The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Elizabeth Line opens

The Elizabeth Line through central London, formerly known as Crossrail, opened today:

First approved in 2008, the heavy rail line will dramatically improve public transport coverage of the city, says Transport for London (TfL), slashing journey times, providing substantial extra capacity and making the city more altogether more accessible. By extending the transport system to areas that were previously much slower to access and creating new central hubs for transfers to the Tube, the line could also reshape the way people navigate the city.

Travel times from Southeast London’s Abbey Wood to the major western rail terminus of Paddington, for example, will be cut by almost half to 29 minutes. Journeys from southeastern Woolwich—currently one of London’s worst-served areas for train connections—to London’s main eastern rail terminus at Liverpool Street will be halved to 15 minutes, while connections between Farringdon, in London’s financial district, and the newer dockland business hub of Canary Wharf will be slashed from 24 minutes to just ten. While all Londoners stand to benefit from these connections, business travelers will be particularly well-served, with connections from Heathrow Airport to Canary Wharf soon to be possible in 44 minutes.

An additional 1.5 million people will be within a 45-minute commuting distance from the capital’s major commercial and business centers of the West End, the City and Canary Wharf, up from 5 million currently according to Crossrail.

The Elizabeth Line will also redraw the map of London’s central transport hubs.

To take an example: Farringdon Station—the central London terminus of the world’s first underground railway, which opened in January 1863—was, before the Elizabeth Line’s opening a busy but not necessarily pivotal station in London’s transport network. Thanks to the Elizabeth Line, it will now be a key interchange station, connecting the line not just to the Tube but with high frequency trains to London’s northern and southern suburban hinterland that are routed through the station. Farringdon will also now have direct links to St. Pancras International for Eurostar connections and to three major airports: Gatwick, Heathrow and Luton. Combined with the station’s existing Tube links, Farringdon will eventually be served by over 140 trains per hour at the busiest times.

I will deliver a full report in July.

Meanwhile, 89% of UK railway workers have voted for a national railway strike, so who knows how long the Elizabeth Line will run?

Spring, Summer, Spring, Summer, who knows

This week's temperatures tell a story of incoherence and frustration: Monday, 26°C; Tuesday, 16°C; yesterday, 14°C; today (so far), 27°C. And this is after a record high of 33°C just a week ago—and a low just above 10°C Tuesday morning.

So while I'm wearing out the tracks on my window sashes, I'll have these items to read while my house either cools down or warms up:

And finally, Ian Bogost feels elated that cryptocurrencies have crashed, particularly because he doesn't own any.

The Elizabeth Line opens this month

The London Underground gets a new line on May 24th. Eventually, you can take the Elizabeth Line from Heathrow to Essex in one go; for now, you have to change twice. But it still adds about 10% more capacity to the Tube:

The Elizabeth line will initially operate as three separate railways, with services from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield connecting with the central tunnels from autumn this year. When the final stage is complete, customers will be able to travel seamlessly from Abbey Wood to Heathrow and Reading, and from Shenfield to Heathrow.

  • Shenfield and the central section of the route will need to change trains at Liverpool Street, walking to/from the new Elizabeth line Liverpool Street station
  • Reading or Heathrow and the central section will need to change trains at Paddington, walking to/from the new Paddington Elizabeth line station
  • Paddington and Abbey Wood only - no changes needed

The line has all-new trains, all-new signals, and all-new controls, making it "one of the most complex digital railways in the world," according to TfL.

The Heathrow to Paddington route looks like it could give the Heathrow Express some competition, as £6 is less than £25, even if the route takes twice as long.

