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Archive for the ‘Transport’ Category

US Gas prices like I’ve never seen them.

One of the things I got used to in the USA is how cheap petrol (gasoline) was – or perhaps it was just the shock of dealing with NZ prices when I got back here.

Americans really do obsess over petrol prices too, constantly looking out for the cheapest deals whereas Kiwis just tend to pull up anywhere and start pumping – although that has begun to change here. I recall that we’d go to one gas station in Chicago because it was literally just over the city boundary and therefore not subject to the city tax, even though you couldn’t physically tell that you had “left” Chicago.

But thanks to the Biden administration’s war on fossil fuels, plus the Russian invasion of Ukraine, gas prices in the USA have exploded in the last year. Even so, the following photo, courtesy of one of the Powerline authors, Steve Hayward, who lives in California, is shocking.

I’m told this pic from the LA area is authentic—probably arriving here mid-state by noon tomorrow.

I ran the calculations and given US Gallons to Litres and the current conversion rate of the $US to $NZ I figure the $9.10 for Premium Gas is about $NZ 3.51 / litre.

New Zealand comes to California.

Heh!

Written by Tom Hunter

March 8, 2022 at 9:28 am

Biting back at the Masters of the Universe

Given the post I wrote the other day about “The Masters”, inspired by an execrable little commentary from one of them at the WEF, it’s nice timing to write about something that bites back at them a little.

The truckers convoy in Canada being the No. 1 bite-back at the moment. It’s some 70km long (the longest such protest in history) and its arrival in the capital, Ottawa, has so frightened Prime Minister Trudeau that he and his family fled the city.

Naturally this is being held up by the MSM as a scary development, Canada’s own January 6 incident – after they chuckled about the Secret Service moving Trump from the Whitehouse to a more secure location during Antifa riots in 2020, riots that injured some sixty members of the Service.

There’s also lots of honking going on in Ottawa now. My God, the honking. I’m literally shaking.

In keeping with frightened little people like “Stephanie”, PM Trudeau has also tried to smear the truckers, calling them “a ‘fringe minority’ who hold ‘unacceptable views,’ opposing the way ‘most Canadians’ feel.”  Brave words from the tiniest human to ever be Canadian PM.

The MSM, following his lead, at first ignored the convoy

… unless it was to demonize it — as it was proof-positive that the people are not with them, the politicians they serve, or the ideology they support, despite all their claims to the contrary. The issue was that this gathering over the weekend around the truckers was so large that they had to acknowledge it.

But you could tell they weren’t happy about it and the “villains” narrative was the play, with plenty of smearing.

MSNBC Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski spent a segment of their program bashing the convoy and the accompanying rally. Brzezinski, arms folded and head shaking, described how the convoy escalated in reports of vandalism and severe criminal behavior including “the desecration of national monuments.”

I thought the Left loved desecrating national monuments?

She also took to Twitter to highlight a tweet claiming that the protesters had reportedly demanded free soup from a soup kitchen, and the kitchen gave in to prevent conflict.

“So these anti-vaxxers actually took food from the mouths of the homeless?” asked Scarborough. Scarborough then made fun of the rally-goers, labeling them as hypocrites for protesting the vaccines mandates while being vaccinated, then fired off the idea that these people have some sort of religious belief in their cause.

“This. Is. A. Cult,” Scarborough finished.

That’s funny coming from people who worshipped the likes of Governor Cuomo, Dr Fauci and others, even to the extent of having action figures of them and prayer candles!

The New York Times:

Thousands of protesters on foot, many carrying handmade signs on hockey sticks, wandered through the parked vehicles and the slow-moving traffic or gathered on the lawn in front of Parliament. Some of them carried Canadian flags upside down; at least one flag had swastikas drawn on it.

The London Times was more blatant:

There were chaotic scenes over the weekend as scores of articulated lorries began to roll in on Friday, joined by hundreds of pick-ups and cars, paralysing a large chunk of downtown Ottawa near the parliament building and filling the air with honks. Yesterday Canadian flags, “F*** Trudeau” banners and messages about tyranny mingled with Confederate flags, swastikas and the emblems of far-right groups.

Progressives always try to imply that if someone draws a swastika it means that person is pro-Nazi. Actually, it means (in this context, at least) that the person is accusing the Canadian government of using Nazi-like tactics. Smearing by inverting the intent behind the signs.

