Posts by Author: Rachel Kaufman

With New Taxi Hail Pilot, Uber Says Konnichi-wa to Japan

Uber has yet to gain a substantial foothold in Japan's tightly regulated taxi industry. (Credit: Kim Yap/Flickr)

Uber has reached an agreement—of sorts—with the government of Japan, launching a taxi-hailing pilot that will connect customers on Awaji Island with existing taxi companies.

The pilot service is a “minor victory” for Uber, according to Bloomberg; regulations in Japan restrict non-professional drivers from transporting paying customers. Back in 2015, when the company tried to launch under its traditional model of using non-professional drivers in Fukuoka, Japan’s sixth-largest city, it was shut down.

Since then, Uber has been running a small operation in Tokyo, where the app is used to connect existing black-car drivers with customers. Uber is also authorized to provide rides in the rural town of Tango, where more than a third of the residents are over 65 and the local taxi service went under a decade ago, Reuters reports. In addition, the company has made inroads in Japan with UberEats, currently operating in four cities.

The new pilot service is Uber’s biggest move into the country’s taxi industry (as opposed to the black-car industry), which is worth $15.5 billion, Bloomberg said. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is hoping Uber will help promote tourism on Awaji Island, a popular location for cyclists and home to 120,000 people. The island is about 47 miles from Osaka, the country’s second largest metropolitan area, after Tokyo.

Taxis in Japan are highly regulated, a fact that some observers say makes Uber less relevant. Bloomberg wrote that although Japan’s taxi fares are among the priciest in the world, they are easy to hail from the street and “usually offer impeccable service, from automated doors to glove-wearing drivers eager to get passengers to their destination.”

This hasn’t stopped other ride-hailing companies from wanting some skin in the game. Lyft president John Zimmer said in April 2018 that “we would love to be in Japan,” but did not elaborate on a timeline. Didi Chuxing, a Chinese-based ride-sharing company that claims to be the world’s largest transportation network company, is also looking to get in on the taxi-hailing market, in partnership with the Japanese conglomerate Softbank (which also owns a 15 percent stake in Uber) and the cab company Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo, Bloomberg said. Sony is working on a rival taxi-hailing app; and Toyota invested 7.5 billion yen ($70 million) in JapanTaxi, which it says is the biggest taxi-hailing app in the country.

Japan is showing no signs of moving toward deregulating the taxi industry, so the Uber pilot, which will run through March 2019, will be confined to professional taxi drivers for now. But the ride app hopes to expand its partnerships with taxi companies nationwide. Meanwhile, the country is making very slow strides toward embracing the sharing economy. Last year, Japan moved to legalize Airbnb rentals—as long as homeowners register with local authorities and comply with any additional local regulations.

“I’m very excited that Uber’s technology will contribute to further enhancing the transit environment of Awaji Island,” Brooks Entwistle, Uber’s Chief Business Officer, said in a statement, adding that it will be “the first initiative of its kind in Japan.”

 

NYC Mayor Taking Steps Toward Marijuana Decriminalization

In a victory for proponents of marijuana law reform in New York City, like these marchers at the 2015 Cannabis Parade in Union Square, the mayor has set the wheels in motion for the "inevitable" legalization of pot. (Credit: Beverly Yuen Thompson/Flickr)

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said he will tell the NYPD to stop arresting people for smoking marijuana in public, the New York Daily News reports.

The mayor has not exactly done an about-face on pot — he still personally opposes making recreational marijuana legal — but believes that legalization is inevitable and “it is critical our city plans for the public safety, health and financial consequences involved.”

The move comes on the heels of a New York Times investigation that found that black and Hispanic people are arrested on marijuana charges in New York at much higher rates than white people, even though marijuana use is fairly consistent across races.

After the investigation’s results were published, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said he would convene a 30-day working group to review the NYPD’s marijuana policies. The Manhattan district attorney, Cy Vance, said his office will no longer file charges against defendants in marijuana possession and use cases, Mother Jones reported. (Brooklyn may follow suit.)

And on Monday, the mayor’s office said he is putting together a task force “to lay the groundwork for full legalization,” the Daily News reported, “figuring out issues like how cops will deal with public smokers, what kind of zoning will be needed for pot dispensaries, and what types of public health campaigns the city should run about marijuana.”

