Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

The Future

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You do follow me on Twitter, don’t you? It’s not that I tweet a lot – though if you do not use RSS it’s not a bad way to know when a new blog post has gone up. It’s more that I often see things there that I think are worth reading – but I do not have a lot to add. It usually means I agree with much of what is there. Not always a total endorsement but usually “this is worth looking at”.

So when someone calling himself Neil21 (I know no more about him than that) posted a link to an article on robotaxis I retweeted it. Prompting this exchange

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 3.25.47 PM

I was a bit taken aback actually that someone who follows me on twitter, and therefore presumably reads this blog too, could have ascribed such an opinion to me. And since I don’t know who he is, this medium not being restricted to 140 characters seems  a better way to respond properly.

I knew I had written about this topic before so I put the words “shared ride taxis” in the search box in the right hand column.  So it starts with a plea to do a real reform of taxi regulation mainly to improve service but also to allow for shared rides. There’s a link to a story about shared rides on Pender Island and a useful summary of Auditing Translink which includes a lot of my thoughts on HandyDART (repeated earlier today). There was also an article about how to stop global warming which included this gem

Lets go for simple, easy and restrictive of car use. Street cars. Using existing lanes in the existing roads that are then closed to cars. And really cracking down on speeding – which wastes huge amounts of fuel and costs many lives. Use the fines from photo radar and bus lane violators to buy more trams. Car co-ops, and cheap shared ride taxis. Subscription based commuter coaches – commuters take the same route most days. It should be easy to sign them up for door to door services once the parking lots have been turned over to food production and the highway has only one lane for General Purpose traffic and all the rest of the capacity is dedicated to shared ride, essential freight and so on.

And this about extending Para-Transit, this one about Personal Rapid Transit and  Michael Geller promoting TukTuks. But perhaps the central argument is in this one about electric cars.

I am an enthusiastic early adopter of car2go. It already incorporates quite a few technological advances over other cars. For a start, I can easily find out where the nearest one available is: trouble is they are often not near enough (they are known around Main Street as Go2Car). It is quicker to walk or take a bus. Transit, someone once said, takes you from where you are not to not very close to where you want to be. In the low density suburbs that is a real issue. And taxis are as rare as hen’s teeth when you really need one – anywhere in the world, not just here where we are deliberately under supplied as a matter of public policy.

What would transform the utility of car2go would be bringing the nearest empty car to me when it is more than a short walk away. There are going to be autonomous cars, simply because the technology is now very nearly ready for prime time. The only question is how to use them. “It’s absolutely inevitable that autonomous vehicles will be shared” and the first application could well be a car2go that comes when you need it and vanishes once you have finished with it. It need not be an exclusive two seater car. It could be a larger shared unit – like a minivan. Tell the system not just where you are but where you want to go and the software links up the riders. So it then works like para-transit or HandyDART for everyone – or perhaps the commuter coach now favoured by many hi-tech firms for getting their employees to campuses out of town centres (though I think more of them will be just as interested in better urban locations for their offices).

Autonomous vehicles will “hasten sprawl repair.” We are stuck with much of our present built environment for another generation or two. It takes a longer time to rebuild whole suburbs than decayed inner cities – and that took long enough. Since our very silly provincial government thinks its a good idea to lock us into car dependency for much longer then we had better hope that the techno wizards building zero emissions self driving cars are a lot more successful than the people who have been promoting the very well known and established plan of more and better conventional transit (with protected bike lanes and comfortable walking streets) in denser urban areas. That doesn’t mean that the latter won’t happen as well – but since Premier Barbie seems to be doing all she can to prevent that, this will offset some of the worst effects of her decisions.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 20, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Posted in Transportation

One Response

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  1. I don’t consider a retweet as an endorsement at all, I see it as bringing something to the attention of a new audience. That could be because you agree, disagree or simply think others would like to read it. I’ve seen some really interesting things in the past year from people I don’t follow because someone I do follow retweeted. In many cases my normal social circles and web browsing habits would never have brought it to my attention.

    A car sharing car that actually comes to you when you need it (rather than forcing you to hunt it down) is the ultimate urban transport vehicle for ad hoc trips and those poorly served by traditional transit.

    Shared cars, however, will struggle to replace the private vehicle for auto dependent commuting. The number of vehicles needed to transport 50% of the population to work or school at the same time far exceeds the number needed the rest of the day.

    For car sharing to be economical there would have to be really high levels of ride sharing during peak hours to keep fleet size down and high off-peak usage to bring in enough revenue. I worry a lot about the off-peak usage. I can see robo-taxis inducing a lot of additional trips and replacing trips currently made by human power. Neither is really a good outcome for society.


    November 20, 2013 at 5:40 pm

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