Turkeys at Mt. Auburn Cemetery

This year, I waited to visit to Mount Auburn Cemetery until the fall foliage was at its brightest. As I was enjoying a morning stroll, two large birds emerged out of the leaves…

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Halloween Bike Ride

Monday night, I joined about 200 other bicyclists for a costumed Halloween bike ride through Boston. A friend and I dressed up as militant cyclists, complete with gas masks (which we tested for visibility before joining the pack of riders). We greatly enjoyed the 3 hour ride through Jamaica Plain, Longwood, Fenway, the Back Bay, the Financial District, Chinatown, Cambridge, Harvard, Brighton, and Brookline. Despite the traffic jams our group caused, drivers for the most part enjoyed the show; much of the honking seemed quite friendly and was accompanied by shouts of “Happy Halloween!”

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A video of the ride is below. I make brief appearances at 0:09 (a silhouette with a gas mask in the foreground) and 3:35 (ringing my bike bell).

New Apartment

I’ve been in my new apartment in Cambridge, MA for two months. Some long overdue pictures:

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Portland Transit Photos

Pictures of some of Portland’s transit options:

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Chicago Visit

Pictures from my summer visit to Chicago:

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In the News: Pontificia Universidad de Chile Engineering Website

For the last month and a half, I have been working on a transit evaluation project with the Across Latitudes and Cultures – Bus Rapid Transit Center of Excellence hosted by the Catholic University of Chile in Santiago. The University’s engineering department put together a quick overview of my work here (the result of my first ever interview in Spanish). Below is a loose translation:

Anson Stewart has completed nearly a year touring countries in Central America and Africa, observing transport systems

Anson Stewart, with bachelor degrees in urban studies and engineering from Swarthmore College (Philadelphia) and a masters student at MIT, is undertaking his investigation “School Bus Migrations” thanks to the Watson Fellowship, which 40 young people from the United States receive annually. This scholarship promotes the exploration and learning about other cultures around the world during a year.

June, 2011

South Africa, Tanzania, Guatemala, Panama, Belize, Nicaragua, and Argentina were some of Stewart’s destinations before arriving in Chile. In these countries he began his investigation about school buses that the United States exports en masse to different countries of the world for public transportation. After a bit of exploring, Stewart encountered some interesting findings.

All of the countries of Central America are scrapping the yellow buses which served in previous years as public transportation. Today there exist ongoing implementations or at least plans for bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, as was established in Colombia with the name Transmilenio at the beginning of the past decade, and recently in Johnnesburg. Nicaragua and Tanzania are in the planning stages, Guatemala has two corridors, and Panama has the buses but still do not use them because of the lack of political agreement.

Stewart believes that this tendency to implement BRT in all of these countries does not end up positively in all cases. “I think that the countries are replicating a technical model without necessarily thinking in the specific cases of culture, political system, or infrastructure,” he says.

Although there are not agreements among experts about its definition, according to Stewart, BRT is understood as a system of exclusive corridors for buses with prepaid fares. According to this definition, Transantiago corresponds to a BRT model in the trunk routes where prepaid boarding areas exist.

“Transantiago is the only case in which the change was complete at the level of the city, and not gradual, in contrast with the other countries where BRT is being implemented. This leads to quite a few challenges, and I think that the system functions quite well,” affirms Stewart. Among the positive aspects of Transantiago, the expert highlighted the ease of obtaining and using the Bip farecard,website services, and the security that results from drivers not having to race and compete for passengers.

To complement his investigation, Stewart hopes to travel to Punta Arenas and Puerto Montt, the furthest destinations to which school buses from the US have arrived. At the end of July, he will return to the US where he will begin his MS Transportation studies at MIT to complement his studies in urbanism and engineering.

Leaving South Africa

My claim about a new job in Johannesburg was an April Fool’s joke; as my friend Chris said, it was no fair to pick something I’d actually do. My blog still needs to make its way through Tanzania, Zambia, and South Africa before catching up with me. Updates should be a bit easier to post once I leave South Africa, since there are strange monthly internet usage quotas here.

On Wednesday, I will be flying from Cape Town to Buenos Aires to continue my Watson Fellowship. When I wake up on Thursday for my first morning in Argentina, I’ll have only one hundred days remaining in my fellowship year.

Halfway Home

(No, not halfway house)

During my recent month-long radio silence I entered the second half of my year abroad.  While “blog time” still has me back in Nicaragua, I have actually traveled in the last three months through Costa Rica, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Austria, Italy, Tunisia, Dubai, Tanzania, and Zambia before arriving here in Cape Town, South Africa.

I will get caught up soon with stories from all of those places; doing so just was not feasible in Dar es Salaam.  The electricity would go out, on average, every other day.  And when the electricity came back on, there was no guarantee that the proprietors of nearby internet cafes would return to work.  I couldn’t even go snooping around the neighborhood for a wi-fi signal; anyone who needs reliable internet pays for cellular data usage (much more easily obtained than a plan in the US), leaving simple wi-fi users like me in the dark.

I liked marking the first quarter of my trip with a few quotations, and I’ll do the same now to mark the completion of my second quarter.  These quotations can serve as a sort of sneak preview for upcoming posts.

  • “A los arquitectos no les importa nada la ciudad | The city doesn’t mean anything to the architects” – lament by an architect in a meeting of a professional group of architects and urbanists
  • “Panama Viejo, Multicentro, Multiplaza, Paitilla, Panama Viejo!” – shout by me hanging out the door of a bus, listing the bus’s route for potential riders
  • “The big challenge for the world is cities in Africa” – statement by a retired World Bank transport expert
  • “South-south collaboration” – description by the same transport expert of the assistance provided by Colombians to Tanzanians in the design of Dar es Salaam’s bus rapid transit system
  • “You don’t expect anybody to bring a new daladala [minibus] here because the fare isn’t fair” – consultant for Tanzania’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Development
  • “We must advise each other with my brain’s supreme committee” – subtitle translation for the Swahili in a movie shown on the Dar Express bus between Moshi and Dar es Salaam.