It’s an abrupt shift from the mayor’s public stance in January, when De Blasio pointed to the city’s 17,500 annual marijuana arrests as “a normal level in the sense of what we were trying to achieve.” Still, as far back as 2014 he was directing police to stop arresting people for marijuana possession and instead issue summonses. Today’s announcement extends the summons policy to smoking in public.

The NYPD blamed the higher arrests in majority-black neighborhoods on an uptick in resident complaints about marijuana. A subsequent analysis by the Times found that that explanation didn’t hold up. In the 85-percent-black Canarsie precinct in Brooklyn, for example, officers arrested people for marijuana use at a rate four times higher than in the precinct that includes Greenpoint, which is 4 percent black, despite the same rate of 311 and 911 complaints about marijuana in those precincts. (In other predominantly black neighborhoods, calls to 311 and 911 are more common, the Times added; criminal justice reform advocates said it’s not because more people are smoking marijuana in these neighborhoods, but because people in poorer areas are less likely to have recourse in the form of a responsive landlord or building super.)

The disparity in arrest rates appears to have more to do with police strategy than resident complaints, according to the Times analysis. Neighborhoods made up mostly of people of color are often already overpoliced compared with white neighborhoods. “More cops in neighborhoods means they’re more likely to encounter somebody smoking,” Jeffrey Fagan, a Columbia Law School professor who advised The Times on its marijuana-arrest analysis, told the Times.

Police officers who see someone smoking marijuana are legally allowed to search that person and check for open warrants, the Times added. Some lawyers say that these searches and warrant checks are the real factor driving enforcement disparities.

“What you have is people smoking weed in the same places in any neighborhood in the city,” Scott Levy, a special counsel to the criminal defense practice at the Bronx Defenders, told the Times. “It’s just those neighborhoods are patrolled very, very differently. And the people in those neighborhoods are seen very differently by the police.”

 

Mapping the Spread of Inclusionary Housing Policies

The map's color coding indicates state-law friendliness to inclusionary housing. (Credit: Grounded Solutions Network) 

Not all inclusionary zoning programs are alike. As communities move to adopt IZ policies, they need information on what works and what doesn’t.

In an effort to provide some of that guidance, this week Grounded Solutions Network launched the Inclusionary Housing Database Map, an inclusionary zoning tool that lets leaders explore IZ policies around the country.

“When policymakers or community members want to improve housing affordability in their communities through an inclusionary housing policy, they often ask a set of questions,” Stephanie Reyes, state and local policy manager for Grounded Solutions, said in a statement. “These questions can include: What other cities in my state have an inclusionary housing policy in place? How are those policies structured? What does state law say about local jurisdictions’ ability to adopt inclusionary housing policies? The Inclusionary Housing Database Map can answer all these questions and more, so each community doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel as they design their policy.”

Inclusionary zoning policies typically give market-rate developers density bonuses or other incentives in exchange for building or funding affordable housing. Grounded Solutions, using data from its own 2016 survey, found 800 such policies on the books in communities across America.

The nonprofit also surveyed the legal landscape around IZ. It found that in many states, inclusionary zoning programs are prohibited or limited by law. (Next City reported late last year how Milwaukee’s attempt to create an IZ policy was thwarted when the city attorney said that the policy likely ran afoul of state law, which prohibits rent control.) Elsewhere, state courts have struck down inclusionary housing ordinances, calling them unconstitutional taxes.

But other communities are moving forward with these programs, and users of the map can explore lots of data related to them. (A side note: At the time of this writing, we were able to use the map using the Safari web browser, but struggled to get it to work in Chrome. Hopefully that’s just first-week jitters.) How many housing units did each program produce? How can developers comply with the policies? Some communities require developers to build the affordable units within the project that is receiving the bonuses, while others allow developers to pay into an affordable housing fund or build off-site units.

Critics say that inclusionary zoning policies drive up housing costs by limiting the total amount of housing built. In the majority of cases that isn’t true, according to 2016 research by the National Housing Conference’s Center for Housing Policy. Still, that same research found that IZ doesn’t do much for a city’s lowest-income residents, because most programs have affordability targets above 50 percent of area median income. Serving a lower-income population would require changes to IZ programs or other housing options entirely.

