The AV retail experience is coming

Today, you have to travel to the store. In the future, with e-Palette, the store will come to you!

Akio Toyoda, President and Member of the Board of Directors for the Toyota Motor Corporation recently announced the e-Palette; a fully electrical autonomous vehicle (AV) that can be used for just about anything including being an at-your-door retail “store”. Toyoda states the e-Palette will not be any “ordinary” electrical AV—it will extend beyond the mobility of people and will fill a societal need to mobilize services and commerce.

The e-Palette will be revolutionary in the retail market because not only will it deliver a customer’s order, but potentially a range of options – truly bringing the store to you.  Imagine ordering a pair of shoes and having multiple pairs of those shoes in a variety of sizes arrive at your door for you to try on. There will be no driver or need to travel your local centers of commerce. While this may be unimaginable today, it might very likely be the next generation’s retail experience. Toyota, along with partners like Amazon, Uber and Pizza Hut hope to launch the e-Palette by 2020.

The e-Palette has the potential to bring the convenience of retail to an entirely new level and it could have positive impacts such as reducing the number of single-occupancy trips per day and decreasing vehicle miles traveled per person. As people drive less, motor vehicle lanes could be reallocated to additional sidewalk space for pedestrians or to increase areas for curb access. But the e-Palette could have negative implications as well, such as the deactivation of downtowns, increased store closing, increased rates of social isolation and disengagement from the larger community among residents.

In response to these concerns, what are critical strategies cities can plan for to incentivize active downtowns, retail centers, or plazas? Additionally, the e-Palette will inevitably require new tax policy and mobile-retail regulations in general. How will the e-Palette concept be integrated into the budgetary needs of a city?

If you are interested in learning more about thee-Palette, you can watch the press conference here.

 

Interested in learning more about the retail apocalypse or the role of e-commerce in cities of the future? Join us at the Urbanism Next Conference where a series of leading scholars and practitioners will present their research on “Are stores doomed?”

Is Ride Share the Cure?

In discussing how the future of transportation will function, and in particular the future regarding autonomous vehicles, rideshare (Uber and Lyft) is often touted as a way to improve mobility and reduce the number of cars on the road, meaning less traffic, parking and pollution.

But, rideshare hasn’t been upholding this promise. Recent research shows that the introduction of Uber and Lyft to cities has increased congestion and air pollution, the combined number of taxi, Uber, and Lyft vehicles in Manhattan has increased by 59% from 2013 to 2017. Notably important is the fact that rideshare is increasing VMT by creating rides – a study by U.C. Davis transportation researchers found that between 49-61% of trips either wouldn’t have happened or would have been accomplished by transit, bike, or on foot if rideshare hadn’t been an option.

Many think Uber and Lyft function the same way AV will be used, but simply have drivers.  Thus, the initial research on the impacts of Uber and Lyft are troubling. Both rideshare and self-driving cars promise to eliminate the need for parking, improve safety, possibly reduce the number of cars on the road, and ease environmental concerns. However, a substantial amount of rideshare vehicles are idle without passengers at any moment in time, in Manhattan the number of empty Ubers and Lyfts is approximately one-third of the rideshare fleet.  The convenience of rideshare has not yet discouraged car ownership or reduced vehicle miles traveled, and until the fleet is electric, air pollution and GHG remain an issue.

So the question remains, how can cities prevent autonomous vehicles from increasing sprawl, adding to congestion, or continuing to emit GHGs? A few ideas such as the following might work:

1) Policies such as charging a fee for “zombie cars” (AVs without passengers) to discourage AVs from driving without passengers;

2) Mandating that AVs be shared instead of private;

3) Limiting the number of AVs on the road by relying on sophisticated algorithms to optimize the number of cars on the road based on the number of passengers hailing rides; and

4) Transitioning rideshare users to the higher capacity of public transit through various economic incentives or penalties. These are some examples of policies that cities could enact to curb congestion caused by rideshare and AVs.

Jenna Whitney is a Master’s Candidate in Community and Regional Planning and an Urbanism Next Fellow at the University of Oregon.  She is examining how cities are planning for a multimodal future in the era of autonomous vehicles.

Practitioner and Policy-Maker Perceptions of Planning for Autonomous Vehicles

In less than one month’s time, practitioners and policy-makers across the country will convene in Portland, Oregon to learn about, explore, and discuss a variety of topics related to transformative technologies, urbanism and planning.

What lies ahead for communities across the world is anyone’s guess—and the ‘guesses’ vary quite a bit. That’s just what Dr. Kristina M. Currans and Dr. Tara Goddard—Assistant Professors from University of Arizona and Texas A&M, respectively—are interested in. In the weeks between now and the conference, Drs. Currans and Goddard will be administering a 6-10-minute survey aimed at understanding practitioner and policy-maker perceptions of planning for autonomous vehicles.

The researchers plan to share the synthesis of their findings after the conference. In the meantime, they have made it available to the general public. Learn more and take their brief survey here!

Thriving and surviving retail sectors during a “retail apocalypse”

As writer Andrew Van Dam states in a recent Washington Post article, “retail is one of the biggest, most diverse sectors of the economy.” Not only does it vary in types of products sold (i.e. clothing, electronics, and food markets), but also range in size, specialized vs. big-box department stores, and upscale boutiques vs. discount stores. Therefore, it is not surprising that each sector is experiencing different impacts from emerging technology and shifts in the market economy, some are even defying the presumed certainty of the retail apocalypse.

While many sectors are struggling to keep pace with the competition, others seem to be thriving and even hiring new employees. According to Van Dam, retail employment only actually decreased 0.4% from 2016 to 2017. As it shows in the graphic below, this is comparatively mild to the hits of the two recessions since the late 1990s.

The overall employment impacts start to become more interesting when we look at specific types of retail that are being affected the “retail apocalypse.”

The retail sectors with the highest average monthly job loss Jan-Nov. 2017 are:

  • Department stores (excludes discount stores)
  • Warehouse clubs, supercenters
  • Pharmacies and drugstores
  • Electronics
  • Women’s Clothing

…and the retail sectors with the highest average monthly job gain from Jan-Nov. 2017 are:

  • Electronic shopping and auctions
  • Home Improvement Centers
  • Discount Department stores
  • Bridal, lingerie, costume and other clothing
  • Trophies, collections, art supplies and other miscellaneous

As shown in the graphic above, 4 out of the 5 sectors have been fairly consistent in gaining jobs for the retail economy, both from 2009-2016 and also in 2017. Discount Department Stores, which had previously experienced job loss from 2009-2016, saw an unprecedented spark of job gain in 2017. In general, all five sectors outpaced their job gain in 2017 compared to the aggregated job growth from the last 5 years. In general, there are more retail sectors that experienced job gain in 2017. Still, the total number of jobs that were lost is greater than the number of jobs gained.  The top job loss sectors, Warehouse Clubs/Supercenters and Department Stores, lost over 5,000 jobs in 2017.  This is nearly the total amount of jobs of all the top job gain sectors.

The retail sector lost approximately 66,500 jobs, which is striking given the economy as a whole added over 2 million jobs in that same period.

Nationally, these trends may seem relatively minor, but they can have lasting impact local communities. In some communities, job loss in these sectors could mean significant impact to local unemployment rates and the decline in property tax revenue.  How will cities that depend on these retail sectors as major employers adapt to job loss or store closings? And while impacts may seem minor in 2017, will this trend continue…should we start planning for a continual decline of retail employment for the future city?

The full graph of retail sector job loss and gain can be found here.

Interested in learning more about the retail apocalypse or the role of e-commerce in cities of the future? Join us at the Urbanism Next Conference where a series of leading scholars and practitioners will present their research on “Are stores doomed?”

Alexa, schedule a Whole Foods delivery

Photo by Anne Preble on Unsplash

That’s what some Amazon Prime members in Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas, and Virginia Beach might be saying today after Amazon announced that it will begin offering free two-hour grocery delivery from Whole Foods. As you might recall, Amazon rocked the grocery world when it announced it was purchasing the upscale grocery chain in August last year. Now, some customers will have the option of ordering natural and organic products from their local Whole Foods store and having it all delivered for FREE within two hours. According toBloomberg Technology, 90% of Amazon Prime’s 90 million users live within 10 miles of a Whole Foods, so the announcement of a free delivery service perhaps should come as no surprise. And from a cost standpoint, you can see how this would pencil out—instead of pulling items off a shelf in some distant warehouse that then have to be transported to local destinations, goods will come directly from a nearby store right to your doorstep.

