Pop Culture – Mobility Lab https://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Fri, 23 Jun 2017 21:55:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Flying cars could happen. But they’ll probably create more problems than they solve – GreenTech Media https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/12/flying-cars-could-happen-but-theyll-probably-create-more-problems-than-they-solve-green-technology/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/12/flying-cars-could-happen-but-theyll-probably-create-more-problems-than-they-solve-green-technology/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 14:35:23 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22602 There’s a lot of excitement around flying cars right now – even if they are basically just giant drones. Whether piloted or autonomous, taxis or private vehicles, they’ve been hailed by futurists as the ideal way to reduce journey times across urban landscapes, thus easing city road congestion. But despite the media hype (or perhaps because... Read more »

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There’s a lot of excitement around flying cars right now – even if they are basically just giant drones. Whether piloted or autonomous, taxis or private vehicles, they’ve been hailed by futurists as the ideal way to reduce journey times across urban landscapes, thus easing city road congestion. But despite the media hype (or perhaps because of it), there are reasons to be skeptical of this vision.

Mobility Lab’s Howard Jennings, is quoted in the article: “The thought of millions of privately owned flying cars should raise red flags, just like personal cars should have decades ago. We’re already learning from projections that driverless vehicles could make traffic worse if we don’t make smart planning decisions and policies.”

The article also notes the demands flying cars could place on the environment.

Mobility Lab’s perspective on this point is that they could produce harmful levels of increased air pollution. Luckily, it seems all of the major players are examining how to make them powered by a hybrid of gas and electric. Battery technology to make flying cars fully electric powered is at the very least a good 10 years away. Noise pollution could be less of a concern because they might be similarly to quiet contemporary drones.

In terms of congestion, we would add that there’s no question airspace is much less congested than most roadways down on the ground, except for near the largest airports across the country. But if all these new aircraft are introduced, there will need to be a whole new level of effective management of skies.

Also see our recent article on whether flying cars might be introduced along the East Coast.

Read the complete article at GreenTech Media

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Why would Denver RTD want its mascot to be a total jerk? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/07/why-would-denver-rtd-want-its-mascot-to-be-a-total-jerk/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/07/why-would-denver-rtd-want-its-mascot-to-be-a-total-jerk/#respond Fri, 07 Apr 2017 12:48:51 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21847 Yes, we get it, there are rude jerks on mass transit everywhere. But once again, it seems like the public-transportation industry is missing an opportunity. With the Denver Regional Transportation District’s ridership heading downward, couldn’t the system try inspiring people about its product rather than highlighting the things that people think are its worst aspects? A... Read more »

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Yes, we get it, there are rude jerks on mass transit everywhere.

But once again, it seems like the public-transportation industry is missing an opportunity. With the Denver Regional Transportation District’s ridership heading downward, couldn’t the system try inspiring people about its product rather than highlighting the things that people think are its worst aspects?

A loud man talking in public about his close call with an STD is the new face of a major mass transit system. Denver’s Regional Transportation District has just unveiled its new rider-behavior campaign, which revolves around the central character of “Jimmy,” a cartoon commuter with several behavioral problems.

“Jimmy’s the name…. Ruining your ride’s my game,” Jimmy menaces in one graphic. The RTD rolled out this boor to publicize its inaugural code of conduct, adopted in December.

Lisa Trujillo, manager of Project Outreach at RTD, said, “This campaign was developed to start a conversation, sway from traditional etiquette messaging, and provide passengers with something to think about while riding transit.”

As I’ve said before, getting people to ride transit, the bus, rail, bike, and walk will require simple, powerful, consistent, and, most importantly, positive messages about the experience.

Read more at CityLab

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On-demand “flying Ubers” could ease East Coast traffic https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/06/demand-flying-ubers-ease-east-coast-traffic/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/06/demand-flying-ubers-ease-east-coast-traffic/#comments Thu, 06 Apr 2017 17:23:05 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21822 What would happen to congested urban traffic if some trips could simply be picked up and moved into the air? That’s a question players from Uber to Airbus to NASA are seriously studying. But to Bruce Gunter, who often has to take unnecessarily long car trips from his home in Virginia Beach to Richmond to... Read more »

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What would happen to congested urban traffic if some trips could simply be picked up and moved into the air?

That’s a question players from Uber to Airbus to NASA are seriously studying. But to Bruce Gunter, who often has to take unnecessarily long car trips from his home in Virginia Beach to Richmond to visit family, some of the pieces of this “on-demand urban air transportation” puzzle are missing.

“I’m frustrated because most of the research is being done in California and there’s nothing in Virginia along the Interstate 95 corridor. It’s almost comical because almost all the work is being done by NASA [from its offices in] Langley, Va.,” Gunter laughed.

Gunter has more than a passing interest in what can no doubt be simply referred to as flying cars. He is managing director of Veetle, a company that is producing these VTOLs (vertical take-off and landing vehicles). But he also has deep knowledge of lengthy Federal Aviation Administration processes, especially from his days working at Cirrus, which has gotten extensive news coverage about its parachute-deploying small planes.