Grounded Solutions admits that its map may be incomplete. “It is possible that the surveys missed programs, particularly small programs or voluntary programs that go by another name, such as ‘density bonus policy,’” they said. Plus, new programs are being enacted all the time. One new addition for the map, hot off the presses: a new IZ program in Tacoma, Washington.

 

The Steep Price of Short-Changing Public Transit

Boston commuters using public transit.

In winter 2015, record snowfall in Boston shut down the MBTA. The city’s transit agency couldn’t run any subways, trolleys or commuter rail for days, and it took weeks for the subway to return to full service. Amid the chaos, MBTA general manager Beverly Scott resigned, citing aging equipment and disabled trains. The incident cost the MBTA $40 million in direct costs and caused tumult among businesses and commuters that depended on the rail system.

In Washington, D.C., arcing insulators on tracks are causing twice as many track fires as four years ago, delaying and frustrating commuters. The transit authority has said it needs to shut down 20 stations (about one-fifth of the system) over the next three years in order to rebuild structurally deficient platforms, which have been degraded by “decades of exposure to weather and de-icing agents.”

When saltwater from Superstorm Sandy flooded nine subway tunnels in 2012, New York’s MTA was hammered with $5 billion in damages.

While extreme weather events can’t always be predicted or planned for, ignoring maintenance issues on transit systems comes at a significant cost, according to a new report from the American Public Transit Association.

Failure to invest in public transportation infrastructure, the APTA says, will cost the country some $340 billion through 2023 and result in the loss of 162,000 jobs. Last October, for example, the New York City Independent Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency, calculated that the dollar value of one morning of subway delays was $1.2 million a day. (The IBO multiplied the average hourly wage of an average subway commuter by the average number of delays. It admits that some people might just stay at work later to make up for the lost time, but that also means that commuters have given up some of their free time — an annoyance for the commuter at the least, if not a loss in productivity.)

APTA points to a case study in Chicago. The CTA manages a rail system (the “L”) and 1,800 buses serving 1,300 miles; it plans to spend $600 million a year over the next five years on reaching and maintaining a state of good repair while modernizing equipment. While the L isn’t perfect (its year-end report found that it missed its own target for rail delays four months out of 12), the APTA holds up the CTA’s modernization efforts as economic drivers; $1.9 billion has been invested within a half-mile of the Morgan Station since it reopened in 2012.

“CTA’s experience demonstrates how investments in [reaching a state of good repair] can improve customer experience while stimulating private-sector investment. CTA has invested significantly in heavy rail station reconstructions, allowing the agency to maintain key assets while also attracting new real estate investment,” the report said.

For the MBTA, however, the situation is less rosy: The transit agency has a $7-billion maintenance backlog and “it is…unclear whether and how MBTA will arrive at the revenue needed” to pay for it.

It’s not the only system that is struggling. San Francisco’s transit agency, SFMTA, needs $2.41 billion; SEPTA in Philadelphia estimates it needs $5 billion. In total, APTA said, public transit needs nearly $90 billion in investment to bring it up to speed.

Paying for all this will not be easy. President Trump’s infrastructure plan calling for $200 billion in federal funding is considered dead on arrival because it has “no bipartisan appeal and no actual path forward,” as Vox’s Matthew Yglesias wrote. States are often more financially constrained than the feds, so without federal investment, many of these infrastructure projects may have to put on the brakes.

 

D.C. and Baltimore Business Leaders Call for Regional Toll-Road Strategy

Business leaders call for seamless network of regional tolls to fight I-95 traffic gridlock around D.C Metro area.  

A team of business leaders in the Washington, D.C., metro area is calling for more tolls stretching from as far south as Richmond up to Baltimore, arguing that the tolls are needed to reduce congestion on some of the country’s busiest highways.

The Greater Washington Partnership is calling for existing toll lanes in Virginia and Maryland to be “built into a complete regional network the group believes could ease the traffic jams that waste time and money across the region every day,” radio station WTOP reports.

Parts of I-95 and the Beltway already have tolls; the companies behind the Greater Washington Partnership say that having the same rules in Maryland would allow for a more seamless connection.