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

This convenience does not come without implications, of course. For one thing, we could see an uptick in delivery traffic in the cities where this program is rolling out. (Did I mention that delivery is FREE?) Increased delivery traffic could result in increased congestion, particularly in dense areas, as drivers look for loading zones or possibly double park to drop off orders. (Even more reason why cities need to start digitizing those curbs.) There’s also the question of what this will do to suppliers. As Bloomberg’s Olivia Zaleski mentions, shelf space at Whole Foods could get a whole lot more expensive as suppliers compete for placement. And then there’s the competition that other grocery stores will experience–just this week, the Portland-based upscale grocery chain New Seasons announced that it will be closing a Sunnyvale, CA store it opened less than a year ago and will not be building the other California stores it had planned. They cited “growing pressure from new business models, including stores offering in-store pick-up of online orders and meal kit delivery services” as contributing to the decision. Imagine how much tougher it could get for them now that a direct competitor for their retail market can offer fast and free delivery.

Let us not overlook the equity implications of this announcement either. If you can afford an Amazon Prime account, you likely live within 10 miles of a Whole Foods, as noted above. Now you can get free delivery of fresh, organic foods. But what if you can’t afford an Amazon Prime account? E-commerce promises convenience, and perhaps no other company understands “that the most important value in American retail today is what’s is technically known as ‘consumer convenience'” than Amazon. But convenience comes with a price tag that many people cannot afford. How do we move into the future without widening the gaps between haves- and have-nots even more?

Join us for discussions about the equity implications of emerging technologies and what to do about them at the Urbanism Next Conference next month!

Seeing curbs for what they are: hot commodities

Flexible curbside uses (excerpted from NACTO’s 2017 Blueprint for Autonomous Urbanism)

If you’ve ever dropped someone off at an airport on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, you know that finding even the tiniest amount of space at the curb to wedge your car into is near impossible. As you battle for curb space, you may not be seeing dollar signs—but cities are starting to. As Karen Hao writes in Quartz, “The humble curb is quickly becoming the city’s hottest asset.” With the rise of transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft, more and more drivers are looking for places to pull over for periods of time. Add to the mix delivery trucks also vying for that space, and you could be heading for a real congestion headache. Recognizing that this problem is only going to increase as we move towards a driverless future, some cities like Washington D.C. have taken a first step towards treating curbs like commodities—they are inventorying and digitizing them, starting with their loading zones. By digitizing that data, they can begin to measure supply and demand for curb space and charge accordingly. As the author of the Quartz article notes, DDOT started charging higher prices for the use of certain loading zones using the data it had collected.

Curb space is hot and as parking becomes, well, less hot, the loss of parking revenue is going to have an impact on municipal budgets. Charging for curb space could be the way of the future. Want to know more? Join us for the Urbanism Next Conference March 5-7 in Portland, OR and check out the session on the Future of the Curb, featuring Gillian Gillett with the City of San Francisco, and Allison Wylie of Uber. Come hear what they have to say about the city’s hottest asset!

Early bird deadline for the Urbanism Next 2018 Conference extended!

Have you heard? The early bird deadline for the Urbanism Next 2018 Conference has been extended to Friday, February 9! How we can leverage technology to create the best future for all? Be part of the conversation March 5-7 at the Urbanism Next 2018 Conference in Portland.

Engage with architects, planners, landscape architects, developers, academics, and others. We will explore the secondary impacts of emerging technologies—autonomous vehicles, the sharing economy, and e-commerce—on real estate, land use, urban design and transportation.

Hear from national experts and participate in interactive sessions focused on what these technologies mean for equity, the environment, the economy, and governance:

Please visit the conference site to complete your registration and find additional details about speakers, schedule, and accommodations. Special rates are available for members of the AIA, APA, ASLA, ULI and academics. Conference organizers are applying for continuing education credits for the American Institute of Architects (LU/HSWs) and the American Institute of Certified Planners (CMs). ASLA members are eligible to self-report hours per the requirements of their state licensure boards.

Register today for early bird pricing!

Driverless Cars are Here (Just with Drivers) – TNCs

We often get the questions about when AVs will arrive – and although that date seems closer and closer — (see our post here about car manufacturers plans, here about level 4 automation in Phoenix last November, here about GM’s request for federal approval for a fleet of level 4 AVs to be rolled out in 2019, and here for an article about Waymo’s recent order of thousands of Pacifica vans they will be deploying as AVs around the country) — we like to point out that AVs, or more precisely the model of how we will use AVs, is already prevalent throughout the country in the form of TNCs.

Transportation Network Companies like Uber, Lyft, Via and Chariot are examples of exactly how we will be using AVs, just with drivers in them.  The mobile apps, the on-demand nature, the sometimes limited contact with anyone easily map onto the AV future.

The implication for this is that we can be studying the impacts of TNCs to get a sense of what the impacts of AVs will be.  Recent reports from Bruce Schaller, Susan Shaheen, and UC Davis’ 3 Revolutions on the impacts of TNCs on travel behavior and mode choice can be seen as early predictors of the future we will have with AVs.

For cities wondering what the future will look like, it has already arrived.  Just take a look at TNC impacts.

And Here Comes the Backlash… UPS and Teamsters Debate AVs

We have often said that the largest barrier to the roll-out of AVs will not be state of the technology, but instead the backlash to it.  Our work has focused on understanding the impacts of emerging technologies on cities and we firmly believe that these impacts, if not well structured and guided, might be detrimental to cities.  If cities and communities suffer – or fear they are going to be negatively impacted – we will start to see resistance to the technologies en masse.

As a case in point – UPS is currently in contract negotiations with the Teamsters and one of the key issues on the table is that UPS agree to not pursue the use of drone technology or autonomous vehicles.  From conversations we have had with transit agencies around the country, this is a similar issue coming up in labor negotiations nationally.

Labor and industry will need to figure out a path forward that takes into account the needs of workers and the reality of competition (as other companies that are pursing AVs may outcompete those that don’t).  This all points to a need to think proactively about the implications of these new technologies – going beyond transportation and beyond labor as well – to understand how we can best shape an emerging technology future.

Amazon Expanded Delivery Services Will Impact Warehousing

Amazon has been developing a program they call ‘Seller Flex’ which allows them to do deliveries for third party suppliers (this is Amazon delivering packages for products they do not stock, but offer through their website).  This will largely be competition for FedEx and UPS who currently do most of these types of deliveries.

The implications for warehousing is that individual sites around the city that stock different goods will now be more integrated into a network of warehouses.  This means space needs could be reduced, efficiencies could improve and there will start to be added benefits of having various key warehouses located near each other so that Amazon can more easily access and service them all.  Amazon will be streamlining delivery while not having to own all of the individual warehouses or merchandise themselves.

Early registration pricing for the Urbanism Next Conference 2018 ends Monday, February 5

The last day for early bird registration for the 2018 Urbanism Next conference is next week – Monday, February 5, 2018! Join us in Portland, Oregon March 5-7, 2018 to engage in dialogue about how technology is transforming our cities.

The conference will focus on the secondary impacts on real estate, land use, urban design, and transportation as a result of emerging technologies including autonomous vehicles.

Highlights:

  • Learn about the implications of emerging technologies for equity, the environment, the economy, and governance.
  • Hear from Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, ZipCar Founder Robin Chase, Nelson\Nygaard’s Jeff Tumlin and many more
  • Engage with architects, planners, landscape architects, developers, academics and others in interactive workshops

Please visit the conference site for additional details about speakers, schedule, and accommodations and to complete your registration.

Special rates are available for members of the AIA, APA, ASLA, ULI, and academics. Conference organizers are applying for continuing education credits for the American Institute of Architects (LU/HSWs) and the American Institute of Certified Planners (CMs). ASLA members are eligible to self-report hours per the requirements of their state licensure boards.

New Report: Rethinking the Street in an Era of Driverless Cars

Communities get few moments to rethink their streets and make decisions that will serve the basic purposes of transportation, address urgent challenges like climate change, rising obesity, social isolation and conflict, and expand opportunities for general happiness throughout society.  Such a pivotal moment is upon us, as autonomous vehicles represent a potentially disruptive technology that can re-make the city for good or for ill.

Urbanism Next has released a new report delineating ways our communities can begin repurposing their most common public space – the streets – to better serve public uses.  Driverless cars may need less parking, narrower lanes, and may be able to occupy bi-directional shared lanes, all leading to a significantly reduced need for road space currently used to move and store vehicles. Where driverless cars are primarily available as fleets where users are buying rides instead of vehicles, the space savings may be more significant.

