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London Reconnections continues its New York podcast series with an episode looking at the challenges and changes brought about by emerging urban mobility providers.

Zak Accuardi is a program analyst atTransitCenter, a foundation focusing on data and technology research projects. He is the lead researcher and a co-author of the report Private Mobility – Public Interest which builds on over one hundred interviews with representatives from the public and private sectors across the United States. It discusses how emerging mobility services such as bike-share, car-share, and on-demand transit might be harnessed or integrated into a city’s transport network. One clear finding of the report is that the research did not support the superficial narrative that emerging mobility providers are set to replace fixed route public transport services.

Greg Lindsay is a Senior Fellow at the New Cities Foundation. He is the author of Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport which investigates the challenge presented to cities by on-demand mobility providers harnessing the ability to locate, coordinate and orchestrate passengers and vehicles via individual’s smart phones. The report builds on mobility research on four case study cities: Washington DC, London, Sao Paulo and Manila. The report offers transport authorities recommendations on how to halt the downward spiral of shrinking budgets and declining ridership as the popularity of on-demand mobility providers grows.  

We talk about how cities might react and how regulation might evolve to embrace the new mobility options. How are these new actors disrupting transport provision in cities? What can cities do in the short, medium and long term to avoid transport inequality and ensure good mobility for all? Can cities stand their ground against powerful private mobility providers?

For more frequent updates on the topic you can follow our guests and their organisations on twitter at @zaccuardi from @TransitCenter and @Greg_Lindsay from @NewCitiesFound.

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There are 20 comments on this article
  1. Greg Tingey says:

    As long as a state is prepared to enforce even half-ways decent working conditions for employees, Uber (specifically) & Uber-like “services” will only capture a niche market, because their business-owners profits depend upon deliberate exploitation of their hired hands at penury-rates.

    This, quite apart form the clearly demonstrated figures that taxi services, of any sort, simply cannot carry the requisite numbers, no matter what is wishfully-thought-of by some. [ I have seen comments, even in the UK, that “Driverless cars will eliminate Public Transport entirely” ]

    Serious investment is the problem, though – the classic case surely being the railroad running into Jersey City being deliberately starved & run-down for purely local political “reasons” by that state’s governor & others.

  2. quinlet says:

    Not only is the total capacity of Uber and similar services not capable of taking a significant chunk of public transport ridership, but cost also plays a part. Uber is at the price level of taxi services (plus or minus) not at the level of public transport fares (especially at oyster pre-pay/contactless card/travelcard levels). It must also be the case that as the user of Uber, etc increases so does congestion, making these journeys progressively slower. This becomes self levelling in time, probably at car based use not much higher than at present – a consequence of the downs-Thompson paradox.

  3. Reynolds 953 says:

    In New York they’ve found that taxis have on average 7-8 miles cruising for fares for every 10 miles travelled with a fare, but the app-based services add on 12-13 miles for every 10 miles with a fare.

    So unsurprisingly, summoning a car using an app adds on more “empty” vehicle miles than hailing it on the street.

    It would be interesting to know if comparable figures are available for London (not that TfL appear to have any means of managing numbers of private hire services)

  4. quinlet says:

    @Reynolds 953
    That’s a slightly counter-intuitive outcome. You would expect that an app based service would have better data about where demand is strongest at any particular time than one which just relies on drivers’ own instincts. And an app-based drive would certainly not cruise around looking for fares as they are not available for hail-and-ride, whereas a black cab would. It would be interesting to look into the New York research in more detail.

  5. Reynolds 953 says:

    @Quinlet
    There is a summary of the New York research in the article below, and the source research is linked from this.

    http://nyc.streetsblog.org/2017/02/27/its-settled-uber-is-making-nyc-gridlock-worse/

    My interpretation of the greater “empty” mileage by app-based cars is they are cruising around waiting to be summoned by the app, then they need to drive to where the fare is. A taxi hailed in the street doesn’t need to drive any further for their fare and there are also ranks where they can wait.

    In the centre of cities like London and New York, there are not many places where an app-based car can park and wait to be summoned by the app, so instead they drive around.

    You can see the locations of Uber cars in real time using the Uber app. If you are anywhere in central London, chances are you’ll see dozens of Ubers within a few hundred metres of your location, all driving around…

  6. ngh says:

    Re Reynolds 953,

    Agree on your interpretation, driving around is far cheaper than parking or parking ticket costs. Where there is free parking available it can become a bit messy as seen with the arguments in residential areas near Heathrow.

