Friday, January 18, 2019

My favorite 82 music releases of 2018 - plus a few B-sides

Courtney Barnett keeps releasing some of the best indie rock
Biggest Disappointments: After a very promising start to The Lemon Twigs' career, Go to School is like an infantile, bad knock-off of something relatively Elton John-like. And Death Cab for Cutie fails for the first time to make my annual list when it has a new release with the middle-of-the-road Thank You for Today. Greta Van Vleet's Anthem of the Peaceful Army is what you get when you're expecting high-flying Zeppelin and you get fly-attracting Zebra.

Best Archive Dig: The Beatles' White Album is, on most days, my favorite of the band's releases. The massive Super Deluxe might be too much even for a diehard like me, but The Esher Demos part of it is worth the price of admission alone.

Best EP: The Decemberists’ Down on the Knuckle is a great EP in a year short on the form.

82: Of Montreal: White is Relic/Irrealis Mood (this band gets weirder all the time but also keeps things hoppin’)
81: Yo La Tengo: There’s a Riot Going On (nowhere near the band’s heyday back in the 80s and 90s, with too much ambience and not enough pop, but still so many head and shoulders above most bands)
80: Papercuts: Parallel Universe Blues (a pretty, new-wave release from a San Francisco band that's been around for a while and I've finally now discovered)
79: Peter Bjorn and John: Darker Days (a bit of a surprising throwback to have the "Young Folks" stars in here with new music, but this is a pretty darn good album)
78: The Breeders: All Nerve (there's nothing here nearly as powerful as "Cannonball," but that's a tall order, and any new Breeders is always welcome)
77: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Wrong Creatures (while not necessarily standing out in the hard-rock band’s canon, BRMC albums are always good)
Even the old was new this year with this release by the obscure Glands
76: Free Cake for Every Creature: The Bluest Star (one of several big dropoffs on this list from a top new twee band in the land)
75: Redd Kross: Hot Issue (a long-lost 80s and 90s punk-pop band returns with a pretty darn interesting and good album)
74: Ian Sweet: Crush Crusher (another band in the Soccer Mommy and Snail Mail vein that brings great hooks all around)
73: Midland: On the Rocks (probably the best pure country album of the year, with at least two serious keepers in "Drinkin' Problem" and "Burn Out")
72: BRONCHO: Double Vanity (a big drop-off from the band's debut, but it's like getting another Jesus and the Mary Chain album, so that's good)
71: Dungen with Woods: Myths 003 (cinematographic prog for the modern era)
70: Tomo Nakayama: Pieces of Sky (cinematographic folk that came out of nowhere to hit me just right, again and again throughout the year)
69: Gruff Rhys: Babelsberg (a lazy Sunday-morning grower from a consistent indie-rock eccentric)
68: Matthew Sweet: Tomorrow's Daughter (my 11-year-old couldn't be convinced it wasn't a new Beatles record; his instincts are right, this is Girlfriend-era-like Sweet)
67: LowRay: Friends and the Fakers (why settle for Bon Jovi when you can have this soundalike band that has much better hooks and melody?)
Detroit brings a serious new rocker to the world in Anna Burch
66: Kurt Vile: Bottle It In (an extremely laid-back throwback to the 1970s Laurel Canyon sound)
65: Public Access T.V.: Street Safari (a throwback to a Strokes-like time of New York City power-pop innocence; not the band's best release, but extremely catchy nonetheless)
64: Nap Eyes: I'm Bad Now (if the whole album doesn't match the perfect pop leadoff track, "Every Time the Feeling," there are still enough Lou Reed-like hooks to make it all pretty enjoyable)
63: Smashing Pumpkins: Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 ... (definitely feels a little icky having near-fully-reunited Pumpkins in a list at this late date, but there are a handful of top-notch 90s-style pop-rockers here)
62: Say Hi: Caterpillar Centipede (this band sounds like a poppy version of Tom Waits or maybe like the new Eels)
61: Chandra: Transportation (I don't think it's because I like talking about transportation; I think it's because I also like sassy, crisp Human League tech-pop)
60: Belle and Sebastian: How to Solve Our Human Problems Part 3 (the is the closest B&S have gotten to Burt Bacharach 70s swing pop, and it's a welcome edition to the band's monumental catalog)
59: Old Crow Medicine Show: Volunteer (this always-reliable band produces another great collection of the best bluegrass pop that you’ll find anywhere)
58: Titus Andronicus: A Productive Cough (a tipsy and jaunty ship of pop-punk-weirdo pirates sling relevant platitudes like "we're in for a real rough year" and "mass transit madness")
57: Ruler: Winning Star Champion (I know nothing about who or what this band is, but they bring an undeniable catchiness to every song)
56: Great Lakes: Dreaming Too Close to the Edge (I haven't thought much about these Elephant 6ers since the early 2000s, but this is beautiful country-tinged California-style pop)
