Wall Street Journal special section on the "Future of Transportation"
On Wednesday, June 21st, the Wall Street Journal ran a special section on transportation issues, with some thought provoking articles.
-- "The End of Car Ownership" challenged some of my thinking on this issue. I have argued that autonomous vehicles aren't likely to be institutionalized within my lifetime, because while they are touted on being most useful in cities, the cost and time and technological complexity of creating the necessary "intelligent transportation infrastructure" is astronomical.
Comparatively, it will be easy to set up such operations on interstates, especially for trucks.
From the article:
"By 2022, 2023, the majority of transportation in urban cities with temperate weather will be on demand, shared, and likely autonomous," says Aarjav Trivedi, chief executive of Ridecell, a San Francisco company that provides the back-end software for car sharing.I think that's optimistic.
Car sharing is an analogue for on demand car usage, as are taxi and "ride hailing" operations. Clearly, more people are willing to transport themselves in these ways, without having to own a car. But reaching critical mass and then a majority of users in this fashion will take a long time
Still, I had to accept that I look at car sharing/ride hailing the wrong way sometimes--the issue isn't whether or not "it's cheaper" compared to transit, but is about convenience and whether or not it's cheaper than "owning a car."
An indicator of the increased acceptance of "not owning" or "fractional ownership" is how upper income segments of the market are starting to participate, such as with the BMW "ReachNow" car sharing service, or how Tesla owners, through an app called Turo, can "rent out" their cars, helping them to cover the purchase cost.
The article also discusses "subscription services" for car use and providing access to different types of cars. (Zipcar already provides access to different types of vehicles, including trucks and vans, and Car2Go recently added 4-door Mercedes vehicles to their fleets in some cities, allowing car sharing users to satisfy more types of trips than can be accomplished by the 2-door Smart car.)
-- To me, the article "Public Transit Learns From Uber," doesn't really break new ground. It shouldn't be a surprise that the same kinds of IT/telecommunications advances that support car sharing can support "shared mobility" transit services on a scale smaller than buses.
There is a place for such services, and it will always be cheaper for the private sector to provide them, perhaps in conjunction with transit agencies. It's cheaper because Uber-Lyft-Via drivers make less than union wages, and it's cheaper to operate their personally-owned car compared to an institutionally-owned vehicle, plus the administrative overhead is cheaper, etc.
Although the discussion of advances in mobile payment technologies is interesting, as this will eventually mean "one medium" can pay for all "mobility services," rather than there being separate methods for each different service.
Cap Metro Brings Ride-Hailing to Public Transit").
-- "Technology vs. Traffic Congestion" discusses forms of congestion pricing.
-- "Car Interiors for a Driverless Era" outlines ways that car design will refocus on the interior and the experience it provides for riders ("a living room on wheels"), as opposed to the current paradigm where the exterior is made particularly "cool" (or not: see Volvo, Subaru) to push sales
-- "The Future of U.S. Train Travel," featuring comments from representatives from the US High Speed Rail Association, Eno Center for Transportation and the Reason Foundation wasn't particularly interesting, except in that the Reason representative believes that transit is only for the poor and disabled, and that trains shouldn't be subsidized, in the belief that roads and airports aren't subsidized.
Robert Puentes of Eno made a useful distinction in discussing Amtrak's footprint as being the high use network and the "geographic equity" service which provides services to various states without high ridership. The "geographic equity" service has less than 20% of the total ridership and almost 50% of the costs.
-- "Rickshaws Plus Technology Equals a Better Commute In Developing Countries" makes a similar argument as the article on public transit. Advances in information technology, big data, and telecommunications can make "informal transportation" "systems" work better.