28 May 2005

29.05.05. Mexico City Retrofit Pilot Reduces PM 90%

May 26, 2005

Mexico City Retrofit Pilot Reduces PM 90%; Full Implementation Delayed by Lack of ULSD


A year-long joint US-Mexico demonstration project is reducing PM emissions in a test fleet of 20 Mexico City buses by 90% and NOx emissions by 10%. More widespread implementation of the technology may be hampered by a lack of Ultra Low-Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) fuel, however.

The Mexico City Diesel Retrofit Project is a joint effort between the US EPA, the Mexican Ministry for Environment and Natural Resources, the Mexico City Center for Sustainable Transport, the government of Mexico City and the World Resources Institute.

EPA and the World Resources Institute awarded grants totaling $511,000 to the Center for Sustainable Transport for implementation of the work.

The project—which was the first such international project for the EPA—is designed to demonstrate how the combined use of ultra low-sulfur fuels and retrofitted PM filters and oxidation catalysts can improve air quality and reduce impacts to public health. The project was similar to diesel retrofit projects now underway in U.S. cities including Seattle, New York City, and Washington, DC.

The retrofit project was intended to determine how well the technology would work at Mexico City’s 2,160 meter- (7,200 foot)-altitude.

The test fleet consisted of 12 buses equipped with particulate traps and 8 with oxidation catalysts. The fuel was imported 15 ppm Ultra Low-Sulfur Diesel.

PEMEX, the Mexican national oil company, isn’t yet able to produce its own supplies of ULSD that would enable more widespread deployment of the technologies.

PEMEX currently is producing diesel at 250 ppm, down from 500 ppm, and is shooting for 50 ppm by 2008—but which will require an investment in its refineries of some US$2 billion.

Mario Molina, a native of Mexico City who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone, and who is coordinating a 10-year project to improve air quality in the city, suggests that the cost of upgrading Pemex’s refineries to produce the cleaner diesel could be recovered gradually with a surcharge on the fuel.


May 26, 2005 in Diesel, Emissions, Fleets | Permalink

20 May 2005

20.05.05. Urban car drivers get more subsidy than public transport users

Editor's note: I can't figure out if this is the good news or the bad news. Perhaps you can tell me.

Local authorities across Europe are subsidising private car use by up to €250 per citizen every year, a new study has found.

Source: Environmental Data Interactive Net, By David Hopkins, 20-May-2005

The study, published by ICLEI - an association of local government groups - calls on local authorities to cut the subsidy for private car users in order to boost investment for sustainable public transport networks.

Based on analysis of local authority budgets from 12 German cities as well as Graz in Austria, Geneva in Switzerland and Ferrara in Italy, the report finds that most of the money used to subsidise private transportation is not recovered.

The subsidies come in the form of such things as maintenance of roads and streets, traffic signals, lighting, traffic police and parking spaces.

Local authorities can only recover such investment through such measures as parking fees and fines. However, according to the study, in Germany these methods recover on average only 29.1% of expenditure, while in Graz, the net spending for car transport by the local authority is double that contributed to the public transport system.

Gino van Begin, ICLEI Regional Director for Europe, said: "Car drivers are getting a free ride from local authorities and the result is increased congestion and pollution in European cities. Redressing the balance in favour of investments in sustainable transport will be good for the economy and the health of urban-dwellers."

Analysis of the studies figures shows that Dusseldorf spends €250.3 per inhabitant in subsidises for private car users but recovers only 14.8% of this. On average for the whole of Germany, every inhabitant pays €145.50 per year in subsidy for car users and recovers only 29.1%.

The study author's admit that not all of the listed costs are related to car traffic, but also support other modes of traffic. However, for the example of roads, they estimate that 80 - 90% of costs were generally allocated to car traffic, while 10% of the road is estimated to be used by other means of transport in terms of space, time, and deterioration.

Transport is seen as one of the largest contributors to climate change and air pollution, both in terms of gases and particulate matter. This report has come out as evidence is emerging that cities across Europe are exceeding EU pollution limits that came into effect in January. This sets levels for soot particles which are only allowed to be exceeded on 35 days in a whole year.

By the end of March, both Stuttgart and Munich had recorded their 36th day exceeding those limits.

© Faversham House Group Ltd 2005. edie news articles may be copied or forwarded for individual use only. No other reproduction or distribution is permitted without prior written consent.

18 May 2005

19.05.05. Kyoto - amazing opportunity or political football?

Editor's Note: David Suzuki, Amherst '58, is Chair of the David Suzuki Foundation and an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. On 22 April he posted this commentary which got considerable play in the Canadian and international press in Science Matters.

