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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m seeing a giant meteor coming that will, metaphorically speaking, put a huge hole in municipal budgets. This meteor will be AVs. The meteor that pushed dinosaurs to extinction may have done so with one big hit, the AV evolution might be a bit slower. A recent article in Governing Magazine provides us with evidence that the impact of AVs is being foreshadowed by the likes of Uber and Lyft (often collectively referred to as TNC or transportation network companies).
Airport managers nationwide are expressing concern in how the TNC are disrupting the budget models that airports have long had in place. Carter Morris (VP with the American Association of Airport Executives) has stated that “airports need to adapt and do it quickly.” Many airports have seen dramatic drops in fees collected from taxi companies and car rental companies because so many people are just using the TNCs instead. So now more than 200 airports nationwide are charging pick-up and/or drop off fees for the TNCs, just as they might have with taxis—though the exact revenue models are quite varied. As fee revenues decline, airports may look to airlines to pay more, which could drive them away from the small/medium size airports.
And if you are wondering how much of an impact TNCs are having on the ground transportation game, look no further than “San Francisco International Airport, where TNCs accounted for more than two-thirds of commercial ground transportation in May.” Lyft and Uber are preparing for an AV future, airports should too!
To learn more about the impact of AVs on municipal budgets in the Urbanism Next report coming out in late July. You’ll find a link to the report here on the blog.
A key issue facing cities, states, and the federal government as they ponder the AV future, how do we properly prepare the roadways for AVs? Some suggest putting sensors on roads, but in an already fiscally constrained environment the idea of spending more on our roads for technology that is not yet fully functional is a non-starter.
And while building smarter roads would make for safer and easier AV travel, it is clear that companies like Ford understand that “you can’t count on that being there, which is why our technical approach is to build the capability completely on the vehicle,” says VP of research and advanced engineering Ken Washington.
The forthcoming Urbanism Next white paper will cover a range local government secondary effects that we expect to see arising from the introduction of AVs. Look for it in the coming weeks.
In the last few days, it has become apparent that the owners of the largest fleets of private vehicles, car rental companies, are finding ways into the AV conversation as well. Alphabet (parent of Google and Waymo) recently signed a deal with Avis to manage their fleet. While Apple signed a deal with Hertz to lease vehicles from the car rental giant to test their AV technology.
The types of ways in which these partnerships may develop are starting become clear, as Avis owns the car sharing company Zipcar. Waymo executives have indicated that this was one the selling points for the Avis partnership. Zipcar already has a distributed fleet of vehicles around many urban areas that are available on demand for people needing a short-term car rental. While neither Apple nor Waymo appear to have signed any exclusive deals here, they are pointing toward, at least in the Waymo-Avis deal, a shared ownership model for cars and AVs in the future.
Writing software to navigate the driving characteristics, challenges, and rules of cities around the world is clearly a challenge. Some in the automobile industry are nudging the US Department of Transportation to develop more specific policies for AVs. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has indicated that a new set of voluntary guidelines will be issued by the end of 2018—though they will remain voluntary.
Engineering scholars recognize the complexity of the urban environments as one of their key challenges moving forward as well. For example, they recognize, as compared to highways, AVs in cities require “progress in both transport technology and infrastructure to effectively deal with the increase in operating velocity of autonomous systems as well as the complexity of urban environments…. Different cities have different driving characteristics and traffic rules, and therefore what works in one environment, may need a lot of refinements if it’s applied to a different environment.”
AVs are going to be a global phenomenon, thus adaptation to AVs will take on many forms and we are now at the moment in time where we have the potential to have the most impact on how cities adapt or shape their future with AVs.
The shape of our current urban spaces and transportation networks are shaping up to strongly influence the approach cities and countries are taking toward AVs. The American influence on AV developing, not surprisingly, is pushing somewhat toward a personalized vision of AVs. A number of European countries and cities are taking a more public transit-oriented approach to AV development.