“We’re a very small company, with big ideas.” Gunter said Veetle is operating on about $1 million in its first year but that once it starts marketing and gathering investments, it could be a $200 million to $300 million effort. “Unless you’re a legacy company like Boeing or Airbus, this is all about putting tons of companies together to put the planes together.”

On-demand air travel in Virginia

Uber, in a report it released last year, predicted:

Daily long-distance commutes in heavily congested urban and suburban areas and routes under-served by existing infrastructure will be the first use cases for urban VTOLs. VTOLs will have greatest appeal for those traveling longer distances and durations [and] a small number of vertiports could absorb a large share of demand from long-distance commuters since the “last mile” ground transportation component will be small relative to the much longer commute distance.

Along Virginia’s stretch of I-95 or in other congested nearby cities like Richmond, Virginia Beach, and Washington, D.C., flying cars could certainly be an option worth exploring.

“This could broaden the scope of how people get around, even more than what Uber has shown us already with cars,” Gunter said, adding that passengers would reserve a plane just like an Uber, but would instead, unlike an Uber, head to a designated rooftop to jump in.

He added that it’s great Uber is one of the few players in the market, but that the ride-hailing company can’t do much until it has an actual product like the kind Veetle is developing. “Logistically, we could be the aerial Uber, for lack of a better term.”

Keys to making flying Ubers a reality

Some of the bigger keys, besides simply getting the public to change long-ingrained travel habits and developing policy guidelines, include making trips inexpensive, reliable, and shared in the sense so they would be more like transit than personal vehicles.

Uber further predicts:

In the long-term, VTOLs will be an affordable form of daily transportation for the masses, even less expensive than owning a car. Normally, people think of flying as an expensive and infrequent form of travel, but that is largely due to the low production volume manufacturing of today’s aircraft. The economics of manufacturing VTOLs will become more akin to automobiles than aircraft. Initially, of course, VTOL vehicles are likely to be very expensive, but because the ridesharing model amortizes the vehicle cost efficiently over paid trips, the high cost should not end up being prohibitive to getting started.

Another matter is whether the vehicles would create noise and air pollution. Gunter said the battery technology is still at least a decade away to make them powered fully by electric propulsion. Until then, they would need to be “some kind of hybrid” of gas and electric. But he added that the noise would be minimal because they would operate somewhat like drones, which the public already largely understands as being relatively quiet.

Also, would we simply be displacing traffic jams on the roads for ones in the sky?

“I’ve got 6,500 hours of flying and, in my experience, it’s rare if you ever see another airplane. If you do, it’s near the big airports by places like New York and Atlanta,” Gunter said, adding that VTOL traffic is mainly a matter of being managed effectively.

As science-fiction-y as it seems, we may indeed be hearing more about on-demand urban air transportation soon. Uber is sponsoring an invitation-only conference April 25-27 in Dallas.

Photo by Uber.

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How do we encourage more transit-accessible sports stadiums? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/04/encourage-transit-accessible-stadiums/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/04/encourage-transit-accessible-stadiums/#respond Tue, 04 Apr 2017 20:33:11 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21797 As baseball season begins this week, the Atlanta Braves officially relocate from Turner Field – much closer to Atlanta’s downtown – to SunTrust Park in suburban Cobb County. The move raises interesting questions about the transit accessibility of new stadiums. Part of the Braves’ stated reason for their relocation was that Turner Field was not easily... Read more »

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As baseball season begins this week, the Atlanta Braves officially relocate from Turner Field – much closer to Atlanta’s downtown – to SunTrust Park in suburban Cobb County. The move raises interesting questions about the transit accessibility of new stadiums.

Part of the Braves’ stated reason for their relocation was that Turner Field was not easily accessible to transit. Even though the field was close to downtown, the closest Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) station was a mile away, requiring bus shuttles on game days.

But now SunTrust Park will likely have even greater challenges bringing people to games via transit. For one, the new stadium has no MARTA rail access. And the incentive to drive may be too great, since the park is nestled right at an interchange of two of Atlanta’s busiest highways (I-75 and I-285).

That said, the Braves plan to have a shuttle service connecting major points of interest in metro Atlanta to SunTrust Park. MARTA suggests taking a MARTA bus as close to the stadium as possible, then taking on-demand services or a Cobb County bus. There is also CobbLinc, a bus service connecting Cobb County to Downtown and Midtown Atlanta.

SunTrust Park currently has no rail access, but the region envisions an extension of rail lines into Cobb County. This would be roughly on par with Turner Field’s rail access, with a rail line connected to the field via shuttle.

The bike amenities look to be improved, though now in an area less conducive to biking. Turner Field’s closest bike racks were a mile away, and SunTrust Park is planning a bike valet. In addition, SunTrust Park will soon have a long pedestrian bridge across the freeway.

suntrust park sept 2016

SunTrust Park under construction in September 2016 (Google Street View).

