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From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Glenn D. Miller.
From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Glenn D. Miller.

Show & Tell: Ford Model T Ignition Key

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Glenn D. Miller.
From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Glenn D. Miller.

This ignition key, produced for the Ford Model T between 1914 and 1919, is a relic of a time when the operation of an automobile required much more from the driver than it does today. The metal key, slightly rusted, is now preserved in the collections of The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan.

The pre-1919 Model T, Car and Driver advises, is especially difficult to get going because it doesn’t have a manual starter. Here is the procedure, as described by Car & Driver for those interested in driving a restored specimen: The driver starts at the front of the car, by the right fender, and pulls the choke, while cranking a lever under the radiator to prime the carburetor. Then, she climbs into the car. This is where the ignition key comes into play: she inserts it, then adjusts the timing stalk, the throttle stalk, and the hand brake. Then, she hops back out of the car to crank the lever, using (Car and Driver advises) the left arm: “If the engine backfires and the lever swings counterclockwise, the left arm is less likely to be broken.” At that point, the engine should start.

A group of friends in their Model T Ford car circa 1915. Getty Images.

The elaborate nature of this procedure meant that the driver had to be ready to remember a lot of technical details, and to have a modicum of physical strength. While some contemporary critics argued that women couldn’t handle a Model T, drivers like Britain’s Dorothy Levitt, who wrote a 1909 handbook for women interested in buying and operating an automobile, insisted that the level of technical expertise necessary was easy to acquire: “An engine is easily mastered. A few hours of proper diligence, provided you are determined to learn, and you know all that you have to know.”

Ford’s Model T was unusual in sticking to the crank starter method throughout the 1910s. The electric starter motor, patented in 1903, could be found in most non-Ford cars as the second decade of the 20th century progressed, and their manufacturers boasted of the relative ease of their cars’ starting procedures (the tagline of a Cadillac ad: “The Car That Has No Crank”). While the whole procedure was rendered somewhat simpler with the advent of Ford’s Model A—the driver no longer had to get out of the car and crank—it still wasn’t easy, when compared with our super-quick present-day process.

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Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images
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environment
Germany Wants to Fight Air Pollution With Free Public Transit
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images

Getting people out of their cars is an essential part of combating climate change. By one estimate, getting people to ditch their two-car household for just one car and a public transit commute could save up to 30 percent in carbon dioxide emissions [PDF]. But how do you convince commuters to take the train or the bus? In Germany, the answer may be making all public transit free, according to The Local.

According to a letter from three of Germany's government ministers to the European Union Environment Commissioner, in 2018, Germany will test free public transit in five western German cities, including Bonn. Germany has failed to meet EU air pollution limits for several years, and has been warned that it could face heavy fines if the country doesn't clean up its air. In a report from 2017, the European Environment Agency estimated that 80,767 premature deaths in Germany in 2014 were due to air pollution.

City officials in the regions where free transport will be tested say there may be some difficulty getting ahold of enough electric buses to support the increase in ridership, though, and their systems will likely need more trains and bus lines to make the plan work.

Germany isn't the first to test out free public transportation, though it may be the first to do it on a nation-wide level. The Estonian capital of Tallinn tried in 2013, with less-than-stellar results. Ridership didn't surge as high as expected—one study found that the elimination of fares only resulted in a 1.2 percent increase in demand for service. And that doesn't necessarily mean that those new riders were jumping out of their cars, since those who would otherwise bike or walk might take the opportunity to hop on the bus more often if they don't have to load a transit card.

Transportation isn't prohibitively expensive in Germany, and Germans already ride public transit at much higher rates than people do in the U.S. In Berlin, it costs about $4 a ride—more expensive than a ride in Paris or Madrid but about what you'd pay in Geneva, and cheaper than the lowest fare in London. And there are already discounts for kids, students, and the elderly. While that doesn't necessarily mean making public transit free isn't worth it, it does mean that eliminating fares might not make the huge dent in car emissions that the government hopes it will.

What could bring in more riders? Improving existing service. According to research on transportation ridership, doing things like improving waits and transfer times bring in far more new riders than reducing fares. As one study puts it, "This seldom happens, however, since transport managers often cannot resist the idea of reducing passenger fares even though the practice is known to have less impact on ridership."

The same study notes that increasing the prices of other modes of transit (say, making road tolls and parking fees higher to make driving the more expensive choice) is a more effective way of forcing people out of their cars and onto trains and buses. But that tends to be more unpopular than just giving people free bus passes.

[h/t The Local]

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travel
Here's How Much Traffic Congestion Costs the World's Biggest Cities
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Traffic congestion isn't just a nuisance for the people who get trapped in gridlock on their way to work, it’s also a problem for a city's economy, City Lab reports. According to a study from the transportation consulting firm INRIX, all that time stuck in traffic can cost the world’s major cities tens of billions of dollars each year.

The study, the largest to examine vehicle traffic on a global scale, measured congestion in 1360 cities across 38 countries. Los Angeles ranked number one internationally with drivers spending an average of 102 hours in traffic jams during peak times in a year. Moscow and New York City were close behind, both with 91 lost hours, followed by Sao Paulo in Brazil with 86 and San Francisco with 79.

INRIX also calculated the total cost to the cities based on their congestion numbers. While Los Angeles loses a whopping $19.2 billion a year to time wasted on the road, New York City takes the biggest hit. Traffic accounts for $33.7 billion lost by the city annually, or an average of $2982 per driver. The cost is $10.6 billion a year for San Francisco and $7.1 billion for Atlanta. Those figures are based on factors like the loss of productivity from workers stuck in their cars, higher road transportation costs, and the fuel burned by vehicles going nowhere.

Congestion on the highway can be caused by something as dramatic as a car crash or as minor as a nervous driver tapping their brakes too often. Driverless cars could eventually fix this problem, but until then, the fastest solution may be to discourage people from getting behind the wheel in the first place.

[h/t City Lab]

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