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Bethlehem; A Modern Wagon

May 13th, 2007
ideas, transportation, dance  [html]

Bethlehem

Went dancing at Bethlehem last night. It was a good dance, but it wasn't as amazing as I would expect with Raise the Roof and Beth Molaro. Beth is usually an excellent caller, really fun to dance to, but she did not call nearly as well as usual last night. She made a lot of little mistakes (messing up a walkthrough, some ambiguous directions, calling a dance that started with a box the gnat, men aleman left to music that was begging for a balance before the box, calling a dance that had a pull by across into a balance and swing (2 count pull by, 4 count balance, 10 count swing: balance is weird against the music and ragged through the hall) and then in the same dance a hey into a 16 count swing (put the balance before that swing instead)) but the weirdest thing she did was choose to end the night with a non-equal turn dance that wasn't much more than a glossary dance. Only the ones got to swing and I was dancing with Koren, down from Boston for the weekend, and we were twos most of the dance (save the first two rounds). It did have a ladies chain to partner, though, and I was dancing the girl and Koren is really good at twirling, so that was fun. A few of the times we got in six twirls without being late.

A modern wagon

Compare a Honda Civic to a Ford Econoline passenger van for a moment. The civic handles better, is safer, can go faster while remaining safe, takes less room to stop, and gets about the same mileage per person at 65, substantially better per person at 85. In general, vehicles that hold more people seem to need to go slower than those that hold fewer if they want to be safe and be fuel efficient.

Height is a major component in this. Being taller increases the risk of roll-over dramatically and also makes the van less aerodynamic. Part of why large passenger vans are built the way they are is that they were designed to hold cargo and not people. Why not make vehicle in a wagon configuration instead? You put three or four rows of seating in and put doors on each row. If you keep the width of a van you can have each of the rows hold four people, though the front should probably hold three (don't want to crowd the driver). This gives 11 and 15 passenger options. Alternatively the vehicle could be narrower and hold only three across, seating 9 or 12 people. People also might want individual seats for the front, especially for the three-across version, which cuts 1 of each of these numbers.

Having doors on each row helps in several ways. This comes from no longer needing an aisle to reach the rear seats. This allows weight to be distributed more evenly (fully loaded 15 passenger vans have around 50% of the weight on the left rear tire, causing increased wear and dangerous handling), faster loading and unloading, and greater capacity.

Greater capacity per row also lets the wagon be shorter, an 11 person wagon needing three rows to a 12 person van's four and a wagon-15 needing four to a van-15's five. Each row in a wagon takes up a little more space because the people are lower and a little less upright, but not that much more.

With all the suits about 15 passenger vans rolling over, there are probably a lot of schools, churches, colleges, and community groups that are nervous about their vans and perhaps thinking about replacing them.

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