TIME Transportation

New York City Speed Camera Issues 1,551 Tickets in a Single Day

Red-light cameras monitor the traffic at the corner of Secon
Red-light cameras monitor the traffic at the corner of Second Ave. and E. 42nd St in New York City. Andrew Savulich—NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images

$77,550 in fines not bad for a day's work

A speed camera in New York City issued 1,551 violations in a single day, raking in some $77,550.

The New York City Department of Transportation told a local news blog that a controversial camera coming off of a highway ramp in Brooklyn near Lincoln High School issued a peak of 1,551 violations on July 7. The DOT confirmed the figure with TIME.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has pushed for expanding the use of speed cameras around city schools as part of the Mayor’s Vision Zero goal of reducing pedestrian deaths to zero.

“DOT has begun installing the first speed cameras authorized by state law passed this spring and will continue on a rolling basis until all 140 school speed zones permitted by law are reached,” a DOT spokesperson told TIME in an emailed statement. “NYC DOT does not disclose camera locations, but regarding the specific location you are talking about, the ramp is approximately 400 feet long, a good amount of distance for drivers to adjust their speeds.”

The cameras issue $50 ticket violations to drivers going more than 10 miles over the 30 mph speed limit.

TIME Crime

FBI Says Chicago Air Control Fire Suspect Planned His Attack

The FBI says the suspect responsible for thousands of flight delays out of Chicago Friday left a Facebook message of intent

Updated 3:10 p.m. ET

The man suspected of setting fire to an air traffic control center Friday near Chicago sent a Facebook message shortly before starting the conflagration saying he would “take out” the facility, the FBI said.

“Take a hard look in the mirror, I have,” 36-year-old Brian Howard’s message said, according to and FBI affidavit. “And this is why I am about to take out ZAU [the three-letter identification for the control center] and my life . . . So I’m gonna smoke this blunt and move on, take care everyone.”

The fire shut down operations at Chicago O’Hare International and nearby Midway Airport, leaving thousands of passengers stranded throughout the country. Flights resumed Friday evening at a “reduced rate,” the Federal Aviation Administration said, though reports indicate many Chicago-bound flights are still being canceled Saturday morning.

The FAA said Saturday afternoon that it handled 40 percent of the normal daily traffic at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Friday and 30 percent at Chicago Midway International Airport, and expects to continue to increase the traffic flow at those two airports over the weekend as it begins drying out water-damaged equipment and cleaning up the air traffic control center.

Howard has been charged with one count of destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities, CNN reports. After setting fire in the control center’s basement, he was found lying on the floor and slicing his throat with a knife, police said.

[CNN]

TIME Transportation

Why a Fire Miles Away From an Airport Is Causing Massive Air Traffic Delays

Air traffic control is a big, complicated system, and any problems in one part of that system will affect the whole thing

A potentially suspicious fire at an air traffic control center about 40 miles from downtown Chicago is causing massive delays at O’Hare International, Midway and other airports across the country Friday morning. Looking at a screenshot of air traffic, it looks like aircraft were trying to avoid a black hole right over Chicago — and in a way, they were, as a ground stop Friday morning meant not much was able to fly in or out of Chicago-area airfields.

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FlightRadar24

 

A TIME reporter at Chicago O’Hare International Airport Friday said that flights which had been diverted to nearby airports began trickling into Chicago by mid-morning. The incoming aircraft were forced to fly at 10,000 feet, so they could be tracked by local radar, according to the reporter’s pilot. At O’Hare, travelers queued at every gate hoping to make it out on the handful of flights still scheduled to depart.

But how can a fire nowhere near an airport cause this much disruption to the national airspace?