City planners, policy makers and community residents have a unique, and immediate, opportunity to rethink their streets with purposeful and creative consideration about how this critical public good may best serve the public for generations to come.  Read this Urbanism Next report to learn more.  And to see other Urbanism Next briefs, visit this page.

Future of jobs and the end of the cashier

Seattle may not have the SuperSonics basketball franchise anymore (this still burns me up—but that is a story for another day and a different blog) –or the headquarters of Boeing—but they do have supersonic convenience store checkout now. Amazon, based in Seattle, now has its first Amazon Go store up and running. This brick and mortar Amazon store location just requires shoppers to “Simply present the Amazon Go app at the gates and start shopping.” A range of technology (cameras and sensors) is used to monitor shoppers as they browse and shop. When the shoppers are done selecting their goods they just leave the store and get charged to their Amazon accounts.

Amazon Go store in Seattle (credit: www.theguardian.com)

Some shoppers at the store described the store as an experience that they just had to experience for themselves—“It’s at the cutting edge of AI and machine learning and I wanted to experience it for myself,” said one shopper. And while this may be novel for the shopper, it is a real threat to a lot of jobs (cashier being the 2nd most common job title in the US). This threat to employment is no longer in the far off distance of 2 or 3 years from now, as might be the case for truck drivers, but has actually already occurred. These types of shifts could be the end of a lot of jobs, but stores could also use as a way to improve customer services on the floor—and probably get shoppers to buy more as their employees focus on upselling rather than asking at check-out if “I found everything I was looking for.”

 

 

 

 

Pick your workshop at the Urbanism Next Conference

Day 2 of the Urbanism Next Conference will be an active day of in-depth workshops. Each attendee will have the opportunity to select from 17, 3-hour workshops – there’s something for everyone.

  • Equity issues take center stage in An AV for Everyone: Shared Mobility and Equity.
  • Curious about implications for local government budgets and finance? Where did All the Money Go? Opportunities and Challenges for Local Government Finances is your session.
  • Scenario Planning for an Uncertain Future is a great choice for planners to help foster public engagement.

Attendance is limited to approximately 35 people per workshop. Register today to make sure you get your first choice!

Visit the Urbanism Next website for full workshop descriptions, information about the nationally renowned professionals speaking at the conference, accommodations, and more.

The National Urbanism Next Conference is a collaboration between the University of Oregon and the Urban Land Institute, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the American Planning Association, and the American Institute of Architects.

Thank you to our partners and sponsors.

 

 

Podcast Double Feature – Urbanism Next on The Mobility Podcast and Convenience Matters

Here’s some food for thought to listen to on your commute home today – how might autonomous vehicles transform your commute next year? Urbanism Next’s Nico Larco and Becky Steckler share their thoughts on that question and more in two recent podcasts.

First, hear Nico’s discussion with The Mobility Podcast during the 2018 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting:

When we adopt new and innovative approaches to mobility, Nico Larco says we should pull back the curtain first. As the Co-Director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative at the University of Oregon, Larco helps public and private entities understand the potential impacts of autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, and ecommerce on cities.

In this wide-ranging discussion, Larco describes how he evaluates these technologies as transportation issues in order to understand their secondary impacts on health, livability, and housing.

Next, check out Becky’s conversation about New Vehicle Technologies and Urban Design on Convenience Matters:

Emerging technologies are having profound effects on how we live, move and spend our time in cities, but also increasingly on urban form and development itself. Listen in as we discuss the secondary impacts of emerging technologies on urban design and transportation.

The Far, Way Off, Hard to Imagine Future of 2019

General Motors just announced that in the far off distance future of 2019 – next year – they are prepared to introduce commercial scale fleets of electric, autonomous vehicles to be used for ride buying, not individual car purchasing.  This may be the most major announcement of its kind to date and significantly accelerates the need for communities to figure out everything, including managing curb drop off and loading, surplus street and surface parking, the re-use opportunities of the public right of way, the impacts on land value and municipal budgets, plus issues of safety, security, etc.

Because the future seemed so, well, far into the future, most communities, from elected leaders to developers to livability advocates, don’t even know where to start in thinking about all of these things.  The GM announcement is not an announcement about just transportation, it is an announcement about everything that has to do with how and where we live, making the upcoming Urbanism Next conference much more critical for all communities, whether in attendance or not.

Register Now for the 2018 National Urbanism Next Conference

Early bird registration for the National Urbanism Next conference is now open!

Join us in Portland March 5-7, 2018 to engage in the dialogue about how technology is transforming our cities.

Highlights:

  • Learn about the secondary impacts of emerging technologies on land uses, urban design, transportation, and real estate markets and the implications of these changes for equity, the environment, the economy, and governance.
  • Hear from Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, ZipCar Founder Robin Chase, Nelson\Nygaard’s Jeff Tumlin and many more
  • Engage with planners, architects, landscape architects, developers, academics and others in interactive workshops and charrettes

Please visit the conference site for additional details about speakers, schedule, and accommodations and to complete your registration.

Special rates are available for AIA, APA, ASLA, and ULI members.

Stay connected on the latest news by following us on our Twitter and Facebook pages

Twitter: @urbanismnext

Facebook: Urbanism Next

We are grateful for the support of our partners and sponsors:

For questions, please contact Program Manager Becky Steckler, beckys@uoregon.edu

2018 Supreme Court ruling may help (or continue to hurt) state and local finances

Early last year Amazon indicated that they would finally start collecting sales tax in states that assess sales taxes, with the one caveat that they would only collect sales taxes on items that they sold or fulfilled. Only half of the goods sold on Amazon are sold by the e-commerce giant, leaving the rest of the goods (potentially) untaxed.

The Supreme Court has ruled that e-commerce retailers cannot be compelled to pay the sales taxes in states they don’t have a “physical presence.” With a $100 billion in e-commerce for the 2017 holiday season alone, e-commerce has a huge and growing footprint. State and local governments’ have been struggling as more commerce moves online—and the revenue from those sales disappears as brick & mortar close their doors. This year the Supreme Court has the potential to upend the long-running feud between state and local governments and online retail. While the court was certainly within its right to claim that the “requirements…the court decided, were indeed undue burdens that would ultimately harm the national economy” when they ruled on the Quill (mail order office supplier) case in the 1960s. However, technology has clearly reduced the regulatory compliance costs associated sales tax collection burdens—in that computers can easily match rates with each transaction and assure state/local compliance.

Beyond the regulatory burdens, “state and local governments will lose about $34 billion in revenue in 2018 because of the physical presence requirement” that was set forth in the Quill case. The physical presence rule has also hampered local economic development because “it discourages [online retailers] from establishing a brick-and-mortar location (and creating jobs) in a new state and being liable for collecting its sales tax. Online retailers also enjoy state services — like roads that allow their products to be delivered efficiently to customers — without contributing to their upkeep.” It is clearly far past time to recognize that e-commerce is just commerce.

 

 

 

Town Seizes Control of Its Own Streets

One of the biggest assets any city owns is its streets.  And since no driver likes to be stuck in traffic, the predominant fix to congestion for the last 60 years has been to expand the street right of way to add more lanes.  Time and again, this new road space only leads to more car trips and the very congestion street expansion was supposed to fix.

There are a a lot of new experiments going on across the country about this problem, often by re-allocating some of this public space for other public uses like bike, pedestrian, or transit spaces, or to re-purpose parking and lanes for leisure (think parklets) or ecological function. These types of efforts recognize the trade-offs in use of the street and figure that if a community can’t solve congestion, it can at least provide more efficient transportation alternatives and better use of this public space.

But what if a community simply banned excess cars to eliminate congestion, thereby taking a more active role in the management of its street right of way? Not banned cars to create a car-free utopia, but simply banned excess cars?

This is the idea of Leonia, New Jersey, which is upset by being a vehicle shortcut preferred by navigation systems like Google Maps and Waze. The excess ‘outsiders’ are causing severe traffic issues and the approach of Leonia is to give tickets to anyone outside the community driving in certain areas at certain times.

While I have significant concerns about a city banning outsiders as disturbingly exclusionary, especially on the use of public streets for legal purposes, what is intriguing in this story is the appetite to seize greater control of the public right of way to help carry out the community’s values, which in this case is congestion-free streets.

While the approach of banning outsider’s cars from public streets seems misguided and unnecessary (just do traffic calming to reduce speeds locally and they won’t be attractive for commuters), proactively deciding how the street right of way will be accessed is a critical issue for cities beginning to think about how autonomous vehicles alter their future.

