The shifting patterns of how Londoners live and work - See more at:
The shifting patterns of how Londoners live and work – Via Urban Demographics.

Eric Jaffe, “Milan Abruptly Suspended Congestion Pricing and Traffic Immediately Soared“, CityLab. A very popular congestion pricing scheme in Milan was suspended for an 8-week period during a court challenge. Researchers evaluated the impacts on driver behaviour during the suspension. Somewhat surprisingly drivers immediately took back to the roads the first day of the suspension. (It was assumed there would be at least a minor delay in the return to pre-congestion charging behaviour). The study also made the following conclusions about the overall effects of the program:

The pricing scheme results in 27,000 fewer cars entering Area C per day—a 14.5 percent decline in traffic… The researchers find that most drivers respond to the charge by traveling at different times or taking different routes, as expected.

Milan’s program reduced air pollution (as measured by carbon emissions and PM10 particulate matter) from 6 to 17 percent. That’s a huge figure when you consider that Area C is just 5 percent of metro Milan—and that the city already has a pretty clean vehicle fleet, owing to a previous congestion fee that exempted cleaner cars. The researchers estimate the value of that environmental benefit at $3 billion a year.

Commuter routes adjacent to public transportation saw smaller traffic changes than those without similar access. In other words, many of the people who took public transit to work continued to do so even once the cordon price was suspended. This finding suggests that people are more than happy shifting out of cars if they can find homes with good transit access to work.

11-Year-Old Kid Shames “Whiny Entitled” Adults Who Hate Safer Silver Lake Streets“, Curbed LA. In a lively debate about a recent road diet in Los Angeles, 11-year old Matlock Grossman addresses the hysteric crowd with a show-stopper….

Clearly there are motorists out there who are not mature enough to share the road without having the rules painted on the road to show who goes where. The road diet, by design, is meant to slow down cars because – motorists are the problem.

Even if there are zero bicyclists taking advantage of the bike lanes, it doesn’t matter. The road diet effectively reduces collisions and the statistics prove this.\Stop bullying and victim-blaming the pedestrians and bicyclists as being the problem.

If motorists acted towards women, or another group of people, the way you act towards cyclists, people would be horrified by your hateful words and violent actions.

I don’t understand why driving a car makes you think you’re more important than someone else. You’re not.

It’s whiny entitled behavior you wouldn’t tolerate from a kid, why should I tolerate it from adults?

In entirely unsurprising news the “upscale” San Francisco private bus service Leap has filed for bankruptcy. Recall the media portrayal of the start-up targeting an “intended clientele” with  amenities including wi-fi, juice bars, smart phone ticketing and of course the de rigueur recycled wood interiors…

Jarrett Walker, one of the more lucid skeptics of the boosterism associated with vehicle technology in urban transportation, nailed the business model logic six months ago in the tweet below: “pleasantly uncrowded bus = failing business“.


Retro-futuristic vision of self driving cars.

Owen Williams, “The Netherlands is getting self-driving shuttle buses, but they’re slow as hell“, TNW News. A small pod-like driverless shuttle will be tested for travel between Wageningen and the Ede-Wageningen train station. It’s not surprising that they are slow, but they will also not work under the, erm, challenging conditions of darkness or congestion.

The vehicles won’t have a driver, but will be monitored from a remote control room to ensure they’re functioning safety. There’s even a backup plan if the WePod’s self-driving abilities don’t work out: a joystick will be installed.

What’s unique is that the WePod will travel on public roads, without designated lanes or barriers. For now they won’t run in challenging conditions such as bad weather, at night or during rush hour.

Annie Gaus, “When will driverless cars hit the streets? Uber, policy experts have wildly different timelines“, San Francisco Business Times.

The participants … all agreed on the benefits of driverless cars to reduce emissions and congestion on Bay Area roadways. But they disagreed broadly on exactly when autonomous vehicles — defined as cars that can operate without human participation — will be traffic-ready and available to anyone.