“The coming age of driverless cars has typically centered on Silicon Valley highfliers like Tesla, Uber and Google, which have showcased their autonomous driving technology in luxury sedans and sport utility vehicles costing $100,000 or more. But across Europe, fledgling driverless projects like those by Deutsche Bahn are instead focused on utilitarian self-driving vehicles for mass transit that barely exceed walking pace.
The article further points out that AVs in combination with existing public transit systems have the potential to greatly “reduces the complexity required to make the machines navigate across an entire city.”
AV technology has the potential to extend beyond vehicles on roadways, as a number of Dutch cities are realizing. A number of leaders in that country see a future with “driverless boats” that can ferry passengers around the city and potentially “autonomous boats will be able to automatically dock with each other, creating on-demand bridges and walkways whenever necessary.”
One of the larger concerns with the rise of AVs and ride-sourcing services has been its potential drain on transit riders that could – even with only a draw on few riders – make transit itself economically infeasible. This article from the New York Times discusses the development of AV micro-transit 12 person shuttles that might be just the boon transit has been looking for.
These shuttles are being developed in Europe and focus on slow (20 mph), limited range travel. While these shuttles would never be able to provide desirable alternatives for cross town trips, they are ideal for getting people to and from transit. Due to the shared destination/origin point of transit, this type of shared mobility on demand would greatly extend the catchment and draw of main line bus and rail transit. The limited areas it would travel to and from (around a transit stop) make the technology much easier to attain in the near term. This provides a hopeful version of the future where AVs might actually help transit oriented development instead of destroying it.
Not surprisingly there are a lot of states (or at least their leaders) scrambling for the attention that AVs can create. A recent article on CityLab points to some of the challenges of regulating and encouraging AV development, testing, and innovation.
For example, Michigan—a state with a long history in the automobile world—is positioning itself not just as a testing ground for AVs, but also a place where AVs can be developed and built (creating a lot of jobs). While other states that do not have Michigan’s automotive history might just be scrambling to get a little attention by allowing AVs to be tested in their states—perhaps in a way that gives away a lot to the developers by lowering regulatory barriers to testing.
The authors of the article point out that “the winning move for states in the competition for AV pilots is simply not to play” but rather to make a strategic decision about whether or not they want to be active or passive players as the technology develops. The scramble for attention could play well electorally but may be a waste of public resources and create distractions or worse.
In the wake of this week’s Portland charrette/workshop on the potential of AVs to transform urban spaces, a new CityLab article is right up our alley here at Urbanism Next.
A take away from the charrette and the article is that cities need to be proactive partners and be sure they are assertive as we transform to AV transportation. “…if cities aren’t learning anything from these partnerships, local officials and citizens are going to push back and say: Why do tech companies get everything and we get nothing?”
Regulatory capture is a real threat as traditional automakers try to block new comers from entering the auto market, but some sort of regulatory action will be necessary—it just needs to be designed in such a way to keep us safe without stifling completion. CityLab notes that “With federal policy, too, the goals of automakers may not always line up with what’s good for cities. Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Volvo, Uber, Lyft, and others continue to lobby congressional policymakers for a “national framework” regulating safety performance standards, so as to avoid 50 versions of AV requirements.”
What is good for auto companies’ bottom lines, may not be good for cities. The authors of the CityLab article note that “While the industry pushes for national AV standards, cities may want to retain local control over things like speed limits, designating special AV zones, and setting trip fees in order to meet the safety needs of their specific neighborhoods.” Balancing the needs of all levels of government will be a key challenge in the next 3-5 years, being proactive and thinking about these challenges is what Urbanism Next is all about. Benjamin Clark and Nico Larco will be releasing a white paper on some of the financial challenges and opportunities for cities in about a month. Be sure to check back here on the blog for more info on that white paper.
“With the many benefits that AV technology promises, including reduction in traffic deaths, increased mobility for the disabled and seniors, reduced congestion, and enhanced connectivity for all demographics, cities have a unique opportunity to be proactive to not only engage in smart planning for AVs, but to also shape the policy around AVs to ensure such benefits are fully realized.”
The report suggests that cities:
Develop their own safety and privacy guidelines related to AVs. Transparency will be the key to a successful innovation, the report suggests.