Anyone who’s driven in Beltway rush-hour traffic can attest to the misery of the experience. A 2017 study found that one stretch of I-95 in Northern Virginia is the worst traffic “hot spot” in the country. Although the studies, by transportation analytics company Inrix, have come under fire for flawed methodology, the pain I-95 drivers experience is real. And it’s only getting worse: Roadway congestion is projected to increase 50 percent by 2040.

New tolls should follow six principles, the partnership said in a position paper released Wednesday. These principles are:

  • Tolling should improve the transportation system, not just the tolled facility.
  • Tolling should be coordinated regionally.
  • Decisionmakers should prioritize “providing enhanced connectivity to the greatest number of people,” not generating the most revenue or moving more vehicles.
  • Consumers of all income levels should benefit from tolls, even those who cannot afford the tolls.
  • Toll revenue should be invested in public transportation.
  • Public agencies should “conduct robust and broad public engagement to develop goals, performance metrics and public benefit assessments for each tolling project.”

The paper says the tolls are necessary to offset the economic costs of congestion, which are estimated (by the notorious Texas Transportation Institute, to be fair) at around $1,100 for every Baltimore commuter and $1,800 for D.C. commuters yearly.

The paper doesn’t specifically call for new tolls, but supports tolls that are already planned and under construction, such as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s $9-billion initiative to widen (and toll) major highways around D.C. and Baltimore. When the plan was proposed in fall 2017, Hogan said that the “massive, unprecedented projects…will be absolutely transformative, and they will help Maryland citizens go about their daily lives in a more efficient and safer manner.” (Pro-urbanist organizations like the Coalition for Smarter Growth blasted the plan as a “highways-first” approach.) If the plan is enacted, nearly the entire Beltway around Washington, D.C., will contain toll lanes.

Virginia’s Department of Transportation also added high-occupancy tolling on busy I-66 in December 2017. The tolls, which fluctuate in price during peak hours, can spike to $40 each way during the morning rush. Virginia legislators are weighing changes that would limit the impact of the tolls on commuters, but meanwhile, the tolls have leveled out at around $11 on average, and trip times have increased.

The Greater Washington Partnership was founded by sports team owner Ted Leonsis, Russ Ramsey of Ramsey Asset Management and Peter Scher of JP Morgan Chase, and includes company leaders from Capital One, Dominion Power, Exelon, the Carlyle Group, Under Armour, Washington Gas and other major employers.

 

These Are The Most Bikeable Cities in America

Bikers and walkers enjoying Nicollet Avenue, closed to traffic during Open Streets Minneapolis. (Credit: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

Minneapolis once again rules as the most bikeable city in America, according to an analysis by real estate company Redfin and its Bike Score tool.

Locations rated by Bike Score are scored on hilliness, connectivity and access to bike lanes, paths and sharrows. It also includes data on how many people are already biking, because, Bike Score says, “The ‘safety in numbers’ research indicates that more bikers on the road makes drivers more aware of bikers — and more drivers have had the experience of biking.” On those metrics, Minneapolis earned a score of 81.9 out of 100, making it the country’s most bikeable city.

“As both a mayor and a bicyclist, I place a high priority on sustainable and inclusive transit,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey in a statement. “Our greenway, our nationally-renowned parks, and our city’s commitment to creating streets safe for everyone have helped make Minneapolis a national model for bike and pedestrian embracing infrastructure.”

Following closely behind in the rankings is Portland, Oregon, which climbed into second place with a score of 81.2 (9.2 points higher than its score in Bike Score’s last city-by-city rankings, in 2015). Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle follow, with scores in the low 70s. Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and Sacramento round out the top-ten list.

The algorithm doesn’t count bikeshare availability when scoring, and its count of cyclists on the roads is based on census data on bike commuting (meaning it doesn’t take into account cyclists running errands or riding recreationally). Nor does it account for the presence or absence of bike parking. But as imperfect as it is, cycling advocates have embraced the Bike Score tool since its launch in 2012.

So why does Minneapolis lead the rankings yet again? In 2015, the city updated its bicycle master plan, and plans to add 30 miles of protected bike lanes by 2020. While not explicitly factored into Bike Score’s rankings, the city also has invested in bikeshare and prioritized safety around high-crash locations.