55: Lucy Dacus: Historian (I wasn't crazy about her heavily-praised debut - including being named Magnet's #1 album of 2016 - but this followup is a different, much larger-feeling story)
Illuminati Hotties help make 2018 a seriously great year for women in rock
54: Alpaca Sports: From Paris With Love (you have to be in the right mood, but if that mood is super happy love songs like what Tweety Bird would likely sing, then this is your band)
53: David Byrne: American Utopia (it definitely doesn't compare with the best of the Talking Heads, but Byrne's commentary and beats are still worth lots of listens)
52: Art Brut: Wham! Bang! Pow! Let's Rock Out (this 2000s Brit band came back out of nowhere with an album title that pretty much sums it up)
51: Sarah Shook and the Disarmers: Years (not nearly as good as the band’s last stunner, but this is great honky-tonkin’ punk that not many do well)
50: Eels: The Deconstruction (having somewhat abandoned this band a handful of years ago, it was surprising to hear such a grand return to form on this diverse release, including the heartbreaking "Sweet Scorched Earth")
49: Dr. Dog: Critical Equation (a band that continues to surprise with awesome consistency; I doubt I would ever skip one of their Replacement-y tunes if it ever came up on a random shuffle of my library)
48: The Sea and Cake: Any Day (this is a slow grower from my favorite jazz-pop band of all time)
47: The Decemberists: I’ll Be Your Girl (providing countless singalongs to go with an already-overflowingly wealth of greatest hits throughout its discography, the Portland lit-rockers succeed yet again)
46: Camp Cope: How to Socialize & Make Friends (another entry into the Soccer Mommy/Snail Mail indie-rock sweepstakes, but undeniable Australian catchiness - and oh that accent)
45: The English Beat: Here We Go Love (would have never guessed these 80s ska-wavers would ever make another year-end list, but this feel-good set is just so so uplifting right now)
44: Colleeen Green: Casey's Tape/Harmontown Loops (this is yet another album of pure-pop mastery from Green, who had a great Twitter conversation this year with my workplace, Mobility Lab, about transit)
Kero Kero Bonito is some weird stuff but also kinda normal like Boy George
43: Nap Eyes: I'm Bad Now (Canadians that any fan of Velvet Underground and Destroyer will love. And what's not to love about either of those comparisons)
42: Buffalo Tom: Quiet and Peace (1990s power poppers add a much-appreciated new album to their stunning discography)
41: Son Volt: The Search (this 22-song epic is some of Jay Farrar’s best work since his Trace album and long-ago Uncle Tupelo releases with Jeff Tweedy)
40: Lily Allen: No Shame (I have always liked her rude pop, but at first I didn't like this. I started loving it on second and third listens)
39: Superchunk: What a Time to Be Alive (the true me masters are back with another album is leagues' superior to any of the competition)
38: Okkervil River: In the Rainbow Rain (epic storytelling like opener "Famous Tracheotomies" - who knew this info about Gary Coleman? - lend to another excellent release from OR)
37: Tracyanne Campbell and Danny: Tracyanne Campbell and Danny (a melancholy rocker 0 by Campbell's Camera Obscura standards - that is the year's dreamiest release)
36: Family of the Year: Goodbye Sunshine, Hello Nighttime (about as clean of a slate of beautiful pop music I heard this year)
35: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Hope Downs (sounding a little like an Australian new-wave Tom Petty, this band has real potential to go places)
34: Elise Davis: Cactus (a beautiful slide of the way country music is supposed to be made)
33: Parquet Courts: Wide Awake! (this is a little bit of a letdown from one of the consistently best outfits around, but there are enough highlights to keep it high on this list)
32: MGMT: Little Dark Age (back after a bit off an absence, this catchy release helps them take over for the Flaming Lips as king of the psych-pop bands)
31: Albert Hammond, Jr.: Francis Trouble (a pure joy blast of prime-era Strokes replica)
30: Paul Weller: True Meanings (the former leader of The Jam has been on a hot streak lately, with this suave release right up there among his best solo efforts)
29: Juliana Hatfield: Sings Olivia Newton-John (I loved ONJ as a kid, and I've loved JH as an adult. This is a beautiful mash up. If Juliana were a star in the 1970s, she would have starred in Grease)
28: The Longshot: Love is for Losers (Billie Joe Armstrong knows how to get the party started with this Green Day-like surprise release)
27: Mudhoney: Digital Garbage (this is a glorious return to the nasty early grunge days of Superfuzz Bigmuff and Piece of Cake)
All these years later, Ice Cube is just still so good
26: Fucked Up: Dose Your Dreams (this is the most sprawling and ambitious FU record to date, and it seems like it might be their classic)
