I-110 ExpressLanes Recommendations

Should the ExpressLanes on the Interstate 110 and Interstate 10 in Los Angeles become a permanent fixture, here’s some recommendations L.A. County Metro could adopt for version 2.0.

  • An API that spits out the current price of the ExpressLanes, so that developers can integrate this into Metro’s official app, Google Maps and other applications. It would be super awesome if the API also interfaced with a predictive engine that, based off past data, showed what the price would be at various upcoming times.
  • Better signage near exits off the ExpressLanes. The left-hand exit for 39th Street/Coliseum in the northbound direction on the 110 is confusing because it comes up fast and there’s no sign saying where this exit will take you.
  • Looping in live video detection or Caltrans/CHP traffic engineers. When workers who monitor freeways via CCTV see an accident on the 110, they should immediately be able to lower the pricing for the ExpressLanes or be able to make them free. This would allow traffic to disperse over more lanes and steer further clear of the accident.
  • I think Metro should experiment with lower pricing. When I was coming on the 105 Eastbound toward the 110, I saw a price of $7 or $8 to get to the USC area and was quickly scared off. I’ve had several pleasant journeys where I saved time by paying about a $1 to use the ExpressLanes. This was the first time I was coming from the 105, and the extra money seemed pretty steep considering a long stretch of the ExpressLanes was moving at 65 mph+.
  • Decision engine. Metro may not want to get into the business of telling people what to do, but signs would be a lot smarter if they said, “$5.00 to Adams Blvd. GOOD DEAL” or “$5.00 Adams Blvd. SAVE 10 MINUTES.”
  • All Zipcars and similar “car-sharing” or “ride-sharing” vehicles should come with transponders pre-installed. Carshares should also get free ExpressLanes access even if it’s a solo driver. Zipcar could lobby for this.

Waze’s Free Marketing Strategy

Waze, the mapping application that Facebook is said to be close to buying, has put together a map of the world by harnessing the power of cell phones sitting in the pockets or center consoles of drivers worldwide.

The Israeli’s company’s first employee, Fej (Yuval) Shmuelevitz, visited USC recently to chat with a group of Jewish students interested in business. Fej, the vice president of community and operations, explained some of the unique ways Waze has been able to market itself for free.

–A homebuilder in the Midwest emailed Waze saying he loved the app. He wants to work with Waze to build maps of the new communities he’s building. Right now, clients and customers have trouble navigating to the sites. But he hopes to be able to tell people to download Waze. It would have maps of the newly built communities far before Google, Bing, Nokia or TomTom.

–Someone in Israel started a trend of putting what amounts to a QR code on wedding invitations. When scanned, it launches Waze and provides directions to the wedding locale. Fej estimated more than 50 percent of wedding invites have a Waze barcode.

-Waze has worked with local television stations to provide the traffic maps for newscasts. Neither Waze nor the news stations bears any costs. Waze benefits from the daily exposure.

–The company has also worked with other reporters to provide free reports about traffic crises or other interesting data related to stories.

–During Hurricane Sandy, Waze worked with government agencies to point people to the few gas stations that still had supplies.

Fej said Waze receives or internally produces 100 new ideas a week. Under Facebook’s umbrella, the number would only grow. One of the ideas that’s been talked about is a Google Latitude-like private group feature that would allow users to share their locations with groups of friends.

He also noted Google doesn’t want a monopoly in mapping because it would get more scrutiny more regulators. “They’re very happy that there’s competition,” he said.

Wisdom From Planet Money’s Adam Davidson

At an appearance at USC in March, the Planet Money host offered these three nuggets of wisdom:

On journalism: “Some of those stories are going to be sensible. Some of are going to be callously ridiculous. But they all share something in common — they’re wrong. There’s no set data of that explains one topic perfectly. It turns out to be a very optimistic fact for your lives.”

“The story I was going to live in was already written. You’re going to have to use critical thinking skills to see how the industries you’re interested in are changing and how your story has to change.”