“In the 2020s” predicted Ashwini Chhabra, who leads policy development at Uber.

“2075 maybe,” countered Dr. Steven Shladover, a program manager at California Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology, a UC Berkeley research institute.

Some of the disparity lies in the definition of driverless cars. According to guidelines defined by the DMV and the Society of Automotive Engineers, there are several different levels of automation — some of which already exist in driver assistance features like active lane control.

Coral Davenport, “VW Is Said to Cheat on Diesel Emissions; U.S. Orders Big Recall“, The New York Times. A widely reported news story where Volkswagen has been charged for violating Federal EPA (US) clear air regulations by circumventing air quality testing systems. Apparently the cars software system detects the emissions testing device and turns on full emission control only for the test. Hopefully future cars won’t be able to game their required “pedestrian detection functionality.”

The Environmental Protection Agency accused the German automaker of using software to detect when the car is undergoing its periodic state emissions testing. Only during such tests are the cars’ full emissions control systems turned on. During normal driving situations, the controls are turned off, allowing the cars to spew as much as 40 times as much pollution as allowed under the Clean Air Act, the E.P.A. said.

Driverless cars will need to update their operating system to consider a much more intimate use of city streets as per international Park(ing) Day. Auckland’s event was well documented by Non-Motorist (@bythemotorway)  below and part I, part II, and part III.

Park(ing) Day Auckland 2015, Non-Motorist (@bythemotorway)

Tom Fucoloro, “Seattle will let neighborhoods design their own crosswalks“, Seattle Transit Blog. Events like Park(ing) Day and actions like tactical urbanism are civic protests designed to challenge the current conception of city streets. Recall how Mike Lydon told the story about Seattle promoting street parties by providing a streamlined permitting system. Seattle has now created a community crosswalk program where residents can design their own crosswalks. Community action is leading the charge in democratising city streets, and eventually institutions respond.

DOT and Seattle Department of Neighborhoods are jointly working on this program to allow interested community members to showcase their neighborhood’s unique culture and history or just liven up an intersection crosswalk with a colorful design. This is a great way for the city to celebrate our neighborhood communities in a creative and visual manner.

Crosswalk. Source: Seattle Department of Transportation.

Noah Smith, “The Threat Coming by Land“, The Economist.

In a city or suburb, land’s value comes from location. People want to be close to the companies where they work. Companies want to be close to the people they employ. Stores want to be close to the consumers they serve, and consumers want to be close to the stores. Companies in the same industry want to be close to one another, so they can keep an eye on rivals, absorb ideas and poach talent. And people want to be close to other people in general, so they and their children can have friends, enjoy culture and meet their romantic partners…

As our economies become more complex, there are more kinds of stores, more cultural activities and more industries to cluster together. Therefore, the value of location increases, which pushes up the value of land. It doesn’t matter how much empty land is out there — who wants to live on the Kansas prairie? What matters for the value of modern land is the incentive to locate close to other people..

What can we do? One approach, advocated by the 19thcentury economist Henry George, is to tax the value of locations. Essentially, a Land Value Tax is a property levy with exemptions for development.

How Tube strikes help Londoners“, The Economist. An interesting study on how transit strikes shift passenger commute travel patterns, sometimes for the better.

The results are surprising. Three-quarters of commuters were forced to change their route during the strike, either because stations were closed or because congestion was unbearable. But once the strike finished, not all of them went back to their old habits. Instead, about 5% of the group decided to stick with their new route.

Before the strike, it seems, many Londoners had unwittingly been taking a suboptimal route to work. The stylised Tube map, designed by Harry Beck in 1933, distorts London’s geography. Beck was pilloried for showing Wimbledon and South Wimbledon to be miles apart, when in fact it is an easy walk from one to the other. Add to that the different average speeds at which trains hurtle along—the Waterloo & City line goes at 47kph (29mph), compared with the Hammersmith & City line’s 15kph—and it is small wonder that many commuters choose the “wrong” route to work. The strike made them realise their mistake.