Sure Happy It's Thursday vol. 2,694

Some odd stories, some scary stories:

  • Microsoft has released a report on Russia's ongoing cyber attacks against Ukraine.
  • Contra David Ignatius, military policy experts Dr Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds call Russia's invasion of Ukraine "the death throes of imperial delusion" and warn that Putin will likely escalate the conflict rather than face humiliation.
  • Russia historian Tom Nichols puts all of this together and worries about World War III—"not the rhetorical World War III loosely talked about now, but the real thing, including the deaths of hundreds of millions."
  • The Saudi Royal Family finally returned a Boeing 747-8 to the manufacturer after it had sat on the apron in Basel, Switzerland, for 10 years. The plane has 42 hours on it but may have to be scrapped.
  • In other B747 news, Boeing admitted to $1.1 billion in cost overruns for the four planes the Air Force ordered to carry the President. Boeing will eat the costs after making a deal with the XPOTUS for a fixed-price contract. The Air Force should receive the planes in 2026.
  • George Will thinks we should amend the Constitution to prohibit people who have served as US Senators from becoming President. He argues that too many senators use their office to run for president. But since World War II, all but one former senator who became president came from the Democratic Party (Biden, Obama, Nixon, LBJ, JFK, Truman), so I'm not sure it would pass the States even if it didn't also have to pass the Senate.

Finally, DuPage County officials have demolished a partially-completed mansion that sat vacant for 10 years, to the eternal sadness of its owner.

Great moments in copy editing

This headline made me laugh so loudly I scared Cassie:

The article explains:

The building at 2222 N. Halsted St. went up in 1808 and is considered “orange-rated” in the Sheffield Historic District, meaning it possesses some qualities that contribute to the historical nature of the area.

Um. No. There was not a 3-flat sticking up out of the prairie 5 kilometers from the nearest European settlement in the middle of Potawatomi land four years before the Fort Dearborn Massacre. Chicago looked like this in 1812:

Here's a map of Chicago from 1820 from the Library of Congress; notice that the northern border of the city was Kinzie Street, still about 5 kilometers from 2222 N. Halsted:

The area around Halsted and Webster was built up in the 1880s. My hypothesis, which I hope Block Club Chicago chases down, is that the building actually dates from 1888, as it looks like a typical 3-flat from that era, and it makes sense that somewhere along the line someone read the second 8 as a 0.

I reached out to the reporter, who replied:

I've triple-checked the recording of the meeting, and the attorneys definitely said 1808, but you're totally right. We're tweaking the story until we have clarification from them on when the building was constructed.

OK, sure, except the date of 1808 doesn't pass the laugh test if you know anything at all about Chicago history. I can understand a reporter transcribing a meeting and triple-checking what someone at the meeting said. But the reporter's job requires him in this case to do the 15 minutes of work to confirm the assertion. And the editor's job is to push back on the reporter before publishing a ridiculous headline.

I'm taking them to task for this because this error really shakes my confidence in the Block Club editorial staff. If you publish something this laughably wrong, can I trust what you report about the city council? About political organizations that want more publicity for their own points of view? About people with long records of lying their asses off?

I replied to the reporter that I'll bet a $50 donation to Block Club that it's really 1888. I hope the bet motivates him to do his damn job and get a relevant fact corrected sometime today.

Update: The reporter checked with the Cook County Assessor's Office, and yes, they say it's from 1886. The new copy reads as follows:

The building at 2222 N. Halsted St. is considered “orange-rated” in the Sheffield Historic District, meaning it possesses some qualities that contribute to the historical nature of the area. The Cook County Assessor’s Office lists the building as 135 years old.

That makes a lot more sense.

Readings over lunch

I mean...

  • Josh Marshall takes another look at the astonishing bribe Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler paid to Jared Kushner and concludes it's not just a one-off favor; it's an ongoing relationship.
  • Joan Williams argues that Democrats need to look at the class and economic aspects of the Right's economic populism, and maybe perhaps argue (correctly) that blaming people of color just takes the spotlight off the super-rich who are stealing from the middle?
  • US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) makes essentially the same argument, with a reminder that the mid-term election is only 202 days away.
  • A homeless-rights organization in Chicago argues that increasing the transfer tax on property sales over $1 million could fund real homelessness relief for real people.

Finally, a quirk in US copyright law has created a bonanza for litigators, along with the original creators of such diverse works as The Thing and Hoosiers.

No leaf blowers!

