Cycling
December 14, 2018

Peter Ladner on the Urban Mobility Revolution

Peter delivered this talk at the Get Inspired Talks, on October 20, 2018. .
For decades Peter Ladner has been trying out better ways to get around Vancouver than driving alone at a huge cost. In this video, Peter describes how we can move around Vancouver using ways that are easier, healthier, cheaper and more convenient.   Peter is chair of the David Suzuki Foundation board and the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition. He is a former Vancouver City Councillor, TransLink board member, business owner and journalist.
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Let me quote myself:

I’ve been predicting the rise of the “Transportation Service Provider” — a consolidator of every mode of movement imaginable, integrated with technology, and designed to provide consumers with a suite of services for which they pay (as with telecommunications) one provider with a lot of money.

This is based on the assumption a single provider or oligopoly can emerge. Look to see some of today’s giants try to get even bigger and more diverse as fast as possible in order to dominate the market.

Now it’s just a case of documenting how and how fast this is occurring.  Like this, from The Conversation:

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As Transportation Service Providers (TSPs) provide a suite of options in the form of a service contract, rather like telecommunication providers do now, there will be less and less need for individually owned cars.  And it’s also the way that automated, even autonomous, vehicles are likely to be introduced: a fleet of AVs that the consumer has access to, rather than an individually assigned car.  In other words, the way car-sharing works today.

How fast will that happen?  How soon will the self-owned vehicle be rare or even obsolete?

How about in 10 years?

That’s what one presenter at a transportation conference last week predicted.

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Yesterday’s post about the Vancouver Sun op-ed by Alex Boston scraped the surface of what could comprise an effective business case for Skytrain south of the Fraser, let alone what numbers may (or may not) have been used to justify LRT in the first place.

Did Translink miss some data? As I hinted in Part I, perhaps they simply missed communicating the most relevant, top-line numbers the public have an appetite — and capacity — to understand (no offence to all of us).

But let’s assume they made a whole raft of calculations, such as those that can be found in “Regional Transportation Investments: A Vision for Metro Vancouver (Appendices)“, pointed to me by  Boston’s colleague Keane Gruending from the Centre for Dialogue. The Centre’s own analysis on this file is reminiscent of their Moving in a Livable Region program around the time of the 2015 transit plebiscite, which attempted to hold our leaders accountable (and the politics in check), using a facts-first approach.

Boston’s deeper piece on the Renewable Cities website also reminded me that a lot of the debate on whether to pause Phase 2 and 3 of the Mayors Plan to once again deal with the Skytrain question often fails to deal with two important metrics tied to land use: jobs density, and CO2 emissions.

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This week, Alex Boston, the Executive Director of the Renewable Cities program at SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, wrote an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun on the proposed two big changes threatening to upend phases 2 and 3 of TransLink’s Mayors Plan.

Boston’s piece is a call, if slightly veiled, to Vancouver’s Kennedy Stewart and Surrey’s Doug McCallum to do what they were elected to do when it comes to regional matters — understand all the issues in a city which are regionally dependent or impactful, obtain support and confidence from your respective councils on big ideas, and work collaboratively with the other mayors and the TransLink Board to realize them.

But of course as you may know, it’s never that easy. And much like the housing crisis, there may not even be agreement on what the two problems are. 

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Beth Osborne, Director of Transportation for America, was asked: Can you paint a vivid picture of your nightmare scenario of what our cities look like when AVs are all over the roads?

“My nightmare scenario, which I can visualize perfectly,” she responded, “is sitting in the middle of stand-still traffic in which I am the only human being there.  And all the other cars are clogging up the roads but there are no people in any of them.”

The full response can be found here:

It’s a podcast with Slateand this episode is the best exploration I’ve heard of the context for autonomous vehicles (and what the history of Motordom can tell us).

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More common sense from Jarrett Walker.  In The Atlantic:

Microtransit, or “Uber for public transit,” as some advocates call it, is a new name for an old idea: “dial-a-ride,” or demand-responsive transit. A van roams in a neighborhood….

Superficially, it might seem that offering riders a more convenient service—especially one that comes directly to their door—would increase ridership. And for individual riders who don’t use buses or rail for whatever reason, it might. But for a municipality with a fixed budget for service, shifting resources from fixed routes to microtransit is a way of lowering ridership overall, not increasing it. …

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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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Further evidence of the rise of the ‘Transportation Service Provider’ – a single entity that, Uber-like, tries to consolidate as many transportation choices as possible.  Especially, in particular, Uber.

From The Sun:

But what if Uber has larger ambitions for Express Pool and the rest of its suite of services, and it’s actually aiming to compete directly against public transit system? Andrew Macdonald, the company ’s Toronto-based vice-president for Uber’s Americas operations and global business development, was unfazed by the question. He said he sees Uber and transit as complementary services in taking on Uber’s real competitor: individual vehicle ownership.

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