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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.

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Avis buys Zipcar, now what?

zipcar-boston-from-zipcar

Photo from Zipcar

There was a lot sturm und drang across the internets yesterday as it was announced that Avis plans to acquire Zipcar for approximately $500 million. My personally initial reaction was, yay, those are the two companies I go to when I need a car. I use Zipcar for when I need a car for a few hours locally, and Avis when I need a car for a few days and have to travel a greater distance. At times I think it would be good if they were combined somehow, booking, accounts, insurance, etc.

However, some of the initial reaction I saw was fear of a giant corporation (Avis) somehow destroying a friendly start-up (Zipcar). Personally, as a user, I actually interact at the counter with people at Avis and find them beyond friendly and accommodating, and my “preferred” member status gets me upgrades and such.

Zipcar on the other hand is completely faceless to me, I have more of a connection with the car I rent most often (Faber, who might have died!) than any people at Zipcar.

But what really matters is that I have a car when I need at a price I can afford, and that if I’m a loyal customer, I get some perceived perks out of it (I don’t care if everyone gets the same perks, just make me feel special damn it!).

So, not know the ins and outs of business well myself, what is the internet saying?

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News & Notes

→ In wake of Ohio River bridge closure, NBC Nightly News examines the sorry state of U.S. bridges [Transportation for America]

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Over the weekend, NBC Nightly News ran a sharp piece on our country’s structurally deficient bridges, focusing on the data in the T4 America bridge report.

At least one person somewhere in the U.S. is driving over a structurally deficient bridge, according to T4 America director James Corless in a report on the woeful condition of our nation’s bridges on NBC Nightly News Sunday evening.

Brought into the national spotlight because of the recent closure of a highly-trafficked interstate bridge over the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky and the President’s scheduled appearance at a Cincinnati-area bridge this Thursday, more national media outlets (and Americans and their leaders in Congress, one would hope) are paying attention to the real-life impacts of underinvestment in infrastructure.


→ Debunking the Cul-de-Sac [The Atlantic Cities]

This is where it’s most apparent – from an airplane window – that American ideas about how to live and build communities have changed dramatically over time. For decades, families fled the dense urban grid for newer types of neighborhoods that felt safer, more private, even pastoral. Through their research, Garrick and colleague Wesley Marshall are now making the argument that we got it all wrong: We’ve really been designing communities that make us drive more, make us less safe, keep us disconnected from one another, and that may even make us less healthy.


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Zipcar to open office in Providence, expand local fleet

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Photo courtesy of City of Providence

The City of Providence and Zipcar announced today that the car share company will open an office in the city and expand it’s fleet of vehicles here.

The car sharing company started several years ago offering several cars to members of the Brown University community. Recently it has expanded to serving both RISD and Johnson & Wales and also has several cars located at the Biltmore Garage (formerly the Parkade) on Washington Street.

With the companies expansion into the Providence market, cars will now be available on Exchange Street near the train station, Traverse Street north of Wickenden, and South Main Street near Power Street. The company will be looking at other areas with high foot traffic to locate vehicles. The fleet will include, Honda Civic, Toyota Prius, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Matrix, Scion xB, Honda Insight and others.

“Providence’s partnership with Zipcar is a significant step towards our goal of providing a greener and more sustainable environment for our residents. It is also a great example of increased business expansion into Providence and a boost to our local economy through job creation,” said Mayor Taveras. “Zipcar is already popular with the Providence community through its program with local universities, and we believe that by expanding the availability of car sharing throughout the city, we are providing convenient transportation options that will not only reduce the city’s demand for parking, but also aid in reducing harmful emissions.”

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Streetfilms MBA: Car Sharing


Streetfilms has launched a new series of videos, Moving Beyond the Automobile. As Streetfilms releases each video in the series, we’ll be posting them here for you to enjoy.

In the third episode of Moving Beyond the Automobile, we take a look at a more efficient way to use a car. Car sharing allows users to evaluate the full cost of each car trip, which encourages them to decide what the most appropriate mode choice is for a specific trip.

Zipcar, a leading global car sharing organization, reports that members walk and bike 10-15% more than they did before joining Zipcar. They also report that members save $600 a month when they choose car sharing over owning a private automobile.

So while car sharing isn’t exactly “Moving Beyond the Automobile,” it is a great way for cities and individuals to help make the transportation network more efficient and become less dependent on owning a private cars.

(Note: This series is made possible by funding from the Fund for The Environment & Urban Life.)

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Video

John attends a White Sox game

America 2050:

Sometime in the not too distant future, John wakes up in suburban Chicago on a Saturday morning and heads to a White Sox game…in Detroit. Join him on a 300 mile journey to Detroit’s Comerica Park as he experiences the transportation options of the future: a neighborhood electric car share program, smart phone ticketing, high-speed rail, and connecting light rail. This clip is brought to you by America 2050 as part of its “A Better Tomorrow” project to visualize America’s future communities and transportation systems.

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