Tag Archives: transportation

Lyft v. parking

I seem to be on a safe streets, anti-car roll this week so I’ll keep rolling. This article quotes a Lyft spokesman and drivers about how people are using ride sharing services to avoid having to deal with parking.

“They say, ‘I can’t afford to park down there,’” Gregory Goodman said. “And if they end up parking down there they end up with a $75 ticket.”

Lyft Philly GM Andrew Woolf confirmed that a significant portion of Lyft’s business comes from people who don’t want to park their cars. This has become a trend for commuters elsewhere, too, so much so that office landlords in New Jersey are beginning to offer Lyft and Uber subsidies.

Much of the time, these trips to avoid parking are to the airport or SEPTA stations, but Lyft is used for far more routine parking jobs.

I think this is slightly missing the point. The point of transportation is to get where you need to go, when you need to go there, at a reasonable financial price. People in relatively compact cities have always had more options in this regard than everyone else – walking, biking, public transportation, and taxis. On any given day, someone may decide one of these options is cheaper and/or more convenient than driving and parking their private vehicle. Others are going to decide that having a private vehicle is no longer worth the trouble (count me in this camp, since 2004). But Uber and Lyft are game changing because they are a much better option in many cases than these older options, and in less dense communities they are providing the first viable alternative to private vehicles that people have ever had access to. So people are making their choices.

Like I said, I haven’t owned a private vehicle since 2004. But I used to rent cars and use share cars (the kind you sign out and drive yourself) frequently, but lately I hardly ever do either of these things. I take Uber and Lyft instead. Here in Philadelphia, our public transportation agency is set to raise fares yet again to a minimum of $2.50, and they need to be careful because Uber Pool and the Lyft equivalent (I forget what it’s called) are going to be competitive for some rides. So it could be the beginnings of a public transportation death spiral. What they need to do, of course, is adopt the Uber Pool type technology to public transportation, and offer flexible routes and timing. All is not quite perfect in corporate Uber land, of course, and public transportation agencies could actually take advantage of this if they are smart and flexible enough. But I wouldn’t put my money on that.

There is still an irony when we talk about parking. Gradually, fewer private cars will mean less parking demand and less competition for the parking spaces we have already built, or that we will continue to build through misguided policies in some places. That will mean less angst about parking and actually provide some counter-incentive to giving up your private vehicle, so at some point it will settle into some kind of equilibrium, at least until the next technological disruption or in a few progressive places that realize they can use all that land for something better than parking.

May 2017 in Review

Most frightening stories:

  • The public today is more complacent about nuclear weapons than they were in the 1980s, even though the risk is arguably greater and leaders seem to be more ignorant and reckless.
  • The NSA is trying “to identify laboratories and/or individuals who may be involved in nefarious use of genetic research”.
  • We hit 410 ppm at Mauna Loa.

Most hopeful stories:

Most interesting stories, that were not particularly frightening or hopeful, or perhaps were a mixture of both:

  • Some experts think the idea of national sovereignty itself is now in doubt.
  • Taser wants to record everything the police do, everywhere, all the time, and use artificial intelligence to make sense of the data.
  • The sex robots are here.

electric cars about to boom

According to Bloomberg, electric cars are set for a big boom by 2020 and could lead to a peak and decline in oil demand sometime in the 2020s.

Electric cars are coming fast — and that’s not just the opinion of carmakers anymore. Total SA, one of the world’s biggest oil producers, is now saying EVs may constitute almost a third of new-car sales by the end of the next decade.

The surge in battery powered vehicles will cause demand for oil-based fuels to peak in the 2030s, Total Chief Energy Economist Joel Couse said at Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s conference in New York on Tuesday. EVs will make up 15 percent to 30 percent of new vehicles by 2030, after which fuel “demand will flatten out,” Couse said. “Maybe even decline…”

“By 2020 there will be over 120 different models of EV across the spectrum,” said Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “These are great cars. They will make the internal combustion equivalent look old fashioned.”

April 2017 in Review

Most frightening stories:

Most hopeful stories:

Most interesting stories, that were not particularly frightening or hopeful, or perhaps were a mixture of both:

  • I first heard of David Fleming, who wrote a “dictionary” that provides “deft and original analysis of how our present market-based economy is destroying the very foundations―ecological, economic, and cultural― on which it depends, and his core focus: a compelling, grounded vision for a cohesive society that might weather the consequences.”
  • Judges are relying on algorithms to inform probation, parole, and sentencing decisions.
  • I finished reading Rainbow’s End, a fantastic Vernor Vinge novel about augmented reality in the near future, among other things.

The Retail Meltdown of 2017

The Atlantic has an article about “the retail meltdown of 2017”.

