iPhone App Helps Blind Identify Money

Technology should provide ways to make our lives easier. I believe that if we can help level the playing field and reduce the amount of time people have to come up with workarounds, then we are moving in the right direction.

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Republicans Push for Cutting Bay Area Transportation Funding

As a daily commuter in the Bay Area, I have been excited at the prospect of improved public transportation here. The high speed rail, the BART extension, the subway in San Francisco.
I was doubly excited to hear Obama’s commitment to national infrastructure improvement during his State of the Union.
Now to hear that Congress wants to cut this funding, affecting us here in the Bay Area, I must call upon my fellow Bay Area Commuters to go to support Obama when he comes to meet high tech business leaders on Thursday, February 17.

Original article posted By Gary Richards on Mercury News

One day after the Federal Transit Administration announced it would give the BART extension to San Jose $130 million as a down payment on $900 million in aid from Washington, political reality set in.

The Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee now recommends slashing funds to new rail lines by 22 percent — cuts that could slow the flow of money for BART and 27 other projects across the country.

“Obviously, any of their cuts would set us backwards rather than going forward,” FTA administrator Peter Rogoff said Tuesday from Washington, D.C. “We want to work with the House Republicans on deficit reduction, but we are heading in opposite directions on infrastructure and investment.”

President Barack Obama’s budget calls for $3.2 billion for new rail lines across the country, up from $2 billion this year. San Francisco’s Central Subway line would get $200 million, with Sacramento in line for $50 million for light rail.

The Republican budget proposal set off a flurry of angry responses Tuesday. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, called it “another example of mindless budget slashing. We can’t win the future if we don’t have a 21st-century transportation infrastructure to take us there.”

William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, said, “None of these cuts makes sense.”

Added Randy Rentschler of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in Oakland, which allocates federal and state money to the nine counties in the region: “It is areas such as the Bay Area who need a balanced transportation system and who would be affected most by this proposal. We need more, not less funding.”

Easing the potential pain for transit agencies is the freeing up of $350 million in federal aid after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blocked construction of a commuter rail tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan. This would have been one of the largest transit projects in the country, and nearly $9

billion of the $12.7 billion construction costs had been covered.But Christie canceled the project because it would have meant borrowing funds or raising the gas tax to cover the difference — moves he refused to make.

Michael Burns, the general manager of the Valley Transportation Authority that will build the BART extension, took heart, saying that even with the Republican budget proposal, nearly 80 percent of the new train program would be funded.

“This demonstrates that the new starts program has solid bipartisan support,” Burns said.

But issues remain, from opposition to increasing spending to questions about where Obama’s ambitious transportation budget would get more revenue.

It calls for spending $556 billion over the next six years. But only $230 billion would be covered by gas tax revenues over that period, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“How does the president propose to bridge the $326 billion funding shortfall?” asked Ken Orski, editor and publisher of a widely read transportation newsletter and the associate administrator of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

Last fall a panel of 80 transportation experts that included Norm Mineta, the director of transportation under President George W. Bush and a former congressman from San Jose, estimated that an additional $134 billion to $262 billion must be spent per year through 2035 to rebuild and improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Locally, said Honda, that must mean delivering on the promise of federal money for BART.

“The long-awaited BART to Silicon Valley project is too important for businesses and jobs in our communities to be put in danger by political gimmicks,” Honda said, “and I will fight tooth and nail to make sure it gets the federal funds that it deserves.”

Rent vs Buy Interactive Map

On the Trulia site, there is a great interactive map that plots out median prices for renting and buying to help you make a decision without having to plot it all out and track the housing market and gives you pretty colors to look at as well.

San Francisco, LA & New York appear to be better for renting, but it is still better to buy in Oakland.

I am always interested in great infographics, (see Edward Tuft or Visual Complexity) or other posts. Especially when the information can help you actually make decisions.

Customized Currency to Solve US Debt

Aaron Marcus of AM+A here in Berkeley has proposed this idea to Stephen Colbert, President Obama and others. So far, no bites.

Another fantastic idea that will require grass roots organizations to get it off the ground.

The full idea is explained at the American Institute of Graphic Arts Website (Mr. M arcus is a Fellow of the AIGA). “A Modest Proposal: Customized Currency”.

A South Korean innovation Website has picked up on the Customized Currency project and posted a Korean text with all the key images.  See Seoul Design Market, South Korea Web Publication about Customized Currency

If you wish to vote in favor of the Customized Currency design idea at a competition to redesign the US currency, please vote for Aaron’s design at this site before 30 September: http://richardsmith.posterous.com/?tag=dollarredeign&page=8

ABC News interviewed Aaron Marcus for a half-hour to tape a segment about the Customized Currency project for the national US Evening News with Diane Sawyer scheduled for 30 September 2010.

The Green Machine project is a mobile phone concept design that intends to change people’s behavior about saving energy. Four case studies have been published in the US, Europe, Africa, and South Korea.