Category Archives: car sharing

The Two Faces Of Uber: Getting Banned And Becoming Public Transportation

Even as it is under fire, Uber’s role is expanding. Photo via Uber

Over the past seven years, Uber and ride-sharing have taken the transportation world by storm, changing consumers’ transportation habits, and forcing cities around the country to rethink their own transportation systems.

Uber’s troubles still get most of the attention.

Last week, a federal judge ruled that a lawsuit by Google’s self-driving car division, Waymo, will go to trial. Waymo has accused one of its former engineers of stealing thousands of pages of trade secrets when he left, and taking them over to Uber. The judge rejected Uber’s claim that the dispute was an employment matter that should have been settled through arbitration.

In the meantime, Uber is moving beyond its original approach of growing its customer base through individual customers. Some states and cities are ncreasing the role of Uber within their jurisdictions.

Five Florida cities are subsidizing Uber rides, and providing further support by paying for rides to public transportation stations. A New York City proposal, if passed, would force Uber to add a tipping option for riders within the city. And Edmonton, Alberta has begun exploring a partnership with Uber and other ride-sharing companies, in an effort to replace bus routes.

Making deals with cities

Last June, the Florida cities of Altamonte Springs, Longwood, Lake Mary, Sanford and Maitland, began their pilot programs with Uber. The five are located just north of Orlando, and aim to save money, reduce traffic congestion and increase ridership of their SunRail train system.

The program subsidizes 20 percent of every Uber ride beginning and ending within the city. Trips that end or begin at a SunRail station are subsidized 25 percent, according to the Orlando Sentinel. These ideas are often referred to as “last-mile programs,” meant to bring riders to public transportation stations.

Uber kept the amount of money it received from each city a secret until January, when a Longwood city clerk, Michelle Longo, released the invoices from Uber to the Sentinel.

Longo told the newspaper, “While Uber claims this invoice is a confidential trade secret and exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act, it is the City’s position that this invoice is not confidential and exempt and that the public should have access to this invoice reflecting the amount that Uber is seeking payment from the City under the Pilot Project Agreement.” Continue reading

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Filed under car sharing, cities, infrastructure, Uncategorized

A Look At The Future Of Transportation With Bob Brinker On MoneyTalk

Curbing Cars editor Micheline Maynard spent time on MoneyTalk with Bob Brinker this week, discussing General Motors, driverless cars, Detroit bankruptcy and the journalism industry. Listen to the radio segment here (the interview begins at about 9:15):

Micheline Maynard On Moneytalk

 

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Filed under book, car sharing, Driving, media, public transportation

Mayors Of Atlanta And New Orleans Say Uber Will Win

On the heels of large Uber protests across Europe, The Atlantic reports the mayors of Atlanta and New Orleans believe Uber will eventually beat out the taxi companies. There’s one more thing the two mayors agree on:  it will be a long and bitter battle between the two.

Calling it a 15-round fight, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he thinks Uber will eventually force taxi companies to alter their business model. Reed told The Atlantic, “In the interim, they’re going to flat out fight it out … because the taxicab industry is so old and staid and never had real competition, and now it’s being forced to innovate.”

The only reservation Reed seemed to express about Uber is its rapid growth and the question of where the company, and its quality, will be a few years down the road. 

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu echoed similar concerns about the company’s political skills, but called Uber’s business model superior to taxi companies. Continue reading

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Filed under car sharing, cars, cities, Driving, laws, ride sharing, Uncategorized

Vegas, Baby: Could Sin City Become A Transit Model?

By Micheline Maynard

If you’ve been to Las Vegas, it’s likely that you’re not thinking about transportation. You’re looking at neon signs, hearing the jangle of slot machines, or watching an elaborate show. dentist-las-vegas-nv21

Yet, The Atlantic Cities reports that Vegas might wind up being a major laboratory for the future of car ownership. Specifically, the idea comes from Project 100, which has been launched by Tony Hsieh, the chief executive of Zappos, the online shoe retailer that is based downtown.