The BBC quoted Defence Minister Anita Anand that the incidents were “beyond reprehensible”.

What crap! No incident described in that report was even remotely violent, as that NYT report grudgingly acknowledged (“Despite fears that the demonstration could turn violent, by Saturday evening the police said there had been no significant incidents.“)

My personal favourite to laugh at was the Canadian Broadcasting (CBC) host who suggested that the Russians might be behind the protests.

Wow! A Canadian January 6 and Russia Collusion event.

But the worst was the Washington Post, with this opinion column and cartoon:

Yes! Really. This take sums up the MSM coverage very well:

This is the actual working class, the ones who kept things going during the last two years of General Tso’s Lung Rot pandemic while the laptop class (politicians, media, the professoriate, billionaires, etc.) sheltered at home. These people – whether truckers, store clerks, sanitation people, bus drivers, police, or dozens of other jobs that needed to be done – bravely went out despite the fear of an unknown disease, and were praised for doing so by the likes of Trudeau.

But now they’re Fascists.

These truckers stand for all the people in the West who have done everything their political leaders forced upon them. It turns out that most of these truckers are vaccinated, not surprising given the Canadian mandates, but they’re now sick of such mandates at the US-Canada border when they return, with testing and then isolation for Omicron. Hence the protest. There’s been talk of arresting people standing on roadsides cheering it on, that’s how badly TPTB have lost control of the story.

There was at least one MSM source (although one always sneered at for being “low class”) who got it, the NY Post:

Disdainful media, of course, spent days warning of violence to come and searched supporters’ messages for evidence of racism. “ ‘So many angry people’: Experts say online conversation around trucker convoy veering into dangerous territory” read a CTV News headline. CBC, Canada’s PBS and NPR, called Saturday’s protest “a raucous demonstration that has police on high alert for possible violence even as organizers urge the crowd to be peaceful.” Police said that night that “no incidents of violence or injuries” were reported and no protesters faced charges.

The elite media also paint the protesters as stupid hicks, claiming they don’t understand that provincial governments all have restrictions that Ottawa can do nothing about. But Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe told truckers he supports their “call to end the cross border ban on unvaccinated truckers” and announced his government will soon “be ending our proof of negative test/proof of vaccination policy in Saskatchewan.”

It’s also nice to see at least one billionaire who also gets it.

Meantime, enjoy some non-MSM sources, including these videos made by the truckers themselves. You might find yourself cheering them on, as Mark Steyn has.

Written by Tom Hunter

February 1, 2022 at 1:14 pm

A trucker speaks

It’s always good to hear something from the coal face of a problem.

In this case the ongoing logistics crisis in the USA, which is much more than the global shipping problems that every nation is experiencing, see here, here and here.

I’m A Twenty Year Truck Driver, I Will Tell You Why America’s “Shipping Crisis” Will Not End.

It seems that one of the basic problems is that at the US ports there is perhaps only one crane for every 50-100 trucks.

Let’s start with understanding some things about ports. Outside of dedicated port trucking companies, most trucking companies won’t touch shipping containers. There is a reason for that.

Think of going to the port as going to WalMart on Black Friday, but imagine only ONE cashier for thousands of customers. Think about the lines. Except at a port, there are at least THREE lines to get a container in or out. The first line is the ‘in’ gate, where hundreds of trucks daily have to pass through 5–10 available gates. The second line is waiting to pick up your container. The third line is for waiting to get out. For each of these lines the wait time is a minimum of an hour, and I’ve waited up to 8 hours in the first line just to get into the port. Some ports are worse than others, but excessive wait times are not uncommon. It’s a rare day when a driver gets in and out in under two hours. By ‘rare day’, I mean maybe a handful of times a year.

The reason this didn’t matter before was that the system had been smoothly flowing for years without the sort of major disruptions caused by government Covid responses, but once those problems hit, the system can’t recover quickly because it has no reserves. Think of it like a huge power station running on coal or gas; it’ll run great for months or years on end, but it’s not designed for rapid start up so if you shut the whole thing down it takes days to fire up.