Yet, most of the emphasis is placed predictably on personal vehicles. Turner Field had up to 12 parking lots on high-demand days, with some accommodations for handicap parking and drop-off. SunTrust Park will have an app with real-time traffic updates about the games, the connection to the nearby Galleria’s parking, and the surrounding interstates. There will actually be 30 percent less parking at SunTrust than at Turner Field.

By comparison, FedEx Field, where the Washington Redskins football team plays, out in the Washington D.C. suburb of Landover, Md., was ranked 30th out of the 32 NFL stadiums in 2012 for accessibility.

Sure, at the Landover location there are acres of parking, luxury vehicles for rent, and bars that provide free bus trips to the games. But the closest Metro is about a mile away, there’s no Capital Bikeshare in Prince George’s County, and little evidence of bike racks, not to mention a bike valet like the one at Nationals Park. The congested Beltway is by no means inviting for non-driving fans, either.

While FedEx Field is miles from central D.C., there are stadiums in city limits, so aren’t those more accessible? After all, cities tend to have better transit than the suburbs.

Nationals Park, within Washington, D.C., has two Metro stops within three blocks of the stadium, though it also has eight parking garages within 10 blocks. The DC Circulator stops half a block away from the stadium and there are eight options for Metrobus within blocks. There’s even bikeshare: three stations within three blocks, corral service for some games, and a free bike valet.

And the fact that Nationals Park works closely with the D.C. Department of Transportation and its transportation demand initiative goDCgo to publicize the many transportation options is important as well. From initial research into the matter, there appears to be little TDM being practiced at FedEx Field or SunTrust Park.

For one example, goDCgo’s Nationals-centered Bus to the Ballpark campaign raises awareness of the Navy-Yard – Union Station Circulator. This connection is especially important because Union Station connects to the broader region through Amtrak, Greyhound, Megabus, and other services.

It will be interesting to see how the situation unfolds in Atlanta at the Braves’ home opener on April 14 – how will people get to SunTrust Park? How will drivers in the area react and how will traffic be affected? Perhaps there’s just not enough incentive for sports franchises to want their products to be more accessible to more fans in more ways. And that’s a shame.

Photo: Nats fans at the Navy Yard Metro station (bootbearwdc, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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In LA, Rams’ return creates parking demand “laboratory” https://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/23/la-rams-return-creates-parking-demand-laboratory/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/09/23/la-rams-return-creates-parking-demand-laboratory/#respond Fri, 23 Sep 2016 14:32:38 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19033 Last week, the Los Angeles Rams played their first home game since returning to Southern California. And while it took place in their temporary home, the LA Memorial Coliseum – a historic stadium that has twice hosted the Olympics and currently hosts USC football games – the arrival of the NFL created a unique transportation-demand situation,... Read more »

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Last week, the Los Angeles Rams played their first home game since returning to Southern California. And while it took place in their temporary home, the LA Memorial Coliseum – a historic stadium that has twice hosted the Olympics and currently hosts USC football games – the arrival of the NFL created a unique transportation-demand situation, specifically when it came to parking.

While season ticket holders could pay $50 for a spot, the LA Times’ Brittny Mejia described a surge, where nearby lots charged hundreds of dollars for a single spot, creating a “laboratory” for transit and parking demand.

The LA Coliseum is especially notable since it’s blocks from two stops on the recently-extended Expo light rail line, which now runs from Santa Monica to downtown LA. Mejia writes:

A group of urban planners have long supported hefty parking rates as well as high road tolls as a way of encouraging motorists to get out of their cars and use public transportation.

Some cities – especially those with extensive mass transit systems – have adopted these “congestion pricing” concepts. L.A. is a tougher case because rail service is limited and so many people still get around by car.

But backers say the Coliseum offers a good test case because it’s close to the Expo Line and several bus lines and it’s also served by ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Donald Shoup, an urban planning professor at UCLA and parking policy expert, says sky-high parking prices could be exactly what L.A. needs. Price gouging could motivate otherwise reluctant Angelenos to embrace the many mass transit alternatives to the Coliseum.

There’s some indication that fans might be taking notice already. In just the preseason, the Los Angeles Daily News noted that the Rams games boosted Expo Line ridership nearly 30 percent above its typical Saturday numbers.

And in general, LA Metro reports that the Expo line is drawing a number of riders new to transit: at least 70 percent of riders at the new, western stops were not previously regular Expo riders. Though the prices featured in the LA Times are extreme (as the demand surely is), accurately-priced parking is a key tool for encouraging drivers to try out transit and other options. As the LA Rams have three seasons to play in the Coliseum before moving to their new stadium in Inglewood, the transportation scenario – and parking prices – will be something to keep an eye on.

