A look at the people and technology behind Tokyo Metro’s renowned punctuality, safety, and exceptional customer service.

47 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: On-Time Metro”

    1. Ever try using the 316 heading out of DT?sometimes it never even comes.

      But bus systems stuck on the streetgrid will always be at the mercy of general traffic. Sure, add a dedicated bus lane and you can improve that, but ROW is expensive. Might as well build rail at that point – it’s a far better option.

      1. >> but ROW is expensive. Might as well build rail at that point – it’s a far better option.

        Not always. Jarrett Walker covers the subject quite well in this post: http://humantransit.org/2009/11/brisbane-bus-rapid-transit-soars.html. The section worth reading (which is only two paragraphs) is under the heading “UPDATE”.

        As with most situations, there are times when one solution makes sense, and a different solution does not. Whether you are talking about bus improvements, light rail, heavy rail, streetcars, gondolas or ferries, it all depends on the specific situation. Making general statements (like saying we should add gondolas everywhere) is an oversimplification.

    2. Bernie, I think there’s a context here. Which is that the way you guarantee that no one misses a train by any amount of time is to notice, acknowledge and correct every single error in any direction. Five thousand years of Japan’s size, population, and geographic location and we’d be issuing the same announcements.

      Mark

  1. So, STB is the abbreviation for Seattle Transit Blog.

    It also happens to be the route name for a light rail/streetcar line line in Innsbruck. Sadly, the cab view video only gives a hint of the snow capped peaks nearby. There are steep grades, sharp curves, several switchbacks, and occasional street running.

    1. Bielefeld, that’s where my college friend was from. STB 1 must be the subway he was talking about when he said, “Bielefeld has a subway now!” It’s a small city of 300K and has a system like surface Link with a downtown tunnel. It could work in Spokane and Tacoma if we had the political will and better land use.

    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trieste%E2%80%93Opicina_tramway

      Oran, many thanks for this video, which I think is an excellent introduction to the transit world of the future. Not for the equipment or operations stats, however impressive.

      But for the indoctrination and training of the driver himself, running the train with his body, reflexes, and mind, instead of only his eyes and hands. Which I think is what gives him the conditioning to deliver a train within a fraction of a second.

      Which in a system with that passenger loading, speed, and size of train fleet is not showing off. In my observation, In addition to considerable ordinary skill, I suspect that operator training contains a great deal of meditation, to condition the person’s whole system to use its every inbuilt reflex to control train speed.

      And I don’t doubt smoothness in acceleration, adjusting speed, and stopping. But I also think Glenn’s video contains an excellent example of a technology using very different thinking and training. Electrically assisted, but very much same skills as when the electric streetcar service began in Austria in 1897.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trieste%E2%80%93Opicina_tramway

      Because its human operation, approach , and skills are a world of difference from the modern Japanese line. The work of both car and driver is strongly physical, even with modern pedal assist. Resistance the operator pulls and pushes against is a matter of conscious muscle work, as well as eyes, muscles, and hearing. Reading a great deal by vibration and sound and feel of material contact.

      However, my main point is that I’d like to see a program whereby our own electric rail drivers visit both of those systems for about a week each. Not just to see, but to train on them. To get a sense not only of vehicle operation and design, but the mental and subconscious conditioning underlying both kinds of operation.

      As first step not only in improved driving skills, but also ability to design equipment. I’m convinced that if we’d been able to do even near similar, it would have increased the capacity of DSTT joint operations many times over. Which the future isn’t.

      So I think a we should develop, with other US transit systems, a permanent program, call it Instruction Exchange, for our operators not only to visit foreign systems, but also train on them. From my travels, I think many if not most of the world’s ordinary people, right now really miss the world-class leadership of the United States.

      Whose first order of business is our return to the world, as soon as we can manage it.

