Author Archives: Micheline Maynard

Car-centric Texas And Florida Face Clean Up After Harvey And Irma

How Hurricane Irma looked on Sunday afternoon.

This will be a hurricane season that residents of Texas and Florida will long remember. Just as Houston began the long process of cleaning up from Hurricane Harvey, Miami and cities on Florida’s west coast were hit full force this weekend by Hurricane Irma.

And no one can yet relax. Hurricane Jose is still on the way.

In each case, citizens had plenty of advance notice if they wanted to leave. They were told that massive flooding was possible, and that strong winds could do serious damage.

And, in each case, the storms revealed a variety of transportation vulnerabilities, from the air to the roads to the rails (or lack of them). Authorities could tell people to go, but they couldn’t make it quick or easy for them to evacuate.

All weekend, there were complaints on social media that gas was scarce for evacuees in Florida, in part because of shortages caused by Harvey.

There have been numerous stories about the number of cars that will have to be declared totaled in Houston due to water damage, with 100,000 insurance claims already filed, and estimates of as many as 1 million lost.

In each case, the storms slammed into parts of the country where public transportation takes a back seat to freeways and cars. Continue reading

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Filed under cities, infrastructure, public transportation, Rail

The Curbing Cars Newsletter Is Taking Labor Day Off

Donate — or go eat!

We just want to remind you that the Curbing Cars Newsletter is taking Labor Day off. We’ll be back next week.

In the meantime, we have a request. Hurricane Harvey has left a mess in its wake. There are fundraisers and collections going on all over the country. This will be a problem for a long, long time.

There are estimates that between 500,000 and 1 million cars will have to be scrapped. Already, 100,000 people have filed claims with their auto insurers.

So, if you see something that appeals to you, please attend, or make a donation to help those in need in Houston.

Our friend Chef Alon Shaya is hosting a fundraiser in New Orleans on Monday. The menu includes red beans and rice, which everyone in New Orleans eats on Mondays. There will be music, and beer, and other drinks, and a lot of good cheer.

Every penny of your donation (minus the ticket fee) is going to help Harvey victims. Even if you can’t attend, think about making a donation to his foundation.

And thank you.

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Filed under Curbing Cars

Classic Cars May Be Gorgeous, But Millennials Don’t Care. Will They Become Orphans?

Mustang Row at the Woodward Dream Cruise. Photo by David Guralnick of the Detroit News, shared on Twitter.

Across the United States, it’s car show season. This past week, as many as a million spectators crowded Woodward Avenue north of Detroit, for the annual Woodward Dream Cruise.

In Pebble Beach, California, ultra-expensive collector cars were on display at the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

And, there have been less-extravagant car shows of many sizes in towns around the country — if those car shows weren’t canceled due to the expense, the weather, lack of interest or someone to organize it.

As much as many people love classic cars, there’s a growing concern among the owners of this rolling architecture that nobody will want to take care of the iron that they’ve so lovingly maintained.

Scary data

Even as the elite gathered out west, Fortune Magazine reported that auction estimates at Pebble Beach fell 14 percent, to $290 million. It’s the third straight year in which Pebble Beach auction figures have dropped.

The fear about the future of classic cars also shows up in data from Hagerty, which tracks collector car values for insurance purposes. Their website is a gold mine of information about the value of and future trends in vintage cars.

Right now, there’s a definite reason to worry. Hagerty’s monthly index of collector car values stood at 64.86 in August, falling for the sixth time this year.

Says Hagerty: “The number of owners expressing the belief that the values of their vehicles are increasing continues to gradually decline, and this is true for the owners of both mainstream and high-end vehicles. The drop is particularly pronounced, however, for owners of previously hot models like the Ferrari 308 and Ford GT.” Continue reading

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Filed under cars, Driving

Readers: Tell Us How You’re Getting Around — And How You Plan To Get Around

Curbing Cars readers: we’d like your insight. We’d love to know how you’re getting around and how you plan to get around in the future.

Send us an email at curbingcars@gmail.com, and let us know:

How old is your car? What’s the approximate mileage? Is this the longest you’ve ever kept a vehicle?

Have you downsized the number of vehicles in your family fleet? Or, are you adding vehicles?

Would you consider an electric vehicle or hybrid for your next vehicle? What would convince you to buy one? How about an autonomous vehicle?

And, do you think you could get along without a vehicle all together?

We’ll publish the best responses in a future story, so please make sure we have the correct spelling of your name and your hometown.

Thanks!

