How We Roll, Friday, September 4: Labor Day edition

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Reminder: On Labor Day, Metro buses and trains will be running on a Sunday schedule. 

From the Department of Climate Change:

Want to reduce your own carbon footprint? Try walking or biking instead of driving or take transit, which generally speaking is more efficient than driving alone. Even if you can only walk, bike or take transit occasionally, it’s something!

From the Department of Happy Labor Day!:

From the Department of Other Types of Transportation: ever wonder what it’s like to take a cargo ship from Vietnam to China?:

Metrolink examining safety of state-of-the-art rail cars in wake of Oxnard crash (LAT)

The article is in response to Metrolink’s announcement on Thursday that it will begin adding leased BNSF locomotives in front of Hyundai Rotem cab cars.  The Rotem cars are built to better withstand collisions but Metrolink wants to further evaluate whether plow-like devices at the front of the cars are effective.

Metro is one of the five county transportation agencies in Southern California that funds Metrolink.

With climate change and road repairs, Brown jumps into the last-minute fray (LAT)

The crux of it: Gov. Jerry Brown supports a new $65 fee for vehicle owners and an increase of six cents to the state gas tax (and 11 cents to the diesel tax). About $500 million would come from the state’s cap-and-trade program. Transit would stand to get $400 million.

In a legislative update to staff, Metro CEO Phil Washington says the agency backs the proposal:

This proposal does not appear to have the support of the Republican caucuses in both houses. As this proposal is consistent with our Board’s priorities and provides funding opportunities for Metro’s projects and programs, we would urge the Board to communicate support for this proposal especially with members of the Republican caucus in the Senate and Assembly.

Will the state Legislature go for it? We’ll see. Raising the federal gas tax has proved to be politically impossible since it was last increased in 1993. Raising the state tax may not be much easier, considering that Californians tend to pay more for less polluting gasoline required by the state.

Putting aside the annual legislative wrangling — not to diminish its importance — it’s interesting to see the state’s cap-and-trade program tapped for transit and transpo. According to the LAT, the program raised $969 million in 2014 and is expected to raise about $2 billion in the future. I’m guessing the future tension will be between how much of those funds go to local transit agencies and how much to the state’s bullet train program, which needs tens of billions of dollars in order to build the line between L.A. and S.F.

Things to read while sitting/standing/stuck on transit: Hey, it’s Force Friday, i.e. a made-up day to sell a bunch of Star Wars stuff. In that vein, here’s a good read on Wired about BB-8 toys.

BB-8 as seen in a trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney.

BB-8 as seen in a trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney.

Your cheap Uber rides may be going away — and that’s a good thing (Mother Jones)

This provocative post takes aim at the “1099” economy that relies on firms such as Uber hiring independent contractors instead of employees that would be more costly. The problem, says Mom Jones, is that Uber drivers are getting hosed and deserve to make more money. They just might, depending on the outcome of a lawsuit by former drivers.

For those with HBO, Bill Maher launched into a similar tirade on a recent show that was pretty funny and interesting. In a really interesting column in 2013 headlined “Need a Job? Invent It,” the NYT’s Thomas Friedman wrote:

This is dangerous at a time when there is increasingly no such thing as a high-wage, middle-skilled job — the thing that sustained the middle class in the last generation. Now there is only a high-wage, high-skilled job. Every middle-class job today is being pulled up, out or down faster than ever. That is, it either requires more skill or can be done by more people around the world or is being buried — made obsolete — faster than ever. Which is why the goal of education today, argues Wagner, should not be to make every child “college ready” but “innovation ready” — ready to add value to whatever they do.

I look around and I’m surprised at how many of my friends and acquaintances are working as contractors in various fields — some by choice, some because the jobs have dried up. I’ve certainly spent a healthy slice of my career as a contractor. Most everyone I know says it’s a mixed bag: definitely more freedom, definitely more self-employment taxes and health-care costs and definitely more uncertainty.

As someone who still hasn’t managed to use Uber, I’ll say this: I have plenty of friends who do and what they like is that it’s cheap. The disconnect, of course, is that their cheap ride trickles down and has a real impact on others.

While on the subject of jobs and working, a few things come to mind. I had a few other songs I wanted to post but was prevented by Government’s Aversion to Questionable Adult Language on Blogs 🙂

I’m also on Twitter, Instagram and have a photo blog where I share my non-transportationy stuff. Don’t want to comment but want to reach me? Email me!