There have been nine retail bankruptcies in 2017—as many as all of 2016. J.C. Penney, RadioShack, Macy’s, and Sears have each announced more than 100 store closures. Sports Authority has liquidated, and Payless has filed for bankruptcy. Last week, several apparel companies’ stocks hit new multi-year lows, including Lululemon, Urban Outfitters, and American Eagle, and Ralph Lauren announced that it is closing its flagship Polo store on Fifth Avenue, one of several brands to abandon that iconic thoroughfare…

So, what the heck is going on? The reality is that overall retail spending continues to grow steadily, if a little meagerly. But several trends—including the rise of e-commerce, the over-supply of malls, and the surprising effects of a restaurant renaissance—have conspired to change the face of American shopping.

A lot of people like the car-dependent suburbs because they are perceived to be quiet, safe, and have good public education. But do people actually like sitting in traffic or have they seen that as a necessary price to pay. I like how the Place Shakers blog talks about this:

So what was the motivation [for the rise of auto-dependent retail]? I’d suggest it was (and still is, really) a desire for the easiest possible access to the stuff we want at the time — a desire so strong, it seems to me, that we began structuring our entire built environment around its fulfillment…

That’s why we built bigger arterials which fed bigger chain stores with more of the items we wanted to get our hands on. And why we built malls, where the variety of available goods seemed to increase exponentially. And it’s also why we established hefty parking minimums. Because you’re not effectively delivering on the promise of easy access to goods if you can pave the way to a warehouse full of stuff but leave no space to park within a few feet of the door. And parking within a few feet of the door is a fundamental part of the need being fulfilled.

But what happens when times and technologies change, and new ways of addressing our needs emerge? Suddenly we’re afforded new opportunities to prioritize how we spend our time and money.

In other words, we can get the stuff we want without spending so much time sitting in our cars, and we have figured out that there are other, better ways to be spending that time. I think something very similar is playing out with the trend of a lot of people working from home, at least on Fridays. By saving that commuting time to and from the office, your free up hours of your day for sleep, family, leisure, or extra productivity.

the middle seat

I like this idea for making the middle seat on airplanes just a bit more spacious and comfortable than the others, so people wouldn’t mind it so much and might even prefer it.

But if Molon Labe Designs gets its way, that panic could give way to placidity. The upstart Colorado aviation design firm wants to kill the middle seat’s middle child reputation. Its “stagger seat” concept sits slightly below and behind its neighbors, so it can be three inches wider than its window- and aisle-adjacent companions. It has its own armrests.

“Flying sucks, and design makes it suck less,” says Hank Scott, the CEO of Molon Labe, who’s currently in Germany to show off the prototype at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg. (BMW Groups’ Designworks and Panasonic Avionics also had a hand in the design.) By extending curved armrest back, the designers ensure the middle seater has access to at least half of its length. (“If you’re in the aisle or window seat, you couldn’t possibly steal the entire armrest—your elbows would be behind your back at a weird angle,” Scott says.) That also gives the middle seat’s in-flight entertainment system room to grow to a whopping 18 inches, compared to the puny 15-inch screens on other seat backs. For all this design prowess, however, this thing gets you nothing in extra legroom.

Tesla vs. Ford

BBC says Tesla’s market value is now greater than Ford’s.

At the close of trading Tesla had a market value of $49bn (£38bn), compared with Ford’s value of $46bn…

The firm delivered more than 25,000 cars in the first quarter, up 70% on the same quarter last year.

While Tesla’s sales are growing fast they are still a fraction of Ford’s, which sold almost 6.7 million vehicles in 2016.

Tesla delivered 76,000 electric cars last year.

The legacy Detroit car companies could be embracing the new technologies, but instead they are allowing themselves to be creatively destroyed. Their business model, I believe, is to keep cramming pickup trucks into developing countries until they burst at the seams. Meanwhile, Tesla and Google and Uber will pass them by and become the new face of the U.S. auto industry. Then next time Ford, GM, and Chrysler tell us they need a taxpayer bailout or the U.S. auto industry will disappear, we may not have to listen.

February 2016 in Review

3 most frightening stories

3 most hopeful stories

3 most interesting stories

  • The idea of growing human organs inside a pig, or even a viable human-pig hybrid, is getting very closeTiny brains can also be grown on a microchip. Bringing back extinct animals is also getting very close.
  • Russian hackers are cheating slot machines by figuring out the pattern on pseudo-random numbers they generate.
  • From a new book called Homo Deus: “For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.”

January 2017 in Review

I just realized I forgot to do a month in review post in January. Well, I had a lot going on in my personal life in January, most notably the arrival of a tiny new human being. Blog posts are not the only thing I forgot – I forgot to pay some important bills and to do some important paperwork at my job too.

3 most frightening stories

  • Cheetahs are in serious trouble.
  • The U.S. government may be “planning to roll back or dilute many of the provisions of Dodd-Frank, particularly those that protect consumers from toxic financial products and those that impose restrictions on banks”.
  • “Between 1946 and 2000, the US and the Soviet Union/Russia have intervened in about one of every nine competitive national-level executive elections.” The “Great Game” is back in Afghanistan.

3 most hopeful stories

3 most interesting stories