Environment & Sustainability, Social media, Urban transportation, YPT SF Bay Chapter

SF Bay Touchscreen Transportation Event Recap

Hey YPTers worldwide! Last week in San Francisco we had awesome presenters from the land of touchscreen technology transportation (is this like the new P3? is it T3?) – Jeff Miller from Wheelz, Michael Keating from Scoot and Logan Green from Lyft and Professor Karen Frick from Cal Berkeley. Our T3 specialists are innovating new ways to use our existing infrastructure and our (personal) capital to create the transportation systems of the future, and Professor Frick studies what these guys are up to and helps to give greater context and understanding to planners so we can plan for these new transportation networks.

But when you ask them about the new transportation network, as our facilitator and Board Member Andy Kosinski did, these businesses don’t think they’re changing the built environment… yet.  So far, they really don’t need new infrastructure. Most of these T3 pioneers are so hyper-focused on the getting a business off the ground, they haven’t started to take a 10,000 foot view of where they really fit into the transportation network of the future. Though Michael from Scoot commented, it isn’t about anyone of their product succeeding, it’s ALL of their products succeeding, and replacing a single-occupancy vehicle, sitting around in a parking space or on the street. As my professor Daniel Rodriguez would say, it’s a suite of policy solutions- except that it’s a suite of transportation solutions, now.

So what’s next? How do they intend to scale? For Lyft, scaling outside the urban environment isn’t impossible, but it’s harder- their model is based on a ride being available not far from where you are- and when you are in sprawl, the expectation for a willing driver to be around is way less. For Wheelz, the scalability is in getting people into the marketplace- so the impediment is awareness. Well, here’s one way to spread awareness… and here’s another.

Andy the moderator so gleefully asked these new business to strip down and share their data. I duly noted some reluctance- fair enough that these start-ups don’t have a dedicated person sitting around cleaning and releasing data – and without a system to share (like GTFS), there’s no easy way to do it. Moreover, they say nobody’s asked. I think that from a social engineering perspective, it would be nice to know where transportation is being requested, how users are shifting modes (are they just moving away from transit? or are some really giving up cars? or are others just sick of their fixie and now want a classy black car?) – but I get that maybe it’s too much, too fast for these guys. But keep it mind! The longer you’re around, the more opportunity we could have to collaborate, using data to better understand the T3 market and for planners to understand decision making choice models (that’s what we call people).

So what’s the government role in the T3 market? From a regulatory perspective, Lyft got a cease and desist from the CPUC- which Logan described as the CPUC’s way of “starting a conversation.” Lyft has since worked things out, but many note that there are methods that those who currently have a significant stake in the game will try to use regulation to keep new players out of the market. So it’s important to recognize when regulation is critical for public safety, and when government is being manipulated on some level by power brokers.

Questions from our audience included those who asked about ways to improve social equity and access to these new tools, and in the long term how these new businesses can be taxed to help pay for the use of public roads. I thought everyone had some awesome responses. Thanks to everyone for coming out, and get stoked if you are in the SF Bay area for next week, when our popular Beers With Peers series takes on Google Driverless Cars. As I’ve noted, I am hopeful that when the driverless car of the future cuts me off on my bike, it has pre-programmed ways to yell at me about getting off the street, hippie.

About Chava Kronenberg

White-birdist and bike rider

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