25: Eleanor Friedberger: Rebound (she went from totally complicated with her Fiery Furnaces band to super accessible with her solo albums. This is slightly less accessible but perhaps all the more essential because of it)
24: Sunflower Bean: Twenty-two in Blue (these young indie rockers from NYC pump out blasts of loud and soft punk and pop that should make all fans of fast and slow very happy)
23: Bossie: Not Pictured (a long-lost 80s mall-rat soundtrack for today's Gen Z new wavers)
22: J Mascis: Elastic Days (it's a fool's errand to think the Dinosaur Jr. frontman will ever release any other music than the stellar kind found throughout this pretty release)
21: Snail Mail: Lush (this may be a tad bit of a letdown because her 2016 debut EP was so darn good, but it still portends a big future star)
20: Flasher: Constant Image (don't know about this band, but it's consistently catchy and probably the year's best shoegaze/psych-pop effort)
19: BRONCHO: Bad Behavior (these Oklahoma weirdos - are there any other kind of Oklahomans? - put together another ultra-bouncy collection of Beach Boys-influenced pop tunes)
18: Swearin': Fall Into the Sun (motley indie-pop related to Waxahatchee that offers boy-girl vocals in the vein of New Pornographers, Butterglory, and Superchunk)
17: Sneeze: Shhh! Sex Gang ... (definitely the least-known rag-tag band of indie-rock survivors on this list. Former Aussie members of The Lemonheads and Godstar make an epic rock-'n-roll soundtrack)
16: Jeff Tweedy: WARM (this is not necessarily near the top of the Tweedy/Wilco/Uncle Tupelo cannon, but the handful of songs like "I Know What It's Like" - straight from Tupelo circa 1993 - make it a warm addition anyway)
15: Ice Cube: Everythang's Corrupt (he's been around forever, but everything he does I continue to love. Cube may have finally bumped himself into the position of my favorite rapper of all time)
14: Tony Molina: Kill the Lights (a gentle little lo-fi release that is the best non-GBV-related GBV-like release of the year - particularly in a Tobin Sprout way)
13: Kero Kero Bonito: Time 'n' Place (this is the best 80s-throwback weirdo pop I've heard in a while. File between Culture Club and Shonen Knife)
12: The Goon Sax: We're Not Talking (this is an 80s wave throwback group that bounces between mopey lo-fi and seriously rocking. The latter parts make it a candidate for dance album of the year)
11: Paul McCartney: Egypt Station (Sir Paul is up to a lot of ageless shenanigans in his senior years, and this might be the album of the year if he had chopped the last 5 or 6 songs from the end)
10: illuminati hotties: Kiss Yr Frenemies (the debut cattle call from a creative wackjob band of twee Millennials)
Jeff Tweedy of Wilco keeps releasing about the best rock out there
09: Hinds: I Don’t Run (there is no sophomore slump here with possibly Spain’s greatest-ever indie -rock band)
08: Hatchie: Sugar & Spice (this is the best EP of the year, with every song from the Australian songstress topping the Cranberries by miles in terms of spaciness and rocking hits)
07: Superorganism: Superorganism (the debate from this mysterious collective is a real growing, sounding like a mix of the Flaming Lips, Polyphonic Spree, and something quirky and new altogether)
06: Soccer Mommy: Clean (this artist's debut was high on my list for 2017; let's hope she, along with Courtney Barnett, are the beginning of a wave of lo-fi, ultra-cool female indie artists)
05: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks: Sparkle Hard (this is a complex pop album from Pavement's former leader; he's been making the most interesting music in rock now for going on 30 years)
04: Anna Burch: Quit the Curse (There is a lot to love about this album, including it sounds a lot in places like my old 90s band Birmingham Squadron)
03: Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy (this is a remake of an earlier album, which just goes to show how good this band is - if its record can be so high on the list with "a remake of an earlier album")
02: The Glands: Double Coda (this is a shockingly great collection of previously-unreleased "catchy yet complicated" pop from a short-lived band from the 1990s that I'd never heard about until now. The leader of the band actually died in 2016. New enough to me to make this list)
01 (tie): Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You really Feel (there just really isn't any competition for the top spot year after year at this point. Her third album keeps the indie-rock party rolling right along. Like the Breeders meets Pavement meets something that is entirely her own)
01 (tie): However, I'm issuing a shocking tie at the top. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga: A Star is Born soundtrack (I cried way too many times during this movie to not acknowledge the greatness of these songs. Not a Gaga fan, this is the best stuff of her career by faaaaar, and Cooper is a natural sounding like an upgrade from greats like Kris Kristofferson and Neil Diamond)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