AV companies require access to the right of way to operate and right now may be a unique opportunity for many cities to decide what parts of town are accessible by what types of vehicles. AVs will require local maps that include where they can and cannot go, so while it may not be wise for a community to outlaw non-residents from its public streets, cities can restrict what types of vehicles can go where.

This is an important consideration as autonomous vehicles roll out much faster than most cities are planning for their implications on traffic, land use, or general quality of life issues.  Cities must remember that they own the transportation pipeline – their streets – that AVs will depend on and utilizing this asset to achieve community goals is something that cities can proactively control.

 

Amazon’s Moves Directly Affecting Brick and Mortar Companies

In yet another sign of Amazon’s strength and impact on cities, a recent article tracked the way moves by the company had direct effects on other companies’ stocks.  When Amazon announced the purchase of Whole Foods, Kroger and Target lost value (10-20% of their value) with a second drop happening a few months later as Amazon announced it would be lowering prices in their Whole Foods stores.

This type of impact on competitors’ stock prices happened most dramatically when Amazon announced it was considering getting into the prescription business.  At that point CVS and Walgreens, the two largest pharmacy chains in the country, dropped a whopping 30+% over the next few weeks.

This trend was repeated with auto parts, delivery, and prepared food companies as Amazon announced moves that were viewed as competition for these industries.

The takeaway for our purposes is not so much a focus on the stock price, but on the notion that the stock prices are reflecting a perceived market shift away from these brick and mortar companies and towards the online retailer.  For cities this translates to store closings and increases in direct deliveries and warehousing.  The trend we have seen the last year, with more than 6,500 store closings – the highest ever in the US, will most probably continue into 2018.  Certainly something for all of us to be paying attention to and preparing for.

NACTO Outlines Blueprint for Autonomous Urbanism

Capacity of an example street redesign

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) is a leading source for progressive cities wishing to adopt cutting edge street designs that challenge the conventional norms of a car-first transportation system. It should be no surprise that NACTO has already begun thinking about how streets should be used once autonomous vehicles arrive on the scene. The first module of Blueprint for Autonomous Urbanism was released at the end of October, focusing on street design, curbside management, and new mobility systems.

The Blueprint starts by outlining six principles for autonomous urbanism:

  1. Safety is the top priority
  2. Provide mobility for the whole city
  3. Rebalance the right of way
  4. Manage streets in real time
  5. Move more with fewer vehicles
  6. Public benefit guides private action

These principles provide the framework for the rest of the ideas in the blueprint. In the online preview, safety is key in new ideas for street crossings. Pedestrian islands and slow vehicle speeds can allow for pedestrians to cross anywhere along the street, rather than needing to use designated crosswalks. Protected bike lanes are also championed as important design elements to increase the safety of using the most efficient form of transportation.

Rebalancing the right of way features in two sections of the preview. The first highlights the fact that bikes and transit can move far more people than single occupancy vehicles, and thus recommends prioritizing the use of the street for bikes and transit. The second explores the concept of curbside management, where space that was formerly dedicated to parking can serve a variety of uses throughout the day, ranging from delivery zones to restaurant seating.

Overall, the ideas are progressive in supporting a reduction of single occupancy vehicles and an increase in walking, biking and transit. While street designs can play a role in this behavioral shift, it is acknowledged that policy will be a crucial component as well. Only time will tell if cities can effectively regulate autonomous vehicles use in order to achieve desired outcomes, and if they will be able to afford to transform their streets in order to take advantage of the possibilities of autonomous urbanism.

Steph Nappa is a Master’s Candidate in Community and Regional Planning and an Urbanism Next Fellow at the University of Oregon.  She is examining how to re-design city streets to prioritize bicycles, pedestrians and transit in an era of autonomous vehicles.

Trucking industry expected to be AV leaders

Over the last few months, we have been talking some about how the trucking industry could be impacted by AVs – see here and here.

The push for automation in the trucking industry continues to build. Trucking companies have been installing equipment to partially automate their rigs over the last few years—similar to many features added to mainstream cars/SUVs. This includes assisted braking and collision-avoidance systems. Automated lane steering is coming too. Beyond the tweaks to rigs on the road today, it is expected that over a billion dollars will be invested in the self-driving truck AV innovations this year.

The cultural resistance of gear-heads to give up their cars is not a phenomenon that is expected to pose challenges in the trucking industry. Consequently, it is likely that the big-rig operators will be in the AV game far earlier than the ‘average Joe’ on the street.

Driving with the wind in your hair will still be possible, but you might not be in control of the wheel (photo credit: JohnLund.com)

The trucking industry also doesn’t see the complete removal of drivers from the cabs of the rigs anytime soon. Unlike AV cars, long-haul trucks spend most of their lives on the vast stretches of highway that can be less complex to navigate that the chaos of city streets. A study by Roland Berger would give credence to the idea that intra-city truck driving may be harder to automate based on current cost models –but long-haul trucking is more susceptible. Some are projecting that a truck driver’s future career might be piloting trucks closer to home—driving upward to 30 different rigs in a day—guiding them from the highways to their final destinations. Many of the AV truck companies “are almost universally pitching themselves as a friendly partner [to the industry] instead of a job killer” because they are trying to “increase productivity, but also make the job more attractive.” This is going to be very important as there are shortages of drivers nationwide, and AVs may help to make the job more attractive and less stressful.

AV trucks platooning to save on fuel costs. (photo credit: ITS International)

Savings for the trucking industry will come from savings on insurance by reducing crashes, being able to keep drivers driving long and keep them more rested, and by platooning to save on fuel costs. Many of these things are already happening, but as the technologies advance, the savings are expected to grow exponentially. AV trucks are on the road around the country, but their impact is still not quite realized.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autonomous Transit is almost here!

While autonomous personal vehicles seem to be in the news nearly every day in one form or another, less has been publicized about the rise of autonomous transit. One new experiment,  Autonomous Rail Transit (ART), will be appearing in Zhuzhou, China in 2018.

ART is a mixture of train, bus, and tram. ART does not require fixed infrastructure, but does follow specially painted lines on pavement, so it’s a hybrid between fixed rail and an open ended autonomous environment that is harder to control but easier to adapt. Having the ability to follow a track of painted lines opens the options to allow ART on any paved street relatively quickly and predictably and no new infrastructure would be necessary. It can be quickly materialized in cities that are willing to re-draw the lines on streets; potentially providing the flexible option that cities need for public transit to compete with personal vehicles. ART is a cheap way to move a lot of people, it’s the size of a small train but costs about as much as a bus, which is why cities favoring public transit are drawn to efficient and cost-effective solutions such as ART. Routes could be easily and inexpensively redrawn to adjust to behavior, or increased ridership, or land use changes, or just to tweak the system appropriately. Public transit is critiqued as being slow to implement, slow to change, and expensive. ART, by comparison, is none of these things.

Will the future of autonomous transit be a combination of fixed lines, semi-fixed routes like ART, and fully flexible neighborhood micro-transit?

Jenna Whitney is a Master’s Candidate in Community and Regional Planning and an Urbanism Next Fellow at the University of Oregon.  She is examining how cities are planning for a multimodal future in the era of autonomous vehicles.

Car Design, Street Design: A Chicken and Egg Scenario?

With all the discussion of how autonomous vehicles will function, there hasn’t been as much buzz about what they will actually look like. A recent article on The Ringer explored the way automakers are beginning to unleash their imaginations. The first design opportunity comes from the removal of side mirrors, allowing for sleeker, more aerodynamic and fuel efficient vehicles. Google briefly experimented with a more ambitious redesign in the form of their pod-like Firefly cars, but concerns over its ability to perform in a variety of environments, especially high speed freeways, caused the company to shift towards automating a standard minivan. It’s argued that since consumer identity is still tied so strongly to the style of car they own, drastic changes to vehicle design isn’t likely to happen any time in the near future.

Some companies are still thinking outside the box, with thoughts about different door designs, or reshaping the car’s interior seating. Mercedes-Benz and Chevrolet are both considering new opportunities within the framework of a more traditional exterior design. However, current cars are designed around tight safety standards, so completely breaking established rules won’t be possible until AVs make up a significant, if not complete, portion of cars on the road.

Why should planners care about car design? The size and shape of AVs will determine the amount of space they need, which will impact how much space planners can reallocate for other road uses. If car designers maintain current dimensions, or worse, make cars larger to become moving offices, it limits the types of street designs that can be used in the future.

