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Showing posts from July, 2011

Bad Navigation

NPR has a really interesting story about the pitfalls of using GPS devices for driving directions. I've always been skeptical of them, and never owned one (though I do have Google Maps on my phone). I certainly understand the value they theoretically provide, but they've completely changed the way a lot of people drive, and it's not necessarily for the better.

(from Jobriga on Flickr)

The first time I experienced GPS was in 2008, while I was living in Dallas. A friend of mine had one, and since I bummed a lot of rides with him, I got a chance to see if it lived up to the hype. 2 out of the first 3 times we tried to use the GPS, it failed to get us to where we needed to go. After that, the GPS stayed in the glove box; we didn't need it to get around the city.

There's a scene in The Office where Michael Scott drives a car into a lake because the GPS gives him bad directions. It's an exaggerated case of someone who's completely reliant on a technological navigati…

Consumer Ignorance

Until last week, I don't think I knew any Netflix subscriber that didn't love the service. Now, it seems like they haven't got a friend left in the world. Netflix had a good thing going; it offered something for a price that was probably a little too good, and I'm actually not surprised that it's now coming to an end.

(from kristipwrs on Flickr)

In reality, Netflix suffers from a problem that a lot of service companies do. Its customers don't understand how the business actually works, and those customers misdirect anger when they aren't happy about something. For proof, search for any popular TV show on Netflix that isn't currently offered as an "Instant" title. There are tons of people who believe that someone at Netflix only needs to push a magical button and any show can stream to every home in American instantly.

The movie rental market makes sense, when you think about it. Netflix buys DVDs on a market. Movie companies make money selling th…

What's Wrong With Megabus?

After having some not-so-great luck with Megabus last winter, I decided to give the low-cost bus carrier one more chance during a trip to Pittsburgh last weekend. Unfortunately, that experience has led me to write-off Megabus forever.

(from M.V. Jantzen on Flickr)

It doesn't seem like long ago that Megabus was a concept that people were seriously excited about. After all, it was a concept that was supposed to make something as dreary as bus travel hip, what with the free wi-fi and power outlets and guerrilla marketing efforts. Maybe that could have happened, but Megabus is just too damn cheap. It's "cheap" in every sense of the word - cheap fares, cheap service, cheap reliability. Sure, it's an improvement over Greyhound, but that doesn't mean much in reality.

I've heard Megabus described as a 50/50 proposition. On average, half the time the trip will be perfectly acceptable, the rest of the time it won't. If the low fare is worth that gamble, then go fo…

Thoughts on Bike Networks

Richard Layman shares some interesting thoughts on the bicycle network in DC. He presents it in a way that makes very clear that the success of a bicycling network isn't measured by simply summing up the lane miles, but by understanding how infrastructure connects to itself.

(from Jason Pier in DC on Flickr)

When I was living in Arlington and working in downtown DC, my daily commute took me through Georgetown; a pretty awful place to ride a bicycle. During the morning and afternoon rush, M Street NW becomes a six-lane highway, with traffic lights timed to speed as many cars into and out of the city as possible.

By the afternoon it's total gridlock as masses of pedestrians try to maneuver through the neighborhood at the same time that commuters try to flee back to Virginia. From the Key Bridge, there really aren't any good alternatives to M Street, either. I could cut down to K Street, but then I'd have to climb back up as I ride east into downtown, plus deal with the traf…