 

9 replies

  1. “As someone who still hasn’t managed to use Uber, I’ll say this: I have plenty of friends who do and what they like is that it’s cheap. The disconnect, of course, is that their cheap ride trickles down and has a real impact on others.”

    Ummm….if you haven’t ridden on Uber or Lyft, or let alone been an “independent contractor” for Uber or Lyft, then you can’t really give an objective opinion about it.

    How do you know for sure that “their cheap ride trickles down and has a real impact on others” when you haven’t ridden on one or driven as an independent contractor for Uber or Lyft yourself? Hearsay and conjecture? Because that’s what you think? Isn’t being a journalist not based on opinions but based on independent research and facts? Then this is not journalism, it’s just an opinion piece.

    It’s a baseless opinion from a third person without actually trying it yourself, spoken like a hypocrite who assumes that it is the case but never tries it out to see if that is the case themselves.

    Before making opinions like this, perhaps you should ride Uber and Lyft first. Try it out and see what this whole rideshare thing that the Millennials love so much, the one that’s giving politicians headaches because this whole genre of using technology to hail a cab-like ride is pitting two of their major constituents against each other: the unions and the Millennials.

    And if you have a car that you could spare for few hours, maybe you should also look at the different perspective of driving as an independent contractor for Uber and Lyft and see what it’s like to drive one and if see if what you say is true. Uber and Lyft has no set hours so you could sign up as a driver for Uber or Lyft, try it out for 2-3 hours as a driver on a weekend and see if that is what you think. Plus, you could be making extra $$$ on the side as you’re doing the investigation.

    Both Uber and Lyft are offering very generous driver bonuses, $100 on Lyft after you do 50 rides within the first month as a new driver and $500 on Uber after 20 rides within the first month as a new driver (if you are a Lyft driver first)

    http://therideshareguy.com/lyft-now-offering-750-sign-up-bonuses-in-5-cities-plus-1000-in-boston/

    Do this first and then come back with your findings.

    You can’t comment on something that you know nothing about.

    • Yeah, Steve, don’t you dare write another article disparaging this greedy corporation until you spend some of your money to support their unsustainable, anti-labor practices. And while we’re at it, don’t say another word about the health effects of smoking until you light up and smoke a pack yourself!

      • Strawman argument. Typical liberal argument, if you can’t argue something on a logical level, use totally unrelated examples to prove your point.

        You have scientists and researchers, the data and all the scientific evidence backing up the claim the smoking kills. Nothing substantiates that Uber and Lyft are evil corporations that sells deadly products like Phillip Morris or R.J. Reynolds. PErhaps we should ban and fine Clorox, SC Johnson, Proctor & Gamble for selling bleach and ammonia which can cause deadly nerve gas when mixed?

        Should we say Apple and Google and all the computer companies are evil corporations too because they use slave labor in China and third world countries to make our smartphones and our laptops and computer equipment? Yet oddly, I don’t see many going against them, and by the sheer fact that you’re posting here already states that you already are a consumer of slave labor products.

  2. “there is no way you can take 1-2 people from the east side of downtown to K-town for $4 and make a profit.”

    You’re not seeing the bigger picture. Uber makes more money doing cheap, short trips many times than one long trip. Uber takes a 20% of the fare no matter how long or short.

    One long drive of $10 in an hour, which could be the case when someone is stuck in horrible LA traffic, Uber only gets $2 in an hour, driver only gets $8 an hour.

    Five short drives of $4 in an hour, Uber gets $4 in an hour, the driver makes $16 in an hour.

    They actually make more money by doing shorter trips more frequently. And I’m sure Uber already knows what everyone here already knows: the vast majority of people in LA do shorter trips than long ones.

    Multiply that by the number of drivers at any given time and Uber just proves what all the other successful transit fare systems that is used outside the US are using: distance based fares, many people doing shorter trips that cost less.

    If anything, Uber has now started going after public transit territory by beta-testing Smart Routes up in San Francisco:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2015/08/25/uber_smart_routes_experimental_uberpool_feature_looks_a_lot_like_a_bus.html

    An Uber car that just drives up and down a street and people get $1 off for hopping on and off at that particular route. Sounds awfully like a bus to me. But it’s a bus-like service that runs on distance based fares, something that public transit agencies in the US oddly refuses to do despite the technology available today.