The article suggests that different car styles will become popular for different uses. If policy is successful in shifting behavior towards shared vehicles, will that make cars larger or smaller? Will they hold one person or multiple? Will passengers sit side by side or behind each other in a line? Should planners design the roads to fit the car or should automakers design their cars to fit the road? Perhaps there will be multiple shifts in car form and function, along with multiple shifts in street design over time, as planners slowly try to claw back space from machines in order to give it to people.

Steph Nappa is a Master’s Candidate in Community and Regional Planning and an Urbanism Next Fellow at the University of Oregon.  She is examining how to re-design city streets to prioritize bicycles, pedestrians and transit in an era of autonomous vehicles.

Cities for People, Sprawl for Cars, and What About In Between?

Throughout history, our cities have reflected the transportation technology of the time.  Walking and horsecar era cities were relatively compact, streetcars led to land development in relatively tight bands following rail lines, and the automobile led to ubiquitous development and sprawling landscapes, including the development of multiple employment/commercial/housing nodes across the metropolitan landscape. The  big land use and urban form question related to autonomous vehicles is: what will this new transportation technology do to the size, shape, and function of our urbanized areas?

There’s a little bit for everybody in this very thoughtful piece from MSN Marketwatch. Central areas may see a rise in pedestrian orientation (the walkable city), outer suburbs will see continued sprawl (the automobile city), and the inner ring suburbs may become the least desirable and disinvested areas and perhaps become warehouse distribution areas to serve the rise in e-commerce. Center city residents may buy rides, suburbanites may buy vehicles, and shared fleets may increase mobility options for the transportation disadvantaged.   This article doesn’t offer the answers, but is a good context piece to stimulate conversations with people new to these topics.

Need for Warehouse Space Continues to Grow

With the continuing growth of E-commerce, cities are seeing large growth in the amount of space needed for warehousing.  According to JLL – a commercial real estate company – the vacancy rate for warehouse space at 5.2% this year, down from an average 8.1% over the previous decade.  A driver of this issue is that “…E-commerce operations require three times the amount of warehouse space that brick-and-mortar stores need… to guarantee that inventory is on hand and returnscan be processed. That means companies with online shopping platforms are going to be on the hunt.”

Cities across the country are seeing large growth in this sector and this is creating competition for other industrial and light-industrial uses that use similar spaces. With this,  location is also becoming more important in the value of warehouses as the need for access to markets and quick delivery grows with shifts in short-timeframe delivery of E-commerce.  That said, the largest growth in warehousing employment has been in smaller counties located near larger cities or major highways (see image below).

A quick summary of key points of the article (credit to Jeb Doran from TriMet for this):

Interesting positive trends:

  • Increase in warehouse jobs since 2010. (increasing at rate more than four times rate of overall job growth)
  • Amazon plans to hire 120,000 seasonal employees this year.
  • Amazon warehouse rental increased to 114 Million SF, from 9 million in 2009.
  • Walmart increasing its warehouse rental space as well.
  • Seattle developing multi-story warehouse.

Neutral Trends:

  • The lack of warehouse development sites in big dense cities is becoming a larger an issue
  • This year, developers are expected to build about 225 million new square feet of warehouse space

Potentially Negative Trends:

  • Ecommerce requires 3 times the warehouse space of brick and mortar

For more on the changing nature of warehousing, take a look at our ‘Warehousing’ report on our Research Briefs page.

“Bigger Growth in Smaller Counties

The 20 counties with the largest job markets in 2010 have accounted for a quarter of the nation’s net job gain since then. But the warehouse boom is playing out differently. Only 11 percent of the new jobs have gone to these large counties, and the industry is growing rapidly in smaller counties adjacent to population centers and major highways.”

By The New York Times | Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Even Brick and Mortar Retail is Being Automated

While we have mostly focused on e-commerce in this blog, here is a story that points to the continuing trend towards automation, even in brick and mortar stores. Walmart is testing technology that scans shelves to constantly update inventory.  Although the promotional video repeatedly emphasizes the new roles for workers, it is hard to not imagine this will translate to less workers on site.  That will be having both labor implications and space implications for already struggling retail locations.

Land Costs vs. Construction Costs – A Clue to Overall Project Impacts

We have often discussed on this blog that one of the key disruptions of emerging technologies will be land values.

As AVs and ride-sharing becomes more prevalent we will tend to have an increase in land supply (reduced parking needs will free up land used for parking – today’s largest single land use in most US cities, while increased ease of travel will expand metropolitan footprints and land at the periphery will now become viable for development).  As E-Commerce continues to grow we will continue to see store closings and a reduction of commercial development – already being felt today – and hence an increase in available land supply.  Basic economic theory tells us that if we end up increasing land supply – both in central cities and in the periphery – land values should go down.

With this, the question is how much of an impact will this reduction in land values have on overall property values – or ‘how much of my property’s value is the land and how much is the building?’.  A recent analysis by Issi Romem tackles this question by plotting the building replacement value and land value in major metro areas throughout the country.

The findings are sobering.  In growing coastal cities, the land value is more than 3.5 times the building replacement value and the vast majority of properties in these metro areas having the land value exceed the building replacement value.  What this means is that changes to land values will drastically alter overall project values.  If the impacts we describe above come to fruition, we will see large disruptions to overall real estate value throughout the country.  Take a look at the article to see maps of different metro areas to see how this differentiates itself within metro areas.  Not surprisingly, the areas closest in are the most affected – and by factors of up to 5 times the home replacement value.

This could be a boon for the affordability of housing – especially in areas closer into central cities where accessibility to jobs and services is easiest (under current transportation systems…), but it will be a large disrupter in the overall real estate market and could put many current homeowners underwater.

What happens when a technology giant designs a neighborhood? Toronto is about to find out

Urbanism Next researchers are always thinking about how emerging technologies are shaping our cities, but we didn’t anticipate that a technology company would literally design a neighborhood. But that is what Alphabet (Google’s parent company) proposes to do. The New York Times reported today that Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet, is partnering on an 800-acre development proposal to fully integrate technology into the new neighborhood and to create, “the world’s first neighborhood built from the internet up.” It remains to be seen how the integration of technology will be accepted by the people that live in the neighborhood. Stay tuned.

New Report Predicts the Effective End of Individual Car Ownership by 2030

“By 2030, within 10 years of regulatory approval of fully autonomous vehicles, 95% of all U.S. passenger miles will be served by transport-as-a-service (TaaS) providers who will own and operate fleets of autonomous electric vehicles providing passengers with higher levels of service, faster rides and vastly increased safety at a cost up to 10 times cheaper than today’s individually owned (IO) vehicles.”

This is the startling start to a substantive new report by RethinkX, a research group that looks at disruptive technologies from a finance, market, and technology perspective.  As bold and clear as that opening sentence is, this report goes on to describe the possible impacts on everything from the geopolitical implications of a crashing oil economy to the boost of household income (10%) due to reduced transportation costs to the changes in the automobile industry from production to the local repair shop.  They predict a reduction in automobile in use from 247 million vehicles to 44 in an extremely short time frame, all the while estimating that actual miles that people will travel will double compared to a 2021 estimate and at a quarter of the cost.

How those shifts impact the form and function of cities, employment, land use, social cohesion, municipal budgets, etc. are not the subject of this report.  Nor is there a discussion about the non-auto forms of transportation in the future, how street space might be re-allocated, where and how urban form and place-making change, or the policy environment that influences all of these local qualities.  However, understanding possible changes due to accelerating feedback loops of AV technology and rollout, as well as industry and resource disruption globally and industry-wide, makes this report a very clear contributor to understanding that AVs are not a transportation issue, they are an everything issue.

2018 Urbanism Next Conference: Save the Date and Call for Proposals

SAVE THE DATE!
The 2018 Urbanism Next Conference
March 5-7, 2018
Portland, OR

Propose a session or workshop/charrette. Find more information here.


Conference Flyer

Advances in technology such as the advent of autonomous vehicles (AVs), the rise of E-commerce, and the proliferation of the sharing economy are having profound effects not only on how we live, move, and spend our time in cities, but also increasingly on urban form and development. While there has been a focused effort on research around the technological aspects of AVs, there has been a shortage of systematic exploration of the secondary effects on city development, form, and design, and the implications for sustainability, resiliency, equity, cost, and general livability. The Sustainable Cities Initiative at the University of Oregon has partnered with the National and Oregon Chapters of the American Planning Association, the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and the Urban Land Institute to build a national network of thought leaders from the private sector, public sector, and academia to address these topics.