My reflections on TransportationCamp

This article originally appeared at MobilityLab.org.

Which topics trended at TransportationCamp DC this year?

Last Saturday at Catholic University, about 520 fans of transportation braved the cold to dig into the weeds on topics and burning questions that they wanted to workshop and take back in 2019 to further solve.

Which topics were popular?

At TransportationCamp DC a year ago, Campers’ favorite modes to discuss were bikes and trains, with busses and walking next. There was a surprising lack of interest in autonomous vehicles, ride-hailing, and ride sharing.
But, from my back-of-the-envelope calculation based on the session titles (all listed here, and with full notes of most sessions), this year was pretty different. Of the 56 sessions throughout the day, 5 were primarily focused on scooters – which definitely proved to be in most of the day’s conversational thread. As far as modes, busses were the next popular with 3 sessions. Bikes dropped down to 1, airplanes 1, carpools and vanpools 1, and transit in general with 1. Unlike last year, there were no sessions focused primarily on rail. And AVs, which were less the talk of the town last year, seemed to bump up in interest, with 3 sessions.
Outside of mode, the popular topics were definitely data (9 sessions), planning (6), equity (3), policy, such as a session I moderated with Washington, DC’s Transportation Director Jeff Marootian, nicely covered here by Greater Greater Washington (3), and the public (7). Many people told me they loved the behavior-economics bent – trying to understand how people make their fundamental transportation decisions – of many of the sessions, especially the kind offered in a featured session in the Hannan auditorium by Duke Professor Maura Farver. (She also works at The Center for Advanced Hindsight.) Farver’s session was titled, “Your blueprint for mapping people’s transportation behavior and habits.”
And data appears to finally be having its day in the sun. After years of knowing that the transportation industry has mega-loads of data, it may now actually be doing something with that data. TransitCenter, one of Camp’s sponsors, was in the midst of releasing its Open Transit Data Toolkit, which helps even the least tech-nerdy people figure out how to analyze where and how people are traveling. And TransitScreen, another sponsor, announced that it’s working with OpenMobilityData to archive transit data feeds from cities all over the world as a way to help software developers make cool tech that will help people discover transit.
There were a handful of topics that had 2 sessions, including: partnerships, the environment/traffic congestion, transit cost and payment options, safety, and “fun” – meaning there was a session to play the planning card game Cards Against Urbanity and another for yoga.
The other topics that got just 1 session included parking, rural issues, and communications (down a bit in focus from previous DC Camps).