Photo: Packed parking in Santa Monica (Chris Goldberg, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Where are the Super Bowl-esque ads about public transportation? https://mobilitylab.org/2016/02/10/super-bowl-ads-public-transportation/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/02/10/super-bowl-ads-public-transportation/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 20:27:14 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=16762 When it comes to communicating that people have transportation options besides their own drive-alone cars, the transit industry is getting its lunch handed to it, and has been for decades. It must face that it’s a fringe player that wants to become mainstream. And it’s not getting any easier. While we hear so many great stories about options... Read more »

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TransportationCampLargerResizedWhen it comes to communicating that people have transportation options besides their own drive-alone cars, the transit industry is getting its lunch handed to it, and has been for decades.

It must face that it’s a fringe player that wants to become mainstream. And it’s not getting any easier. While we hear so many great stories about options presented by bikeshare systems and technology and Uber, the fact remains that people are buying cars more than ever.

Take the people who attend TransportationCamps, for instance. They are clearly transportation experts, but then again, just about every single American is a transportation enthusiast by way of traveling every day. And 95 percent of U.S. households have cars. Most of us love our cars, or at least have been seriously duped into thinking we love our cars.

So communicating to people that we don’t truly love our cars is a tough path to take for transportation advocates. Where an opening may be is that so many people hate driving, especially for the purpose of commuting.

The fact that we’re a car country is stating the obvious. Fifty-three percent of Americans want more spending on roads and 40 percent want more spending on transit. That stat actually seems pretty generous to transit.

But I don’t think advocates should make this a road versus transit thing. It’s best to learn from cars and from the auto industry. The Super Bowl, for example, is filled with car ads (there were at least 14 during this month’s Super Bowl 50), but driving is rarely like the ways the auto industry represents it in the ads.

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A still from a recent Super Bowl car ad.

Do the car companies care about their misrepresentations? No, they’ve got a product, a lifestyle, to sell. And they sell that fantasy extremely well.

Putting obvious funding questions aside, where are the Super Bowl-esque ads about public transportation? Where are all the transit ads representing freedom to explore and observe, safety, good health, cost savings, sustainability, community, patriotism, and happiness? Transit communications needs to catch up if transit and alternate modes ever hope to catch on.

To get people to ride transit, the bus, rail, biking, walking, teleworking, and ride-hailing, communities must catch up with the auto industry on communications and marketing. There needs to be simple, powerful, consistent, and, most importantly, positive messages about the experience.

We know transit can be productive, better for your health, and cleaner for the environment. We don’t seem to care about the endless benefits of active transportation because we don’t know about them. The messages that might get us to even contemplate these options aren’t being communicated widely enough, and they’re certainly not being repeatedly pounded into our heads like the entertaining and endless mental queues from car commercials.

We still think of trains and buses as dirty, disgusting, and communal in all the wrong ways. Bicycling and walking “aren’t for us” and often bring preconceived notions that there must be something wrong with people who do those weird, not-normal types of activities. While there are certainly problems with all these forms of travel, more needs to be done to accentuate the many positives.

I hate a message like this, probably the most well-known transit ad in existence: the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s “If You See Something, Say Something.”

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Its take-home message for people is disproportionate to the rational facts, laid out in one study by Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute:

  • Commuter rail is about 20 times safer than driving
  • Metro or light rail is about 30 times safer
  • The bus is about 60 times safer, and
  • About 360 times more people are killed in auto collisions than in incidents of terrorism.

These points should be messaging gold for future non-car advertising. And when agencies and others must go down the safety road (which is, of course, important), they could follow the example of the Denver Regional Transportation District’s co-opting of the wildly popular Australian “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign:

This is another example of a transit ad, from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, that does better at potentially generating curiosity about trying transit.

SuperHeroes

I thought the Washington, D.C., Metro’s commercial showing a good-time party breaking out on the newly opened Silver Line was exactly the kind of thing that could inspire ridership.

I have no doubt that journalistic storytelling and content marketing will be a long-term path to the better overall health of the non-auto transportation industry. Not only does the industry need to sell its services, but it must do something new: become hyper-focused on selling the lifestyle.

Organizations like the American Public Transportation Association, Amtrak, the Association for Commuter Transportation, the League of American Bicyclists, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Eno Center for Transportation, and Mobility Lab, to name a few, need to form a messaging and communications coalition with the goal of changing public opinion.

All kinds of tactics could be used. For example, FamiliesUSA built a story bank, where people can share their personal stories that relate to bigger societal issues sweeping the mainstream news. The organization then very successfully feeds those personal stories to the media, which is actually one of the reasons we see so many personal anecdotes within our national news stories.

Communicating outside of just the transportation arena is also crucial, and transit conversations need to somehow overlap into the tech, health, environment, business, city planning, and pop-culture worlds. It’s important to get others, not just the transportation experts, to spread the message about why support is needed for transportation options.

Industries, sectors, and businesses that get this storytelling strategy are winning. My favorite example is Red Bull, the energy drink company, which publishes the Red Bulletin Magazine. It has about the same amount of subscribers as Sports Illustrated.

Red Bulletin tells stories about the adventurous lifestyle. Maybe back at the very end, it might have a Red Bull energy drink ad. But the magazine is about telling the story of the lifestyle. The company knows that if you buy into that lifestyle, there’s a chance you’ll drink its product. It’s brilliant.