Kyoto - amazing opportunity or political football?

From: Science Matters by David Suzuki

Looking at the media coverage of Canada's recently announced Kyoto plan, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the country's biggest polluters and environmental groups are on same side - but nothing could be further from the truth.

While neither group had much good to say about Canada's plan, scratch the surface and you'd find very different reasons why. Big polluters, such as the oil industry and other big energy users, simply oppose anything that alters their business-as-usual scenarios. Environmental groups, on the other hand, didn't think the plan went far enough to stop these industries from polluting in the first place.

What seemed to get lost in the fray was the point of the whole exercise - to actually start reducing the emissions that are polluting our air and disrupting our climate. That needs to be the focus now. We've already wasted far too much time delaying action. Our promises to start reducing emissions actually date back to 1992!

Environmental groups are absolutely right; the Kyoto plan is weak. But at least it's a plan. We now have a working document that we can build on as we go. Remember, Kyoto is not the end - it's the beginning. It's just the start of a fundamental change in the way we produce and use energy. That's a big deal, but we've made huge energy transitions before - from wood to coal, then to oil and gas. Each step we've became more efficient and less polluting.

The problem is, with so many more people in the world, so much more industry and so much more stuff in general, we are still polluting too much. We're disrupting the climate and causing a host of other problems, from species extinction to water pollution. So now we need to make another transition - to renewable energy and using energy more efficiently.

Using energy more wisely will be very good for Canada's economy. Remember, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Canada is second only to Iceland in terms of being the industrialized world's biggest energy waster. But Iceland can afford to waste energy - most of theirs is geothermal and non-polluting. In fact, Iceland wants to use that Earth energy to make hydrogen and become the first hydrogen economy.

Meanwhile, Canada is still stumbling along, stuck in an inefficient 19th and 20th century industrial model. With oil prices going up and up, that hurts our economy. By becoming more efficient, Canada will become more competitive in today's global marketplace. It will also reduce pollution at home, which will improve our quality of life and reduce health care costs.

Our Kyoto plan needs a lot of work. The targets for some of Canada's biggest industries, for example, are outrageously low. In fact, the way the plan is currently structured, these industries don't really have to do much of anything at all. Automakers also got a sweet deal with a voluntary agreement that is full of loopholes.

The big industries that sought to water down our Kyoto plan must be pretty pleased. The lobbying, cajoling and threats they used to weasel out of making virtually any cuts to their pollution levels will help keep Canada at the bottom of the industrialized world. High-fives all around, I'm sure. But it won't be very much fun to watch as Europe and Asia switch to cleaner energy sources and retool their factories to be more efficient while Canadian industries are forced to pay more and more for increasingly expensive fossil fuels.

Making the changes necessary to meet and exceed our Kyoto targets - that is, becoming more efficient, switching to cleaner energy sources and being more innovative - would be good for Canada even if they didn't address the looming problem of climate change. Previous energy revolutions all brought about profound improvements in human health and quality of life. This one will be no different.

Enough bickering. It's time to get on with it.

16 May 2005

16.05.05. US mayors pledge action against global warming

In today’s Kyoto Blog we are pleased to report the latest news on the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement that was formally kicked off on 30 March, in the form of an article appearing in today’s New Zealand Herald (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=2&ObjectID=10125765). To round this out we add three background pieces on the Agreement itself, in the form of a short introduction, the full text of the Agreement, and the letter signed by nine US mayors and sent to more than 400 of their colleagues. A full set of materials can be had at http://www.cityofseattle.net/mayor/climate/default.htm).

But along with this information, I would like to ask you all a question. How if at all should we be trying to link the Kyoto World Cities 20/20 Challenge to their efforts? It would seem like a natural fit, and indeed we have been in touch with the mayor’s office in Seattle about this -- but thus far the working link has yet to be established. Ideas?

US mayors pledge action against global warming
10.05.05. Andrew Buncombe, New Zealand Herald

WASHINGTON - Frustrated by the Bush administration's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Treaty, 132 US mayors have pledged to enforce the regulations in their own cities.

In a rejection of the government's position which claimed it would be too damaging to the US economy to enforce tougher environmental restrictions, the group of bipartisan city leaders has vowed to try and meet Kyoto's central target - a reduction in greenhouse gases to less than seven per cent of where they stood in 1990 in under 10 years.

