Business & Economy
October 19, 2018

The Rise of the TSP: Uber Over All?

Some recent stories about the impact of ride-hailing companies, particularly Uber, and the longer term implications.

First, another confirming story that ride-hailing is measurably increasing congestion – from Tech Crunch:

In San Francisco … ride-hailing services are undoubtedly partially to blame (for the rise in traffic and congestion), but not entirely to blame, according to a new study from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. …

Between 2010 and 2016, according to the SFCTA, ride-hailing services accounted for:

  • 51 percent of the increase in daily vehicle hours of delay
  • 47 percent of the increase in vehicle miles traveled
  • 55 percent of the average speed decline
  • 25 percent of total vehicle congestion citywide

So not surprising, then, that Uber wants to address the problem of congestion by supporting a mechanism that would reduce ‘free-riders’ on the streets they help congest.

From the Seattle Times:

Uber says it plans to spend money lobbying for congestion pricing in Seattle as part of a $10 million push for “sustainable mobility” policies in various cities.

The ride-hail app company and its rival, Lyft, have previously expressed support for the idea of tolling downtown streets in Seattle, where Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration is working to develop a proposal.

But Uber’s new commitment to actively press for congestion pricing in the city, shared with The Seattle Times last week, could be the biggest boost yet for an effort certain to encounter political roadblocks, including concerns about affordability.

Uber thinks big and it thinks strategically – literally globally.   It can afford to.

From Vanity Fair:

The Wall Street Journal reported that the company had received proposals from Wall Street banks estimating its initial public offering at a market valuation as high as $120 billion, virtually twice its current private-market valuation, and larger than the combined market capitalizations of General Motors , Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. …

Uber … has a large, global footprint, and is possibly a primordial holding company for a series of future companies …  Uber already has one of the largest food-delivery platforms around today, and it is expanding its freight business, which has the possibility to grow infinitely. And then there’s the driverless car I.P. that the company owns, not to mention the investments in other global ride-sharing services …

“Some people see Uber as a car company,” (an Uber insider said).  “Uber sees itself as the next potential Amazon.”

I think this is bigger than even the evolution of another Amazon (if it first doesn’t buy or dominate Uber.)

We’re still thinking about transportation as essentially a problem of hardware: expensive pieces of metal crammed with technology, jamming the streets and highways. Motordom 1.0.

We analyse the problem from the point of view of the user, each distinguished by the hardware of choice: car or truck drivers, transit users, cyclists (and okay, maybe shoe wearers).

We assume this is primarily a problem for government – the owner of the streets, the licensor of vehicles, the regulator of traffic.

We need to shift our focus to Motordom 2.0 – the integration of every imaginable mode of movement, joined by information technology, delivered to us by a service provider who sells us transportation in the way telecommunications providers sell us data.  The TSP: the Transportation Service Provider.

We should be thinking not about hardware but about what Motordom 2.0 will really be about – issues of ownership, regulation, taxation and equality.  Above all, the vision we have for our urban environments, what we build, for whom, and who gets to decide.

Uber or its successor will likely want to be that decider – the shaper of cities, the creator of wealth, the leader of civilization.  Because that’s what we call what we build, how we move, and who rules over it all.

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Traffic congestion on Georgia and Pender last night.  What could we possibly do about it?  Scott de Lange Boom provided a perspective.

Lets assume each car has one person and the congestion extends all the way to the viaducts. That is 1.9 km, lets assume 15 percent of that is intersections. Assuming each car occupies about five metres, each lane would have 323 cars. With five lanes of traffic, that is 1,615 people. An articulated bus can carry 104 people. That is about 16 buses worth of people.

Those 16 buses would occupy one lane for two blocks.

But here’s the thing: it wouldn’t take 16 buses full of passengers who shifted from driving to get the traffic moving – maybe only two or three, depending on the latent demand.

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On the emerging election issue of a subway to UBC, we have a few diverging opinions — within the same big tent. I suppose it’s healthy, but it does seem to be less a matter of opinion and more a matter of missing homework.

Then we have Bowinn Ma, MLA, P. Eng., schooling the twitterverse on transportation’s immutable law of induced demand, and its vicious circle of negative effects on city-building. Ms. Ma is BC NDP North Van-Lonsdale MLA. Parliamentary Secretary for TransLink.

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Due to finding unprecedented new levels of audacity and shameless behaviour, AP News’ Will Weissert reports this:

Big Oil asks government to protect it from climate change

PORT ARTHUR, Texas (AP) — As the nation plans new defenses against the more powerful storms and higher tides expected from climate change, one project stands out: an ambitious proposal to build a nearly 60-mile “spine” of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates and steel levees on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Like other oceanfront projects, this one would protect homes, delicate ecosystems and vital infrastructure, but it also has another priority — to shield some of the crown jewels of the petroleum industry, which is blamed for contributing to global warming and now wants the federal government to build safeguards against the consequences of it.