The facility in question, which had to be evacuated, isn’t a control tower like ones you find at most airports. Instead, it’s an Air Route Traffic Control Center, or ARTCC. The center’s job is to control aircraft that are flying high above the country and in-between other air traffic controllers’ zones of responsibility. Air traffic control is a little like playing hot potato: From takeoff to touchdown, commercial aircraft typically get passed around from controller to controller — and facility to facility — as they make it to their final destination. The typical list of controllers a commercial pilot might talk to on any given flight might look like this: Clearance (for getting instructions about air routes before the flight), Ground (for taxiing around the airport), Tower (for takeoff clearance), ARTCC (for flying between airports), TRACON (for approaching airports) and then Tower again.

Not every flight will follow this precise order. Many airports don’t have regional TRACONs, for example, and most small airfields — the kind where you’d mostly find recreational pilots — don’t have controllers of any kind, instead relying on pilots’ ability to stay aware of one another’s location via a common radio frequency.

The Aurora, Ill. control center affected by the fire, one of 22 such centers across the country, is responsible for high-altitude air traffic for a good chunk of airspace above the central northwest. Here’s a cartoonish map from the Federal Aviation Administration (the Aurora center is represented by the light brown-shaded zone over Chicago):

FAA

This map pretty clearly shows why the Aurora fire messed up flights in and out of Chicago: Any major airports in that zone are going to be affected by a problem in Aurora. The FAA can offload some tasks normally handed by Aurora to other area ARTCCs, but that’s a bandaid more than a proper fix.

And the Aurora problems will probably cause air travel headaches for the rest of Friday, too. The air traffic control system is a network, and a major problem in one part of the network will cause issues elsewhere, too. On top of that, commercial airlines depend on their aircraft being in certain places in certain times: Your flight from New York to Florida, a course that shouldn’t take you anywhere near Chicago, could be affected today because your plane was coming in from O’Hare. Or, at least, it was supposed to. Four hours ago. Good luck, travelers!

–With reporting from Jay Newton-Small

TIME Transportation

Fire at Air Traffic Center Halts Chicago Flights

O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Ill., Sept. 19, 2014.
O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Ill., Sept. 19, 2014. Kamil Krzaczynski—EPA

Update: Sept. 26, 11:36 a.m. ET

(CHICAGO) — All flights in and out of Chicago’s two airports were halted Friday after a fire at a suburban air traffic control facility sent delays and cancellations rippling through the nation’s air travel network.

Authorities said the blaze was intentionally set by a contract employee of the Federal Aviation Administration and had no ties to terrorism. More than 850 flights had been canceled in Chicago alone and many more were expected.

The early morning fire forced the evacuation of the control center in Aurora, about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago. Emergency crews found the man suspected of setting the fire in the basement, where the blaze began, with a self-inflicted wound. He was taken to a hospital.

Aurora Police Chief Gregory Thomas said the fire was not a terrorist act. The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and local police and fire departments were investigating.

When the center was evacuated, management of the region’s airspace was transferred to other facilities, according to FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory.

Authorities said it was unclear how long the stoppage would last.

Aurora spokesman Dan Ferrelli gave no details on the suspect’s injury, but said in an emailed statement that it was not from a gunshot.

Another employee of the facility was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. The flames were extinguished by 7 a.m., according to Ferrelli’s email.

Online radar images showed a gaping hole in the nation’s air traffic map over the upper Midwest.

At O’Hare’s Terminal 3, long lines formed at ticket counters as airlines continued to check in passengers.

Waiting by an American Airlines counter, Jon Sciarrini said his homebound flight to Dallas had been delayed, and he didn’t know whether he should wait or try to arrange another flight.

“It’s pretty frustrating — a little like being in purgatory,” the IT specialist said.

It was the second time since May that a problem at one of the Chicago area’s major control facilities prompted a ground stop at O’Hare and Midway international airports.

In May, an electrical problem forced the evacuation of a regional radar facility in suburban Elgin. A bathroom exhaust fan overheated and melted insulation on some wires, sending smoke through the facility’s ventilation system and into the control room.

That site was evacuated for three hours, and more than 1,100 flights were canceled.

The Aurora facility, known as an enroute center, handles aircraft flying at high altitudes, including those approaching or leaving Chicago airports. Air traffic closer to the airports is handled by a different facility and by the control towers located at the airfields.

