Build Better! [NOT 13/12/21]

Airports, Train Stations and Highways

Let’s talk infrastructure! We all use it. Roads, bridges, airports, tunnels, subways, sewer systems, train stations…. This is the busiest time of the year for travel and we need it get our babies back home — or get outta town before they do. What’s your favorite piece of infrastructure? Or most hated? Big or small, famous or not, whatta ya got?

For example, a little foot bridge was built over a stream a couple of years ago which connects two sections of a park near me. Now I no longer have to walk my dog across a busy road. So convenient.

The Pacific Coast Highway is a marvel, snaking along the West Coast with amazing ocean views, dipping past cliffs and twisting around beaches and cypress trees.

On the other hand, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is a highway so dreary it became an example for engineers of how not to build a road.

The Netherlands has one of the most amazing waterways in the world. O’Hare Airport is synonymous with agony. The city walls of Constantinople kept invaders out for almost 900 years. One lane covered bridges in Vermont knit little communities together.

What major (or minor) built thing floats (or sinks) your boat? How do you interact with it? How does it make your life better, or what would you fix about it?



  1. I grew up in Pittsburgh and there are bridge everywhere. When I moved to western KY I was shocked, and pissed off, that I could look across the Ohio River but had to drive almost an hour to cross the damn thing.
    I love bridges and am surprised when people are uncomfortable on them. Even long ones like the 7 Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys.

      • I’ve ridden the Duquesne incline little thing. It was fun. I did a little Lifetime movie in Pittsburgh a couple of years ago and really enjoyed the city. I have a pic somewhere on my phone of a Furry party on a riverboat cruising around the rivers.

        • Other fun incline railways:

          Flight of the Angels, LA, where Clark Johnson got shot in the ass for an Amazon Prime show.

          Chattanooga, TN ride up to the Rocky Garden

          Pike’s Peak

          Mount Victoria, Hong Kong

          Probably dozens of places in Japan

        • @Lymond  Lol, The Furry Convention! My sister worked for a well known financial institution in the city. And one day she got a call from a cousin of ours that she hadn’t seen in years. She said she was in town for a convention and wanted to know if my sister would like to get together coffee. My sister said yes and they made arrangements to meet at her office. Shortly after my sister’s Administrative Assistant came in to drop off paperwork and looking out the window laughed about the Furries running around the streets. My sister remembered the Furry Convention was that week and panicked, thinking what if the cousin coming to her very conservative place of work was one of them, and showed up in full regalia? Before the agreed on time she raced dow to the lobby hoping to head her off and came face to face with our cousin, demurely dressed in a skirt and cardigan, who asked, “What the hell is going on with all these people in animal costumes?” She was in town for the Mensa convention taking place at the same time.


          Pittsburgh is an underrated city. I’m glad you enjoyed your time there.

      • The Incline is one of the things you always take visitors too. Everyone loves it. I’m hoping to get back home this winter or spring and may ride it then, it’s been a few years.

  2. I don’t really have a favorite piece of infrastructure because I live in the US and all of our infrastructure is shit. So I would fix it by taxing the fuck out of every billionaire and corporation so that we could actually have good roads, high speed rail, airports that weren’t dilapidated garbage, real broadband internet and phone service, and a power grid that runs on renewable energy. You know, a fairytale.

    • Rural politicians have a bad habit of refusing to cooperate with urban politicians to expand the pie for infrastructure, which leaves a lot of rural areas depopulating as young people leave for places with reliable  internet, transit, accessible health systems and the rest. And then those same politicians wonder why nobody wants to live there.

  3. Does the “Information Superhighway” count? Because the internet has changed lives, mine included. It has its dismal parts, yes, but I’ve been able to learn so much more about the world because of it.

    • Yes, and the internet is held together with string. Zuckerberg’s mad dream is to own all of it, and considering Facebook shut itself down this year and engineers had to drive to their hardware to get in to reset, we definitely need to keep it nationalized.

  4. Our ferry system is really amazing & on popular routes, very frustrating on busy weekends.   Pacific coast highway is beautiful but over the last several years has had lots of major slides & closures.  I love the Golden Gate Bridge & the Lions Gate bridge in Vancouver.  Our freeway is a shitshow that goes from 5 lanes to 2 in places.

    • More places in the US need ferries. They are so much more fun than getting atuck on bridges, but the problem is we need more development right where they stop, and the US tends to surround everything with parking lots, which defeats the purpose.

  5. I like infrastructure in general, but not everything.

    Someone has decided to put a goddamned Tim Horton’s near work that is on my way to work.  I’ve noticed that traffic around a Tims becomes a headache because caffeine fiends want their damn coffee and will slow down/break traffic rules to get it. I don’t like things that ruin the flow of traffic while I’m in it (selfish I know.)