Call for Proposals

With this goal in mind, we are bringing leaders from around the country to Portland, OR to partake in the first annual Urbanism Next Conference. This conference will bring together a truly interdisciplinary group of people from the private, public and academic sectors who play a critical role in the future of our cities. The conference will explore five major themes of how technology related to AVs, the sharing economy, and E-commerce will change our communities: Land Use, Urban Design, Transportation, Real Estate, and Policy and Finance.

Watch this site for registration information and call for sessions and workshops/charrettes.

AV taxi service coming in 2017 (or maybe 2018, we’ll see)

While GM and Tesla may continue to feud publically about whether or not Teslas are already level 4 or 5 AVs, Waymo/Google is claiming to be MONTHS!! away from starting a taxi service in the Phoenix area. The reports indicate it “ is likely to launch first in Chandler” where Waymo has been testing their vehicles.  The choice of Chandler and Arizona as the testing ground are no accident. The wide streets, few pedestrians, and fewer regulatory hurdles have made this a prime test spot for what many expect to be the future of transportation.

While Arizona law currently relies upon a human to be able to be in charge of the vehicle, Waymo appears to be working around this requirement to have a driver by having a human ‘on call’ remotely that is able to monitor the vehicles to respond when things get “sticky.” The push right now by Google execs is to get the Waymo taxi rolling in 2017, but given how far ahead Waymo appears to be compared to their rivals, slipping the start date to early 2018 probably won’t take away the ‘first to AV’ title.

 

 

 

 

Shared Use Mobility Principles

Robin Chase has led an effort to create a set of Shared Use Mobility Principles that can serve as a guide for communities everywhere.  A key aspect of these principles (and one often advocated by this blog) is that the goal is not to simply accommodate these emerging technologies, but that we should all start with community goals and these technologies should be leveraged to achieve those goals.

For cities just starting to look at strategies and approaches to emerging transportation technologies, this – and Seattle’s New Mobility Playbook – are great places to start.

AVs and Public Transt: They may replace short-trips on buses, increase equity and access, and other issues

AVs have real potential to provide easier and more convenient transportation options for people. They have the potential to provide seniors and the disabled access to the world outside of their homes in ways that are now often too expensive to widely adopt. The cost for paratransit, provided by public transit systems, is quite expensive. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that ADA compliant paratransit costs an average of $29.30 per trip in 2010, this is “an estimated three and a half times more expensive than the average cost of $8.15 to provide a fixed-route trip.” And the GAO additionally reports that the cost of paratransit increased by 10% from 2007 to 2010. Consequently, ADA paratransit has the potential to greatly benefit from AVs—which we presume will have substantially lower operating expenses. In the current model of public transit operating expenses are roughly twice that of the capital expenses. And while operating expenses are likely to drop dramatically if we no longer need drivers for paratransit, there still may be a need for assistance on-board AVs that are ADA compliant and utilized for paratransit—but this is an open question.

Some discussions we’ve had in our workshops over the last 9 months circle back to when elevators switched from being operated by a human in the elevator, to when they were automated. For about 20 years, so I’ve been told, buildings with elevators continued to staff elevators because people were not comfortable riding an elevator without an operator. Today it seems sort of creepy (most of the time) to have an elevator operator—though some places like the Space Needle in Seattle have an operator, this is less about needing someone to operate the actual elevator and more about the experience. Some of the concerns that have arisen in our discussions of AV busses generally is that the bus drivers provide more services to riders than just driving. They assist riders get to where they need to go. They provide a sense of safety to the riders that there is a public employee looking out for them. The general sense that we have gotten from most people we are talking to is that we will likely need to have employees on AV fixed route buses to act as guides, babysitters, and general monitors to provide riders with a sense of comfort on the busses. It is easy to imagine a woman or child (or anyone really) riding a bus getting scared when a creepy person approaches them—the bus driver (now) or transit employee (in the AV) can help provide a buffer between creepy folks and the rest of us.

While AVs have the potential to enhance public transit by providing more efficient fixed route and paratransit services, AVs also have the potential to decimate demand for public transit. Transit systems, bus ridership in particular, are already seeing declines in ridership because of the TNCs (Uber/Lyft)— “Compared to other public transit options, buses are used more for short trips—the kind of trips that ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft tend to make.” The utilization of TNCs for shorter trips need to be part of our planning for transit in the long-run with the increasing presence of AVs or we will have to subsidize all riders on public transit even more. Change is coming…change is already here.

 

Urbanism Next scholars talk about AVs, E-commerce, and city budgets in GovLov Podcast

Urbanism Next researchers Nico Larco and Ben Clark were recently featured on an episode of the podcast GovLov.  GovLov, for the uninitiated, “is a podcast about the People, Policies and Profession of local government.” The goal of the podcast is to “explore policy issues that impact local governments and the innovative solutions being used to address them.” GovLov is produced by ELGL—a fantastic (and at times irreverent) local government professional organization.

Professors Larco and Clark talk about their recently published report on the impact of AVs and e-commerce on local government finance. You can hear more about how we see AVs shaping local government budgets in the future by listening to the podcast, reading the report, or coming to the ELGL Pop-Up conference in Portland, Oregon on Friday September 22—more info can be found here. Ben Clark (of Urbanism Next) and Mountain View, CA Police LT. Saul Jaeger will be talking about practical issues of AV planning and preparations for local governments. And while it is still hard to know exactly how dramatically AVs will impact our urban infrastructure and budgets, starting to think about AVs now is vital for local governments.

 

(Sub)Urbanism Next?

In the Sunday Review section of the New York Times, Alan M. Berger of the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism poses some interesting questions about the future of suburbs.  Berger assumes that the future “lies on urban peripheries” and offers some innovative ideas for making the suburbs more sustainable.  Coupled with excellent research from scholars like Ellen Dunham-Jones and Emily Talen on retrofitting suburbia, Berger brings a unique perspective on how technology might force changes along the periphery of cities.  In particular, Berger thinks about how drones, self-driving cars, and a smarter landscape will affect suburbs of the future.  As we think about how autonomous vehicles, e-commerce and the sharing economy impact cities, it is also important to consider the urban periphery and think about retrofits and new development.  In particular, it is important to consider how to adopt policies to and regulations to allow for the kind of future Berger suggests.

Retail Continues to Shift from Commodity to Experience

As we have reported previously on this blog (and see our report on the topic), the rise of e-commerce is shifting the brick-and-mortar retail model away from stores being simply a place to buy something (as can be increasingly done online) and towards a focus on the customer experience.   While this is happening through omnichannel store strategies (blended online and in-person) and in guide-shops such as Bonobos and Warby Parker, that strategy is now expanding to much larger retailers.

Nordstrom recently announced a new store concept called Nordstrom Local which “experiments with new delivery formats, promises an in-store bar with wine, beer, coffee, and juices; eight fitting rooms; alterations; convenient merchandise pick-ups and returns; manicures; and expert image consulting advice from its knowledgeable personal stylists.”  While not carrying substantial inventory itself, the store is connected to local full-service/inventory stores and local warehouses.  It does offers in-store pickups, at-home deliveries of ordered goods, and a place to return items, but the hook is that it offers a place the customer wants to be – in person.  The food and drink, the store design, and the expert stylist advice are focused on bringing people into the store and becoming a gateway to both in-store and online shopping.

Another step towards the continued shifting of the retail market.

Seattle’s New Mobility Playbook

The City of Seattle has just put out its ‘New Mobility Playbook’ that has been a while in the making.  It is a great, concise description of where the city is at, the new transportation technologies that are coming, and how the city is preparing for them.  The report covers the pros and cons of the changes that are coming and does a good job of expanding beyond first order transportation impacts to include things like equity and economics.  (Readers of this blog will note a few missing secondary impacts such as impacts on sprawl, density, and land valuation for instance).

One of the strengths of the playbook is that it is clear about the ‘Principles for New Mobility’ (page 32) – these are the guiding ideals for engaging new technologies and they are based on overall city goals, not anything specifically transportation focused.

The report ends with five key ‘plays’ the city is enacting to preparing for coming changes.  This includes ensuring equity, a focus on active/people-first uses of the right-of-way, reorganizing SDOT, managing data, and being nimble, adapting to and leveraging innovation.

Great food for thought for regions who are similarly planning for coming changes in transportation.  Related efforts can learn from this and hopefully expand upon the secondary impacts.  As we have said repeatedly, it is important to frame these coming changes to transportation as not only being about transportation, but instead about all aspects of how cities work and our general quality of life.