A computer glitch at a similar facility on the West Coast in April forced a 45-minute shutdown at Los Angeles International Airport.

___

Associated Press Writer Michael Tarm contributed to this report.

TIME Transportation

Amtrak Picked These 24 Writers to Get Free Roundtrip Rides

Trains
Amtrak train arriving at San Jose Diridon Station. Pamela N. Martin—Moment Editorial/Getty Images

All aboard!

Amtrak announced the 24 writers chosen for its residency program on Wednesday, which offers the winners free roundtrip rides on Amtrak. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car that includes a desk, a bed and a window with a view of America’s countryside for inspiration.

Here are the chosen recipients:

Ksenia Anske, a Seattle-based fantasy writer

Scott Berkun, writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Economist

Jennifer Boylan, author of She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, the first bestselling work by a transgender American

Craig Calcaterra, writer at NBCSports.com

Jen Carlson, deputy editor of Gothamist

Farai Chideya, award-winning journalist and Distinguished Writer in Residence at the NYU journalism institute

Anna Davies, young adult novel ghostwriter and writer for The New York Times and Salon.com

Korey Garibaldi, doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Chicago

Katie Heaney, editor at Buzzfeed and author of Never Have I Ever

Karen Karbo, author of the best-selling Kick Ass Women series

Marianne Kirby, co-author of Lessons from the Fatosphere

Erika Krouse, Boulder-based novelist

Lindsay Moran, author of a memoir on her life in the CIA: Blowing My Cover, My Life As A Spy

Lisa Schwarzbaum, film critic

Tynan, co-founder of blogging platform SETT

Jeffrey Stanley, playwright of Tesla’s Letters

Deanne Stillman, author of Desert Reckoning

Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life and Chang and Eng

Chris Taylor, journalist and deputy editor at Mashable

Stephen “Stepto” Toulouse, Director of Community Engagement for Black Tusk Studios and author of A Microsoft Life

Glen Weldon, NPR writer, regular panelist on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour and author of Superman: The Unauthorized Biography

Marco Werman, host of PRI’s The World and creator of PBS Frontline documentary Libya: Out of the Shadow

Saul Williams, poet, musician, actor and performer, starred in Holler if Ya Hear Me

Bill Willingham, comic book author of Fables series

MONEY Airlines

Holiday Travel Just Got More Annoying Thanks to New Airline Fee

A ground crew member loads baggage onto a Spirit Airlines Inc. plane at the San Diego International Airport in San Diego, California, U.S.
Sam Hodgson—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Spirit Airlines already charges more fees than any other domestic carrier. Now it's adding a surcharge for checked bags on flights around the holidays.

In an industry enraptured with airline fees, Spirit Airlines stands out as the most fee-crazed carrier of all in the U.S., with fees for things others still provides at no additional charge, including carryon luggage, water, and the printing of a boarding pass at the airport. (If you don’t print yours at home, you’re asked to cough up $10 at check-in.) Spirit is also known for being highly profitable, and for being outrageous to get attention—the latest example being the gimmick of giving away free miles to customers who send a message to the airline explaining why they hate it so much.

This past spring, Spirit relaunched its brand to better explain how exactly it does business—low upfront fares combined with a la carte fees for almost anything beyond basic transportation, dubbed the “bare fare”—in order to quell the hate. CEO Ben Baldanza has also gone on record saying that his company may stop adding fees because it’s become difficult to think up any more new ones.

Apparently, however, the creative folks at Spirit have put their heads together and come up yet another fee—or, rather, a fee on top of a fee it already charges. The Los Angeles Times reports that Spirit has quietly tacked on a $2 surcharge on top of its usual checked baggage fees for passengers traveling during the peak winter holiday period, December 18 to January 5. The standard price to check a bag during online check-in is $40 for the first piece of luggage, so if you’re flying during the holiday period, it’ll run $42.