Data will have real value to city management. “Cities should consider their data needs, and the relationship they seek to build with AV manufacturers as well as transit platforms and other mobility providers.”
While federal AV policies are likely to be focused on safety, local and state governments have great opportunities to shape policy on how AVs shape our communities. “Cities have an opportunity to come together and lobby their state governments to advance their concerns around the safe operation of AVs in their communities, including insurance requirements and local approval of any proposed AV testing in a city.
Look at procurement policies now to avoid future issues with the new technology. “Cities should assess their current procurement policies, and look specifically at whether these policies might inadvertently erect any roadblocks to purchasing the technology and smart infrastructure necessary to support AV deployment.”
Policy coordination and development is going to have to be multi-disciplinary. “With technology like AVs, cities need to get the right people to the table, which includes urban planners, public works, information technology, procurement policy, and law enforcement. Modifications to existing codes may be appropriate, or cities may have to think about the development of a new autonomous vehicles or smart infrastructure code.”
Be open to dialogue with residents and don’t assume they want AVs. “Cities should engage in an open dialogue between all their residents and respond to varying levels of acceptance of this technology.”
New infrastructure will be needed, make sure it is not left off the table as AVs roll in. Cities should “link funding with new technologies to additional funding for capital improvements as well as existing maintenance.”
Data and analysis will become a bigger part of city management—be prepared. “The data processing requirements needed for cities to take advantage of the data being generated within them is often out of reach of many small and mid-sized cities. Partnering with local academic institutions has given many towns and cities affordable access to the data storage and processing ability they need.”
(Note: scholars, like myself, here at the UO are glad to work with cities interested in exploring this issue.)
Carlo Ratti of MIT’s Sensable City Lab offers an ominous warning: tax rideshare, or destroy public transit.
Citing data on the per-mile cost of ridesharing services, and projected costs of self-driving costs, Rotti says ” In the US now, the cost of a car such as Uber per mile is $2.20 ($2.85)…”When you get to self-driving cars and you don’t need to have a person any more, and [when] a self-driving car can run 24/7 and is used more efficiently, the cost per mile is anything between 30 and 60 cents. Now if that happens, nobody will take the subway.” (Bleby, Australian Financial Review)
In his interview with the Australian Financial Review, Ratti brings up important points about pricing rideshare and AVs, and discusses the need to consider city design.
A recent study by INRIX Research took a close look behind the hype of AVs effect on cities. In their report, they try to determine which type of cities might be better (or worse) hosts for the pending AV invasion.
In their report INRIX looked at the top 50 US cities, compiling data from 1.3 billion car trips to try and determine the types and lengths of trips that would best suit AVs versus the current fleet of vehicles.
Cities ranked higher or lower on INRIX’s scale of adaptability based on typical trip length. With average trip length data INRIX awarded lower scores for cities with longer average intra-city trips and higher scores for cities with shorter intra-city trips. They found that New Orleans, Albuquerque, Tucson, Portland (OR), and Omaha were the most adaptable to AVs. While Detroit, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Forth Worth were the least adaptable.
As the author of the report pens in “Turns out, Uber is clogging the streets.” Although “Uber promised to take 1 million cars off the road in New York City,” since June of 2016, passenger volumes for TNCs have tripled up to 500,000 per day. TNCs drove 600 million miles and subway and bus ridership fell.”
If what we are seeing is a first hint of a larger shift of TNCs siphoning off transit trips, then the implications could be large and painful. Transit would decline, equity could become more of a problem, and many cities would start to run into exasperated issues during rush hour as everyone who would be on transit was now in cars – a large geometry/roadway capacity problem in big cities. Imagine most of the people on NYCs subways all of a sudden trying to move along streets in individual cars.
And the scale and speed of the growth of TNCs should give us pause – tripling of trips in just a few months is a growth rate where unintended consequences will sneak up on us quickly.
But Laura Bliss at CityLab encourages us to consider the nuances in the Schaller report, asserting that TNCs fill gaps where taxis are hard to come by or transit access is less available. In many ways, they are increasing mobility and accessibility.