The driver points out that as member of the Teamsters union he gets paid by the hour so although frustrating he’s not losing money. That’s not the case for the majority of truckers who are owner-operators. His opinion is that most will make almost no money and therefore have not shown up. So:

  • Not enough trucks because there’s no money in it.
  • Not enough port workers because of vaccine mandates and government relief payments that have seen them not return.
  • Not enough warehouse workers (where containers are unpacked) because the money is shit and the job is tough.
  • Not enough spaces to store containers (see this post)

But his key takeaway is this one:

What is going to compel the shippers and carriers to invest in the needed infrastructure? The owners of these companies can theoretically not change anything and their business will still be at full capacity because of the backlog of containers. The backlog of containers doesn’t hurt them. It hurts anyone paying shipping costs — that is, manufacturers selling products and consumers buying products.

But it doesn’t hurt the owners of the transportation business — in fact the laws of supply and demand mean that they are actually going to make more money through higher rates, without changing a thing. They don’t have to improve or add infrastructure (because it’s costly), and they don’t have to pay their workers more (warehouse workers, crane operators, truckers).

Before the pandemic, through the pandemic, and really for the whole history of the freight industry at all levels, owners make their money by having low labor costs — that is, low wages and bare minimum staffing. Many supply chain workers are paid minimum wages, no benefits, and there’s a high rate of turnover because the physical conditions can be brutal

So this is a market failure, and he says that there are no incentives in the system that will make it change.

Nobody is compelling the transportation industries to make the needed changes to their infrastructure. There are no laws compelling them to hire the needed workers, or pay them a living wage, or improve working conditions. And nobody is compelling them to buy more container chassis units, more cranes, or more storage space. This is for an industry that literally every business in the world is reliant on in some way or another.

By “compelling” you know he means laws and regulations (he is a Teamster after all) and perhaps the industry is such a monopoly, even if there are many companies competing with each other inside it, that such are needed. But it’s not like the industry doesn’t already have a mountain of regulations and laws around it.

To me it seems that it’s better to see what incentives can be changed or introduced because market incentives work better and faster than compulsion.

But how? Because it’s infrastructure one can’t just craft up another port to equal that of LA. These so-called natural monopolies are why we have Transpower in NZ looking after the primary power transmission lines, since nobody would ever “compete” by building a second or third set. Perhaps in this case the port could be cut up into multiple companies that are able to set their own rules for shipping, thus creating competition in its best form, the competition of ideas about how to do things.

I see that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has already proposed one solution – send the ships to the ports of his state. That would be a major re-direction, especially for the China-US Pacific run (I’d think they’d transit the Indian and Atlantic oceans) but perhaps the extra time and fuel costs are now completely offset by the gains made in avoiding the West Coast?

Written by Tom Hunter

November 30, 2021 at 6:00 am

Good news from a simple solution

In the last few weeks I’ve written a couple of posts on the supply chain problems cropping up around the world, in particular across the Pacific and especially between the USA and China:

The Shipping News

World’s Worst Job

Since then the problem has actually got worse, with even more ships parked outside the Port of Los Angeles. In reading one of my foreign sources I came across a link to the Twitter account of a guy called Ryan Petersen who had rented a boat to go and look at the port to see what was happening.

But that was as far as I read and it merely confirmed other news about the situation. As it happens I should have read further, because he discovered something amazing that is almost beyond belief.

As this commentator summarises while listing out the entire Twitter thread:

  1. There was a rule in the Port saying you could only stack shipping containers two containers high.
  2. This is despite the whole point of shipping containers being to stack them on top of each other so you can have a container ship.
  3. This rule was created, and I am not making this up, because it was decided that higher stacks were not sufficiently aesthetically pleasing.
  4. If you violated this rule, you lost your right to operate at the port.
  5. In normal times, this was annoying but not a huge deal.

The last point on that list is this:

None of those people managed to do anything about the rule, or even get word out about the rule. No reporters wrote up news reports. No one was calling for a fix. The supply chain problems kept getting worse and mostly everyone agreed not to talk about it much and hope it would go away.

It’s incredible that this one stupid bureaucratic rule could be so obviously part of a massive and growing problem and not have anything done about it.

As it happens the Twitter guy did do something about. Having spotted the problem he suggested the obvious solution of suspending the rule so that containers could be stacked more than two high.

So far, so what you may say. Well this is where the power of connecting people on Social Media, in this case Twitter, was made obvious and for once in a good way. That initial tweet got 16k retweets and 33k likes, and even the others got thousands of likes as well, so this successfully got many people’s attention – including the people who make decisions, like the Mayor of Long Beach where the port is located:

That decision was made just eight hours after Petersen’s Tweet thread was posted.