“Winter is coming … and that means holidays. Which means more people than ever will be traveling with Spirit to visit their loved ones,” states a message from Spirit attempting to explain the holiday surcharge. “To make sure we have room for everyone’s bags, we’re encouraging customers to pack a bit lighter.”

It almost sounds as if without such a fee, and without customers packing less, Spirit might have difficulty finding space for all the luggage people want to bring. Which is preposterous. Clearly, the fee is intended to milk passengers for a couple more bucks here and there, at a time when they’re more likely to have to pay up because they’re flying with gifts and bulky winter clothing.

No matter how Spirit tries to spin this, the airline is yet again demonstrating that it’s in love with fees, that it can’t help but push the envelope with the annoying, outrageous, nickel-and-diming of its customers—and that, in all likelihood, it’ll maintain its status as a highly profitable operation regardless.

MONEY Travel

15 Things You Didn’t Know About Tipping

Man signing credit card bill at restaurant
Tetra Images—Getty Images

It's not your imagination. In today's world, we're expected to tip more people, and at increasingly higher amounts. What's up with that?

In the past few days, tipping has been at the center of controversies involving the Philadelphia Eagles’ LeSean McCoy, who left a 20-cent tip at a restaurant, and Marriott, which launched a campaign to encourage guests to tip housekeepers. The latter prompted many to respond by bashing the upscale hotel company for not paying maids higher wages in the first place.

Clearly, the subject of tipping—fraught with guilt and obligation, clouded with issues of class and income inequality—strikes a chord. It certainly doesn’t help that there’s so much we don’t understand about gratuities. For example …

Until very recently, most travelers didn’t tip hotel maids. Marriott’s initiative to prod guests to tip housekeepers seems to have firmly established the practice as standard. And indeed, it does seem to be the standard: Only 31% of American travelers said they don’t tip maids, according to a recent TripAdvisor survey. As recently as 2011, however, the ratio was reversed, with industry experts such as Michael Lynn of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration pointed to data suggesting that only 30% of hotel guests actually left tips for housekeepers. In 2006, New York Times columnist Joe Sharkey admitted he, presumably like nearly all business travelers, generously tipped almost every hotel staffer he encountered but had been overlooking the maids, “perhaps because they were unseen, working in the room when the guest was gone.”

Where you leave the money matters. Marriott provides envelopes so that guests can leave a tip, and perhaps a note of gratitude, for housekeepers. Hotel guests may not be exactly sure where to leave tips for the maid—and the maids themselves may not know if money left out in the open is intended for them. In one anonymous Q&A, a hotel maid offered the advice that hotel guests should “leave [the tip] where it’s obviously for the recipient—like a $20 on the nightstand for a hooker!” Her suggestions: on the tray with the ice bucket, or in the bathroom under the water glass.

Some stereotypes about tipping appear to be true. Certain ethnic groups are perceived to be less generous tippers than others. Apparently, these theories are not simply urban myths. One recent study found that Hispanics tipped less at restaurants than whites after controlling for factors such as bill size and the customer’s personal feelings about the quality of the service and food, while the conclusion in another survey declared “restaurant servers and their managers can expect below average tips from black customers regardless of their social class.” Only 11% of Italians in a recent survey, meanwhile, said that they “always” tipped for service on vacation, compared with 60% of Americans.

Millennials are bad tippers too. Millennials are known to love tasting new foods and tend to dine out in “upscale, casual-dining” establishment more than older generations, yet roughly one-third of Gen Y tips less than 15% at restaurants. Only 16% of people in demographics older than the millennials admit to tipping less than 15%.

Dads tip babysitters, moms stiff them. Men typically tip the babysitter for an average of $2.20, while the typical babysitter tip offered by women is $0, according to a PayScale survey.

There’s a payday loan banking alternative that runs on tips. It’s an app called Activehours, and it allows hourly employees to get paid for the time they’ve worked—before payday, and with no mandatory fees. Instead of the loanshark-like terms of the typical payday loan, users have the freedom to pay Activehours whatever amount (including $0) they want for the service.

