Photo of the Day (02.20.10)

Carpooling is a great way to get to know your coworkers, save money and help the environment. A common concern amongst people who ride-share is that they hate being cramped in the car. Sure, the lack of legroom and sheer number of elbows poking your torso can make for an aggravating commute. But the next time you want to gripe about how uncomfortable your ride to work is, consider this Indian quartet that was immortalized by Flickr user jrodmanjr. Still think it’s rough packing into Steve from Accounting’s Mini Cooper? By no means are these four intrepid cyclists unique. During my time in India, I saw countless iterations of creative motorcycle mounting. Each time I was floored by the bravery of these seemingly calm (and always helmet-less) commuters.

Have a picture of some fearless motorists that you’d like to share? Submit your images to Gadling’s Flickr group right now and we might use it for a future Photo of the Day.

San Francisco’s Bay Bridge closed indefinitely

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will be closed indefinitely while crews repair an upper-deck cable that snapped during rush-hour on Tuesday evening. According to the AP, the broken cable and a chunk of bridge metal fell onto the westbound lanes, damaging at least one vehicle.

The cable that snapped was put in last month to repair a crack that was discovered over Labor Day weekend. While the issue is repaired, other forms of transportation will double up their efforts to keep people moving on trains and ferries.

The snapped wire could be a sign of more repair work to come, though. As quoted in the Los Angeles Daily News, a civil engineering professor at UCLA Berkeley called the initial crack a “warning sign” of more problems. He said the repair was really just a Band-Aid and “demonstrates the need for a longer-term solution.” The bridge is 73 years old and carries around 260,000 people each day.

You never know who that subway musician might be …

“Real Good for Free” is a classic Joni Mitchell song (thanks henhenstoll on YouTube for posting this BBC version).

The song is a ballad about Joni seeing a talented musician on the street “playin’ real good for free” and no one paying any attention to him, when she gets fancy hotels and concert halls, and how strange that is. It’s a beautiful song about the guilt that can come with success.

Well, The Washington Post put the song’s principle to the test. They had world famous violin legend Joshua Bell play at L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, D.C. at rush hour to see what would happen.

They even asked Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra what he thought would happen, and Slatkin said:

“Let’s assume that he is not recognized and just taken for granted as a street musician . . . Still, I don’t think that if he’s really good, he’s going to go unnoticed. He’d get a larger audience in Europe . . . but, okay, out of 1,000 people, my guess is there might be 35 or 40 who will recognize the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening.”

Slatkin said that a crowd would gather and the musician would make $150.

The results, as you might guess: He made $34. Nobody really paid much attention except a child, and even those who did drop a dollar in his case barely stopped walking to do so. Sorry Mr. Slatkin, busy people, even classical music lovers, barely hear the street musicians on our way to work. And it’s very sad.

This actually took place about a year ago, but the article is still worth a read, and makes you think twice about how well you appreciate what’s around you.

Thanks, Michael C., for the tip on this experiment by The Washington Post.

New York City MTA helps commuters lie to bosses

There are lots of valid excuses for being late to work. Your power was out so your alarm clock failed to go off. Your kid was sick and you had to take him to the doctor. You passed out at the brothel and didn’t have money for a cab. The problem with all of those excuses is that you have no way to prove to your boss that you’re telling the truth. But validating your tardiness just got simpler if you take the subway in New York City.

According to the New York Post, the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is going to start emailing commuters notes to provide to their bosses to verify subway delays that may have caused late arrivals. The New York City Transit division has long provided notes to commuters but required individuals to call a customer service number and then wait upwards of two weeks to receive a letter in the mail. These notes detail what lines the commuter claimed to have been using and any reported delays during the specified times.

In an effort to modernize, the MTA will soon allow commuters who were inconvenienced by subway delays to submit an online form and then receive an expedited email response. They hope to have the online system up and running by mid-2009. Currently, 34,000 people per year contact the MTA for notes to prove that they didn’t simply oversleep due to the heavy drinking that they rely on to help them cope with their mind-numbingly droll lives.

As a NYC resident who relies on the oft-delayed subway system, I’m looking forward to the ease of use of this new online system. Granted, my habitual tardiness can only been blamed on pathological use of the snooze button and a penchant for long morning showers that involve a good cathartic cry. But all my boss needs to know is that the F train got held up because of sick passenger. Everyone’s just more comfortable with that story.