      Mark Dublin

      ,

  2. Meanwhile, the new Munich-Berlin high-speed train started service and the debut train had problems and arrived two hours late. Oh the horror! It made international news.

    http://m.dw.com/en/new-berlin-munich-high-speed-train-experiences-another-glitch/a-41736011

    I’m amazed that while the US accepts delays and cost-cutting bad geometry as no big deal, other modern countries spend the money to safely design high-speed trains with PTC. It’s so expected that minor delays are big news Is it an indictment of their obsessivess or our low expectations?

    1. It is both a product of our low expectations and a dysfunctional political system. The Republican Party, for some time now, has been dominated by anti-government extremists. The Grover Norquist fans are busy trying to “shrink [the goverment] down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub”. That means they have no incentive to actually see things run well. If the government screws up, it only helps their cause.

      The Democratic Party is stuck trying to react. Republicans don’t offer constructive criticism, which means that it entirely up to the Democrats to figure out how to operate things. Since criticism of the government (especially by Democrats) would be used by Republicans as justification for more cuts, there is very little open discussion. Either you are for us or against us, to quote one such Republican, although it can be applied to many Democrats as well. Republicans who want to “get the most band for the buck” with any government program are unread of, while Democrats who want to “reinvent government” (by making it more effective) are dismissed. Meanwhile, most of the electorate is just oblivious, and focused on trivial matters (emails and tweets). It is telling that an idea (a regulated free market health care system) that was first proposed by a Republican President (Nixon) and first implemented by a Republican governor (Romney) has no base of support in the Republican Party. If this was forty years ago, you would think the Republicans would basically be arguing “good idea, but you are doing it wrong, I’ll show you how to do it right’, not “let’s get rid of it”. But if the Republicans can’t support NixonCare (or RomneyCare) then it is pretty hard to expect them to give a rat’s ass about train travel in this country.

      1. Ross, reason I’m out of both sympathy and pity for the Democratic Party is that I’ve yet to hear Word #1 over a set of events that will give them a young, energized constituency for at least a generation. Or lose us our country, period.

        Every single person college-age I’ve met all year has two things on their mind that have them scared worse than the draft did in 1967. That they’ll be in debt for the rest of their lives. For a degree that doesn’t promise them Job #1. Under worst lending conditions on Earth. Starting with no bankruptcy protection allowed.

        Levied on them by several generations who got most or all of their education paid for by parents or taxpayers, or both. By history, death by debt is political nitroglycerin. For this many people this young, lifetime opportunity for lifetime in office for anyone taking their side.

        Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but did Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat say Word #1 on this subject? Let alone make it their lead platform plank with a sharp rusty nail through one end. For starters on a years-long campaign to pump their party rolls full of ferocious young numbers.

        Since you can get tried as an adult at 16, don’t adults get to vote? Point made, put on a bumper sticker, and varnished. Can’t vote yet? In my union days, got Mike Lowry’s attention when I almost ran over his car turning from my Route 43 from 23rd onto Thomas. So as Governor, invitation to an official breakfast at the Capitol.

        Guests of honor were kids in high school student government. Girl president asked what was the point of high school politics if students couldn’t vote. Somebody asked the Governor if it would make any difference in an election if everybody in high school in a district worked for a candidate. Answer?

        “I could take any election in the State!” Add a career-starting government job to the debt-destruction effort – call it National Service and give cadets trainee positions in the civil one, like the Swedes do…rest should be really history.

        At least Democrats’ current lack of interest can have one tactical benefit. Nobody will see this coming. Except, unfortunately for the Nazis, who took it first-hand from Hitler himself. “Give me a child when he’s six….” And are probably on it as we speak. Works even better with sixteen too.

        Every single political party in Europe has also had a youth wing forever.

        Run this by a Democrat of your choice around age 30 or 40 and see how long ’til some reference to objections from the financial service world enters the conversation. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe in assisted suicide for a party that’s lost the will to live.

        And whom last election proved perfectly capable of killing themselves.