A handful of key insights from the Camp’s notetakers

One highly provocative session questioned whether there should be bike lanes at all in our streets. Session leader Mark Egge noted that infrastructure money is scarce, there are unclear safety benefits, they supposedly don’t attract new riders, and they’re often poorly planned.
Session leaders from the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance discussed the need for a “transportation report card, like that produced on the state of the Chesapeake Bay. Some metrics suggested for such a report card included convenience, seat utilization, FHWA and INRIX congestion data, satisfaction levels, access during “free flow” versus congestion (Minnesota Accessibility Observatory), cost, and safety.
Do you know what could fit in a 22 x 10 parking space? 75 people standing! That and other amazing tidbits and lists were discussed in a session titled Curb Appeal on what to do with our curbs.
Some of the solutions for scooters and bikeshares discussed in a session on broadening the user base focused on giving more access to teenagers and forming partnerships with high schools.
Among the bad habits that started to break in 2018 were the smugness of experts in thinking the public will instinctively adore autonomous vehicles, not demanding enough from transit data, and not realizing that cities need mobility managers. Those were in the featured session that included Calvin Thigpen of Lime, Tiffany Chu of Remix, Katherine Kortum of the National Academies, and Laramie Bowron of Swiftly.
And projects we should be excited about in 2019 include shipment tracking via SafeShift; Ford’s City of Tomorrow; pilots to find new and interesting uses for curbs; the public-private data clearinghouse called SharedStreets; Zipcar’s carsharing partnerships in New York City; equity-based decongestion pricing policy; the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle; and Streetlight Data for pedestrian, bike and transit flows. Those predictions came from featured panelists Chris Forinash of Nelson\Nygaard, Sabrina Sussman of Zipcar, Allison Wylie of Uber, and Courtney Ehrlichman of The Ehrichman Group.

Other perspectives

We’ll know a lot more after next week’s post-Camp survey goes out to attendees, but thought you all might like this early, and, as I mentioned, back-of-the-envelope content analysis. Along with our own coverage of TransportationCamp, TransitScreen and Street Justice also had some perspectives.

And a big thanks

From our venue Catholic University to Arlington County’s staff (largely consisting of Mobility Lab’s close partners at the Destination Sales & Marketing Group) to the note-taking volunteers provided by Young Professionals in Transportation and the student discounts courtesy of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), we thank you.
And to Andrew Glass Hastings of sponsor Remix, who helped lead The Human Spectrogram exercise (look for more analysis and dissection on that soon) and sponsor Zipcar, whose Sabrina Sussman helped us secure Marootian for a featured session (her story about how everyone needs to tell their stories about why they care about transportation may have been the event’s highlight), we thank you.
And to Leib Kaminsky, who helped Mobility Lab (remember, we’re researchers and communicators, not event planners) secure our best-ever group of sponsors, we thank you. And we thank the sponsors themselves: Uber, Zipcar, TransitCenter, Lime, Lyft, car2go, Remix, Bird, Noblis, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Swiftly, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), Young Professionals in Transportation, TransitScreen, the American Bus Association (ABA), Kimley-Horn, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and Nelson\Nygaard.
And last and most important, thank you to all the attendees. We think you’re taking transportation to another level!
Photos of me on stage as master of ceremonies, Campers brainstorming, and Campers discussing which sessions to attend at “The Board” all by M.V. Jantzen/Flickr.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Three Billboards blows away the other movies I saw this month