Cheapness is only one reason people don’t tip. The NFL’s LeSean McCoy said that he is normally a generous tipper, but that he left a 20-cent tip on a recent restaurant bill as “a kind of statement,” with the message being that the food, service, and general level of respect weren’t up to snuff. Other restaurant customers have been shamed for using homophobia, racism, religion, and, in one instance, being spurned by the bartender after groping her, as excuses for why they didn’t tip their waitstaff.

Holiday season tipping can be traced back to newsboys. The annual tradition of tipping doormen, mail carriers, maids, nannies, and others originated in the 1700s, when young newspaper delivery boys got in the habit of hitting up subscribers for gratuities on Christmas or New Year’s Day. The practice, which existed well into the mid-1950s according to Bloomberg News, was adopted by bootblacks, street sweepers, and other local service people.

Waiters haven’t always gotten 20%, or even 15%. It makes sense that we tip more as time passes, just to keep up with inflation. That doesn’t explain why we’d be expected to tip at an increasingly higher percentage, however, because as our restaurant bills have gone up, so have the gratuities. (If a fancy dinner in 1950 cost $50, a 15% tip would be $7.50; if a comparable fancy dinner in 2000 ran $100, the tip at a 15% rate would double too.)

Nonetheless, the standard percentage to tip waitstaff has risen over the decades. According to a PayScale study, the median tip is now 19.5%. In recent years, some waiters and restaurants have suggested that 25% or even 30% is the proper gratuity level, and that a 20% tip, once considered generous, is just average today. As recently as 2008, though, an Esquire tipping guide stated “15 percent for good service is still the norm” at American restaurants. An American Demographics study from 2001 found that three-quarters of Americans tipped an average of 17% on restaurant bills, while 22% tipped a flat amount no matter what the bill, and the gratuity left averaged $4.67. Meanwhile, in 1922, Emily Post wrote, “You will not get good service unless you tip generously,” and “the rule is ten per cent.”

Emily Post herself sorta hated tipping. In that 1922 guide, Post wrote, “Tipping is undoubtedly a bad system, but it happens to be in force, and that being the case, travelers have to pay their share of it—if they like the way made smooth and comfortable.”

Tipping was once considered demeaning and anti-American. Slate, the New York Times, and Esquire are among the outlets that have published epic rants calling for the end to the “abomination” of tipping in the last year or so. No one made the case better than the Times’ Pete Wells, who summed up of our current tipping system, “it is irrational, outdated, ineffective, confusing, prone to abuse and sometimes discriminatory. The people who take care of us in restaurants deserve a better system, and so do we.”

Those who defend tipping, and/or those who just insist on always tipping generously tend to think of gratuities as the great equalizer: Tips are necessary because waitstaff and other workers aren’t paid enough by their employers, and gratuities help provide them a living wage. A century ago, however, anti-tipping groups felt they were being progressive by declaring war on the demeaning system because it implicitly created a servile class that depended on the generosity of richer, aristocratic customers—and was therefore anti-democratic and anti-American. The anti-tipping movement gained steam in the late 1890s and continued through the 1910s, when a half-dozen states tried (but ultimately failed) to make tipping illegal.

Waitstaff today need tips even more than you think. As much as some people would love to replace tipping with a more sensible system—like, you know, just paying workers more money—today’s waiters and waitresses remain stuck desperately in need of gratuities. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that nearly 15% of America’s 2.4 million waitstaff live in poverty, compared to 7% of all workers.

Some workers get tipped way more than waiters. Waiters and waitresses get an average of 63% of their wages from gratuities, per the PayScale study, but workers in the stripper/exotic dancer category earn the highest median hourly tips of all, at $25.40 per hour.

We tip for totally nonsensical reasons. Studies indicate that diners tip more when a waitress wears a barrette, flower, or some other ornamentation in her hair, when the server repeats orders to the customer, and when the waiter introduces him or herself by name ($2 extra, on average). Another study showed that the quality of service generally has very little effect on how much the customer tips. And in yet another survey, various consumers admitted that they tipped more when the server was white, black, female, or attractive, among other categories.