The mayors involved in the alliance range from largely liberal cities such as Los Angeles, California, to strongholds of conservatism such as Hurst in President Bush's home state of Texas.
Between them they represent almost 29m citizens spread across 35 states. But they are joined by the idea that even if the federal government will not sign-up to Kyoto, a difference can be made at a local level.

Across the country, the shift in policies required if the city's are to hope to meet their targets, is already underway.

In Seattle, whose mayor Greg Nickel, was one of the organisers of the coalition, cruise ships that come in to dock at the port are now required to turn off their diesel engines while resupplying and instead rely on electricity provided by the city. The mayor's office said that by the end of the year, Seattle's power utility, Seattle City Light, will be the only one in the country with no net emissions of greenhouse gases.

In Salt Lake City, the city authority has become Utah's largest buyer of wind power in order to meet its reduction target.

In New York, the administration of Michael Bloomberg, which signed up last week, is trying to reduce emissions from the municipal fleet by buying hybrid powered vehicles.

The mayor of low-lying New Orleans, Ray Nagin, a Democrat, told the New York Times that he joined the coalition because a projected rise in sea levels "threatens the very existence of New Orleans".

In Hawaii, the mayor of Maui County, Alan Arakawa, a Republican, said he joined because he was frustrated by the administration's failure to recognise the scientific consensus that climate change was happening because of human activity.

Nathan Mantua, of the Centre for Science in the Earth System at the University of Washington, which estimates the impact of global warming on the US northwest, said the coalition's efforts were probably of limited global impact.

"It is clearly a politically significant step in the right direction," he said.

"It may be an environmentally significant step for air quality in the cities that are going to do this, but for the global warming problem it is a baby step."

But the coalition of mayors is not the only local initiative to reduce emissions of such gasses.

Last November, nine states, led by New York's Governor, George Pataki, announced a system to cap and trade greenhouse gas emissions.

Under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), industries covered by the schemes will be given allocations in units of one ton of carbon dioxide produced. Polluters could then either reduce their emissions or buy allocations on a market from others.

In the US, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, which cause acid rain and smog, are federally regulated and traded, but there is no federal regulation of carbon dioxide.

A White House official said that joining the Kyoto Treaty, which came into effect last February, would have cost the US economy 5m jobs.

* * *

US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement

Date: March 30, 2005

Source: http://www.cityofseattle.net/mayor/climate/default.htm


Climate disruption is an urgent threat to the environmental and economic health of our communities. Many cities, in this country and abroad, already have strong local policies and programs in place to reduce global warming pollution, but more action is needed at the local, state, and federal levels to meet the challenge. On February 16, 2005 the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement to address climate disruption, became law for the 141 countries that have ratified it to date. On that day, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels launched this initiative to advance the goals of the Kyoto Protocol through leadership and action by at least 141 American cities. Mayor Nickels, along with a growing number of other US mayors, is leading the development of a US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement ; our goal is for at least 141 cities to sign onto the Agreement by the time of the U.S. Conference of Mayors June meeting in Chicago.

Under the Agreement, participating cities commit to take following three actions:

· Strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets in their own communities, through actions ranging from anti-sprawl land-use policies to urban forest restoration projects to public information campaigns;

· Urge their state governments, and the federal government, to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the greenhouse gas emission reduction target suggested for the United States in the Kyoto Protocol -- 7% reduction from 1990 levels by 2012; and

· Urge the U.S. Congress to pass the bipartisan Climate Stewardship Act, which would establish a national emission trading system

In addition to building a coalition of at least 141 cities to sign onto the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, Mayor Nickels, along with the other participating mayors, is leading an effort to win endorsement of the Agreement by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, through passage of a [resolution] at their upcoming meeting in June.

* * *

The U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement:

A. We urge the federal government and state governments to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol target of reducing global warming pollution levels to 7% below 1990 levels by 2012, including efforts to: reduce the United States’ dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate the development of clean, economical energy resources and fuel-efficient technologies such as conservation, methane recovery for energy generation, wind and solar energy, fuel cells, efficient motor vehicles, and biofuels;

B. We urge the U.S. Congress to pass the bipartisan Climate Stewardship Act sponsored by Senators McCain and Lieberman and Representatives Gilchrist and Olver, which would create a flexible, market-based system of tradable allowances among emitting industries; and

C. We will strive to meet or exceed Kyoto Protocol targets for reducing global warming pollution by taking actions in our own operations and communities such as:

