merging mobility and civility

Extemporaneous Postulation

LooKing into 2019

Notes and observations from as we move into 2019. In just 5 minutes, I cover GPS, new mobility/money, opposition to TOD, and package size. Enjoy!

LooKing into 2019 

Here are a few items of note as we move into 2019.  They are neither predictions nor trends, merely observations and reflections.


The mobility world is really being upended by the global positioning system everyone has in their pocket. We know where we are (within 3 meters), where our kids are, where our car is (with apologies to Ashton Kutcher), where our packages are, and how long it “should” take to get there.  

The most obvious positive benefit this has (for me) is GPS has taken the worry out of travel.  It used to be that the only sure thing (seemingly) was your own car.  As long as it started and you had a full tank of gas, you could drive around in circles at any time day or night until you got there.  With apps like CityMapperyou know what is the best mode, route, and price.  So instead of waiting out in the cold at the bus stop, you can linger over your latte until the bus arrives.

Where this goes south is two-fold.  First, if the non-auto option is not good, then your GPS will also let you know.  It’s a competitive market and potential customers are easily turned off by bad service. Second is this enduring fascination with calling and paying for a taxi (which is what Uber and Lyft really are) on you phone.  It makes you feel so special – and you know how much it’s going to cost before you even get it the car.  Problem is that when everyone does it, things get crowded.  Remember, if you are in a car, you aretraffic.

Let’s talk a bit more about payment systems (exciting, I know).  A great benefit of taxi apps is that you can call a car in almost any city. Try that with a bus pass.  You can drive from Boston to Chicago or Washington DC with the same toll payment system, and even use it to pay for parking. Plans are afoot to have a nationwide system.  But in 2019 there will be two differenttrains and two differenttrain stations at DFW airport.  Why can’t transit people play well together?

New mobility and money

Many of my friends who previously plied their trade at non-profits are now advocating for autonomous scooters and the like (Bird, Lime, Waze, Zendrive, Waymo), funded by venture capitalists.  This indicates to me an industry in flux.  

It seems that until recently, the battle lines in urban mobility were pretty well-drawn at car v. “alternative” transportation.  Only weirdos rode bikes and only the impoverished took the bus.  But then we built shiny new streetcars, bike share took off, and riders found they could text while on the bus.  Add to that dockless bikes and scooters (for better or worse), multiple taxi apps, and even transit-oriented development (read: density).  So now it is car v. a lot of well-funded mobility options.

At the end of the day, I’m an advocate of cities.  So I’m keen to see if this influx of capital makes the city a better place to live, or just a better place to hail a ride.

Housing affordability and transit

Big cities are popular now, and priced accordingly.  But how many people do you know who are being priced out?  Are your friends and colleagues commuting an hour or more just so they can get to the choice job?  Are they considering moving to a smaller city, one with all the benefits of a big city, albeit on a smaller scale?  Is your company considering re-locating to somewhere more affordable?

Evidence the world over suggests one solution to housing affordability is transit.  The NYC subway was begun in 1904 largely to relieve overcrowding.  New metro service in Delhi, Guangzhou and Vancouver is opening new areas to live.  The combined train systems in the Rhine-Ruhr region of Germany  (Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr) is Europe’s largest and links numerous residential areas to numerous job centers.

So why isn’t transit discussed more in the housing affordability debate?  One clue is the opposition by the Sierra Club to a California bill supporting transit-oriented development. I don’t pretend to know the answer, but it is interesting to note the revered environmental group’s opposition.

Package size

This just in, manufacturers have been reducing package size and weight so that it is cheaper to ship (because so much is bought via Amazon, et al.).  This is great news for those of us who shop by bike, walk to the store, or otherwise don’t have giant suburban-style pantries.  So, another reason to ditch the car brought on by an outside force.

Michael KingComment