EIGHT HOURS!

You can read the following blog post – An Unexpected Victory – for a (lengthy) analysis of this incident as an example of problem solving – and a glimmer of hope for solving other problems:

If you’re not terrified that the United States is a dead player, you haven’t been paying attention – the whole reason this is a miracle, and that it shocked so many people, is that we didn’t think the system was capable of noticing a stupid, massively destructive rule with no non-trivial benefits and no defenders and scrapping it, certainly not within a day. If your model did expect it, I’m very curious to know how that is possible, and how you explain the years 2020 and 2021.

Sadly there are multiple problems involved in the supply chain crisis, of which this was just one.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 9, 2021 at 10:08 am

The beauty of laminar flow

It is beautiful isn’t it? Even if it does look a bit like a flying egg.

That’s a new plane called the Celera 500L, made by a tiny US aerospace company called Otto Aviation.

With a cruising speed of 460mph at 50,000 feet and a range of 4,500 nautical miles it could be quite a challenge for other planes used for business trips and/or small-scale commercial passenger flights. Incredibly it’s doing all this with no more than a lightweight V-12 diesel engine.

It’s still undergoing flight testing but so far it’s been impressive:

For this test hop, Tryggvason plans to cruise at a sedate pace—maybe 250 miles per hour—while Len Fox, flying chase in a sleek twin-engine Piper Navajo, collects infrared images of the Celera. Tryggvason is loping along, barely using half the power at his disposal. So he’s surprised to hear Fox’s voice on the radio, sounding perturbed.

“Can you slow down some?” Fox says. “I can’t keep up with you.”

Tryggvason is a former Space Shuttle astronaut. You can read all about at Air & Space Magazine, but here are some important points:

Shaped like an elongated egg with wings and a stubby propeller hanging off the tail, the 500L is designed to leverage the benefits of laminar flow—an aerodynamic advantage that increases efficiency in flight by minimizing drag—to an extent never before seen in a production airplane.

Laminar flow has been around as a concept for a long time and its advantages are well known. The famous P-51 fighter plane used laminar flow in the design of its wings, as have other planes since then, but the Celera 500 applies it to every aspect of the plane. The problem comes with implementing it in practice:

Laminar flow structures don’t scale well—to the size of an airliner fuselage, for example. And the surfaces themselves have to be shaped to extremely fine tolerances. The precision required means that metal isn’t an ideal construction material. In flight, small impediments—ice on the wings or even dead bugs on the leading edge—can be enough to cause the flow to turn turbulent.

Which is why aerodynamic experts have rejected it for the most part. One strike that may be held against this plane is that its creator, Bill Otto, isn’t even an aeronautical engineer, although he’s worked a lifetime on the avionics of missiles and planes, and on a torpedo for the Navy that used laminar flow and achieved huge reductions in drag (and hence an increase in range and/or speed), but which was rejected for those practical, in-service reasons noted above.

For Otto, ignorance of these problems was bliss. All he knew was the science, and when he ran the numbers, they suggested that an airplane designed around wings, a fuselage, and an empennage that maximized laminar flow could be a game changer.

A warning note is given by the history of some other similar efforts like the Beech Starship and this comment from

But on one point, almost everybody agrees: The airplane sounds too good to be true. “I want to believe, but it sounds like a tall order,” says Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis for Teal Group. “Getting something airborne is the easy part. But getting something certified is a long process that inevitably results in changes, which, of course, can impair ambitious performance goals.”

We well see. I’m pro anything that’s beautiful, although the A-10 Warthog is an exception.

Written by Tom Hunter

October 31, 2021 at 10:35 am

Wellington is not moving.

I’m a firm believer in blogs like this connecting to other blogs rather than the MSM (breaking news aside) because blogs often provide a level of expert analysis and detail of subjects that the MSM does not.

In this case I’ll link to two blogs, Not PC and Liberty Scott on the matter of transport and do so in two separate posts. But they should be read together.

First up is Not PC, run by Peter Cresswell, an architect who has spent decades writing and thinking about urban planning. This particular article is a guest post by The Uncivil Servant, and focuses on transport in just one place, Wellington, and one group there planning it:

A RUNNING JOKE AROUND Wellington is the organisation for activist bureaucrats Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM). A running joke, because it is a symbol for how bureaucracy barely lets anything move at all.