  1. Inventory global warming emissions in City operations and in the community, set reduction targets and create an action plan.
  2. Adopt and enforce land-use policies that reduce sprawl, preserve open space, and create compact, walkable urban communities;
  3. Promote transportation options such as bicycle trails, commute trip reduction programs, incentives for car pooling and public transit;
  4. Increase the use of clean, alternative energy by, or example, investing in “green tags”, advocating for the development of renewable energy resources, and recovering landfill methane for energy production;
  5. Make energy efficiency a priority through building code improvements, retrofitting city facilities with energy efficient lighting and urging employees to conserve energy and save money;
  6. Purchase only Energy Star equipment and appliances for City use;
  7. Practice and promote sustainable building practices using the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program or a similar system;
  8. Increase the average fuel efficiency of municipal fleet vehicles; reduce the number of vehicles; launch an employee education program including anti-idling messages; convert diesel vehicles to bio-diesel;
  9. Evaluate opportunities to increase pump efficiency in water and wastewater systems; recover wastewater treatment methane for energy production;
  10. Increase recycling rates in City operations and in the community;
  11. Maintain healthy urban forests; promote tree planting to increase shading and to absorb CO2; and
  12. Help educate the public, schools, other jurisdictions, professional associations, business and industry about reducing global warming pollution.

* * *

Call to Action: Letter send to more than 400 US mayors

Cities Working Together to Protect Our Air Quality, Health and Environment:

March 30, 2005

Dear Mayor:

We invite you to join the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement by signing onto the enclosed resolution and supporting it at the US Conference of Mayors meeting in June. We also welcome the endorsement of other Mayors, whether or not you are currently a member of the US Conference of Mayors.

With less than 5% of the world’s population, the US produces more than 25% of the global greenhouse gas emissions, and those emissions are continuing to grow. We believe that US cities can – and should – act to reduce global warming pollution, both in our own municipal operations and in our communities. Many of us are already doing so through programs such as energy conservation, urban forest restoration, controlling sprawl and using alternative fuels in our fleets. Not only are we reducing our contributions to global warming pollution, we are investing in more livable cities through cleaner air, creation and preservation of open space and urban forests, and reduced energy costs.

On February 16, the Kyoto Treaty, the international agreement to address climate disruption, became law for the 141 countries that have ratified it to date. As you know, the United States is not among them. For 38 of the countries with the most advanced economies, the Treaty sets binding legal commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on average 5.2 percent below 1990 levels. If the United States had ratified the Kyoto Treaty our nation would be required to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 7% below 1990 levels by 2012.

Please join us and the other Mayors who are already committed to providing leadership on this nationwide, urgent effort. When we meet together at the June US Conference of Mayors we intend to have at least 141 mayors signed up to participate in the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. The June meeting is an opportunity to promote and expand this effort by passing a resolution that endorses the Agreement. Although there have been climate protection resolutions adopted by the USCM in prior years, you will see that we are urging specific actions – the only way we will make real progress in reversing the trend toward global warming.

Since Seattle’s Mayor Greg Nickels first announced this initiative on February 16, the interest and positive feedback has remained intense, including national news stories. This is an opportunity to build on what is becoming an increasingly bi-partisan issue. And it is an opportunity to provide real leadership to the more than 80% of Americans who think the US should be acting to reduce global warming pollution.

Enclosed, please find the draft Resolution, which includes the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, and a form for your signature. Also included are contacts for more information; the website for the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement is www.seattle.gov/mayor. To meet our target of having most signatures collected by May 2, we look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.


  • Mayor Greg Nickels, Seattle, Washington.
  • Mayor Rocky Anderson, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Mayor Peter Clavelle, Burlington, Vermont
  • Mayor Rosemarie Ives, Redmond, Washington
  • Mayor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco, California
  • Mayor Pam O’Conner, Santa Monica, California
  • Mayor Tom Potter, Portland, Oregon
  • Mayor Mark Ruzzin, Boulder, Colorado
  • Mayor R.T. Rybak, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Mayor Jerry Brown, Oakland, California

12 May 2005

12.05.05. Car industry lies to Canadians

Editor's note: More from David Suzuki, Amherst '58, award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster and Chair of the David Suzuki Foundation in Canada. For a bit of context in this disputatious world, a quick tour of Google informs us on the one hand that David is "an insufferable scaremonger masquerading as a scientist", or this time from the CBC: "For over three decades, David Suzuki has been Canada's foremost environmental conscience." Your call.

Car industry lies to Canadians

Canadians should be disgusted with their federal government this week, but not just because of what has come out at the Gomery inquiry.

No, Canadians should be outraged because, once again, their government has ignored the best interests of its citizens and refused to stand up to a corporate dinosaur. That dinosaur is the automotive industry, and the recently announced deal to reduce emissions amounts to nothing more than another government subsidy to prop up an industry that feeds off the health and pocketbooks of Canadians.