Portland, Oregon, has also made strides through its plans to connect neighborhoods to the downtown core with bike lanes and greenways. A 2016 report by the National Association of City Transportation Officials points out that Portland’s policies “make protected bike lanes the default design for all separated bike lanes,” which improves safety (Portland’s cyclist fatality and injury rates are well below the average for similarly sized cities). In 2015, Portland officially adopted a Vision Zero plan, as Next City reported at the time.

Some cities fell in the rankings. Because the Bike Score algorithm no longer counts road shoulders as bike lanes, Kansas City (Missouri), Atlanta, and Las Vegas all saw significant score drops. (Detailed methodology is available here.)

The takeaway from the Bike Score release is perhaps the same as the takeaway from the NATCO report. As Next City reported, “building out bike infrastructure is central to increasing bike ridership and equity.”

 

New York City Launches Blockchain Initiatives

(Credit: Flickr)

New York City is jumping on the blockchain bandwagon. The city’s official economic development corporation, NYCEDC, announced Monday that it is launching a Blockchain Resource Center and a public blockchain competition for an app that helps improve public services.

“The BigApps blockchain competition and the Blockchain Resource Center are great opportunities for NYC’s tech talent to explore the economic potential and job opportunities associated with this emerging technology. Thank you to the EDC and all our partners for working to open the door to new resources for NYC’s tech community to continue to innovate,” said Council Member Peter Koo, Chair of the Committee on Technology, in the statement.

“Blockchain” refers to any open, distributed ledger that can record transactions but is secure against unauthorized modification. It’s most often referred to in the context of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which use a blockchain to track transactions. But blockchain applications go much further than cryptocurrency.

As Maria Bustillos, the editor of a forthcoming blockchain-based magazine (yes, really), wrote: “Whenever people need to know whether or not something happened — someone depositing money in a bank account, changing the title of a house, or voting in an election — we set up institutions to guarantee that it happened.…Blockchain technology can be used to make those guarantees automatically, by distributing a shared, verified public record to as many people as are interested in seeing that record.” Blockchain could, Bustillos speculated, help enable more civil comments on news stories, free from intrusions by trolls. Meanwhile, companies like FedEx are experimenting with blockchain technology to track high-value cargo.

Next City reported last month on a proposal to put zoning and development on the blockchain, in which community members are given “tokens” to make them eligible for certain types of housing. Next City has also reported on the city of Berkeley’s efforts to sell municipal bonds using blockchain technology. Delaware is piloting a blockchain-based corporate registry, and Illinois tested six blockchain-based pilots last year, including a blockchain-based birth certificate.

The New York resource center will be a physical space where entrepreneurs in the blockchain sphere can network and launch new ideas. Its NYC location is still TBA, but the NYCEDC said it is currently scouting locations close to financial, media and real estate areas in the city.

The center will be a place to “have an honest conversation about how (to) create a regulatory environment in New York City that is focused on consumer protections but also focused on spurring innovation,” Ryan Birchmeier, an NYCEDC spokesman, told Government Technology. NYCEDC is also hoping to take a look at the regulations surrounding blockchain, Government Technology writes.

The city today released an RFP looking for a qualified individual, organization or company to run the 2018 blockchain apps competition for the NYC BigApps Competition, held annually. In the RFP, the city said it was “interested in proposals that address how to educate the public sector about blockchain, identify and design blockchain-focused challenge statements that address public sector challenges, and expand the reach and impact of the program by drawing in new participants and partners.”

The initiatives were announced during “Blockchain Week NYC, which runs through May 17. Also of note was a city-sponsored hackathon over the weekend that challenged engineers to apply the blockchain to tracking fresh food from farm to warehouse to consumers, “especially those in our underserved neighborhoods,” NYCEDC said.

 

Seattle Passes Big-Business ‘Head Tax’ to Finance Affordable Housing

A homeless camp in Seattle. 

In a unanimous decision, Seattle’s city council has voted to tax large businesses to help address the city’s homelessness crisis.

Starting next year, for-profit companies that gross $20 million or more will pay $275 per employee, the Seattle Times reports. The tax is expected to raise $47 million per year, monies earmarked for building affordable housing and funding emergency shelters.

“We have community members who are dying,” Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said before the 9-0 vote, the Times reports. “They are dying on our streets today because there is not enough shelter.”