Project 100’s name derives from the quantity of vehicles it plans to offer, according to Cities: “100 Tesla S sedans equipped with professional drivers (a la Uber), 100 short-range electric vehicles you drive yourself (e.g. Zipcar or Car2go), 100 bicycles for sharing, and shuttles with 100 stops across the area. At launch, however, the service will be much smaller. No drivers, no shuttles — only a trolley car on an infinite loop and a handful of Teslas rentable by the minute or hour.”

While apparently a first for America, something like it has been tried in Germany. Continue reading

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Filed under bike sharing, car sharing, cars, cities, urban planning

Is It The Weather, Or Is It Just Us

Car makers insist that the polar vortices of early 2014 are the main reason domestic sales are down from 2013 levels

By Frederick Meier

2013 was a recovery year for the automotive industry in North America.  Improvements in housing markets and pent-up consumer demand had Americans buying more cars than they had since the beginning of the recession.  But it was a trend that began to slow down in the fall, and really decelerated in December, as fierce winter weather pushed potential buyers indoors, and off of showroom floors.

This past January, Americans bought slightly more than 1 million vehicles. That was about 32,000 fewer than in January 2013, for the first year-over-year monthly sales drop since August of 2010, according to Ward’s Automotive.  Ford and GM both failed to hit their sales targets in January. Both blamed the weather; and both expressed confidence that, once the snow cleared, we would be seeing a car-hungry market making up for lost time.

But the frigid weather affecting most of the country continued long into February.

And observers of the auto market continued to blame the weather, even while executives from several of the ailing auto dealer networks quietly retired amid rumors that the shake ups were actually in response to dwindling sales.

Now, with February sales figures coming this week, the industry will get a snapshot of whether slower sales can be blamed on the weather — or whether they can be blamed on us.

Some analysts are expressing optimism over the February performance.

J.D. Power and Associates contends that sales picked up in the last week of the month, while Cars.com predicted that new-vehicle sales would rise 1.1 percent year-over-year to 1.2 million units, and an estimated 15.4 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR).

If this turns out to be true, these numbers would reflect the highest sales for the month since February 2008.

But, analysts overshot the mark in January, somehow missing the fact that consumers were more concerned about getting out of their driveways than putting new cars on them.

Stay tuned for more this week about U.S. auto sales, and how they reflect changing attitudes among American drivers.

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The Results Are In! How You Told Us You’re Getting Around In 2014

More than any other mode of transportation, our Curbing Cars readers get around by walking.

More than any other mode of transportation, our Curbing Cars readers get around by walking.

By Micheline Maynard

Back on New Year’s Day (a mere month and three days ago), we asked our Curbing Cars audience to tell us how you planned to get around in 2014. We got a terrific response and now we’re sharing the results with you.

We’re ambulatory. Most of us still use cars, but not as much as we use other types of transportation in the mix of the ways we get places. The number one way Curbing Cars readers get around is on two feet. Almost 80 percent of respondents say they get around most frequently by walking. That was followed by public transportation, used by 69.7 percent; cars, used by 58.1 percent and other modes of transportation, which included running, Zipcars or car sharing programs, and taxis.

Several people told us that they use of a mix of transportation in a single day. “I walk to work every day, bus in bad weather, bike for some errands in spring/summer/fall. use my car mainly for weekend shopping and for getting out of town,” replied one survey participant.

In fact, I’m doing more walking this winter in Phoenix, where I’m a Reynolds Visiting Professor of Business Journalism at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State. I walk to school every day from my home downtown, and I’ve walked to the farmer’s market, the movies, to drinks and dinner, and to the Phoenix Opera in the month since I’ve been here. Even though I walked frequently in Ann Arbor, I am doing even more daily walking here. (And of course, the weather is much better…)

We’re pleased with our choices. People seem to be pretty satisfied with the mix of the ways they get places. About 60 percent of you said you were happy with your transportation mix. About 24 percent said they’d like to change it, and the rest said they would like to change it, but couldn’t for various reasons. Continue reading

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Filed under bicycling, bike sharing, car sharing, cars, Curbing Cars, Driving, Poll, public transportation, Uncategorized, walking

Can Anne Get Along Without A Car? A View From San Diego

Frederick says Anne can get alone even without one of these.