The new agreement, wrapped in obfuscating language about megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and navel-gazing preamble after preamble, doesn't guarantee any improvements in gas mileage at all. In fact, it amounts to little more than a PR exercise for automakers and the feds.

On top of everything, it actually lies. Just look at the many preambles:

"And whereas the Canadian Automotive Industry has shown good faith in meeting their commitments in other Memoranda of Understanding and are currently parties to numerous successful active agreements;"

A lie. Way back in 1982, the industry fought like mad to derail fuel efficiency regulations that had already been passed by Parliament. Government caved in to the industry, which promised to meet the targets "voluntarily." On paper, they met those targets. But in reality, they avoided them by exploiting a loophole that allowed them to build and promote more and more gas-guzzling light trucks, which were exempt from the standard. The industry also has also argued, threatened and whined about the "impossibility" of everything from smog-reducing catalytic converters to safety innovations like seatbelts and air bags.

Here's another good one:

"And whereas the Government of Canada acknowledges that the Canadian Automotive Industry has made significant progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving fuel efficiency since 1990;"

Another lie. Fuel efficiency has decreased in recent years because the industry is hell-bent on selling bigger, heavier and - more expensive - vehicles that cost less to make, like SUVs. But you don't have to take my word for it. Just look at a comprehensive analysis by economists Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling published in the current edition of American Scientist.

Bezdek and Wendling point out that average fuel economy for all new vehicles has declined from 26.2 mpg (8.9l/100km) in 1987 to 24.7 mpg (9.5l/100km) in 2004. They then point to more than two dozen technologies identified by the U.S. National Research Council as technically feasible ways to make cars more fuel efficient today. They then examine the costs of using these technologies and what it would mean for the industry and the economy. Their input-output analysis concludes that making cars burn less gas would actually create more jobs, save money for consumers, and improve the economy - in addition to reducing smog and climate change.

Good for consumers, good for jobs, good for health - this win should have been relatively easy for the federal government. Polls show that 90 per cent of Canadians want more efficient cars and the vast majority don't believe the industry's lies that making them would be either too hard or too expensive. California already set the precedent in North America by enacting laws that require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from new cars, thus forcing them to improve gas mileage.

Instead, we've got a voluntary agreement that guarantees nothing and again leaves enough loopholes to drive a Hummer through. Canadians are being played for dupes by the industry and the feds are letting them get away with it. This industry lies. It lies and it lies and it lies. And our government doesn't have the guts to stand up to them.

01 May 2005

01.05.05. Riders' Angles - Citizens assessing government

Editor's note: Let's see. Transit in Chicago? Website in Vilnius? What kind of world are we living in? Seems to me that change is in story from directions that perhaps not everyone is anticipating.

Riders' Angles

Citizens assessing government: Evaluating Chicago Transit Authority performance and standards. A proposal to the The Campaign for Better Transit from the Minciu Sodas laboratory.


How can we make sense of government performance?

Let us think sensitively! We propose to look at public transit performance from the rider's point of view.

Performance measurement is a rather new concept in government. In Chicago, there is a need for the Chicago Transit Authority to pay attention to our most basic expectations. However, when transit is thought of as a system for transporting us, then we get looked upon as freight.

Instead, transit is for our transitions. We say goodbye to one time and place, and we say hello to another. We set our frame of mind. Is our journey convenient and productive? cheerful or stressful? relaxing or exhausting? invigorating or plodding? uplifting or depressing? integrating or isolating? Is it eventful, in good ways or bad?

Public transit lets us share our costs, but we may also share our sensitivity and responsivity. Let us open all manner of feedback loops. How can we structure the system, the measurements and responses, to bring out the best in riders, drivers, managers and planners?


If we, the riders, are central, then let us also be the center of response. Every aspect of the system should amplify our concerns, and encourage our solutions. What may look like a seat is actually our throne. We should never suffer without a reason, but should freely engage each other to accommodate each other. On any transit issue, we should be able to approach our driver with respect as our champion.