  7. KitGreen says:

    A similar but concise view with links to other reports:
    http://gregor.us/cars/not-the-road-ahead/

  8. quinlet says:

    @KitGreen, Reynolds953
    Thank you for the reports, but they do seem to be a bit superficial in that they make a simple causal link between increases in car sharing, etc services and decreases in public transport. This disregards any other changes that may also be taking place, such as changes in economic activity (both overall and by locality), changes in population, changes in fares and so on.

    The outcome is also in direct contradiction to surveys in London –
    http://www.carplus.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Carplus-Annual-Survey-of-Car-Clubs-2015-16-London_Final-2.pdf
    is a good example. This approaches the issue from the other end by looking at what car club users have actually done and how their travel habits have changed. Even taking into account that some previously non-car owners have now started to use cars for some purposes, the net effect remains strongly positive.

  9. IslandDweller says:

    I’m not sure I’d put car clubs in the same category as ride sharing. Car clubs (to date*) require the car to be returned to the designated parking space, so they’re no use for a journey to / from somewhere, unless you’re visit is brief – a shopping trip being the obvious example where it does work.
    * A few car clubs are emerging where the car doesn’t have to be returned to the same nominated parking spot, but they’re very niche.

  10. IslandDweller says:

    Further to Greg’s point in the first comment, the Uber CEO seems to have got himself in a spot of bother.
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-28/in-video-uber-ceo-argues-with-driver-over-falling-fares

  11. quinlet says:

    @Island Dweller
    The business done by ‘floating’ car clubs in London is now significant in the five boroughs they are operating in. The car plus survey I have referred to shows that the impact on modal choice is pretty similar (although just a bit smaller) than for the conventional ’round trip’ car clubs. The reason is that, in price terms, they are at a similar level to taxi fares and, thus, significantly more expensive than bus or tube fares. The surveys also show that the peak hour for starting these car club trips is between 1900 and 2000 which shows that they are not mainly competing for commuting journeys but more for leisure journeys. Interestingly, Uber claim their peak hour for hirings in London is 0000 to 0100, which also tells you something about the type of trade they are getting.

  12. Snowy says:

    @quinlet:

    “Peak hour for hiring a is 0000 to 0100”

    Presumably this may also demonstrate the need for the night tube or later finish on many lines if TfL plan on competing/working with Uber as per the interview. Of course it also matters how big the actual numbers of pick ups are as to whether tube/rail changes would be cost effective.

  13. Greg Tingey says:

    Snowy / quinlet
    And what are Uber’s fare/passenger uptakes like on Friday/Saturday & Saturday/Sunday overnights, then?
    Has Uber taken a hit with the Night Tube?
    ( I hope so, but that’s just me)
    As shown in the Bloomberg tape, Kalanick is not a pleasant person ……

  14. Malcolm says:

    quinlet: It should be no surprise that cars from car clubs are rarely used for commuting. Although car commuting is pretty tricky in London, if you must do it then owning (or long-term leasing) the car is the only way that makes sense. The niche for car clubs is for car use which is much lower frequency than daily.

  15. quinlet says:

    @Snowy
    I have read (sorry I cannot source this at present) that since the introduction of the night tube, Uber’s business has seen a significant reduction in central London to suburb journeys but a big increase in ‘last mile’ journeys from suburban stations served by the night tube. Good news all round?

  16. ngh says:

    Re Quinlet,

    “Good news all round?”
    Provided you aren’t an Uber driver as the average fare distance will fall and hence fare will presumably be less. With the same number of users and drivers, drivers will cover less distance there should be greater availability which will have a knock on effect on demand (surge) based pricing.

  17. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Quinlet – I have read the same but I also read reports of buses taking 30-40 mins to get from Bishopsgate to Hackney Road / Kingsland Road on Fri/Sat nights because the entire Shoreditch area is jammed solid with Uber cars / minicabs etc. That sort of thing is insanity when London needs its public transport system to work efficiently. Private hire vehicles should not be allowed to impose those sorts of impacts on other people. That to me is one of the fundamental issues about the change in composition of traffic volumes in parts of London / at different times of day and why we need regulation and quickly. We are not some sort of SE Asian / S American “free market” transport play ground.

  18. quinlet says:

    @WW
    If it is the case that Shoreditch is jammed solid with cabs of any sort late on Friday/Saturday nights then surely the first thing to do is to extend the operating hours of the bus lanes – enforcement of these tends to be good as they are done by CCTV.

  19. Malcolm says:

    Extending and enforcing hours of bus lanes might help. But complicated by taxis (but not minicabs or ubers) being allowed in the bus lanes, including picking up and setting down. (I think).

  20. quinlet says:

    Minicabs and Ubers are not allowed in bus lanes. I would be surprised if the problem late at night in Shoreditch was predominantly black cabs. If they are the majority supply of taxis at that time then there wouldn’t be any problem with Uber.

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