 

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Filed under cars, Driving

The Curbing Cars Podcast, Episode Three: Driverless Shuttles, Bike Lane Backlash And Public Transit Chaos

Click the link above to hear Episode Three of the Curbing Cars Podcast, co-hosted by Executive Editor Micheline Maynard and our intern, Colin Beresford.

Can’t play it above? Click here to listen. And, listen to the previous episode here.

In this episode, Micki and Colin go to the Robert H. Lurie Engineering Center at the University of Michigan, which will be a stop on the new driverless shuttle that begins operating in just a few weeks.

We also talk about the growing backlash against bike lanes, despite the growing use of bikes by urban commuters.

And, we discuss the latest in the continuing chaos in public transportation.

Curbing Cars is dedicated to bringing you information about the future of transportation across many different platforms. Our podcast is a regular feature. Find it here, on SoundCloud and soon on iTunes.

CO-HOSTS: Micki Maynard and Colin Beresford

PRODUCER: Colin Beresford

MUSIC PRODUCER: Mark Remillard

Thanks to our Kickstarter backers who made this week’s episode possible. If you’re interested in underwriting future podcast episodes, get in touch with us at CurbingCars@gmail.com. We’ll mention you at the end of every show.

 

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Filed under podcast, public transportation, urban planning

Self-Driving Vehicles Are Coming Faster Than You Think

This fall, University of Michigan students can test out self-driving shuttles. Photo: University of Michigan

Self-driving car testing is now so common that people in California don’t even look up when one goes by. Tests have taken place in Arizona and Michigan, too, while New York State recently approved a year-long pilot program to test autonomous vehicles.

But thus far, members of the public have largely been unable to ride in the latest self-driving vehicles. That’s about to change.

This fall, the University of Michigan will become the first campus in the country to offer a self-driving shuttle service. There will be 15 Nayva Arma buses that will take riders between the North Campus Research Complex on the north side of Ann Arbor and the Lurie Engineering Center about a mile away. In all, the loop will be about two miles.

These students, faculty and staff members may be part of a historic shift in the way we get around. And, it could cause some societal disruption.

This past week, Robin Young, co-host of NPR’s Here & Now, talked to Huei Peng, the director of MCity, where the university is conducting its self-driving vehicle research. (I interviewed Peng at MCity for Here & Now last February.)

The self-driving shuttles grow out of the miniature town that Michigan has created so that car and technology companies can test their vehicles and autonomous vehicle features.

How they get around

In the interview with Young, Peng answered some of the questions that many people have had about self-driving vehicles. They operate in two ways. One is by fixed routes, in which the shuttles only travel from point A to point B and back. The other is by GPS, so that the shuttles can figure out alternative routes in case something gets in the way of their programmed route.

That’s vital in Ann Arbor, where construction is taking place all over town, and where accidents and other obstructions are common. To be sure, the shuttles will travel a construction-free route, but high winds and blizzards can always cause havoc.

The university is also concerned about something I’ve worried about. The shuttles just seem too tempting for student mischief. Peng talked about students wanting to cram into a shuttle and set a Guinness World Record. I’ve been concerned that some smart tech geek will figure out how to re-program a shuttle and take it to Chicago. Continue reading

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Filed under autonomous, Driving, public transportation

The Auto Industry Prepares For A Big Change In Direction

Which direction will the auto industry take?

If you follow auto sales, you know two things about how they’ve been doing recently. They boomed the past couple of years, but they’ve started to trail off this year.

That’s no surprise. The auto industry is a cyclical business. But, there’s a growing awareness that the automotive landscape is changing, and even people who produce cars for a living may not realize what is heading their way.

That’s a conclusion from a new report by AlixPartners, the strategic planning and consulting firm used by major companies worldwide. Some of AlixPartners’ experts were involved in advising the Obama Administration about the  bailout of the auto industry, back in 2009, so it’s a prestigious name.

There’s an all-new automotive ecosystem developing, and I fear that many players really aren’t prepared for it,” says John Hoffecker, global vice chairman at AlixPartners. “The changes coming are the biggest since the internal-combustion engine pushed aside horses and buggies.”

But, Hoffecker also says the changes are as unpredictable as “trying to guess which app is going to be most popular on next year’s smartphones.”

I spent some time reading the report this past week, and these things jumped out at me.

New ideas and competition

Five years ago, Tesla was a curiosity, a billionaire’s pet project promising to produce ultra-luxury electric cars. Now, Tesla is one of the most valuable brands in the automobile industry and it just built the first Model 3, the moderately priced electric car it wants to sell to the masses.