Both Schaller and Bliss encourage cities to avoid being complacent and to get out ahead of these issues. The same will be true for AVs.
How should city officials/planners respond?
Make transit more appealing
Implement road pricing during times of congestion
Make TNCs pay more for streets to encourage customers to use transit instead
Reduce demand for single occupancy vehicles in general
Demand more detailed data from TNCs to gain a better understanding of the dynamics
In yet another example of ridesourcing and transit joining forces, New Orleans is looking at using Uber as part of a broader transit strategy. As we have described before, this seems to be a definite movement with a range of examples of how it is being done. The article describes how “Atlanta integrates an Uber pickup option in the city’s public transportation MARTA app, while Portland, Oregon includes Lyft pricing on its public-transit app. Around Tampa, riders pay a $3 flat fee for an Uber ride to transit stations, with the agency picking up the rest. Denver is collaborating with Lyft on free rides from its light-rail stations.”
A new report coming out of TIRF from Canada says that “one-third of drivers who used public transportation and 15% of persons who cycled or walked reported they would switch to SDVs (Self-Driving Vehicles) to commute.” This would create havoc for transit as that degree of lost ridership would severely cut into the feasibility of transit.
Another article here on Amtrak and local transit in North Carolina coordinating with Uber to help riders overcome first/last mile issues. An app will show how combinations of rail, bus, and ridesourceing can get people where they need to go. There has been a trend nationally for this kind of collaboration.
Of interest will be transit organizations’ ability to gather data on these trips to see if Uber trips end up replacing transit or if they are really extending the accessibility of transit itself
In another positive story about transit and ridesourcing working together instead of in competition, Boston’s MBTA is using Bridj on-demand shuttle service for late-night trips. This is a strategy to compensate for recently limited late-night service. Not only will this fill a need, but also lets the agency gather data on use that can lead to more efficient future service.
A few positive developments for the future of transit today! As we have discussed before – the question of transit + ridesourcing (Uber/Lyft) as opposed to transit vs. ridesourcing will be one of the most fundamental questions to how cities develop in an AV future. If there is collaboration, accessibility can increase tremendously without (as much) increase in congestion or a push towards sprawl. If they are in competition – and ridesourcing triumphs in a way that makes transit unfeasible – we are in for the darkest of futures (see previous posts for more on this). So now – onto the news:
In Seattle, Uber is endorsing the cities $54 Billion (with a ‘B’) transit ballot initiative. Uber has not traditionally endorse ballot initiatives one way or another, but the fact they are supporting transit, coupled with the partnerships they are developing with cities to work cooperatively in the mobility world points to a promising future. Of interest in the article is also Uber’s Seattle General Manager’s quote that Uber’s mission is to “reduce congestion and pollution by moving more people with fewer cars, and provide better mobility options for all people living in the region.” Uber and transit combining to be mobility/accessibility companies, and not ridesource and transit individually, is a large step in the right direction.
In that same vein, this article talks about AV paratransit being developed in Hillsborough, Florida – launch expected in 2017. Could be a great option for hardest to serve and for first/last mile access to transit.
Related to the previous post, here is another positive push for transit and shared mobility working together and not in competition. This report put out by TCRP talks about how transit agencies can re-imagine themselves as mobility agencies that use a wide range of mobility options (typical transit, paratransit, rideshare, ridesourcing, carshare, bikeshare, etc). Excellent thinking and research in there.
There is also an accompanying webinar recording here that summarizes the report. This webinar talks about all of the possible, progressive futures, but also warns how detrimental a future with only AV cars (and no transit/paratransit) would be.
In another hopeful move that transit and ridesourcing services like Uber and Lyft will be combining efforts to better provide accessibility and mobility for all, FTA this week announced nearly $8 million in grants – mostly to transit agencies – to incorporate mobility-on-demand into their agencies. Take a look at the funded projects here.
Urbanism Next - Sustainable Cities Initiative (SCI) - University of Oregon ____ Blog Contact: Nico Larco - firstname.lastname@example.org