More information about Seattle’s efforts can be found on their ‘New Mobility’ page here.

 

Podcast – Urbanism Next on Streetsblog

For any of you that want to hear more about our thinking here at Urbanism Next, take a listen to the Talking Headways Podcast from Streetsblog ; Talking Headways Podcast: Rise of the Undead Car.  Description below:

Nico Larco, an architecture professor at the University of Oregon and co-director of the school’s Sustainable Cities Initiative, joins us this week to talk about how autonomous vehicles and e-commerce will affect street design, parking, and land values. Also on the agenda: terrestrial drones, zombie cars, delivery bee hives, and the fact that cities just aren’t ready yet for an autonomous vehicle future.

When Are AVs Coming? (10 Car Companies Say Within the Next 5 Years…)

Although this blog likes to focus on the secondary effects of technologies and not on the technologies themselves, the arrival timeline of the technologies will have a profound impact on what secondary effects we will be seeing when.  With that in mind, we are bending our rules a bit to share a recent article that documents the timeline for AVs for the 11 top auto companies.  The level of automation targeted is Level 3 (car drives and human is backup – such as what exists today with Uber cars in Pittsburgh among other places) and Level 4 (car drives and no human backup needed, but in limited environments – often urban ones and not in bad weather).

In short, the predictions are closer than you might think ranging from later this year to 2030 on the far end, but with all manufacturers predicting at least Level 3 Automation within the next five years.  While these will be in limited (probably urban and freeway) environments, it will begin to unleash many of the secondary effects we have been discussing on this blog.  Change is coming fast – we need to prepare.

Here is a quick table based on the findings from the article:

(Click on table for larger view)

Compiled by nlarco/SCI – from https://venturebeat.com/2017/06/04/self-driving-car-timeline-for-11-top-automakers/

 

The Vehicle Mileage Traveled (VMT) is in Beta

“Unfortunately, motor fuel taxes are an increasingly unsustainable source of revenue as fuel efficient hybrid vehicles and completely electric vehicles grow in popularity” — Courtney Moran and Casey Ball.

Federal motor fuel taxes haven’t been increased since Clinton was in his first term as president. They simply aren’t a sustainable form of revenue to pay for transportation infrastructure.

In this context, a number of states are more realistically testing out what the vehicle mileage traveled (VMT). Brookings Institution has a nice report on the topic here. The researchers found that switching to a VMT “would  raise $55 billion a year for highway spending [and] could increase social welfare by 20 percent when compared to an increase in the gas tax to meet the same goal when taking into account changes in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.”

Washington State legislature has been looking at VMT since 2012. They “think it’s a viable approach, but now it’s time to test it.”  “The one-year study, which will involve 2,000 volunteers, would figure out ways to charge car owners a tax based on how many miles they’ve driven within the state, rather than how much gas was pumped.” They are not only testing out the idea of VMT, but the ways in which people would report the mileage driven. The approaches include:

“A mileage permit, where a driver chooses how many miles to purchase. Odometer readings: A per-mile charge would be based on the vehicle odometer. Automated mileage meter: A device installed in the car would report miles driven. Drivers would choose GPS or not. Smart Phone: A downloadable app would use the driver’s phone to record and/or report miles driven.” Drivers can sign up now to pilot the approach to taxes.

Oregon conducted a similar pilot in 2015, with few pilot subjects continuing to opt for the VMT rather than fuel taxes. California, Pennsylvania, and Delaware are also testing out this idea. It may take a few more years to become mainstream, but the inability of Washington, DC (Congress/President) to do anything on raising fuel taxes, coupled with more fuel-efficient cars using few gallons of gas per mile create a situation where leaders will HAVE to do something (hopefully) sooner rather than later.

 

Cities Selling Streets – Hopefully Not a Sign of the Future

San Francisco recently sold a street to a real estate investor to pay off delinquent taxes.  Now, this is not a case of a city selling a publicly owned street as this was part of a gated community and an originally privately owned street.  So the city basically repossessed the street and then sold it at auction to make up the funds that needed to be paid.  But – this idea of selling publicly owned assets to raise funds is not unheard ofHouston, for instance, sold close to $2 million of streets and utility easements to raise funds.

Of concern is this trend coupled with the impacts of AVs and E-commerce on municipal budgets (see our report on this here).  If city budgets become substantially constrained with the advent of these new technologies – not a far fetched idea – streets are one of the primary assets a city has and could sell in order to make up budget shortfalls.  Ironically, this is also exactly the most powerful asset cities have when it comes to AVs and Commerce since – as Jeff Tumlin often says – it is THE operating environment all of these technologies run on.  Will be important to make sure cities are leveraging this asset and not simply selling it off.

AVs and Real Estate – A Guide to Potential Impacts

We have gotten a number of questions about how AVs could be affecting real estate and thought it would be good to do a post that covers some of this.  Below is a brief list of issues to consider.  Look out for an upcoming post that will add e-commerce and sharing economy impacts as well.

  • Parking – if we move towards an even partial model of shared vehicles (i.e. Lyft, Uber, Via, Chariot) there will be a substantial reduction in the need for parking (see earlier posts here and here). Studies have shown this dropping down to as low as only needing 10-15% of current parking spaces (and here). This change would open up a tremendous amount of land for redevelopment (parking is the single largest land use in most cities), hence dramatically increasing supply and – one would think – decreasing land values.  In addition, as parking needs diminish and parking regulations move to requiring less – or no – parking, constructions costs will also drop dramatically.  Parking can cost about 4k$ per spot for on-grade parking and up to 18-20k$ per spot for structured parking, can be a significant proportion of construction costs, and typically requires additional land acquisition.
  • Sprawl – several studies have shown that AVs could increase suburban sprawl as people can drive further, faster and might be willing to accept a longer commute as they can now use their time in the car for things other than driving. If that is the case, there will be an increased pressure on sprawl and the metropolitan footprint would expand dramatically.  Again, this constitutes an overall increase in available/feasible land supply which – given the rules of economics – lead to a drop in land value.  Arguably, this would not be the same everywhere as land that will have all of a sudden become available for development would see large price increases while places that are already close enough or within to cities would see land prices drop due to increased competition.
  • Housing Prices – Given the points above, housing prices should decrease. As land prices and construction costs drop, housing rents and prices will also drop.  This could be a boon for affordable housing concerns across the country (for example, each parking spot included in rent equates to about 225$), but could also cause substantial disruptions to existing markets and developments/projects.
  • End of TODs? – One unknown effect of AVs will be how it changes transit. On the one hand, this new technology could be a boon for transit as it helps solve transit’s perennial first/last mile hurdle. Lyft can get people to the train, light rail, or bus station, increasing catchment areas and boosting ridership.  On the other, riders may simply decide to stay in that Lyft all the way to their destination – especially as the price of the trip drops dramatically as technology replaces the highest cost of the trip – the drivers.  Preliminary reports from New York and San Francisco point to this trend, with transit ridership diminishing as Transportation Network Company (TNC) use skyrockets. Some studies have shown a decrease of up to 43% of transit ridership – potentially the death knell of transit as we know it.  In addition to this concern, is simply the potential atomizing of transit.  What happens when multiple rider/route services such as Via and Chariot (or Lyft-line and Uber Pool –  the carpool versions of Lyft and Uber) grows and we now have 8-12 passenger vans zipping through cities, delivering people directly to where they want to go and not to a bus stop a few blocks or a few miles away. If this happens, the activity/energy clustering and focusing role of transit would diminish as would the price premiums that are associated with transit proximity and transit oriented development.
  • Location, Location, Location? – A looming question with not only AVs but the entire shift to mobility as a service is that mobility will become easier and more affordable. As that happens, the friction of transportation – which is one of the factors that creates the value of location – will diminish.  This does not necessarily mean that current activity centers and draws will reduce in value, but any value based solely on the broader proximity aspects of location may diminish.  This will increase the role of the quality of places and the buzz of related activities in determining location value.

A significant issue to consider in all of this is not only the end state change of AV impacts, but also the transition period.  In terms of real estate, a glaring concern would be projects caught during this time.  Projects that have built parking in consideration of today’s reality may find themselves with decreased parking revenues (that is already happening with Lyft and Uber) and unable to repay long-term mortgages or bonds.  In addition, these projects will be competing with future projects that did not need to build parking and/or benefited from reduced land costs.  The last projects built with today’s constraints – and not future-proofing the coming disruptions – will be the ones most punished by this rapid change.

