Transportation

An Appreciation of Popularity

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The correlation between popularity and quality is tenuous at best. How often have excellent products died in the marketplace, while competing products of lesser quality have succeeded (I’m thinking BetamaxKodak, and TiVo, to name a few)? How often, too, have movie stars achieved enormous popular success despite possessing little in the way of acting ability (my apologies to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone)?

Popularity isn’t just a poor analog for quality, but as a goal it is notoriously difficult to achieve. Striving for it is a fool’s errand, as the public’s approval has as much to do with luck as any other factor. Better to strive for excellence, and let The Universe figure the rest out.

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American Cities’ Biggest Transportation Innovation is Decidedly Low-Tech

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]

Long Island Bike Lane

American cities are adding bus and bike lanes, implementing bikeshare systems, and creating public plazas and miniature parks at a rapid pace.

Urban streets, long the domain of automobiles, are increasingly being reclaimed by and for the people, a change that amounts to the biggest transportation innovation in recent years, according to a new report by TransitCenter.

“A People’s History of Recent Transportation Innovation” details how strong alignment among local civic organizations, city leadership, and transportation agencies has yielded enduring changes in regional transportation systems.

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What Would Make Your Commute Better?

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Vice-President Biden at the event 'Fix My Commute'Jeff Bezos‘ $250 million purchase of The Washington Post in 2014 changed the direction of the newspaper in some fairly significant ways. Among them: The Posts’s focus became less local and more global, it began expanding digital access dramatically (promoted by the Kindle, of course), and started spending some serious cash on events.

One of these events is the America Answers series. Begun in 2014, it is intended to showcase the ways people are solving some of America’s biggest problems, such as commuting. To that end, America Answers’ Fix My Commute event will take place for the second time this October.  Last year the forum took place in Washington D.C.’s Studio Theatre, and it was apparent from the catered lunch and generous swag bag that the Post had committed some serious money to it. Vice-President Joe Biden was the keynote speaker, and I was lucky enough to literally be within spitting-distance of him (see above).

The Post wants your participation before this year’s October 21 Fix My Commute forum. It is soliciting comments via the Dr. Gridlock column, or you can tweet comments or questions before-hand using the #americaanswers hashtag. Last year’s event resulted in a ton of new content for the Washington Post web site, as well as useful data for geeks like me. It was also live broadcast over the Web, and should be this year as well.

Photo by the author

Uber’s Plan for Self-Driving Cars Will Make its Taxi Disruption Look Quaint by Comparison

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab. Reprinted by GovTech.]

Uber's CEO Travis KalanickUber has fundamentally changed the taxi industry. But its biggest disruption may be yet to come.

The ride-hailing company has invested in autonomous-vehicle research, and its CEO Travis Kalanick (pictured above) has indicated that consumers can expect a driverless Uber fleet by 2030. Uber expects its service to be so inexpensive and ubiquitous as to make car ownership obsolete. Such ambitious plans could make its disruption of the taxi industry look quaint in comparison.

Uber operates in about 60 countries and 300 cities worldwide. Consumers and Wall Street adore the “gig economy” company, which is worth more than $50 billion, and got to that mark in nearly half the time as Facebook.

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D.C. Entrepreneurs Still Focused on Transportation

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]

Contestants Networking
SameGrain’s Anne Balduzzi networks with Split’s Dan Winston

Washington D.C.-based shared-ride company Split was one of two transportation startups who participated in the Tech.Co Startup Competition last month, showing that Washington remains a prolific incubator of transportation-related startups, and that entrepreneurs believe there are additional transportation problems that need solving.

Split, which has been operational since May of this year, is an app-enabled shared-ride service. The startup scored second place in the Tech.Co competition, suggesting the company’s concept resonated with the audience.

Split has been compared to Uber and Lyft, but unlike those services, Split is a true ride-sharing platform. Like Uber, customers of Split use an app to hail a ride from one of the company’s fleet of drivers who operate their own vehicles. Unlike Uber, however, Split matches each customer’s route with other customers, allowing the driver to pick up an additional passenger or two for a given trip along a same route. Customers are asked to walk a block or two at most to facilitate this shared ride.

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D.C. Housing May be Less Expensive than the Suburbs

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]

Dupont Circle

The conventional wisdom is that living in the city is much more expensive than living outside of it.

Taxes, entertainment, and groceries all add up to a slightly higher cost of living in the city. Housing, though, is the expense that tips the scales decidedly in favor of the suburbs. Or does it?

With car payments and car costs at their highest levels ever, transportation costs can rebalance the scales in favor of the city. Unfortunately, most people don’t consider the cost of transportation when deciding where to live.

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Gridlock: Not Just for Washington D.C. Politics

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]

DC traffic

File this one under “lists you don’t want to appear on.”

Consumer finance website NerdWallet has released a list of the top 10 Worst Cities for Car Drivers. Washington D.C., number two on the list, proves once again that the term “gridlock” doesn’t just apply to the city’s politics.

NerdWallet gave Washington poor scores because, compared with other major cities, “Washington, D.C. drivers waste the most time in delays: 67 hours each year.” NerdWallet also cited hefty car-insurance premiums and tourists who are “often lost on the city’s confusing traffic circles and one-way streets.”

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