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News & Notes

20120921 46 Gas Pump

Photo (cc) David Wilson

→ The Verge: Uber surge pricing: sound economic theory, bad business practice

When the snow started falling in New York City this past weekend, the prices for a ride in an Uber car began rising. It’s part of the company’s long-standing policy of “surge pricing”: using an algorithm that raises prices to adjust for demand. Uber says the higher prices motivate more drivers to hit the road, ensuring that there are always enough cars available for customers, at least those who can afford much steeper fares. The adjusted prices, which got as high as $35 a mile, were roughly eight times the regular fare. The minimum of $175 a ride took many customers by surprise and they reacted with anger. Surge pricing happens regularly in Uber’s busiest markets, and has drawn customer outrage and media scrutiny before, including in New York during the snowstorm on New Year’s Eve, 2011, and during Hurricane Sandy.

See also → ValleyWag: The Weekend Uber Tried To Rip Everyone Off


→ The Walking Bostonian: Thought experiment: how much bus service can you get for the price of a parking garage?

We know that excavating an underground parking garage can cost from $50,000 to $100,000 per parking space (sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on conditions). Speaking loosely, then, each underground parking space could cover the net cost of approximately 5-10 weekdays worth of key bus route service. Let’s just assume for simplicity that every day has the same cost as a weekday. Then a year’s worth of key bus route service could be covered for the same cost as 36 to 73 underground parking spaces.



→ Transportation for America: As trust fund bleeds red ink, Blumenauer introduces a bill to save it

If you’ve watched this space over the last couple of years, you know that our nation’s ability to build and maintain our transportation network is nearing a crisis. It just keeps getting worse. Without congressional action in 2014, the transportation trust fund will run out of money to reimburse states in 2015.

It is heartening, therefore, to see the introduction of a bill designed to stanch the bleeding. The UPDATE Act, introduced today by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), phases in a 15-cent gas tax increase over three years starting in 2014 and indexes the gas tax to inflation.


→ The City Fix: Transport set to be defined as social right by Brazilian Constitution

Urban transport is on its way to becoming a social right in Brazil. On December 4, PEC 90 – a proposed amendment to Article Six of the Brazilian Constitution that would define transport as a social right – was approved by the Chamber of Deputies. The next step for the measure to be written into law is for it to be passed by the Senate.

Article Six currently ensures every citizen the right to work, health, housing, and education, among other core social necessities. Including transportation in this list is an intuitive step forward, since citizens require transport to access the other rights already established.


→ The Atlantic Cities: How the Cost of Other People’s Parking Drives Up Your Rent

Quite literally, however, you may also pay for parking – whether you use it or not – in your basic monthly expenses. If you live in an apartment complex that includes parking (even parking that comes with an extra fee), its costs are likely tucked into your rent.


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4 Responses to News & Notes

  1. John West December 18, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    The Uber thing: I don’t get the outrage. You want a ride during snowstorm or a hurricane? Better be prepared to pay for it. This is just an example of people not understanding the service.

  2. Andrew I December 19, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    Uber. Perfect lesson in how our economy has been going wrong.

    You can bust your ass driving a taxi and never eke your way out of poverty. You can own a taxi or small fleet and be up to here dealing with messy realities like repairs, depreciation, gas and oil and maybe remain middle class.

    Or you can be a self righteous jerk in a sleek office all immaculate cyber everything and be a billionaire!

  3. John West December 19, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    Oh, I’m not saying I support Uber or anything, but they’re very up front about how they set their pricing. Anyone who’s surprised by it wasn’t paying attention when they signed up.

    OTOH, taxi service in RI totally blows. You can hardly ever find a cab and if you call dispatch you’re more likely to get attitude than service. More competition is definitely needed there.

  4. Runaway Jim December 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    I usually deal with Airport Taxi, but they’re pretty good. I haven’t had many issues with other cab companies either. We’ve got Uber here, but it’s not as big as it is in bigger cities. I haven’t used it yet, but will consider it the next time I need a cab. I only have experience using it in Chicago and it was great.

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