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The list is quickly getting long of the industries that are doing content marketing and storytelling right, and their creativity is reflected in their profits and popularity: AirBnB has Pineapple, Uber has Momentum, Intel has IQ, Coca-Cola has Journey, American Express has Open Forum. You get the idea. Most of these organizations are pumping out more (and not just more, but also great) content than Time Magazine did in its heyday.

Because if you want someone to buy your product or buy into your lifestyle, you don’t immediately start screaming at them to buy, buy, buy the moment they approach you. You try to nurture them and build a long-lasting relationship. You do that by telling them great stories and then telling them more great stories.

Finally, here is my advice for agencies, organizations, and even individuals, on how to tell better stories. This stuff won’t break the bank, and anyone involved in non-car transportation should find the money to incorporate most or all of these elements into your strategies.

  • Build compelling websites that go beyond selling customer fares and sell a lifestyle.
  • Pick your social networks and devote yourselves to them, and remember, they might not be around tomorrow or might change their rules, so have a backup plan.
  • Engage with the public, there are free contributors who would love to get published or promoted through your channels.
  • Hold hackathons or regular events, like Mobility Lab’s Transportation Techies, to turn your big data into stories or ideas that your public agency can consider.
  • Engage thought leaders to trumpet your cause. Once they get it, others will start to.
  • Leverage research from other places if you can’t do your own.
  • Create messages and talking points that are relevant to your community.
    • People in Alameda, Calif. are particularly interested in environmental and green causes, so the city created transportation messages that paved the way to policies that reduce carbon pollution.
    • In my hometown of Edwardsville, Ill., there are amazing trails to every corner of town and beyond. But it seems to me very few people ever ride bikes or walk to get to work or to go out and socialize. The trails are often busy, but almost entirely with people seeking recreation. There is a huge opportunity to educate people and improve traffic, which can be pretty rough there even in a 30,000-person St. Louis suburb.
  • It can be really difficult to find photos of people happy on transit. That’s the first problem to take care of in every city. Work diligently to find great photos of people using public transportation.
  • Calls to action. People must be inspired to get involved.
  • Hire a journalist or two, because their passion and perspective might actually be the brand journalism that puts your organization and the industry over the top.

This article is based off my presentation at TransportationCamp DC 2016 entitled, “May the Future Be With You: Communicating Transportation Options – A group discussion around two unreleased Mobility Lab short films.” You are welcome to use slides from the PowerPoint in your own presentations.

See all the TransportationCamp DC 2016 session notes here.

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How to “Get Sh*t Done” In the Face of Transportation Bureaucracy https://mobilitylab.org/2015/10/14/start-up-city/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/10/14/start-up-city/#comments Wed, 14 Oct 2015 14:44:24 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=16005 Thank goodness this book is out. Start-Up City – Inspiring Private & Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun is sorely needed right now. Cities are at the forefront of taking on addressing issues at the intersection of demographics, technology, transport, climate, housing, equity, and health, but are largely ill equipped to respond. Entrepreneur,... Read more »

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Thank goodness this book is out.

Start-Up City – Inspiring Private & Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun is sorely needed right now. Cities are at the forefront of taking on addressing issues at the intersection of demographics, technology, transport, climate, housing, equity, and health, but are largely ill equipped to respond.

Entrepreneur, bureaucracy-shaker, futurist, and now author Gabe Klein shows us how to make rapid change that will transform cities for the better.

I met Klein back in 2004 when he led the then-fledgling Zipcar operation in Washington, D.C. He was different from others in the transportation space: he had a ponytail, he was passionate, he was unafraid. He didn’t take no for an answer. I loved that!

We struck a partnership between Arlington County, Virginia and his company to put carshare vehicles in the public right-of-way, as Klein writes about in Lesson #6: Bridge the Public-Private Divide. The easy way he teamed with his company’s rival, Flexcar, and coordinated with local government officials made me a fan.

As I watched his career move from Zipcar, to organic food in electric trucks, to leading the departments of transportation in both D.C. and Chicago, I always marveled at the seeming ease with which Klein got shit done (I’m using his term). He innovated and accomplished more in a few years at each place than his predecessors and successors combined could ever hope for. He inspired bureaucracy to action. I always wanted to know: how did he do this?

In his new book, he generously reveals the secrets to his success, much of which is rooted in his start-up private-sector upbringing. Klein engagingly walks us through eight lessons in how to get stuff done:

Lesson #1: Don’t Be Afraid to Screw Up and Learn

The desire to avoid failure often leads agencies to repeat well-trodden strategies. Trying new things often yields failure, but with that a teachable moment.

Lesson #2: Manage S.M.A.R.T

To Klein, S.M.A.R.T. stands for “Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic, Time-based,” a series of management principles that help establish clear objectives for one’s team.

Lesson #3: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

Creative, large-scale thinking, a focus on the end goal, and an imagination past doubts and obstacles can yield rapid success for big projects that would otherwise take years.