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: This Coen Brothers’ masterpiece had been in my queue for far too long. Finally I got ahold of a copy and watched it at 2 a.m. one night. Woody Harrelson and Frances McDormand, not to mention Sam Rockwell, deserves all the award love they received last year for what is probably the filmmaking duo's best effort since The Big Lebowski (Rented from library; 5 out of 5 stars)

Mary Poppins Returns: The original had lots of memorable tunes, but I’m not sure I’ll remember any of these new numbers for long. The performances by Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda are admirable, and there’s a lot of great cinematography, but there’s not nearly enough of a story. (At the movies; 3.5 out of 5 stars)

The Florida Project: I’m pretty much a sucker for anything Willem Dafoe is in. But he’s not really the main focus here. He gets you in the door, but then a bunch of unknown actors play the roles of trailer trash living in a forgotten landscape on the outskirts of Disney World. It's a pretty fascinating look at a way of life, if a bit of an aimless plot. (Rented from library; 3 out of 5 stars)

It Follows: Great music highlights this fairly middling horror flick that tells the story of a girl battling a multi-faced ghost that chases down people who have had sex with her and a string of other unlucky souls. An ok premise but slow pacing doesn’t add to what should be a more suspenseful story. (Netflix; 2.5 out of 5 stars)

Dumplin’: I guess I randomly picked this stinker because I like Jennifer Aniston a lot. This is her worst performance. There are lots of good morals to the story and, as my wife reminds me, "this was not made for a 48-year-old male," but that still doesn’t make up for the deplorable script and bad acting. (Netflix; 1 out of 5 stars)

Friday, December 7, 2018

McDonald’s attracted talent by making its headquarters transit accessible

I wrote this post originally at MobilityLab.org.

CEOs and business leaders could do a lot to improve terrible traffic. Quite a few businesses are starting to understand this concept.
But what’s missing is a sustained, large-scale effort to assure businesses that a focus on improving the transportation habits of their employees is good for their bottom line. Perhaps even better for those CEOs and businesses to hear is the message that getting non-driving customers into the store is a formula for success.
Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council recently released an impressive report down this path entitled Transit Means Business. It features case studies of efforts by McDonald’s, Caterpillar, Bosch, Method, Revolution Brewery, MB Financial, Motorola Solutions, and other businesses and universities throughout Illinois to locate near transit as a way to survive and compete.
McDonald’s had been headquartered in the Chicagoland suburbs for 40 years before making the decision to relocate the West Loop earlier this year.
“McDonald’s couldn’t get people to apply for jobs anymore. Ninety percent of their employees were driving to work. They moved downtown in May to help people take transit. Now 90 percent of their employees take transit,” said Audrey Wennink, transportation policy and planning director at the MPC, during a roundtable discussion this week at Transportation For America’s Capital Ideas conference in Atlanta.
From the report:
McDonald’s planned only 295 parking spaces in its new building for its 2,500 employees and employees must pay to park. Before the move, employees were encouraged to drive downtown at rush hour one day to experience the commute by car. While before the move only one-third of employees planned to ride transit to work, now more than 90 percent of workers arrive via non-auto modes, mostly Metra and CTA.
And it’s not just companies moving their headquarters to a new, transit-friendly location. Take State Farm Insurance, which closed up tons of small offices across the country to consolidate into bigger spaces near transit in Atlanta and other cities, said Steve Davis, who leads communications for T4A and Smart Growth America.
It remains a mystery why McDonald’s and others have waited so long with their corporate moves. After all, they know their storefronts do really well near transit, so why wouldn’t they consider also placing their headquarters there? According to a former McDonald’s senior director, the consistently top-performing U.S. and international locations are the “Rock & Roll McDonald’s” in downtown Chicago and Moscow’s Pushkin Square. It’s no coincidence that those are extremely transit-friendly places.
To hone in on helping businesses embrace transit-oriented strategies,Wennink said that communicating about “return on investment” hasn’t seemed to resonate; hence, the MPC’s strategy to produce a beautiful, glossy report with real-world business examples of success that others can emulate.
McDonald’s is already attracting larger numbers of high-quality job applicants since its move to the West Loop. Company officials have called its discovery of the wonders of transit “a culture change.”
Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr’s Creative Commons. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

