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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

Category: transportation
January 28, 2014 at 11:46 AM

More than 1,000 Teslas drive on Washington roads

Tonia Buell of the Washington State Department of Transportation told me last week that more than 500 Teslas were on Washington roads, an estimate I included in my Sunday column about electric vehicles’ popularity in Washington. Her figures were preliminary, still being collected by state trackers. On Monday, she let me know her estimate was…

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January 7, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Seattle bus rider put away smartphone before wrestling gunman

Maybe you’ve seen the video of the Seattle Metro bus riders who wrestle a gunman to the ground less than a second after he’s pointed a gun at the wrong man’s face.

That man — sitting at the right of the frame in glasses — is looking at his smartphone, ear buds in, when the video starts. The gun appears in front of him and whoa — in one swoop he juts back, reaches for the gun and gets up to shove the gunman back down the aisle.

A reader pointed out a fascinating detail: As he shoves the man back with one hand — and you can imagine this is about the point when the man wakes up to what he’s doing and that his life is at stake — he uses his other hand to put away his smartphone.

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October 26, 2013 at 8:01 PM

E-bike enthusiasts spread the gospel of extra power, one pedal at a time

MadBoy E-Bike geeks Maggie Groves and Dan deCordova with their electric pedicab. (Photo by Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

MadBoy E-Bike geeks Maggie Groves and Dan deCordova with their electric pedicab. (Photo by Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

They seem to fit the profile of new tech that takes off: They make a popular activity faster and easier, and they’re green, to boot.

So why aren’t electric bicycles all over Seattle’s streets?

“Sixty percent of the people who come in here say some version of, ‘I had no idea these things existed,’ ” Daniel deCordova told me last week. We were at MadBoy Electric Vehicles, his shop in Sodo, surrounded by bicycles that do things bicycles don’t do.

Next time you see someone pedaling up a steep hill as if it’s nothing, take a look at the machine. See a round bulge at the center of one wheel? That’s a motor. The thick bar over the back wheel or hooked to the frame? That’s a battery. The e-bike might have a throttle, a display — even, in some models, a key ignition. The rider can pedal a lot, or just a little. It’s not up to physics. It’s up to the rider.

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September 14, 2013 at 7:36 PM

Still texting while driving? What it’s going to take to make us stop

A Washington woman texts while she drives. Image from video captured by Dr. Beth Ebel's field study of cell phone use from behind the wheel.

A Washington woman texts while she drives. Image from video captured by Dr. Beth Ebel’s field study of cell phone use from behind the wheel.

They weren’t police, but when Beth Ebel and her team of investigators walked up and down intersections in six major counties this year, peering into car windows to count how many drivers were using their phones, some drivers dropped them. Hid them. Pretended they’d never held them.

“We in public health have this fallacy that if we tell people why they shouldn’t do things, they won’t do them,” said Ebel, a trauma doctor and director of the Injury Prevention and Research Center at Harborview Medical Center. “We’ve got to stop that.”

Today, 97.5 percent of the state’s drivers wear seat belts. When Ebel began doing research on seat-belt use in 2001, 83 percent did. One lesson from that hard-won battle: Statistics about risk and death are why we care about a problem. They’re not how we’re going to fix it.

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June 3, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Guess what one thing would make this racing school founder want a driverless car

A driverless car by Google takes a spin around a track. (Flickr photo by Steve Jurvetson, Creative Commons license)

A driverless car by Google takes a spin around a track. (Flickr photo by Steve Jurvetson, Creative Commons license)

Driverless cars sound like a dream for a lot of people who just want to get from point A to point B.

But what if you just love to drive?

As head of the ProFormance Racing School in Kent, Don Kitch Jr. might get behind the wheel of anything from a Porsche to a BMW 535. He knows better than most why driving is about more than transportation. It’s about freedom, independence and fun.

That’s a big reason why commuting is a tough habit to break, no matter how efficient cities make other forms of transit.

While I was researching my column about how driverless cars would (and wouldn’t) kill congestion, I called Kitch up to chat. My husband, who learned to drive a manual transmission after watching seasons and seasons of British car show “Top Gear,” took a spin on the ProFormance track last year.

Are driverless cars the enemy?

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June 1, 2013 at 8:00 PM

Could driverless cars really kill congestion?

Driverless cars zoom down highways in the 2002 film "Minority Report."

Driverless cars zoom down highways in the 2002 film “Minority Report.”

It was a drive like any other drive. I got on Highway 99 and headed south, confident, after checking Google Maps, that I’d be downtown in 20 minutes.

Then, near the Aurora Bridge, 99 became a parking lot. A portion of the route had been closed for construction. I’d had no idea.

“This traffic is crushing my soul,” I tweeted half a block and half an hour later. “Help me. Please. Something. Anything to keep me from losing my mind.”

Sitting stuck in traffic is a special kind of hell. These past couple weeks, Puget Sound drivers burned bad. First the 99 nightmare May 18. Then a bridge collapse May 23. Then, a few days ago, a semi jackknifed on Interstate 5, all but shutting down the freeway and surrounding roads for miles just in time for the morning commute.

Congestion is a reality of urban life. But somewhere in those two hours on Aurora, I wondered — what if it doesn’t have to be? Robot cars from “Minority Report” and “iRobot” cruised through my mind, as they do every time my decade-old Civic churns in gridlock. Someday we’ll escape this, I thought. Technology will show the way. It will be wonderful.

Right?

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