The last National Government foolishly set it up to try to get agreement with local government on fixing transport problems in Wellington. Labour however has since changed its objectives, and painted a wide band of Green all over it. So now it isn’t really much about transport at all.

You could say the same about MBIE, set up at the behest of ACT. When are our “Right-wing” parties going to realise that setting up new bureaucracies to get things done simply results in these scenarios? All that happens is that the lovers of the State, the Left, have a new home to burrow into. In this case the writer details how the organisation’s primary objectives have been changed:

The upshot of this capitulation to blancmange is that LGWM is now less about transport and more about enabling intensification for housing development, and reducing carbon emissions. In fact, almost all about carbon emissions. Note: not noxious emissions like particulates…

The autistic focus gets worse than that:

It is also single-mindedly focused on reducing emissions solely by mode shift. Not by travelling less, not by moving to electric or hybrid vehicles, or by reducing traffic congestion to waste less fuel. LGWM is instead now almost solely focussed on enabling more housing (on one corridor), and on making peasants like you drive less by using public transport more.

They already have the statistics in front of them that show that their approach is not going to work, even on their own terms of reducing CO2 emissions. One third of traffic enters Wellington only to get to other places, and the primary reason for the congestion is that there is no bypass:

The problem is easy to identify: Wellington’s urban motorway ends abruptly at Te Aro at one end, and at the other end, SH1 from the airport stalls at the bottleneck of Mt Victoria Tunnel, with one lane in each direction. This causes congestion all day long and on weekends as well. Plus between 15-40% of traffic along Wellington’s waterfront is travelling to avoid that congestion, according to LGWM, that’s traffic that helps separate Wellington city from its harbour.

But LGWM is just not interested in solving that problem. Although the author does not say so I reckon that they’re actually happy with the congestion, thinking it will force drivers on to their trains, trams and buses, much as the Greens are happy about the Covid-19 lockdown destruction of our tourist industry, since it means fewer CO2 emitting planes ferrying people to and from our shores.

One of LGWM’s primary proposals is some sort of tram system that will cost $2.2 billion. That’s their estimate: public transport systems around the world regularly blow out such forecasts, often by multiples of two, three or more. Auckland’s ring train being merely the latest local example. The LGWM idea won’t do a damned thing for CO2 emissions either. In fact it has a different objective:

This policy of LGWM is straight out of the North American urbanist planner playbook, which calls for more “PT” (public transport) to induce more high-density housing. A policy that  has had the same success in addressing housing shortages and traffic issues there (i.e., virtually  none) as it would in Wellington. 

The other idea is fiddling around with the Mt Victoria road tunnels; building one for walkers and cyclists only and the other for buses only. Seriously, do these people even live in the city? I’ve walked and cycled around the place and on the rare nice day of sun and little wind it’s great, but there is no way I’d do it most of the time, especially during Winter and Autumn (Spring is not great either). There is already a dedicated bus tunnel of one lane only: why not just enlarge it? Probably for the following reason:

So all of the proposals essentially keep the current road capacity and do nothing at all about the bottleneck. This is straight out of the Green Party “building new road capacity is bad” school of thinking, on the basis people might have the audacity to drive (even with an electric car). One has to suspect the proposals are designed to just be dumped for being uneconomic, because they won’t encourage housing, won’t reduce emissions, nor encourage people to shift modes.

There’s nothing for the rest of Wellington either, even for other places with bottlenecks and congestion, like Karori. What a future National/ACT government should do about this is pretty simple:

If we want to ever get Wellington moving, a first step must be to remove Let’s Get Wellington Moving. It must be stopped.

Thereafter, [NZ Transport Agency] should be directed to finish SH1 in Wellington with a second Terrace Tunnel and Mt Victoria Tunnel; to trench the highway under Te Aro; and to grade separate at the Basin Reserve. Wellington City Council should put in place bus-priority measures at strategic points across the network.

On the other hand perhaps we just let Wellington drown in its own juices? Despite countless fuckups I see the locals regularly voting in very Lefty and Green councillors so Mencken’s rule of democracy should perhaps apply.

The only problem with that approach is that the rest of us, via central government, would end up paying to dig them out of their crap sooner or later. Better to stop them now before they hurt themselves.

Written by Tom Hunter

October 26, 2021 at 9:41 am