The tax was vehemently protested by Amazon (which could pay up to $10 million per year), Starbucks, and other large Seattle companies. It is a compromise down from the originally proposed “head tax” of $500 per employee, which Mayor Jenny Durkan said she would veto.

During the head tax negotiations, Amazon paused work on an office tower that was supposed to house 7,000 new Amazon employees. (Adding those employees would cost the company, which reported a net income of $1.6 billion in its most recent quarterly earnings report, about $1.9 million a year.) After the head tax vote yesterday, Amazon said it would resume work on the office tower, but might sublease it to other companies rather than occupying it itself.

“We are disappointed by today’s City Council decision to introduce a tax on jobs,” spokesman Drew Herdener said in a statement, printed in part by the Seattle Times.

“While we have resumed construction planning for Block 18, we remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here.”

Washington State has no income tax, which is enshrined in state law. (An attempt to tax the rich in Seattle was struck down by a King County Superior Court judge last year.) As such, the state has the most regressive tax system in the country, with low-income residents paying a larger share of their income than wealthier residents. As Next City has reported in the past, Seattle is the only city in the country to have one of the top five highest tax burdens for people earning $25,000 or less while also having one of the lowest tax burdens for people earning more than $150,000.

Seattle-King County also has the country’s third-largest homeless population. Last year, the Times reported, one in 16 Seattle public-school students was found to be homeless, and another count recorded 11,600 homeless people in the county. The city declared a homelessness state of emergency in 2015.

The housing crisis is exacerbated by soaring apartment rents, which have risen 57 percent in the past six years, and high home prices (the median home price in Seattle is around $720,000). The city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda says Seattle needs to add 50,000 housing units over the next decade, 20,000 of which should be affordable.

In late December 2017, the city promised $100 million toward affordable housing, funded by bonds, the city’s incentive zoning program, and the city’s $290-million housing levy, which voters approved in 2016. The new tax could help build another 591 units of low-income housing over five years.

 

Portland Activist Testifies Before City Hall In Song

Traffic outside of Portland with Mount Hood in the background. (Credit: Robert Ashworth/Flickr)  

A 73-year-old folk singer testified before the Portland City Council on a freeway construction project — through song.

Paul Rippey “serenaded the Portland City Council with a Bob Dylan or Pete Seeger-esque ditty,” the Oregonian reported, a musical protest to the Rose Quarter Improvement Project, a $450-million plan to add lanes to Interstate 5. It’s meant to make it easier to drive through the central city. Opponents point out that making it easier to drive will only encourage people to drive more — the phenomenon known as induced demand — and say that the money would be better spent on public transit.

Rippey’s song — and its refrain lamenting “induced demand” — is the latest testament to the Rose City’s long history of grassroots activism around transportation.

Portlanders, like many urban residents in the 1970s, revolted against a planned freeway that would have cut an eight-lane-wide swath through downtown, removing 1 percent of all the housing stock in the city.

Portland was also the first major city to intentionally remove and not replace an existing highway. In 1974 the city permanently closed Harbor Drive, a waterfront road that at the time was the busiest arterial in the city. It’s now a waterfront park.

More recently, a plan to build a new bridge over the Columbia River was killed in 2014, after skeptics argued that the $2.8-billion project just north of Portland would not adequately address congestion.

Transportation activism is so ingrained in Portland’s DNA that the Bureau of Transportation has been offering a free class in transportation since 1991, Bike Portland notes. The class, which costs the city $8,000 a year and has “graduated” 1,200 people, introduces residents to the “history, theory and victories” of transportation in Portland.

Class founder Earl Blumenauer, then Transportation Commissioner, now a congressman representing Oregon’s 3rd District in the U.S. House, told Bike Portland that he started the class because “About 6.5 minutes after I got the appointment from [then-Mayor] Bud [Clark], people had figured out that I could do something about where a stop sign could go….It was clear that a lot of what they knew about transportation wasn’t true. So I had been obsessed with an opportunity for anyone to do a deep dive to understand these dynamics.”

He created the class and promised that he would visit the final session, listening to ideas from its graduates. Many of those ideas have since been implemented, from small fixes like adding crosswalks at intersections deemed dangerous by students to creating PBOT’s parklet program.