Lesson #4: Sell Your City

Don’t be afraid to market what the city does, including its major accomplishments, and to make otherwise mundane civic commitments fun and engaging for the public (see: Potholepalooza).

Lesson #5: Fund Creatively

Make the team familiar with your budget so everyone bears responsibility, encourage programs to find ways to self-fund their initiatives so that they’re more flexible, and focus more on returns on investment rather than “abstract” costs.

Lesson #6: Bridge the Public-Private Divide

Forge solid public-private partnerships by aligning everyone’s incentives, such as profitability and the better service quality that it drives. Klein cites the launch of D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare system as a high point of public-private cooperation.

Lesson #7: Prepare for Disruption

Cities should get out ahead of companies disrupting existing business models, and seek to adapt to these new paradigms. Don’t overreact and attempt to control new disruptors, but rather find ways that you can work with them.

Lesson #8: Drive Change

Autonomous cars could bring a range of benefits to cities in the coming decades, so planners and businesses should think ahead in how to best integrate them into complex metropolitan systems.

Anyone who wants to innovate and create better cities will find these lessons useful.

If you’re in the private sector, you’ll learn valuable lessons on how to think creatively and align your product or program with the public for success. If you’re in the public sector, you’ll learn how to cut through red tape, be creative, and use start-up values to move things forward quickly.

Check it out: I guarantee this book will inspire you to get up, go to work and get shit done.

Start-Up City: Inspiring Private and Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun, by Gabe Klein, is available through Island Press.

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To take back our streets, remember how we lost them to cars https://mobilitylab.org/2015/10/09/how-we-lost-streets-to-cars/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/10/09/how-we-lost-streets-to-cars/#comments Fri, 09 Oct 2015 14:27:36 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15986 Children may again someday walk or bike to their schools and their friends’ houses, but to get to that point historian and author Peter Norton says we’ll have to unlearn much of what the auto industry has taught us over the past century. “Children’s mobility has been neglected. We have seen the future GM and... Read more »

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Children may again someday walk or bike to their schools and their friends’ houses, but to get to that point historian and author Peter Norton says we’ll have to unlearn much of what the auto industry has taught us over the past century.

“Children’s mobility has been neglected. We have seen the future GM and Ford fed us in the 1950s. To change the future, we have to recover versions of the past we have forgotten,” he told an audience this week at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia.

Norton presented some of the stories from his long-admired book Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City to illustrate just how brainwashed we’ve become in regards to how we want to design and move through our public spaces.

Paul Norton, author of Fighting Traffic.

Peter Norton, author of Fighting Traffic

“People are pretty smart about how to share space optimally,” he said, noting how pedestrians originally became irritated with cars encroaching on their streets in the 1910s.

In that era, the public blamed drivers for all the child pedestrian deaths, whereas now Norton says we would blame the parents. Even as early as the 1920s, the messages began changing to “keep the kiddies off the streets.” Before autos and the notion of speed were common, kids, pedestrians, horses, bicycles, and others jostled through the streets just fine.

“Democracy, free markets, and American culture did not decree the motor-age city,” Norton said. “Before [auto-industry groups] could build the motor-age city, they had to redefine the city.”

And Norton says they did a tremendous job of it. Streets are now thoroughly car-centric, and the idea of people-centered streets remains a difficult concept for most people to grasp. These groups recognized they needed to shift the perceived cause of collisions away from drivers and onto pedestrians. Under the name Motordom, the interest groups were quoted in a 1922 edition of Engineering News-Record that they would lead the effort in a “revision of our concept of what a city street is for.”

Don't_jay_walk_1937

A 1937 anti-jaywalking ad from the Federal Art Project. Source: Wikimedia Commons

A major part of this effort was to make walking in the street unacceptable, essentially inventing the idea of “jaywalking.” Centrally coordinated from Detroit, Motordom would enlist Boy Scouts there and in other cities to hand out cards to pedestrians to “quit jaywalking” and would hire jaywalking clowns to look like they were hit by a Model T.

Other parts of the successful effort included producing coloring books for kids, complete with language about how streets were designated for cars, and opening a new program at Harvard: teaching the first generation of traffic engineers to prioritize traffic lights for faster driving and more difficult walking.

Ultimately, Norton uses a Wizard of Oz analogy to describe the public’s perception:

“The Emerald City doesn’t solve Dorothy’s problems. It was a bogus utopia. In the book [but not the movie], it was an illusion created by green glasses that Dorothy had to wear to make the city look like emeralds. It was really made of paper mache or something. ‘There’s no place like home,’ and we have to go back to understanding our multimodal past.”

Decades later, we have never gotten the city of easy parking and effortless thoroughfares that the auto industry and its interest groups have promised us again and again, notably at the 1939 Futurama Exhibit of the World’s Fair (pictured at the top). And, Norton adds, while driverless cars would be spatially efficient, would eliminate the process of parking, and could be shared vehicles, we should be cautious in viewing them as providing a promised utopia.