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  1. Great set of reads, thanks Kent. The explosion of ridership on the Tube as shown in the first graphic continues. Many lines are now running off-peak the frequencies that very recently only ran at peak; 20, 24, 30 trains per hour. London would not be able to maintain its place in the global city competition without the great investments made generations ago in these systems, and the above ground rail routes that are also now being re-purposed for new uses. Very fortunate.

    Auckland too is lucky to its small rail inheritance too, and with recent upgrades it is poised to step up with its first extension of scale since the 1930s to become a real force in shaping the city’s future. This really is a new phase in the city’s story. And will be the most important transformative step for the city this century, and those behind it will be seen for what they achieved.

    1. 10 years ago when I lived in London it was more like a train every minute on the Piccadilly line at peak – so 60/hr. I remember the electronic board would normally have three or four trains arriving in the next 3 minutes.
      Would we do that per day on any line?

      1. Post CRL and Mangere/Airport extension we could get up to running five minute frequencies on the outer lines 12tph, so 2.5min or 24tph where they overlap through the CRL and much of the Southern Line. Each way. Freight would need to be entirely on its own tracks. This would provide a lavish level of acces for everywhere on the network or accessible to it by bike, botcar, or transfer. Luxury.

  2. Winston Churchill in 1909 was not able to build a political consensus on land value taxes and his final administration starting in 1951 where he was the British Prime Minister was not able to reform the 1947 Town and Country Act in a way that would provide affordable housing for the working class (unlike say the Germans). Winston was unable to reconcile the aspirations of the working and productive classes with the landed gentry class. The necessity of shelter in the 20th century unlike food in the 19th century was not reformed in a way that meant it could be provided affordably.

    But his 1909 speech on Land Value Taxes is still perhaps the best explanation of the issue.

    1. It is my belief that this has contributed to Britain losing its leadership in industrial innovation. For New Zealand because we copy many British policies this has meant New Zealand has had difficulty developing away from the one-horse economy of agricultural production to a modern diversified economy.

    2. I don’t totally buy the concept that increments in land value are unearned. If you placed capital into an investment and you have paid for the future income from that asset as well as taken the risk on the basis that capital gains are part of the upside then why is it unearned? It is simply part of the income you expected when you made the investment and the reason you had to pay the previous owner so much. But the extension of this is that the capital gain should be taxed at exactly the same rate as the direct earnings from your land.

      1. In some places -Germany, Southern US cities etc. Investment in property is a hedge against inflation, it roughly tracks income or GDP growth but there is no further capital gain and no expectation of it. Property investment is seen as a safe and boring option.

        NZ would greatly benefit if that was the case here…..

  3. Great comment from the 11 year old. Makes a good point. If you replaced the word “cyclist” with “woman”, any individual ethnicity or “old people” in any of the comments they probably wouldn’t even make it past the moderators.

    1. “Maori refuse to follow laws”

      “Asian are the cockroaches of society”

      “Why should we support the lifestyle choices of gays”

    2. There’s a good reason for that. Such comments would discriminate against people on the basis of sex, age, or race, inherent characteristics that demand protection in a fair society.

      Being a cyclist is a matter of choice, and not a particularly important one in terms of a person’s life, so it’s right that people should be able to say whatever they like about cyclists. To curtail that would be a form of censorship.

      I don’t agree with their views, but they’ve got every right to state them, just as the 11 year old has every right to criticise them.

  4. Note that Leap didn’t really have much of a chance since regulators shut it down:

    In May, California regulators issued a cease-and-desist order to the company for running without permits. The company immediately said in an announcement it would be “offline” for the week. But the service never returned, and now it seems the company has filed for bankruptcy.

    Here is a story about another private startup called “Chariot” , it seems one of there tricks is to use vans which have fewer regulations than buses:

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