As for the city council, Bike Portland reported that the commissioners appeared amused by Rippey’s efforts.

Here are the lyrics to Rippey’s 3-minute song:

In the 60s we built the interstate

In the 70s and 80s they were working great.

In the 90s and aughts we said, “Well, let’s add another lane.”

And, now by god, they want to do it again.

But it should be clear the system is broken

And adding more lanes is just a futile token.

Because the thing we need to understand is induced demand.

Oh we all like to drive around town,

But you can’t help noticing how much it’s slowed down.

And adding more lanes is never done

Because if we build them they will come.

And the thing we need to understand is induced demand.

I wish Tom McCall was still alive

He tore down Harbor Drive.

And now Dennis Buchanan has gone away.

He blocked the Mt. Hood Expressway.

But don’t let us ever forget.

That these brave people took a lot of shit.

People of courage, people of goodwill —

Well I know we’ve got that kind of leader still!

But the thing they need to understand is induced demand.

Oh I know we’ll need more buses and MAX

That’s just the hard cold facts.

But the way to get the highways off our backs

is with a comprehensive congestion tax.

And the thing we need to understand is, induced demand.

In the 60s we built the interstate

Let’s stop the madness now before it’s too late.

And the thing we need to understand is, induced demand.

 

Nashville Tells Bird Scooters to Take a Hike

A woman riding a Bird dockless electric scooter on a San Francisco crosswalk. (Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The dockless electric scooter company Bird has been told it has two weeks to get out of Nashville, just two days after it launched a fleet of 100 scooters across the city, the Tennessean reported.

The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County sent Bird a cease-and-desist notice to keep scooters off sidewalks and other Metro rights-of-way until a regulatory or legislative framework is in place, the Tennessean said. “Bird scooters have been observed by employees of the Metropolitan Government obstructing the public sidewalk,” Metro attorney Theresa Costonis wrote in a letter, dated May 8, to Bird. “[This] is not currently permitted by the Metropolitan code.”

Five days later, on Sunday, two women riding Bird scooters were critically injured in a hit-and-run, the Tennessean wrote. The newspaper said there were conflicting reports as to whether the scooters or the Lexus sedan suspected of hitting them had the green light, but police investigators said neither woman was wearing a helmet.

Bird, a startup founded by a former Uber exec and based in Santa Monica, California, has installed scooters in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., where its reception has also been mixed. In February, Bird settled with Santa Monica over “allegations that it failed to secure business licenses and…permits,” the Los Angeles Times reported. The company agreed to pay $300,000 in fines. In March, Bird released a “Save Our Sidewalks” pledge, in which it agreed to remove all scooters from city streets and sidewalks each night, a response to the growing issue of “bike graveyards”—abandoned dockless bikes and scooters— cluttering city sidewalks in China and other cities around the world. It also agreed that the number of scooters in a city would not be increased unless they were being used, on average, three times per day, and it said it would pay $1 per vehicle per day to city governments to fund bike lanes and promote safe riding. The document, which Next City reported on in March, includes spaces for other dockless vehicle operators to sign.

Removing scooters from streets and rights-of-way in the evening is common for scooter companies, which need to recharge the vehicles’ batteries overnight (Bird uses a gig economy structure, paying between $5 and $20 per scooter, Curbed LA reports). But as Next City noted in its March reporting, the initiatives “could net the company some municipal goodwill.”

Not so in Nashville, at least not yet. The city’s letter to Bird said it had 15 days to remove the scooters, or the city would.

In a statement obtained by News Channel 5 in Nashville, Bird said that it believes it is operating lawfully but is optimistic that it can “collaborate with Nashville’s attorneys and elected leadership to build a framework that permits Bird to continue providing Nashville with an affordable, environmentally friendly transportation option.” Going forward, it said, it would require riders to take a photo when they park their scooter, to “prompt our users to think of others when parking.”

Metro councilmember Jeremy Elrod said on Twitter last week that Metro and Bird had met, and that he planned to file legislation “to get the Metro Code sorted out. We need more options to get around town, and these scooters are a great one.”

The scooters launched in Nashville May 7, less than a week after a $5.4-billion transit referendum failed at the ballot box.

 



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