We, the riders, should drive our public transit system:

  • Let's not assume that all riders are the same. We have different purposes for riding the bus (or not riding): going to work, school, hospital, park, mall, church, date, game, friends and relatives. What improves service?
  • Let's assume that the ride is part of life. We're spending enormous amounts of time, often an hour or two per day, on our wait and ride: reading, resting, chatting, eating, working, phoning, praying. How might we rethink our social space, and physical space, for best use of our time and relationships?
  • Let's design measures around what riders are trying to accomplish. How can we know: If we are going to work, that we won't arrive late once too often? If we need extra help getting on or off, that we will be assisted? If we go out at night, that we will have a way to get back home?
  • Let's involve riders in the solution. Riders affect every aspect of the ride. Active riders can set the norms and expectations. What are sensible roles that bring out the best in riders, drivers, managers and planners?


We propose to involve riders in the solution, by involving them in the investigation of the Chicago Transit Authority's performance and standards.

  1. Organize input from riders. We will organize around CBT a lively and effective online community of active riders in Chicago and beyond. Our riders will convey online, especially as bloggers, moments that illustrate what riding adds or subtracts from their quality of life, such as Shannon Clark's "bus-ride moment" Bridges and Steelworkers. We'll strive for the spirit of New York's Straphangers' Rider Diaries, but in a wider variety of venues and formats, with the CBT website as a central hub. Our riders will contribute words, images and also data, as they find convenient, from themselves and others, into a shared online database. They will be active in local action and global dialogue for measuring and enhancing transit performance.
  2. Create a database for analyzing the CTA budget. We will enter CTA budget data into a database. We will design, modify or purchase tools for programatically stripping the data out of the PDF format, and where necessary, we will enter the data by hand. We will create an interface for the CBT to analyze the budget and correlate it with other data resources such as census data. We will collect some data from other cities around the world that we might make some comparisons. We will make available online some part of this data and functionality.
  3. Bring together creative experts on making sense of government performance. We will organize a working group Thinking Sensitively of Minciu Sodas lab members, enthusiasts and scholars from Chicago and around the world, who have ideas on making sense of government performance. We will present issues, examples and data from Chicago and the CBT in a way that is of global interest, and will garner ideas, experience and enthusiasm from other cities. We will survey the theory and practice that is defining and redefining the state-of-the-art in measuring government performance. We will use local and global input to develop a theory for the CBT linking quality of life, citizen action and government performance.


Investigating and organizing go hand and hand. Open investigation integrates us around the truth. Social organization connects us with reality.

In order to question openly, we need to rise beyond our local and personal concerns. The Minciu Sodas laboratory excels at relating any concern, issue or project with "caring about thinking" so that it is of global and general interest. Encouragement from people around the world helps us invest ourselves in new approaches in Chicago. Our work-in-progress attracts resources and partners, and inspires action and reaction.

Working openly we involve wonderful talents and leverage deep creativity. We work with our investigators by meeting them half-way, finding how their personal quests might also serve the CTB. They agree to give their creative work to the public domain, or under licenses that contribute to the public wealth. We select, design and conduct investigations opportunistically, according to available investigators, resources, synergies. We also look for other sources of funding. By drawing on multiple angles, we are able to best marshal our resources to achieve our particular aims, as described above: Organize input from riders, Create a database for analyzing the CTA budget, and Bring together creative experts on making sense of government performance.

Working opportunistically, we develop an energy that we can channel and adapt to CBT's priorities. We plan to conduct five investigations for synergy from a variety of angles. Here is a sample of what might arouse global interest and attract help for citizen assessment of government, as well as the evaluation of the Chicago Transit Authority performance and standards. Each of these investigations contributes to our understanding of part or all of the feedback loop needed for monitoring and enhancing government performance.

