How Will Public Transit Survive the COVID-19 Crisis?

How Will Public Transit Survive the COVID-19 Crisis?

Larry Buhl Capital & Main April 1, 2020 The $2 trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill signed into law last week, the largest aid package in U.S. history, also contained the largest aid package ever for U.S. transit agencies: $25 billion. The money comes at a time when ridership and revenues have plunged during the COVID-19 health emergency. Experts say the money, which has basically no strings attached, should be more than enough to keep workers employed, at least through the year. But transportation experts say that after the health crisis abates and jobs come back, mass transit could look somewhat different. Owing to stay-at-home orders in many cities, transit ridership has been in freefall through March, according to Moovit, an urban mobility app. In its request for federal aid, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the largest in North America, asked for more than $4 billion from Congress to offset a loss of revenue from a steep decline in ridership. In San Francisco, where residents have been ordered to stay home since mid-March, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) has seen a ridership decline of 90 percent and has been forced to reduce service. It is not yet clear how the money will be divvied up among the different transit agencies across the U.S., nor is it clear how each agency will use the money it receives. The law comes with more suggestions than strings: It simply says emergency funds are “to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus.” According to the bill, the money is reimbursement for lost operating costs accrued since Jan. 20, 2020, and could be...
Can the Sharing Economy be Leveraged in Disaster Relief? Lessons from California

Can the Sharing Economy be Leveraged in Disaster Relief? Lessons from California

Susan Shaheen, PhD, Stephen Wong, and Adam Cohen September 12, 2019 Natural and man-made disasters and their emergency evacuations are more common than many people realize, and remain a common strategy to ensure safety. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the most frequent causes of evacuations in the U.S. each year are fires and floods. Due to the heavy reliance on private vehicles in the U.S., evacuations using personally owned automobiles have historically been the focus of many emergency managers. However, this can be problematic for public transit dependent and carless households who may have transportation challenges in an emergency. The critical role of evacuation planning for carless households became a serious issue during Hurricane Katrina when evacuation plans did not adequately include a process for evacuating the estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people without reliable personal transportation. However, New Orleans is not alone. Research has found that one-third of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. do not have evacuation plans, and less than half of cities with evacuation plans mention carless or vulnerable populations. Lessons learned from past experiences in emergency management include… Read the full article...
Waze Hijacked L.A. in the Name of Convenience. Can Anyone Put the Genie Back in the Bottle?

Waze Hijacked L.A. in the Name of Convenience. Can Anyone Put the Genie Back in the Bottle?

Jonathan Littman August 20, 2019   Level 1 is where you start. The higher echelons of control come only with obsession. You jack in for 45 minutes on your lunch hour. Afternoon coffee break. At night when your spouse imagines you’re cranking away on that office project. They have no idea. But when your fingers brush the keys, out there on the very real streets of Los Angeles, traffic shifts and undulates, like rainwater cutting a path. Homeowners wake up to find themselves trapped in a pop-up freeway hell that makes it nearly impossible to exit their driveways. The transportation officials and the council members and the whining neighborhood associations are mere spectators. The gamers won. The algorithm is God. Technology has spoken, and you know your supporting role. The unheralded superhero in this movie, giving every Angeleno the power to take back the streets. Los Angeles went wild over Waze when it first hit the city in 2011. It was the brash counterpart to the Google and Apple traffic apps that took a more conservative tack to turn-by-turn directions, generally providing two or three traditional highway and thoroughfare routes. Not Waze. One definitive route. The wormhole, the ultimate shortcut, the secret trick to avoid getting screwed on the 405 or the 110. In September 2014 this magazine published “The Surprising Wisdom of Waze,” an ode to what seemed algorithmic serendipity, with honeyed lines like, “To me, Waze is the Voice of God.” Why the adulation? Waze grabbed you—the harried, downtrodden L.A. commuter—with the subjective, hard-to-counter feeling that this crazy route over hill and dale just had to be...
How can companies like Airbnb, Lyft or Uber help in disasters?

How can companies like Airbnb, Lyft or Uber help in disasters?

Linda Vu June 19, 2019   In the past few years, devastating California wildfires have forced more than half a million people to evacuate their homes. In many cases, local government agencies did not have enough resources to transport and shelter all of the evacuees, especially vulnerable populations like the elderly and disabled. Meanwhile those who could afford it, secured hotel rooms or Airbnbs and evacuated with their cars. Now, researchers at UC Berkeley are suggesting that emergency management agencies and local relief organizations partner with companies in the sharing economy — including Airbnb, Lyft and Uber — and private citizens, to ensure equity in evacuations. They described their ideas in a first-of-its-kind policy brief published today. “Private sharing economy companies have already acted in California disasters and I’ve found that private citizens are moderately willing to share their own resources in disaster relief situations, especially transportation,” said Stephen Wong, a transportation engineering Ph.D. candidate in UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center. “Local organizations and emergency response agencies should…   Read the full article here: How can companies like Airbnb, Lyft or Uber help in...
Parking and the City

Parking and the City

Susan Shaheen May 8, 2019 Book Review In Parking and the City, urban planning Professor Donald Shoup of the University of California, Los Angeles makes a persuasive case that an oversupply of free parking, off-street parking minimums, and other policies contribute to increased congestion and higher housing costs. Shoup makes the economic case that these policies both subsidize and conceal the true costs of driving and contribute to inequity and suboptimal transportation outcomes. Parking and the City reminds policymakers, practitioners, and the public that parking has a cost. Free parking distorts travel behaviour and economic decisions, penalizes sustainable choices, and contributes to lower wages (by redirecting wage income into parking). Because the true costs of parking are concealed, travellers have an incentive to drive and thereby contribute to congestion and emissions. Shoup makes a compelling argument to allow pricing and the market economy to commodify parking based on price, location, and convenience compared to other modes. In addition to an over abundance of parking, Parking and the City argues that parking minimums result in a number of additional externalities on housing affordability, historic preservation, the environment, walkability, and local tax revenue. This edited volume…. Read the full book review here:...