Jessica Stolzberg hopes to follow the success of Washington, D.C.'s gas-powered leaf blower ban elsewhere:

The gas leaf blower is by all measures, and without dispute, harmful — to the environment, to neighbors, to workers who carry them on their backs. These hazards have been the subject of countless articles. Local and national organizations work to educate and empower property owners, providing guides to alternatives.

The fix is so easy. Electric leaf blowers are effective, available and affordable. They emit no fossil fuel pollution directly. Their decibel output is safe. The best part? To make the switch requires only the simplicity and speed of personal decision. Yours. Today.

What does a street, a community and a country made up of property owners who say no to gas blowers look like? It looks the same. But it smells better, it sounds better, and it’s a safer, kinder place to all who call it home.

James Fallows has more on the success of the DC ban.

Contradictory transit incentives

Two stories this morning seemed oddly juxtaposed. In good news, the City of Chicago announced plans to spend $15 million on 77 km of new bike and pedestrian trails over the next couple of years:

Several of the projects, including plans to convert an old railroad into a trail in Englewood, are still in the planning and design phases. Others, like Sterling Bay’s planned extension of the 606 Bloomingdale Trail into Lincoln Yards, are set to come to fruition through private partnerships. 

The news release lists 12 projects, including several that had been previously announced, that are set to be funded with a $15 million “commitment to jumpstart” the “key projects citywide.” The $15 million comes from a combination of “federal, state and local sources, including general obligation bonds, Tax Increment Financing, and Open Space Impact Fees,” according to a spokesperson for the city’s planning department.

The City also plans to give away 5,000 bicycles to encourage people to get out of their cars. But at the same time, the City announced it would give away 50,000 gas cards to encourage people not to get out of their cars:

The plan, which comes weeks after possible 2023 mayoral candidate Willie Wilson spearheaded several rounds of free gas giveaways, includes gas cards worth $150 each for as many as 50,000 drivers, and transit cards worth $50 each for as many as 100,000 riders. Wilson on Thursday blasted the mayor’s plan and called it a “political stunt.”

Three-quarters of the transit cards would be prioritized for residents in low-income neighborhoods who use the CTA often. The remainder would be distributed throughout the city.

“It will benefit CTA riders across the city, but especially on the South and West sides,” CTA President Dorval Carter said. “Areas that saw the lowest ridership declines during the pandemic, areas where public transit is the best and sometimes the only option.”

Let's pause for just a moment to give political-stunt-incarnate Willie Wilson a golf clap for calling anything a "political stunt."

I get fretting about gasoline prices if you do what you can to save gas and need your car to survive. But on my trip last week, I got passed by idiots in two-ton SUVs who no doubt complain it costs them $100 to fill their tank.

My little Prius got to and from Kentucky on less than $80 of gas, and even with that trip I've still gotten an average of 2.2 liters per 100 km (156 MPG) so far this year. In fact, the second-worst economy I've ever gotten for a tank of gas in this car was on the return trip from Berea, when I got 5.5 L/100 km (43 MPG) over 610 km (400 miles). Of course, since I got back I've averaged 2 L/100 km (140 MPG).

So maybe if people didn't burn as much gasoline, the city wouldn't feel like giving away gasoline was an option? Just a thought.

Still the top news story

My friend in Kyiv posted on Facebook an hour ago about how many parking spaces are available in her neighborhood. She also couldn't figure out for a few seconds why there was a pillow in her bathtub this morning. So things could be better over there.

How much better could it be?

Meanwhile...

Maybe in my lifetime we'll have peace in Eastern Europe and a transit system in Chicago as good as any in Europe 20 years ago. I'm not sure which is more likely.

Slow-ish afternoon

I've sent some test results off to a partner in Sydney, so I have to wait until Monday morning before I officially mark that feature as "done." I'm also writing a presentation I'll give on March 16th. So while the larger part of my brain noodles on Microsoft Azure CosmosDB NoSQL databases (the subject of my presentation), the lesser part has this to read:

Finally, software developer Ben Tupper has created a Myst-like game surrounding the mysterious door at 58 Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights. I walked past that door every day for almost two years, and even got a peek inside once. It's not really a townhouse, after all.