  • What makes blogging take off? Blogs (web logs) are easy-to-author online diaries. What gives rise to a society of bloggers? Why are Brazil, Poland and Iran blogging superpowers? A Polish journalist wrote about a blogger romance in Silicon Valley, and now 100,000 young Polish women post their Internet diaries! How might we leverage, in the spirit of The Cluetrain Manifesto, the daily rapport between riders and drivers? We mix online and curbside organizing with a dash of digital cameras to jumpstart a world of blogging riders.
  • How might gadgets enhance transit? Cell phones, Palm Pilots, digital cameras, webcams, handheld GPS (Global Positioning System) devices, smart cards and bar codes are all over the place. They let us record and communicate where we are, what we see, hear and think. The coming year will find new devices, some dedicated to moblogging (mobile blogging). Such devices can interconnect worlds of data with the physical world that we move through. So how might they enhance transit? The data needs to circulate. Humans need to help generate it, and they need feedback loops that encourage and reward their participation. We look to design self-regulating systems that drive the transit system to be self-accountable.
  • How can we use math to make a point? Mathematical thinking is key to understanding and evaluating performance. Unfortunately, mathematics is taught in such a barbaric way that we generally are uncomfortable sizing up real-life numbers, or distinguishing between various kinds of trends. The CTA system, and the CTA budget, generate enormous amounts of down-to-earth data. If I need to go three blocks, is it better for me to wait for the bus, or to walk? A thoughtful website might be a showcase for all manner of real-life math problems, and at the same time attract attention to CTA performance, and how it might be improved. Starting with the basics, we can show that, just as we weight many factors in buying a car, so we do in managing public transit. We can design performance measures that reflect personal preferences, or design holistic performance measures that consider how each kind of transit affects the entire transit system.
  • What kind of web functionality stimulates block club action? Chicago is known for its block clubs. Typically they rely on just a few leaders. We might design our web interface to serve not only individuals, but leaders of small groups. We can encourage them to gather ideas, experiences and data from their group. What might they bring back to their group? What issues might activate a network of such groups? We can look for ways of presenting online the work of such groups to monitor and improve public transit.
  • How can the behavior of a few individuals reform the behavior of an entire system? We can draw inspiration from extreme challenges. Suhit Anantula is attempting to make Hyderabad, India an ambulance-friendly city. How can a handful of people change the norms of a metropolis? We look for constructive mentalities that can spread virally. We zone in on the leaders and the laws that set the tone. We connect our issue with the points that might stir the public for new behavior. Just as we learn from extremes around the world, so we can look for the extremes in Chicago that are too easy to overlook! How is the CTA preparing for the future, for example, to leverage emerging fuel technology? or to embrace a high-tech lifestyle? or to support a positive outlook for our neighborhoods?
  • In what ways is art effective in sending a public message? Democracy responds to the people. Change comes from a minority. How can we provoke each other to think differently? What images and stories help us focus on the issues? Which ones are able to move broadly through the media? We encourage our community of riders to create works in the public domain that might evolve and travel freely through the Internet until they strike a nerve with the Chicago media, the people of Chicago, and the CTA.
  • What feedback systems bring out the best in riders, drivers and managers? Our Investigators explore overlapping parts of the loops of accountability. We encourage synergy amongst our various projects, and look for what they say about the system as a whole. What does it take for the transit system to be accountable? What motivates the players of each role? How can the system serve a variety of riders? How can it keep growing and improving as an integral part of our quality of life? We look for ways to understand the system as serving the rider's point of view.


Andrius Kulikauskas, Ph.D. founded the Minciu Sodas laboratory in 1998. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1986, B.S.Math, B.A.Physics, and was awarded a Ph.D. in Mathematics in 1993 from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). His quest is "to know everything and apply that usefully". He has lived in the Chicago neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Marquette Park, Garfield Ridge and Englewood, and ridden many miles on the 55th street, 69th street, Western, Jeffery, Orange, Red and Blue Lines.

The mission of Minciu Sodas is to serve and organize independent thinkers around the world. By focusing on our shared value of "caring about thinking", we are able to attract and hold people of a wide variety of outlooks and circumstances. Our endeavors include interconnecting software tools for organizing thoughts, monitoring the wisdom of investments, organizing an economy for working openly, structuring workspaces for fostering endeavors, invigorating the commons for endeavors, making work fun, organizing Islamic independent thinkers, practicing love as policy, dismantling the racial caste system in America, providing education that fosters independent thinking, uplifting life in the Lithuanian countryside, bringing peaceful self-determination to the Middle East, and making sense of government performance.

Minciu Sodas excels at team-building by investigating. We have trained and organized teams of programmers for Agile Media/BAJobs.com, and drafted software standards for TheBrain Technologies and MindJet. We draw from a pool of 50 active and 500 passive participants. (Note that we expect to attract many new members with expertise in government performance, as well as active riders in Chicago). Here are some of our Investigators and Instigators:

