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


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This post is prompted by the regular weekly update I get from the BC Green Party.

Under the Ride-hailing heading there is this paragraph

Adam expressed deep disappointment that the BC NDP has left everyone hanging on ride-hailing once again and discusses solutions.

Followed by two buttons each labelled “Read” which do not link, as you might expect, to a Green Party new release or position paper. One links to an article by Mike Smyth in The Province ten days ago and the other to one by Keith Baldrey in Burnaby Now. Neither is either fair or balanced, has any reliable data source but is mostly about slagging off the NDP.

The first one does not quote Adam: the second just has this

The B.C. Green party has been calling for ridesharing to come to B.C. for years now. Last week, B.C. Green MLA Adam Olsen told me the rest of B.C. is “being held hostage” by the existing industry and those key swing ridings.

So no discussion of solutions there.

Smyth only talks to people who support Uber and Lyft and concludes

And rather than create “absolute chaos” on the streets, ride-hailing in other cities has actually reduced traffic congestion because people discover they can get around without a car.

Which is actually contrary to some genuine recent research. You could read about that in the Washington Post but I do have to warn you that you might hit their paywall, but never fear you can actually go to the source Mike Schaller a former deputy commissioner for traffic and planning at the New York City Department of Transportation. That link takes you to a useful summary and also to the pdf for the whole study.

But I think the Post gets the gist in these two paragraphs

“Shared rides add to traffic because most users switch from non-auto modes,” the report says. “In addition, there is added mileage between trips as drivers wait for the next dispatch and then drive to a pickup location. Finally, even in a shared ride, some of the trip involves just one passenger (e.g., between the first and second pickup).”

Schaller synthesizes data from surveys in eight cities and the state of California to conclude 60 percent of ride-hail users would have otherwise used transit, walked or biked, or stayed home were it not for the availability of services such as Uber and Lyft.

That has not been the only coverage of Uber last week: Uber and Lyft are facing a major crackdown in New York City was the headline from The Verge.

New York City officials are moving to restrict the number of Uber and Lyft vehicles allowed on the road as part of a move to contain the massive growth in the for-hire vehicle industry that has been blamed for worsening congestion and low wages for drivers.

Which even though it was reported widely seems to have escaped Mike Smyth.

There was also quite a lot about vomit fraud – in the Toronto Star and the Guardian 

And finally this tweet from BC Green Party Leader

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 2.11.31 PM.png

Which seems to ignore the availability of the Canada Line at 11pm – and Uber’s willingness to switch on surge pricing whenever there is a chance of a quick buck or two.

On the whole I wish there were much more emphasis on expanding transit and increasing the range of services that are on offer in BC. There are, of course, many local variations of ride hailing apps – many of which encourage the use of empty seats on vehicles already on the road. A sort of electronic version of hitch hiking – which, of course, remains illegal in BC. We don’t just need more buses – though that would help – we also need to give buses priority in traffic, recognizing their vastly superior carrying capacity – people per lane per hour – and also their ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the present vehicle fleet which remains almost entirely fuelled by fossil fuels. The Green Party also ought to be pushing hard for more intercity bus services, as well as light rail, and making better use of the existing rail networks by requiring more passenger trains and pushing more of the freight trains into overnight service.  That was, after all, the model successfully adopted in Ottawa when they ventured into local passenger train service.

Frankly I think the promises made by Uber and Lyft have been shown to have been as deceptive as those of the pipelines and LNG. Not to mention hyperloop.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 30, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Transportation

One Response

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  1. Thanks for being an uber myth buster, Stephen!
    And an Uber myth buster!


    July 30, 2018 at 5:41 pm

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