Will autonomous cars change the the role and value of public transportation (Transport Politic)
Accepting that a future with autonomous cars are inevitable, this article dives into the many questions about what that future will look like. It’s a long read, but a thought-provoking one.
For example, will the driverless vehicles be individually owned or will they function more as Uber, Lyft or taxi cabs do now but without the driver? And how will the roll of public transit evolve in the autonomous future?
On that question, the author talked to Robin Chase, the co-founder of Zipcar, to provide some speculation. Chase believes that even though public transit is still the more affordable option for day-to-day compared to ridesharing, once the cost of drivers are out of the equation, prices could become comparable. At some point she believes that government will switch from subsidizing operation costs to providing vouchers for autonomous vehicle services. Only more questions arise. Excerpt:
It’s an interesting point, but it would require a very significant public role through subsidies if we’re to maintain mobility for low-income people who do not have access to their own automobiles. Are American cities ready to provide direct transportation subsidies for poor people to use self-driving cars? How would those subsidies work, and would people have access to unlimited trips and travel distances?
There are other possibilities in the future world of autonomous vehicles, including how it could change the urban landscape (less parking required but possible decentralization), whether driverless automobile technology could be transferred to transit buses (the trade-off being less jobs) and if the government’s role will diminish in transit planning and operations as private transportation companies fill in public transit gaps.
So many questions and no real answers yet. But the topic does make for good discussion.
An interesting study out of London, even if it is a little unconvincing. Researchers in London used health data and decibel readings from neighborhoods near major thoroughfares to attempt to draw correlation between health and noise levels. What they found:
Adults in areas where the daytime traffic noise exceeded 60 decibels were more likely to be admitted to a hospital for stroke, compared with areas where sound didn’t hit 55. Among the elderly, daytime road noise was also linked with admissions related to cardiovascular disease, and night noise was related to stroke admissions.
Meantime, in all London adults, daytime road noise was associated with an increase in all mortality causes in areas over 60 decibels, compared with places under 55. Adjusting for air pollution had only “minor effects” on the findings.
The researchers accounted for other variables that could affect the health of individuals in the study areas, including air pollution, which is a frequently studied correlation. If we’re on noise and health though, suggesting that driving alone is the biggest contributor is a stretch — buses, trains and even people walking on the street contribute to urban traffic noise, too.
I’m reminded of the 2004 film “Noise” where a a middle-aged man has a nervous breakdown and turns vigilante urban noise enforcer:
P.S. Metro does not condone such actions (unless maybe it’s an old gas pump).
In quasi-transit related news, Sidewalk Labs, Google’s tech-oriented urban problem-solving start-up will be converting the city’s old phone booths into Wi-Fi hot spots with USB charging stations and transit way-finding stations. The article quotes a blog post from Google co-founder Larry Page, that best describes the approach the start-up company will use to identify and solve urban issues:
...a lot of urban challenges are interrelated—for example, availability of transportation affects where people choose to live, which affects housing prices, which affects quality of life. So it helps to start from first principles and get a big-picture view of the many factors that affect city life. Then, you can develop the technologies and partnerships you need to make a difference.
Flowers make me think of El Salvador (Zocalo Public Square)
The latest in the Zocalo rider series.
Over the weekend a group of pedestrians took to the streets to bring more awareness to pedestrian activity in downtown L.A. The event was held just before a motion is to be presented to the L.A. City Council today, directing the LAPD to report on their jaywalking citation practices in one of L.A.’s most walkable neighborhoods. The motion was spearheaded by Metro Board Member and L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin and seconded by Councilmember Jose Huizar, whose district includes downtown.
You can find Joe on Twitter @joseph_lem.
Categories: Transportation Headlines