Norton believes storytelling and public relations are the keys to building a future that more accurately incorporates what we have learned from our past. He said a possible blueprint is to make sure messages like “biking is normal,” “walkability,” and “good transportation choices” become better understood and more widely accepted over the next decade.

Top: Ford Motor’s “Road of Tomorrow” from the 1939 World Fair

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The Stories of Why People Bike https://mobilitylab.org/2015/10/01/stories-of-who-bikes/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/10/01/stories-of-who-bikes/#respond Thu, 01 Oct 2015 16:01:05 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15912 Everything you’ve heard about biking is true. It makes you happier, healthier and saves you time. Plus, it is good for the economy and the environment. And in the bike advocacy world, we talk about those benefits a lot. But if you are like most folks, a single statistic is not why you started riding... Read more »

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Edgar crop

Everything you’ve heard about biking is true. It makes you happier, healthier and saves you time. Plus, it is good for the economy and the environment. And in the bike advocacy world, we talk about those benefits a lot.

But if you are like most folks, a single statistic is not why you started riding a bike. Chances are it was an individual person in your life who got you started. Someone whose daily commute seemed better than yours, someone who you could pepper with questions about routes and what to wear.

Most recently, BikeArlington produced a series of short films called “Arlington Passages,” with the goal of highlighting some of the inspiring stories of people who bike in our county. We hope the individual stories presented connect and provide inspiration to folks who don’t yet have the bike-y friend to encourage them. We also sought to illustrate the breadth and depth of people who ride bikes in Arlington, broadening the mental image conjured up by the word “cyclist.”

BikeArlington worked with the award-winning Modacity team to create each of the “Arlington Passages” films, focusing on the story of a single individual in Arlington. In the films, the bike is a supporting character, the way it is in the lives of the people I meet through my job as BikeArlington’s events & outreach coordinator. Bikes are part of the story, but not what makes it shine.

The heart of each film is the person featured: Edgar, Annie, Natalie, Grant, Gillian, Nonie, Chris, and Rachael. In each film, you are invited into their world within Arlington – their homes and favorite places. You hear about the people they care about and what helps them face the challenges in their lives.

In his film, Grant says, “One highlight for me riding that bike is not the attention that it gets, but the smiles. You think about how many times you commute around, especially in a car, nobody smiles at you.” And hearing him say it makes me smile every time, and I hope it will have the same effect on you.

It is in the spirit of sharing and connecting over a personal story that we created Arlington Passages and hosted a world premiere event at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse. If you were not able to attend, all the films are now online. We hope you enjoy them, and share them with a bike-curious person in your life.

And finally, what you’ve been waiting for:

Volunteer, father, first generation American. Meet Edgar.

Environmentalist, realtor, community creator. Meet Natalie.

Family-focused, stay-at-home Dad, community leaders. Meet Grant and Gillian.

Traveler, independent thinker, dancer. Meet Annie.

Empty-nester, sister, adventure-seeker. Meet Nonie.

Father, daughter, survivors. Meet Chris and Rachael.


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In rush-hour D.C., abundance of transportation options look “amazing” https://mobilitylab.org/2015/09/02/in-rush-hour-d-c-abundance-of-transportation-options-look-amazing/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/09/02/in-rush-hour-d-c-abundance-of-transportation-options-look-amazing/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 17:41:26 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15698 At Arlington Transportation Partners and goDCgo, our job is to encourage residents and visitors in the Washington D.C. metro region to consider sustainable and active commutes. So we decided to try some of the many options in our first annual “Amazing Commuter Race.” In our book, the best ways to travel come down to cost, time,... Read more »

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At Arlington Transportation Partners and goDCgo, our job is to encourage residents and visitors in the Washington D.C. metro region to consider sustainable and active commutes.

So we decided to try some of the many options in our first annual “Amazing Commuter Race.” In our book, the best ways to travel come down to cost, time, and stress.

Here were our rules:

  • Start in a location where it was possible for our five contestants to catch Metrorail, Split, Bridj, Capital Bikeshare, and Uber and get to our office in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia
  • For the two services that don’t extend into Arlington (Split and Bridj), contestants were allowed to go multimodal
  • Provide updates on a live Twitter feed, the good and the bad, to give readers a realistic experience
  • Contestants completed their routes when they arrived at their desks, in business clothes, ready to start the day

Here’s how each fared:

5th Place – Bridj

commuterace_bridjWhile a viable option for connecting D.C. neighborhoods, Bridj doesn’t extend into Arlington. Unfortunately, Bridj came in last due to downtown traffic issues.

  • Contestant: Brendan Casey
  • Modes used: Bridj > Metro > Walk
  • Total price of trip: $5.15 (Bridj: $3.00, Metro: $2.15)
  • Time of entire trip: 67 minutes
  • Brendan’s take: “Only two people on board and both of us got on at Grant Circle. Seemed like there was a lot of needless driving through Petworth when Bridj would have known that there were no other passengers booked for that shuttle. I do like that Bridj uses bus-stop areas for pick up and drop off and avoids the “Im’ma block this lane, but it’s cool ’cause my flashers are on” scenario. The driver was great, avoided bumps when safe to do so, no erratic driving, and I felt safe and comfy the whole time. Despite coming in last, it really was a good experience, albeit far too long for me for the distance traveled.”