Frederick says Anne can get alone even without one of these.

By Micheline Maynard

Our reader Anne in Ann Arbor has asked for advice on whether to keep her 1998 Honda Civic or go car free. Frederick Ollinger in San Diego says she can pull the plug, and tells her how.

Dear Anne,

You access to a car will impact your life decisions and make you more or less car dependent.

For example, you say that your suburb is car dependent. How did this happen? This could only occur if the developers and residents all decided that they were going to have access to a car.

If, on the other hand, at the beginning of this decision making process, you did not have a car, you would have made different decisions.

For example, when my wife and I moved from pedestrian Philly to “car dependent” San Diego, every one “knew” that we needed a car. Five years later we live not only without a car, but without a Zipcar.

How? Continue reading

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Filed under advice, car sharing, cars, cities, Driving

From Austin, Some Ideas For Anne On Transportation Choices

By Micheline Maynard

Andrew Hartford wrote for us recently about the ways he gets around Austin without a car. We asked him to provide our reader Anne in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with ideas for deciding whether to keep her 1998 Honda Civic, or go car free.

Hi Anne,

I have been in your situation before.  I’ve had car troubles in the past, and wondered if it was really even worth owning one (the cost and stress of maintaining it) considering I had other options of getting around.  Ultimately, I realized that not owning a car doesn’t mean you have to cut cars out of your life completely.

As much as I am an advocate for alternative forms of transportation (biking, walking, and mass transit), I understand that there are situations in which a car might be needed (much of the U.S. is still very car-dependent). Continue reading

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Filed under advice, bicycling, car sharing

How Can You Get Around Without A Credit Card?

Divvy Bikes in Chicago.

Divvy Bikes in Chicago.

By Micheline Maynard

Unless they were lucky enough to get a gift certificate, pretty much everybody who has joined Citi Bike, ZipCar or Uber has something in common: a credit card.

But what if you want to get around, and you don’t have a credit card?

That’s a topic of active discussion in Chicago, where one in nine residents don’t have bank accounts, according to research reported this week by Streetsblog Chicago.

According to researcher Michael Carney at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, that translates to at least 135,000 people and perhaps more than twice as many people. In some parts of Chicago, one-third of area residents do not have bank accounts, but get by relying on cash or debit-style cards that aren’t linked to bank accounts.

One of the biggest reasons bike share and other transportation programs ask for credit cards is to offset the risk of damage to bikes or vehicles, or even the theft of the equipment. A rider, driver or consumer without a credit card can’t be billed if the information isn’t available.

The Chicago Department of Transportation, which runs Divvy Bikes, the city’s bike sharing system, is determined to get “unbanked” Chicagoans on bikes. It’s been looking at ways that it can make Divvy accessible to more people. Continue reading

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Filed under bike sharing, car sharing, ride sharing

10 Big Transportation Ideas: Why Own When You Can Rent?

In 2008, Zipcar had 200,000 members. This year, it has more than four times that many as car sharing catches on.

In 2008, Zipcar had 200,000 members. This year, it has more than four times that many as car sharing catches on.

By Micheline Maynard

Back in 2009, just before General Motors filed for bankruptcy, I wrote a story for The New York Times called, “Industry Fears Americans May Quit New Car Habit.”

This was a very real concern for the Obama administration, which was in the midst of investing $82 billion in reviving two car companies and restructuring other parts of the auto industry.

The story included an interview with Scott Griffith, the CEO of a fledgling company called Zipcar, which rented cars to customers by the hour. In 2008, Zipcar had signed up 200,000 members. In 2009, the company was aiming for 300,000.

Flash forward to 2013. Zipcar was sold this spring to the Avis Budget Group for $500 million. Zipcar now has 810,000 members. And the opportunities for expanding its network seem boundless.

But Zipcar is far from the only car sharing company out there. As you can see from our car resources page, there are all manner of places, both for-profit and non-profit, allowing people to use a car for short periods of time. Continue reading

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Filed under car sharing, Curbing Cars, Driving