All of this points to a dramatically shifting landscape for real estate.  A large question is both what direction these changes will take and – as importantly – how quickly will they come about.  Of concern is not only the shifting market conditions, but also the regulations that currently help shape that market and the speed at which those typically change.  What happens if parking utilization needs drop dramatically over a short period of time.  How quickly will parking requirements shift with that? And what kinds of political battles will meet these changes as developers and property owners with existing properties fight these changes to protect their competitiveness.

GM’s Cruise Anywhere is beta testing AV car share in San Francisco

Cruise—an AV company purchased by GM last year—is offering completely autonomous rides to its San Francisco based employees. Currently, the service is offered only to employees. The company has indicated “that some employees are already using it as their primary source of transportation, replacing either personal vehicle ownership, public transit or traditional ride-hailing services completely.” As it is currently operating the app and cares are is “having them use it for the first time and make AVs their primary form of transportation.” A Reuter’s poll from May points toward this same effect of Uber/Lyft already taking place (pre-AV). These findings are pointing toward real viability of a shared automobile future. The market for this exists, people are already accepting shared cars as a viable form of transportation–replace their own vehicles. Thus it is easy to see how with the advent of AVs this reality would be made more financially viable. Lyft and Uber are paying their drivers about 60% of the total fare you pay as a rider. And while a good portion of approximately 60% goes to the upkeep of the cars (maintenance and fuel), it is easy to see why Lyft/Uber are ready to get out of the driver game–reduce expenses, increase profits.

In the case of the Curise beta testing cars, they all do have safety drivers behind the wheel, in accordance with California law, for now. Yet Cruise has indicated that “those drivers have had to take over manual control of vehicles engaged in Cruise Anywhere service only on a few occasions, with the vast majority of the driving done autonomously.” So right now, the beta of the Cruise Anywhere app and service are really just Uber/Lyft for the employees of the company—but it shows where things are going very quickly. Lyft plans on having V service in place this year—see an early post on Urbanism Next written by SCI Fellow Ramy Barhouche.

This video shows employees using the service:

 

Trucking industry transition to AV will put job pressures on more than just truck drivers

In a post a few days back here on Urbanism Next we talked about how the trucking industry unions were expressing concerns about AV trucking for safety and other reasons. It is pretty clear there will be substantial job losses in the trucking industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there are more than 1.7 million employed in the trucking industry—though this is very broadly defined. There were about another 1.5 million employed in peripheral jobs in the industry in 2016.


These jobs, as indicated in the table, pay well on average for people without a 4-year degree. The elimination of these jobs will have substantial equity concerns over the long-run. The BLS has estimated that the trucking industry will grow by about 4.7% between 2014-2024. This growth will be tempered by AVs, which are not yet on the market. The impact on wage growth in trucking will be substantial and the overall growth of this sector as a place to attain a job. However, when we start to think about how AV trucking will impact job or wage growth we have to think about not just the people behind the wheel, but also all of the people that support those individuals as they drive across the country.

RTS

A recent article on the ‘Machines with Brains’ blog points the struggles that many non-trucking, but trucking dependent industries, will face in the near future. They provide examples of when new highways are built, diverting traffic from once busy thoroughfares to new routes. When the trucks stopped rolling through some sleeping towns in rural America, the revenue and customers disappeared as well. Now, imagine what will happen with that Peterbuilt truck rolling across Iowa no longer needs to stop for food or coffee? As the Quartz article points out: “The machines won’t get tired and they won’t need to eat breakfast, meaning the towns and truck stops built to serve the needs of humans drivers could one day be irrelevant.” They point out that truck stops employ 2.2 million people nationwide. Even if the AV truck transition is slow, there are a lot, I mean a lot, of jobs at stake.

 

 

Semi image source: https://flic.kr/p/UoJFTD

 

 

The Backlash against AVs before they take any jobs

Labor unions and political leaders from around the world are already seeing the future of AVs, and they are laying the groundwork to oppose the job losses that are likely.

The Teamsters, a union that represents a lot of truck drivers, is warning that terrorists may use AV trucks as mobile unmanned bombs. “Teamsters are the safest and most experienced drivers in the country…We want to alert the public of the risks that corporations … are willing to take at the expense of working people.” They fear that not only could the AV trucks be intentionally used as bombs, but that careless corporate interests could haul hazardous materials carelessly.

The AFL-CIO transportation lead, Larry Willis, has “said Congress is progressing too quickly without understanding the full effects of autonomous vehicles, which ‘are likely to cause massive job dislocation and impact worker safety.’”

The fears of job losses due to AVs is likely to be substantial—perhaps 4 million or more, largely hitting drivers of buses, taxis, and trucks. Unions have “successfully lobbied for the [US] House to include a 10,000-pound weight limit in the legislation,” which would exempt semis, for the moment, from AV trucks from being legislated in the same way as passenger cars

Meanwhile, India’s minister for Road Transport has stated that “We won’t allow driverless cars in India…I am very clear on this. We won’t allow any technology that takes away jobs.

The struggle between jobs and technology is real and will have real impacts. The totality of the impact, in the end, is hard to judge at this point.

Lyft will launch AV rides by the end of this year

Lyft announced, on July 21st, 2017, that their customers will be able to summon AVs, on some Boston roads, by the end of the year. Test drivers will accompany the customers and cars, during the testing period.

Rather than building its own vehicles, like competitor big firms, Lyft designed a ‘common software interface’ that partner automakers can use for their cars. This means that riders in Boston could be using vehicles built by a range of manufacturers (GM, Jaguar, Land Rover, etc).

The sensors will be collecting information and interacting with their surrounding as the vehicles begin picking up passengers. This will progressively contribute to a centralized source of data controlled and analyzed by Lyft. The insight will then be shared with partner automakers. It’s still unclear if the carmakers will also receive any revenue from Lyft, for their service.

Tech and automotive executives are expecting AVs to play a key role in the future of transportation, which could prevent 95% of traffic accidents, due to human error. Yet, the AV industry still faces State regulatory obstacles. The lack of uniform procedures and expectations could hinder the progress of AVs. Key House subcommittee members unanimously approved a bill, in June 2017, that will make it easier for federal regulators to develop the rules for AVs.

If you are interested in learning more about how AVs will have impacts on cities check out Urbanism Next’s recently released report on the impact of AVs and e-commerce on cities. You might also be interested in Nico Larco’s recent post on AVs and Streets.

The post was written by SCI Fellow Ramy Barhouche.

Waymo is thinking seriously about bicycles

Waymo, Google’s AV-focused arm created in 2009, is thinking seriously about bikes. Nathaniel Fairfield, Waymo’s  principal software engineer, has been collecting and tracking data on cyclists, to help AVs predict their road movements. In addition to these results, Waymo programmed their cars to pass bikes in accordance with state laws. The predictability of cyclists and pedestrians is one of the bigger challenges that AV creators are facing.

Carnegie Mellon University Associate Professor Anthony Rowe. Image source: Margaret J. Krauss/WESA

According to a survey conducted by a cycling and pedestrian non-profit – ‘Bike Pittsburgh’, cyclists felt safer around AVs than around human drivers. However, according to Prof. Anthony Rowe, AVs still need some additional help to detect cyclists. Bikes are not as predictable as cars. They can act like cars on the side of the road, then change and act like pedestrians walking on the sidewalk.

Rowe and his team are developing bike instruments that provide cars with information to predict cyclist movement, to avoid collisions. The instruments will eventually be embedded in a mobile phone on the front of the bike, once the program is more developed. Rowe’s bike, pictured above, is outfitted with a range of sensors that are helping his team to learn more about cyclists behavior and movements.

The post was written by SCI Fellow Ramy Barhouche.

Impact of AVs and E-Commerce on Municipal Budgets [REPORT]

The Impact of AVs and E-Commerce on Local Government Budgeting and Finance (Clark, Larco and Mann) is a new report from us here at Urbanism Next/SCI that takes you through a city’s budget —both revenues and expenditures — and describes the areas that will be affected as AVs become commonplace and e-commerce takes on an even larger role in retail. City leaders have to start planning for this future now if they want to have a voice in what AVs/e-commerce will do to their cities.

While E-Commerce is already disrupting local economies and AVs create a “potential rat’s nest of a budgeting challenge” (Fung 2016), our report starts the process of untangling that rat’s nest.  This report provides the foundation for future work in this area around a finer grain analysis of municipal budgets and consideration of future revenue sources for the infrastructure changes that are sure to arise with the integration of AVs and more widespread e-commerce.  Stay tuned for more.