4th Place – Metrorail

commuterace_metroMetro was used as a control of sorts, since we assumed most people coming from Petworth would likely choose Metro, for at least part of their journey. Missed trains and crowded cars made this commute a little longer than it needed to be, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles.

  • Contestant: Keara Mehlert
  • Modes used: Metro > Walk
  • Total price of trip: $2.75
  • Time of entire trip: 55 minutes
  • Keara’s take: “Started in Petworth and just missed a train headed south while I was going down the stairs, and a new train at that! Had to wait almost 10 minutes for the next train because an earlier one was offloaded at Ft. Totten. Instead of switching at L’Enfant, I decided to switch twice from Green to Red to Silver/Blue/Orange at Gallery Place and Metro Center. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get on a train at Gallery Place because it was too crowded and had to wait three minutes for the next train. After that it was pretty smooth sailing.”

3rd Place – Split

commuterace_splitSimilar to Bridj, Split does not currently operate in Arlington. However, it is able to take its riders a bit further, all the way to Georgetown. With D.C.-only service, a multimodal trip was necessary.

  • Contestant: Jonathan Bollhoefer
  • Modes used: Split > Capital Bikeshare > Walk
  • Total price of trip: $7.25 (Split: $7.02, Daily rate for annual Capital Bikeshare membership: $0.23)
  • Time of entire trip: 47 minutes
  • Jonathan’s take: “I opened my Split app casually and set the pin for my current location and destination. I planned to travel from Petworth to a bikeshare station in Georgetown near the edge of the Split service area. From there I knew I could finish the journey on Capital Bikeshare across the Key Bridge into Rosslyn. After setting my pins, I walked a short half block for my pickup location. I had about an eight-minute wait until my car would arrive. I took the time to check some emails and catch up on the news. My Split arrived in only six minutes and we were on our way! Carla was kind enough to take a selfie with me to document my excitement. As expected, we hit a good bit of traffic while traveling through some of the more populated areas of D.C. Cardozo and Dupont Circle were both inundated with rush-hour traffic that slowed down the drive. The ride with Split took 24 minutes. I checked out a Capital Bikeshare bike and rode the final 1.3 miles across the Key Bridge before walking into the office.”

2nd Place – Capital Bikeshare

commuterace_bikeshareWith the advantages of bike infrastructure, it was easy to skip traffic that other modes hit and arrive with enough time to even take a shower!

  • Contestant: Grace Oran
  • Modes used: Capital Bikeshare
  • Total price of trip: $1.73 (Daily rate for annual membership: $0.23, $1.50 in overage fee since trip was more than 30 minutes. This fee can be avoided when you turn in your bike at a station and take out another one.)
  • Time of entire trip: 44 minutes (31 minutes for trip time, 13 minutes for shower/change)
  • Grace’s take: “I’m so energized, I don’t even need a cup of coffee! It was lovely to feel the wind in my helmet-hair and be immersed in the sights and sounds of the city. We had perfect weather so it was great to be outside instead of in a car or tunnel. I got in my workout for the day, and if I want to, I can take the Metro or go multimodal on the way home. On the downside, I biked a few roads that aren’t so bike-friendly, like M Street through Georgetown, which can be pretty frustrating. If there was bad weather, I’d probably rather be in another form of transportation. Also, I got one of the last few bikes at my starting station – if we had left a little later, all the bikes would have been gone and I would have needed to walk about 10 minutes to the nearest station. Bikeshare is a popular commute option!”

1st Place – Uber

commuterace_uberNo one is surprised this option won with door-to-door service, but it did put another car on the road that didn’t necessarily need to be there, especially since I was riding alone. Also, at nearly $14 per ride (one way), it’s not a financially sound option for a daily commute.

  • Contestant: Maggie Awad
  • Modes used: Uber (Lyft was running its 50 percent off deal and we needed accurate pricing for the race)
  • Total price of trip: $13.78
  • Time of entire trip: 31 minutes
  • Maggie’s take: “The driver was very friendly, like most Uber drivers I’ve had in the past. While not super chatty, we did talk about Paris a bit since that’s where he’s from. The driver didn’t take the route I might have, but he was following Waze so I figured he was driving where there would be less traffic. I was also busy live tweeting and not paying attention to the route, which I think is accurate of most riders since they’re probably busy doing something else. We did hit a few GPS snags, nearly going down a road that had been blockaded for morning rush hour, but all in all, it was an easy trip. My only stress was keeping up with the tweets from the other contestants!”

Here’s a cheat sheet to the race. As you can see, it all depends on what you consider a win. The best and worst for cost and time are marked.

CommuteRaceCheatSheet(1)

Looking at all the positives and negatives here, what’s your preferred commute mode?

This is an excerpt from an article originally published at ATP’s blog.

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