“You will be judged more and more on what actual skills you have. The single most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills, which is rooted in curiosity and analytical training.”

Stories from Ireland and Northern Ireland

With reporting from Dublin and Belfast between March 13 and 23


Youth soccer remains segregated sport in Northern Ireland (TheAtlantic.com) 

Fair-skinned and wiry, Grace Ritchie looks no different than the dozen other boys staying dry in the locker room on this rainy Tuesday night. But the 13-year-old is in fact an oddity on his youth soccer team.

At Irish Weddings And Funerals, Priests Pushed Away (Religion News Service)

Although many observers have noted the impact of secularization and child abuse scandals on church membership and finances, only now are the Irish seeing the cultural and socioeconomic reverberations. These include a class of people willing to observe life’s most significant milestones outside the church.

A Young Presbyterian At The Center Of Peace And Politics In Northern Ireland (Neon Tommy)

Over burritos at a Belfast restaurant recently, he spoke about how he found his faith, what Christian churches must do to keep youth engaged and the mixing of culture, religion and politics.

N. Ireland struggles to confront Catholic Church’s enslavement of 1000s of women (AMERICAblog)

In Northern Ireland, however, there is no forthcoming apology or redress for Magdelene survivors.

Pope Francis won’t change the church’s path, says Dublin city councillor (Global Post) 

Mannix Flynn said the Catholic Church needs to take responsibility for its wrongs before it can change for the better.

Jesuit priests in Ireland see hope in Francis (Global Post)

The election of the first-ever Jesuit pope signifies a desire for change in the church, say Irish priests. Can Francis avoid becoming a ‘prisoner’ of the Vatican?

Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on the meaning of St. Patrick’s Day (IrishCentral.com)

The passion sparked around the globe by Ireland’s patron saint’s day


Other Stories about the Catholic Church and the Irish


Religion Mixes With Politics In L.A. Mayoral Race (Neon Tommy)

Though religion and politics mixes during election season, people who study the intersection of religion and civil society say there’s not a strong religious voice at Los Angeles City Hall in day-to-day politics. But experts and community leaders say more could be done to improve the city if religious groups could consistently come together to address local issues.

LA Catholic Archiocese grooming next generation of elementary school leaders (SCPR.org)

After three decades of declining enrollment, Catholic elementary schools in Los Angeles are heartened by two straight years of growth. But archdiocese policymakers say stronger leadership and innovation are needed to keep the momentum going and to position its schools as attractive and affordable alternatives to other educational options.

Lent Becoming A Second Christmas For Charities (The NonProfit Times)

During the 40-day period before Easter known as Lent, Christians of all denominations traditionally focus on praying, fasting and serving the community. Capitalizing on that last pillar, charities that make a push for donations and volunteers during Christmas increasingly see Lent as a similar opportunity.

Can the Catholic church attract new adherents with the Internet? (SCPR.org)

Though many global religions are struggling with membership among the digitally savvy, the Catholic Church’s plight in America is especially dire because its once-preeminent role in educating its youth is dwindling.

Struggle with church continues after emigrants leave Ireland (IrishCentral.com)

Where Micheal O’Leary sought churches in America two decades ago, John Corr now looks for pubs.

Some laity specifically called for a younger, more liberal and more charismatic leader than the retiring Pope Benedict. But many parishioners said the heavy thinking should be left to the electors.

Where God Meets Gallup (L.A. Currents)

The church boasts a tweeting pastor, a webcast sermon, a gay-community outreach program, a connection to the National Football League’s most recognizable quarterback, and dozens of famous and wealthy benefactors. But does any of that make the world a better place?

Drive-Thrus, Cupcakes

Two things that would be nice:

Wait-time signs near drive-thrus for banks, restaurants, coffee shops, etc. Sure, these people could end up losing business. But they might also anger customers less and, who knows, maybe the wait is actually shorter than it appears.

Pizza boxes have those nice backwards tripods in them to make sure the inside of the box top doesn’t smash into the pizza. Now that cupcakes are the craze, let’s bring something like that to cupcake boxes.