What will Amazon mean for Metro riders?

I was quoted in a Washington Post article (it was also the cover story in the Washington Post Express) about Amazon's announcement to open one of its second headquarters in the Washington DC region.
The article about it is excerpted from MobilityLab.org.
A key part of why Amazon, the world’s second trillion-dollar company, chose Crystal City in Arlington, Va., today as a second headquarters location is transportation.
The office-park neighborhood is supported by Metrorail, Metroway (the Washington, DC region’s only bus rapid transit route), plenty of bus routes, and National Airport.
This is a great opportunity for Metro to boost its declining ridership. But with Metro’s sometimes poor reliability and Uber and Lyft’s growing prominence, there’s no guarantee that Amazon employees and their families will choose Metro.
My quote in the article:
“Metro has to make itself really attractive to get [Amazon employees] to choose Metro over any of the other options perhaps people are finding more attractive at this point."
Some observers predict that Amazon will attract high-earning millennials to the DC region. This might not bode well for Metro, as this is the demographic reducing its ridership the most. 
Luckily, there’s a good chance that Amazon will provide unlimited transit passes to employees, as it does for employees at the Seattle headquarters. This strategy is known to both boost transit ridership and increase employee satisfaction.
Yet Amazon’s arrival means that many more people – not just Amazon employees – will be moving to the DC region. For Metro to win those riders too, the agency needs to up its game. That means improving service and making it easier for people to ride Metro, with better signage, real-time information, and marketing.
And for Amazon itself to help improve the quality of transportation options throughout the DC region, it can start by offering its own employees the very best corporate transportation incentives.
Photo of Arlington Cemetary Metro station by Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Star is Born comes along as shockingly great


With two little kids, I admittedly don't make it the movie theater to watch adult movies much these days. So I can't make huge pronouncements at the moment about the competition, but I hope A Star is Born sweeps the Academy Awards in a few months.

Bradley Cooper as the aging rock star. Best Actor. Check. Lady Gaga as a genuine person who goes from nothing to the top. Best Actress. Check. All the big players. Best Supporting Roles. Check. Best Picture. Check.

I went to this film thinking I'd like it but that it easily could border on romantic schmaltz. But the story is all there. And the characters are all so real. No gloss whatsoever. And oh the songs, made even better by the fact that Cooper and Gaga wrote them all and performed them often live in front of festival and other audiences. Just incredible. I actually cried during at least four songs. (Here's a good article in Vanity Fair about how Cooper became such a great singer and songwriter.)

Run out and see this before it leaves theaters as quickly as you can.

5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Aretha Franklin made us all feel like a “natural woman”

While reading the always-remarkable music journalist Mikal Gilmore’s remembrance of Aretha Franklin (there is a lot of dirt in the profile, about her nastiness to a lot of people and becoming a mother at age 12 AND 14), I was inspired to watch this performance from late in her career in front of the Obamas at the Kennedy’s Center Awards.

If anyone ever doubted her talent, all it takes is one viewing of this clip.