Sometimes even experts have no clue how much to tip. Or if you should tip at all. When Marketplace asked Cornell’s Michael Lynn earlier this year about the norm for tipping the barista at Starbucks, or any coffee shop for that matter, he paused and sighed before giving the honest answer: “I don’t know.”

TIME Transportation

This Is the Busiest Airport in the World

A jet lands at Hartsfield-Jackson International airport in A
A jet lands at Hartsfield-Jackson International airport in Atlanta, Georgia, Thursday July 6, 2007. Chris Rank—Bloomberg / Getty Images

Not even Beijing, London or Tokyo could compete with Atlanta's 94 million passengers

Some 94 million passengers travelled through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in 2013, making it the world’s most heavily trafficked airport, according to a new air traffic study released Wednesday.

The findings, released by Airports Council International, show that Altanta, even with a 1.1% dip in traffic, had a 10 million passenger lead ahead of Beijing Capital International Airport, the world’s second-busiest airport.

London Heathrow Airport, Tokyo International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport rounded out third, fourth and fifth places respectively with traffic ranging from 67 to 72 million passengers in 2013.

“Despite this challenging operating climate, worldwide traffic surpassed the 6 billion passenger mark in 2013,” said Angela Gittens, ACI’s Director General. “This represents an enormous feat for the airport industry as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of commercial aviation in 2014.”

Asia-Pacific led regional growth with an 8.7% jump in passengers, followed by the Middle East, home to the world’s fastest-growing airport, Dubai International, with a galloping 15% growth in 2013.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 17

1. Islamic State’s sexual violence is a war crime and U.S. leaders should call it out, seek ways to track it, and hold the terrorists to account. Instead, policymakers are ignoring it.

By Aki Peritz and Tara Maller in Foreign Policy

2. When the rich get richer, states get poorer. Income inequality is eating away at state tax revenue.

By Gabriel J. Petek at Standard and Poor’s Ratings Service

3. Does big philanthropy have too much power over policy?

By Gara LaMarche in Democracy

4. An innovative program is connecting high-performing low-income students with scholarship dollars and guiding them through the daunting financial aid process.

By David Leonhardt in the Upshot

5. Can a major redesign transform Union Station into the commercial and cultural heart of Washington?

By Steven Pearlstein in the Washington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME technology

Uber Is Now Legal in Germany Once Again

German Court Bans Uber Service Nationwide
In this photo illustration, a woman uses the Uber app on an Samsung smartphone on September 2, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Adam Berry—Getty Images

Wunderbar

Updated 1:15 p.m.

Germany’s ban on Uber’s ride-sharing service has been lifted by a local court.

The Franklin Regional Court ruled Tuesday that UberPop, Uber’s cheaper alternative to its well-known black car service, could resume operating freely throughout the country. The ruling comes after Taxi Deutschland, a German taxi union, had successfully sought a nationwide injunction against Uber’s service last month.

The taxi union vowed that it would continue to fight Uber in Germany. “The taxi industry accepts competitors who comply with the law,” the organization said in a statement. “Uber doesn’t do that. Therefore we today announce that we will be appealing without delay.”

UberPop connects drivers and riders via a smartphone app. Critics say drivers are not subject to the same regulations and requirements as licensed German taxi drivers, a common complaint against Uber drivers around the world. The judge who lifted the injunction said that there was likely a legal basis to the taxi union’s complaint, but the organization could not have the issue tried as an expedited case. Therefore, the temporary inunction had to be lifted.

Uber, of course, is happy about the ruling. “We welcome today’s decision by the German court to lift the injunction placed on UberPOP by the incumbents,” Uber Germany spokesman Fabien Nestmann said in an emailed statement. “Demand is so great all across the country that we expect to double in size by the end of the year and plan to bring Uber to more and more cities across Germany.”

[WSJ]

 

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