    Every damn time someone has plopped down a Tim’s along my drive, my commute has gotten worse. Makes me want to find an RPG-7 and blow the fucking place up.


    • Traffic can be awfully sensitive to minor pattern changes. Humans lack good “swarming behavior” which is the simple set of algorithms that let swarms of locusts fly together through narrow chokepoints without crashing into each other or slowing down very much.

      Engineers who expect too much logic from drivers, on a level of primitive insect brains, can cause horrible backups.

  6. Whoever laid out the roads in Boston was a fucking moron.  You make one wrong turn — and you’re going to, believe me — and you’re halfway to Worcester before you can get fix it.

  7. I work in electric power, and people sometimes call the US/Canada grid as the largest machine ever built. Bullshit. Texas showed the world that lie. It’s a bunch of local networks patched together, and it runs in spite of humans.

    • The stories of how the IT interfaces is pretty scary.

      I have a friend who is a water engineer and they’ve undergone a huge conversion process to eliminate every internet access point and block an unauthorized access — much closer to the older days of physical keys and human to human control and approval systems.

      But there are evidently a lot of water and power systems which are still really vulnerable to hackers and malware.

  8. …it’s a little random…but there’s a place in scotland where there are two canals that are at very different elevations & it used to take a while day to get from one to the other through a series of locks…then for years I think you couldn’t at all…& now you can get from o e to the other in one go because of the falkirk wheel…it’s pretty cool?

    …although the one that messes with my head is how they built the bridge from which the tv show took its name

      • …yeah…it’s kind of genius, huh?

        …I’ve been to see it while visiting relatives & it’s sort of eerie how this massive thing moves & there’s not even a lot of noise involved…it’s a really neat bit of engineering

      • I mean, humans fully occupied 6 of 7 continents, and in the process killed off (and possibly ate?) almost every critter bigger than them.  And, humans did this before they figured out how to make wheels and metal.  They’re a pretty resourceful and persistent lot, once they set their mind on something.

    • What an adorable Scot (yes, I have a soft spot for our neighbours to the North). I’d watch and listen to a dozen more videos with him narrating.

      Also, the Øresund Bridge is quite a convenient way to get from Kobenhavn to Malmö. The Øresund Link (rail) is meant to take just under half an hour, but my last memory of taking it toward Malmö was repeatedly having the ticket machine not recognise my non-Danish card and waiting in a long queue to buy a pass at the ticket window, then boarding and spending about two hours taking in the scenery and water along the bridge, because the damn train stopped and sat on the bridge every three minutes or so. It was pure agony, so much so that even a rail car full of Scandinavians was getting irritated.

  9. I don’t have any specific examples, but I always am happy to see revisions that prioritize (or even just make a little bit less horrible) pedestrian, cyclist, and mass transit.

    I really dislike the car-centric culture in the U.S.  Nothing against people who enjoy cars, or driving, or whatever, but I just really dislike how difficult it is to live in so much of the U.S. without a personal vehicle.

    There was a new bus line put in near me, that involves a dedicated bus-only lane, and a platform where you tag your transit card (or buy a ticket) before boarding, so everything goes a bit more efficiently, and the buses run every 10 minutes or so.  I use it every now and then, and it’s pretty quick and reliable from what I noticed.  It was supposed to run to the next city up in the initial plans, but according to the rumors, I heard a lot of the local businesses and home-owners got it canceled, because it would have reduced on-street parking, and also because they tend to oppose any public transit, as it would make it easier for “those people” to come from the poorer areas into their more affluent area, and I don’t know, rob them or something?

    • The idea that people would somehow use buses (or light rail or subway) as getaway vehicles is just dumb — they’re slow, they have limited access, they are under cameras…. And then there’s the issue that the more people you have around areas, the safer they get. It’s the empty areas that are, in theory dangerous. But healthy urban areas in general are safer than languishing ones — lots of jobs, lots of transit, and crime goes down.

      • yeah, I don’t imagine any potential criminal who decides public transit with it’s incredibly unreliable pickup/stop schedule, slow progress, and very predictable route, is going to remain “at large” for very long…

        but it’s a convenient and easy way for people who don’t think very much to be racist while pretending not to be, so, it’s a pretty popular sentiment…

  10. this road is the closest thing to hell on earth you’ll find as a cyclist

    or maybe purgatory is more fitting……30km of straight nothing but a stiff sea breeze

    de aflsuitdijk…amazing bit of engineering..and having cycled it a couple times i hate it…its just endless misery

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