Tag: driving

Voyeuristic Views of the World

With so many still under some form of quarantine as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to ‘virtually’ escape and go ‘visit’ other places around the world is obviously in demand.

In late June, a site called Window Swap was making the rounds. It is a site that has the simple premise of being able to share a photo or video of what the world looks like while looking out the window of your home. For example, how about having this view of the Egyptian Pyramids outside of your window. I’d never stop looking away.

Keeping with this trend, another neat site that takes this premise to the next level is Drive & Listen. What this site does is let you watch dashcam video from people driving in and around all sorts of great cities of the world, and ‘overlays’ it with radio broadcasts from that market. So for example, you can watch a video of someone driving around Rome, Italy during any normal day while listening to Italian radio. There is even a Drive & Listen Instagram account as well.

A ho hum day driving around Rome, Italy

For someone who loves to travel and is kinda frustrated to have to be at home for so long as our country deals with this pandemic, being able to see the nuances of many of the world’s great cities from my desktop computer is a pretty neat trick.

To No One’s Surprise, Boston’s Streets Are A Nightmare

Cal Berkeley graduate student Geoff Boeing conducted a fascinating analysis of the street layout of major cities in the US and Internationally.  Meaning, how is a city’s street layout oriented relative to a traditional compass – how true is the layout to a North/South/East/West layout?  Across most major US cities, the orientation follows that of a compass.  However, to no one’s great surprise, Boston fails spectacularly in this analysis (as does Charlotte, NC for some reason).

Although [Boston] features a grid in some neighborhoods like the Back Bay and South Boston, these grids tend to not be aligned with one another, resulting in a mish-mash of competing orientations. Furthermore, these grids are not ubiquitous and Boston’s other streets wind in many directions. If you’re going north and then take a right turn, you might know that you are immediately heading east, but it’s hard to know where you’re eventually really heading in the long run.
This makes it harder for unfamiliar visitors to navigate Boston than many other US cities. It does not adhere to a straightforward north-south-east-west pattern (or any other consistent, predictable pattern) that our brains adjust to in most places, not because Boston apocryphally paved over its cow paths, but because of its age, terrain, and annexation of various independent towns.

Geoff Boeing
Image Credit: Geoff Boeing

When you look at how the International cities trend from the lens of this analysis – old, European and Asian cities that have been around forever and basically just evolved and expanded with no set ‘urban plan’ from their ancient origins – it makes sense that some of the older US cities follow the same ‘organized chaos’. 

So next time you’re driving around Boston, you can take some solace in knowing that driving around there is not for the faint of heart. 

Commute Helper

Found this post on a Personal Finance Advice blog about a guy who is a commute helper. What is that you ask? Well, he sits on the side of the road with a sign that reads “Traffic is Bad. Spend 2 hours or pay me $10 and get there in 20 minutes”. When someone picks him up, they qualify to ride in the HOV lane and they can then bypass all the traffic. When he gets to the destination, he simply goes out to the road and does it again to get a ride home. He does it 5-8 times a day and can clear $100-300 a day. Brilliant.

Rest Stops

I have been spending far too much time on the New Jersey Turnpike recently, driving back and forth to Northern VA where I am currently working. All the rest stops on the NJ Turnpike are named after famous people past and long past. Do you think people like Walt Whitman, James Fenimore Cooper, Grover Cleveland and others ever envisioned that thier names would be on rest stops on the NJ Turnpike?