below

Today’s poll involves a rather technical new idea, so it makes sense to look at what it is first:

A Hyperloop is a proposed mode of passenger and/or freight transportation, first used to describe an open-source vactrain design released by a joint team from Tesla and SpaceX.[1] Drawing heavily from Robert Goddard’s vactrain, a hyperloop is a sealed tube or system of tubes through which a pod may travel free of air resistance or friction conveying people or objects at high speed while being very efficient.

Elon Musk’s version of the concept, first publicly mentioned in 2012,[2] incorporates reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on air bearings driven by linear induction motors and axial compressors.[3]

The Hyperloop Alpha concept was first published in August 2013, proposing and examining a route running from the Los Angeles region to the San Francisco Bay Area, roughly following the Interstate 5 corridor. The paper conceived of a hyperloop system that would propel passengers along the 350-mile (560 km) route at a speed of 760 mph (1,200 km/h), allowing for a travel time of 35 minutes, which is considerably faster than current rail or air travel times. Preliminary cost estimates for this LA–SF suggested route were included in the white paper—US$6 billion for a passenger-only version, and US$7.5 billion for a somewhat larger-diameter version transporting passengers and vehicles[1]—although transportation analysts had doubts that the system could be constructed on that budget; some analysts claimed that the Hyperloop would be several billion dollars overbudget, taking into consideration construction, development, and operation costs.[4][5][6]

The Hyperloop concept has been explicitly “open-sourced” by Musk and SpaceX, and others have been encouraged to take the ideas and further develop them.

To that end, a few companies have been formed, and several interdisciplinary student-led teams are working to advance the technology.[7] SpaceX built an approximately 1-mile-long (1.6 km) subscale track for its pod design competition at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California.[8]

Some experts are skeptical, saying that the proposals ignore the expenses and risks of developing the technology and that the idea is “completely impractical”.[9] Claims have also been made that the Hyperloop is too susceptible to disruption from a power outage or terror attacks to be considered safe.[9] (Wikipedia)

Last week Missouri received lots of national press because one group is saying a Hyperloop between St. Louis and Kansas City, with a midway stop in Columbia, is feasible:

Virgin Hyperloop One has announced the results of a feasibility study on a planned route connecting Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis. The study, which has yet to be published in full, purports that the route between the three cities is commercially viable. Researchers at Black & Veatch examined the engineering, viability and economic challenges of a proposed line running parallel to I-70.

The release doesn’t go into specifics, but Hyperloop One must feel justified in saying that the route is worth the effort. It claims that the number of people traveling between the three cities would increase by 80 percent, from 16,000 to 51,000. In addition, the local economy is said to be $410 million better off, thanks to reduced journey times, with an extra $91 million coming in savings from a less congested I-70.

Virgin Hyperloop One has doubled down on its claim that journey times between Kansas City and St. Louis could be cut to under half an hour. The release suggests that the trip would now last 28 minutes, with the time to Columbia — roughly equidistant between the two — being cut to 15 minutes. (Engaget)

From the press release:

The news follows on an historic congressional testimony of September 2018 by Virgin Hyperloop One before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on the necessity of a new regulatory framework for hyperloop systems.

Two other states are currently studying hyperloop through in-depth feasibility studies—Ohio and Colorado. In addition, Ohio is also participating in the first U.S. Environmental Impact Studies (EIS) of a hyperloop system and Texas has announced its intent to start the process.

Kansas City KS engineering firm Black & Veatch had no Hyperloop study press release on their site.

Here’s more specifics on the user experience:

Travelers would go to what’s called a portal, which will likely be first in transit hubs of major cities before spreading outward to smaller ones. There, they will enter a large tube and board a pod inside of it with 15 to 30 others. The tubes can be built on elevated pylons, underground, through the ocean or at ground-level, and the pod will be roughly the size of a subway car; the tube would be the diameter of a subway tunnel. The door will close behind them, along with the entrance to the tunnel.

The air from the tube will be pulled out so the environment is as close to a vacuum as possible. Airline pilots soar at 30,000 feet in part because it allows them to conserve fuel with low air resistance, and the hyperloop can do that inside the tube. Instead of moving on wheels like a train, the hyperloop will levitate magnetically, allowing it to avoid more resistance. The pod will be accelerated by using electric power and piloted by a computer, zooming forth like a gigantic, passenger-bearing air hockey puck. As it accelerates, floating in the near-airless tube, the pod will be able to coast long distances without losing momentum — like a bike downhill — and the computer will generate bursts of power as needed to maintain extremely high speed. (CNBC)

See articles from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Kansas City Star. Total project cost would be $7.5 billion to $10 billion — from private & public sources. A round-trip ticket would be about the same as gas, about $60.

Sounds great, right? Many say, “not so fast.”

If the Hyperloop’s purpose is to address large-scale urban mobility, then there are many other options already deserving of public funding and attention—ones that do not require a hard rebooting of the entire urban world to be realized. We could increase funding for Amtrak. We could make our existing subways run on time, safely. We could fix our bridges. If boredom is already setting in, recall the fate of the Concorde. We once lived in a world that boasted a supersonic airliner, capable of whisking passengers from New York to London in three and a half hours—but this was a very qualified use of the word “we.” Who exactly could book a ticket on the Concorde was determined entirely by wealth, and, as such, that now lost transatlantic wormhole never felt particularly futuristic. Certainly, it failed to revolutionize international transportation for the masses. Today, it’s as if this feat of aeronautical engineering never existed. (The New Yorker)

More criticism from MIT’s Technology Review. Hopefully that’s enough background, here’s today’s poll:

This poll will automatically close at 8pm tonight.

My husband and I are in Kansas City for the weekend. We usually take Amtrak, but we drove this time because we needed a car to visit a museum that’s inaccessible to public transit. Wednesday I’ll share my thoughts on the St. Louis to Kansas City drive, train ride, and proposed Hyperloop.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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