  • Joseph Goguen is Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at UCSD, and Director of the USCD Meaning and Computation Lab. He is a distinguished thinker in requirements engineering, and a founder of algebraic semantics and algebraic semiotics. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Consciousness Studies. At our laboratory, he asks, What are values? How do you discern them in objects and persons?
  • Daniel Weinstein is Assistant Professor of English at Dakota State University in Madison, South Dakota. He teaches writing, technical writing, information architecture and web publishing. He is investigating Visual language and teaching, including the use of weblogging.
  • Raimundas Vaitkevicius is Senior Programmer at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania where he teaches object technology and statistics for psychology. He organizes teachers in the Lithuanian Computer Society. He is investigating the use of tools for organizing thoughts.
  • Shannon Clark of Chicago is CEO of JigZaw. His company is an innovator in developing AI software for Information Extraction and Integration. He excels at problem analysis. Shannon is the Events Chair for the Ryze Business Network in Chicago.
  • Suhit Anantula is an Analyst who is personally working to make Hyderabad, India an ambulance-friendly city. As a social entrepreneur, he is taking up the challenge to reduce pollution from Indian stoves, a leading cause of death there.
  • Algis Cibulskis of Lithuania leads the Statistics Department for the IT Center of the Ministry of Education. His team is responsible for organizing the collection, reformatting and analysis of data from thousands of schools.
  • William Wagner, a Chicago native, is the publisher of Ljubljana Life in Slovenia. He is writing a book on how our environment affects our thinking, and vice versa.
  • Joe Damal is a Chicago community organizer, a living legend for several challenging sectors of Chicago youth. In 1999, he lead one of the first Minciu Sodas investigations, Ever change your mind? for the Youth Outreach Program of the Chicago Public Schools.
  • Ian Bruk is a Consultant. He has spent the last three years analyzing the performance of 200 companies, and is leading and funding our work to develop Material Change (Living Research Reports), software to monitor the wisdom of investments.
  • Peter Kaminski is CTO of Socialtext, a leader in social software. He is an Internet pioneer, award-winning designer of the 1993 NetCruiser browser, founder of Yipes Communications, NanoSpace and PDIAL, and instigator of the Social Software Alliance.

Thank you to our many contributors to this proposal: Suhit Anantula on ambulance friendly cities, Natalie d'Arbeloff on artistic focus, Stanko Blatnik on web systems, Ian Bruk on village transit, Richard Cayzer on the future, Steve Cayzer on social factors, Prem Chandavarkar on great love, Shannon Clark on the CTA, David Ellison-Bey on inspiring others, Shane Hopkins on Chicago and NY transit, David Kaminski on gadgets and video, Debra Louison Lavoy on dialogue with drivers, Miranda Mowbray on transit around the world, umesh rashmi rohatgi on the role of government, Lucas Gonzalez Santa Cruz on evoking ideas.


Our purpose is to build local and global momentum in support of The Campaign for Better Transit. We want to engage all who might wish to make sense of government performance, especially monitoring and enhancing transit in Chicago. Our long term impact depends on us tapping into what our participants truly care about. We therefore plan to deploy our resources flexibly, so that we might meet our investigators half-way, and encourage them to adapt, for our sake, investigations that they are conducting for their own reasons.

We best leverage our integrity with a fractal distribution of our resources and responsibility. We have a lead organizer, Andrius Kulikauskas, who makes sure that we have a team, and that we meet our basic aims. He will select and lead a team of 5 investigators whose efforts will help him meet these aims, but moreover, will open up thoughtful questions, attract helpful participants, and generate synergy, momentum and community. They will all be assisted by 25 instigators who will be rewarded for a variety of small jobs and thoughtful help. We also expect to attract about 125 participants who care enough to get involved in some small way.

Our budget therefore, for one year, is:

$5,000 for our lead organizer, Director Andrius Kulikauskas. Roughly $1,000 of this will be for travel to and from Chicago. (He will work in Chicago for one or two months).
$5,000 for our 5 investigators. They will receive stipends $4,000 = 5 x $800. We reserve $1,000 (20%) for administrative costs and discretionary resources.
$5,000 for our 25 instigators. They will receive rewards $4,000 = 25 x $160. We reserve $1,000 (20%) for administrative costs and discretionary resources.

TOTAL: $15,000

We look forward to working closely with the staff and enthusiasts of The Campaign for Better Transit. We shall make every opportunity that they might participate actively through our laboratory as investigators and instigators in these and other endeavors.

We should be quite flexible and creative with rewards for our instigators. They may be cash, but depending on how we structure our work, may be gadgets, or even coupons towards gadgets. The coming year will see handheld devices that we can't yet even imagine, and we may also get support from manufacturers in Silicon Valley or Japan. Therefore, we advise to hold back on any such purchases until we know more about our investigations and partners.

We will make sure that our team has a strong presence in Chicago, but also encourage anybody around the world who has a great project, or brings a lot of energy. We will use this money, as much as possible, to leverage the personal work that we want to do anyways, rather than just pay to get a job done. We will look for other sources of funds. We're looking for a lot of synergy amongst us, between CBT and our lab, and support for ongoing work at our lab.

Thank you for your consideration of our proposal!


Andrius Kulikauskas
Minciu Sodas
Grudu g 6, Vilnius, LT2020, Lithuania