  3. “run Lyft out of the market”

    And how do you know this? Do you have some magical data that only you know that Google searches cannot yield? I put in the search terms “lyft driven out of market” in Google and I see no data that vilifies your claims. I see one article that says “Why The Downfall Of Lyft Is Imminent” dating back to Sep 2014, but I still see plenty of Lyft drivers in my area just by firing up my app.

  4. I definitely understand that short trips are more profitable for both the driver and Uber, and never claimed otherwise. I never attacked distance based fares either.

    The trip I was referencing was actually a 13-16 minute drive depending on traffic, and I had been paying a mere $4.10-$4.60 for it (which is an absurdly low price). I was merely implying that Uber is doing what nearly every big business with a smaller competitor (lyft) would do: gouging their prices to obtain new riders (or have riders leave lyft and come to them) and then over time raising prices back to what the market rate actually is.

    Uber is an excellent service, and I applaud and support the idea of ridersharing and utilizing technology to increase mobility. But I am also not blind to the fact that like many businesses, they are complicit in some pretty crappy things.

    • “The trip I was referencing was actually a 13-16 minute drive depending on traffic, and I had been paying a mere $4.10-$4.60 for it (which is an absurdly low price). ”

      Travel time is an useless variable in LA due to street traffic conditions; one could be going only 5 miles for 13-16 minutes or one could also be going 20 miles in light traffic as well. Heck during a Dodgers game, it can take well over an hour of ride just to get out of the parking lot and onto a freeway. It can take 30 minutes just to make the loop in World Way at LAX at heavy hours.

      It’s the travel distance that counts, not the travel time. I have no idea where in “East DTLA” to “Koreatown” that you are referring to, but even from Little Tokyo/Arts District to Koreatown, it’s barely 5 miles using Google Maps. Push comes to shove, if it took you $4.10-$4.60 for 13-16 minutes of ride in which the travel distance is only 5 miles and that is a trip that you do often, you would’ve been better off by investing $200 in one of these instead:

      https://youtu.be/5fH6Y3uh_Bg
      https://youtu.be/mmdaq-qTZQY

      Do your math. Would you rather be spending $100 in monthly passes forever (no guarantee that it’ll remain at that rate) or just buy a $200 hoverboard like contraption for your short travel needs?

      “I was merely implying that Uber is doing what nearly every big business with a smaller competitor (lyft) would do: gouging their prices to obtain new riders (or have riders leave lyft and come to them) and then over time raising prices back to what the market rate actually is.”

      Speculative at best with no real substance. You’re applying ancient 1950s monopolistic capitalism logic in an extremely competitive 21st century standard. Uber still has competitors Lyft and Sidecar, I don’t see them going away, and even if it did, Uber will not be the sole monopoly transportation provider in LA with other competitive transportation services such as:

      1. A taxi cab that’s also starting to employ their own app based services called Cabzilla http://www.cabzilla.com/
      2. Perhaps an Uber like service using motorcycles like they’re starting to popup in France https://youtu.be/cAUUbvvyGFI
      2. Public transit
      3. Walking
      4. Bicycling
      5. Motorized two wheel vehicles (mopeds, scooters, motorcycles in whatever format, electric, hybrid, or gasoline powered)
      6. Any motorized four wheel vehicle (in whatever format, electric, hybrid, natural gas, gasoline powered, or hydrogen fuel cell)
      6. Any other tech company that can come along in the future to usurp Uber’s market share (Google driverless cars?)

  5. Mother Jones is the opposite end of Fox News, just as biased but on the left side.

    A more fair and balanced approach would be something like this:

    https://youtu.be/Xoh5EnL7ihg

    You decide which has done their research more, a person writing an article who never tried Uber or Lyft, or a in-depth review like this where they actually rode on Uber and Lyft vehicles and interviewed the drivers themselves on how they think it is to be an Uber or Lyft driver.

  6. “With climate change and road repairs, Brown jumps into the last-minute fray (LAT)

    The crux of it: Gov. Jerry Brown supports a new $65 fee for vehicle owners and an increase of six cents to the state gas tax (and 11 cents to the diesel tax). About $500 million would come from the state’s cap-and-trade program. Transit would stand to get $400 million.”

    I say we just kick out the incumbent Democrats out of Sacramento. We already pay the nation’s highest gas taxes and our auto registration fees are high enough as it is already and they want to increase it more? How about slimming down government, reforming CalPERs and laying off bunch of useless government employees?

    Democrats: tax, tax, tax, spend, spend, spend, fiscal irresponsibility. CA used to be great, now it’s just a hell hole of liberals.