The plan is focused on a stretch of coastline that runs from the Louisiana border to industrial enclaves south of Houston that are home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities, including most of Texas’ 30 refineries, which represent 30 percent of the nation’s refining capacity.

Texas is seeking at least $12 billion for the full coastal spine, with nearly all of it coming from public funds. Last month, the government fast-tracked an initial $3.9 billion for three separate, smaller storm barrier projects that would specifically protect oil facilities.

This tweet, below, sums up my reaction rather well.  Aside from weariness at the mantra heard all too often:  “Profits, ours; problems, yours”.

From Robert W. Crowley:  The irony of the double standard. Government is bad for business but we need government to protect our businesses from a phonomenon that does not exist. Brilliant!
7:42 AM – 23 Aug 2018

And we are surely now well into the age of climate change adaptation, since any hope of slowing fossil fuel usage has been exposed as futile. This clamor for more billions from big oil is just the beginning, and the costs are heading like a missile for the public purse.

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. . .  oh yes, and votes too.  Eventually.  Hopefully.

It’s a slow, churning time in the 2018 Vancouver civic election.  A time to set foundations, erect platforms, and see how many, if any, voters will come to the party.

In addition to the group we discussed recently on PT (RCCCD), here are a few more attempts to support a candidate or two. Or at least to try to push someone else out of the race.

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One of the Price Tags editors has just returned from a week in Switzerland driving across the country. There is a major difference in driving in Switzerland~speed cameras are everywhere~on local streets, at the entrances to small towns, and on every major highway. The fines for speeding are steep~drive 6 to 10 km/h over the speed limit and you are looking at a fine of 100 Swiss Francs, roughly equivalent to $135 Canadian dollars. Increase that to driving 16 to 20 km/h over the posted speed limit and you are looking at a whopping 250 Swiss Francs, in the $330 Canadian dollar range. You can take a look at the speeding fine structure and how easy it is to lose your licence by speeding here.

Between 2001 and 2006 Switzerland enforced speed limits resulted in a fatality decrease of 15%  per year, bringing road deaths down from 71 to 31. Enforced slower speeds (the maximum travel speed is 120 km/h and that is rigidly enforced) has made Swiss motorways the safest according to the European Transport Safety Council. The roads are also easier to drive on, with consistent motorist behaviour and plenty of reaction time due to the speed conformity on the motorways.

A new poll conducted by Mario Canseco shows that 70% of  people in British Columbia are now supportive of the use of a camera system similar to the Swiss to enforce road speed limits in this province.

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A bold-looking mixed-use Oakridge Centre is rising in the city, on 28 acres, at the site of a Canada Line transit station. Henriquez Partners Architects have designed something that is billed as the largest development in Vancouver’s history. Completion date looks to be 2025, costs somewhere around $5B, with 2,548 new residential units, and two 40+ storey towers among 12 other buildings. And it’s right in the middle of a predominantly single-family residential area, with rising density nearby.

Part of the design rationale is, however, specifically to generate density at an important transit hub.  Mission accomplished, it seems to me.

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PT contributor Scot Bathgate forwarded us this video from Ford from a few months ago that takes the “kids on bikes witnessing the otherworldly” trope last seen in the Netflix series Stranger Things, and goes one step beyond.

And although it’s odd for a car manufacturer, one so long steeped in motordom mythology, not only embrace the role of the bicycle in a liveable community, with fleeting glimpses of mass transit and pedestrian activity (and always a glowing, flying orb), it’s all about Ford telling us that the company really understands the importance of mobility mix — the new marketing mix.

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The City of Surrey is ready to “speed up traffic”, reports the Surrey Now-Leader, in transportation news from the second-most populous city in Metro Vancouver (and the province).

Going into a civic election in October this year, Surrey council has decided that congestion is a noteworthy issue, and that the city can build its way out of congestion by widening roads and improving bridge interchanges. It’s called the Congestion Relief Strategy (2019 – 2023).

To be fair, there is mention of “complete streets” and bike lanes. But it comes along with potential widening of the roads that parallel the light rail lines, to maintain capacity on them.

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Some important statistics from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), the provincial Crown Corporation responsible for driver licensing, registration and primary insurance coverage, came out yesterday.

If you’ve felt that driving in BC was getting a bit more dangerous, you’re right. ICBC has confirmed that, in 2017, there were 350,000 crashes province-wide. Think of that number — that means there were almost 1,000 crashes every day last year. Statistically, this also suggests (conservatively, assuming single-car crashes) that about one in every ten drivers will be involved in a crash this year.

That figure of 350,000 crashes also works out to 40 crashes every hour in the province; overall, this costs ICBC $4.8 billion, or roughly $13 million per day.

This is also $1 billion more than the cost of the proposed 10-lane Massey Bridge (last estimated in the $3.7 billion range).

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