Tesla’s rise shows just how fast things are moving in the industry and the influence that an outsider can have. To give it some perspective, five years is the length of a car company’s production cycle, the number of years that a model is generally on the market before a major change.

AlixPartners says there are now 50 companies competing to produce autonomous vehicle systems. It’s a “wild west” atmosphere that the industry hasn’t seen in more than a century, when there were dozens of car companies in the U.S. and around the world. Continue reading

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Filed under car sharing, cars, cities, Driving, economy, ride sharing

My Transportation Diet: Getting Around By Bus And Bike In Des Moines

This week, Curbing Cars inaugurates a new feature called My Transportation Diet. We’re asking our audience to tell us how they get around where they live and work.

First up is Michael Leland, who is the News Director of Iowa Public Radio. He lives in Des Moines.

“My transportation habits are a little of several things.  I live about a half-mile from my office in Des Moines, so it takes me about 10 minutes to walk to work.  I’ve mostly walked to work for the last two jobs I’ve had over the last 10 years.

I drive if I need to do something after work, like grocery shop.

I live a couple of blocks from a commercial district, so a coffee shop, my bank, and several restaurants and bars are all within a 15 minute walk from my home.

I live close enough to downtown (20-25 minutes) to walk to things like the library, barber, farmer’s market, church, etc., though sometimes I take a free circulator bus into downtown from the office, and then walk home.

I mostly use my car for errands like grocery shopping and other weekend needs.  Sadly, the downtown area in Des Moines doesn’t have stores like Target, PetsMart, and other major retailers, so I need my car for those.

I do some errands by bike,  but Des Moines is sort of behind the curve in developing a good system of bike routes and lanes.  I would do more if that was the case.”

We’d love to feature you in My Transportation Diet. Send us your story at curbingcars@gmail.com. We’d welcome your photos and video, too.

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Filed under bicycling, cars, cities, Driving, My Transportation Diet, public transportation

What’s Your Transportation Diet?

Summer is underway, and we’d like to hear from you. What is your transportation diet these days?

How would you describe your mix of personal transportation? Do you primarily drive, walk, or use public transportation? How often do you bike, use a skateboard or even get around by boat or plane?

Perhaps things change depending on your schedule. For instance, you drive in one or two days a week, and share a ride the rest of the time. Or, you’ll only drive if you have an early meeting. Let us know.

Knowing how you get around will help us frame our future coverage. We want to know whether our audience is relying on cars, buses, streetcars, their two feet, etc.

We’ll publish your responses and we’d love it if you’d include a photo of a video of your commute or leisure travel.

Please tell us your name (not a screen name, please) where you live, and if there are any roads you regularly take (for instance, Interstate 96, Milwaukee Avenue, Canal Street, and so on) or transportation systems that you regularly use, like the New York subway, the Boston T or rapid bus lines.

Send comments, photos and videos to curbingcars@gmail.com.

Thanks!

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Filed under bicycling, cars, cities, Driving, Travel, walking

Texas 2, Elon Musk 0. Why Tesla Can’t Get A Break In The Lone Star State

Texas is the country’s second-largest state in terms of population, with an estimated 27.4 million people. It ranks only behind California. And, it has long been known as a place where entrepreneurs are celebrated.

So, why is there so much bad blood between Texas and Tesla founder Elon Musk?

This past week, Texas brought back a $2,500 tax incentive for the purchase of an electric vehicle. That means Texans can receive up to $10,000 in tax breaks, including federal incentives, for purchasing a car that plugs in rather than runs solely on gasoline.

But, Texans will have to purchase something other than the country’s most famous electric vehicles. The incentive only applies to vehicles purchased from car dealers in Texas, and Tesla only sells online.

It’s tried twice to get the Texas Legislature to give it permission to operate the Tesla way, but it simply can’t get a break. Just a few weeks back, a Tesla-backed proposal to allow any automaker to sell to consumers failed to move forward..

To be sure, Texas has showrooms in Texas, as well as a service center, and there are Teslas on the road. But to own a Tesla in Texas, owners have to go through a multi-step process that includes buying the car online, paying state sales tax to Texas, registering the vehicle in Texas, and arranging financing if the owner isn’t paying upfront.

On the surface, the decision by Texas to keep out Elon Musk’s company makes no sense. He’s one of the world’s most notable figures, just the kind of go-getter that Texans admire.  If the legislature wants to give people a break to buy electric vehicles, why wouldn’t it allow Texans to buy the buzziest ones?

I talked about this last week on Texas Standard, the public radio magazine program heard on stations across Texas. Listen to my interview here. Continue reading

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Filed under economy, mobility, Technology