        Mark

      2. The Republican Party, for some time now, has been dominated by anti-government extremists…
        The Democratic Party is stuck trying to react.

        Yet, in 1987 the Japanese government privatized the debt-ridden Japan National Railway (JNR), which had run Japan’s national railway network since the Meiji era. There are many aspects of Japanese rail that we should strive to emulate. Privatization of Amtrak may be a first and necessary step. And before anyone jumps in and says that only works there because of Japanese culture; it’s worked pretty damn well in England too.

      3. The Hoosier State was one Amtrak route that was supposed to serve as an example of how privatization of Amtrak would work.

        Iowa Pacific Holdings wound up in bankruptcy after Indiana dumped a huge pile of money into the service.

        Portland Union Station is publicly owned but the city turned it over to a private management company. I’ve yet to hear anyone compare it favorably to King Street Station under the current management. Their interest is how much money they make, not the Amtrak passenger experience.

        Therefore, it seems prudent to determine just what problems need to be solved first, then determine if/how privatization is able to solve them.

        So far, privatization of public resources in the USA doesn’t have a particularly great track record of solving issues.

      4. So far, privatization of public resources in the USA doesn’t have a particularly great track record of solving issues.

        The bar set by Amtrak is pretty low. Sometimes things just need to go away; paddle wheel steamers on the Mississippi, Pony Express, land lines. But as long as government can keep shoveling money into the furnace… Full Steam Ahead.

      5. That same reasoning could apply to public transportation of any type though. In that case you wind up with several ex-King County Metro routes running with vastly higher ticket prices and you’ll need to build a lot more parking in downtown Seattle.

      6. Europe doesn’t think intercity trains are obsolete. It’s government policy that subsidized the interstates and airports and neglected trains that led to Amtrak’s skeletal state. If the trains kept up with at least the speed of the interstates and ran more than once a day or three times a week and were more reliable, people would ride them more. When you put in a high-quality ordinary train (not a special luxury train that the 90% can’t afford), people use it. The Empire Builder is not hurting for lack of riders; the trains are full in North Dakota even though they leave between midnight and 6am; it’s the capacity cap and once-a-day schedule that limit their growth. There may be certain lines that underperform; I only know about the ones in Seattle.

      7. The Empire Builder is not hurting for lack of riders

        Actually, it is. And ironically, for the exact same reason that lead to it’s record ridership, the Balken oil boom. In fact it’s a double whammy, freight congestion on the lines and cheaper oil prices.

        Amtrak sees big drop in riders through Twin Cities

        Amtrak’s Empire Builder struggles in freight boom

        Perhaps he cruelest blown was delivered by the U.S. Court of Appeals “saying that Amtrak is a private company and that it could not regulate other private companies.” Like the Postal Service, it’s stuck in limbo where it’s mandated to improve profitability but the Congressional overlords won’t allow it.

      8. To date, the USA can’t use off the shelf trains designed for use elsewhere in the world. Give Amtrak access to what everyone else has without a special design process and things become easier and cheaper.

        Nippon Sharyo will likely close its USA plant in a few months as it has found current passenger car manufacturing in the USA economically non-viable.

      9. “So far, privatization of public resources in the USA doesn’t have a particularly great track record of solving issues.”

        How about Pronto.

      10. Ah yes, I forget about the Bskken effect because my trips were before it. But this illustrates my greater point: the problem with passenger rail is not that people intrinsically don’t want to ride it, but that external factors get in its way and prevent it from being reliable, and people leave because if the reliability or ridiculous schedules. Is it really surprising that fewer people are willing to take a train at 4am instead of 4pm? Most people on the train are not going all the way from Seattle to Chicago, so a fill-in train going partway at another time could tap the pent-up demand. I used to go to Vancouver BC monthly, and the train is great for going up on the morning and coming back in the evening. But I took Greyhound because I could leave Friday after work, have two nights of nightlife, and come back early Sunday morning. The High Line from Sandpoint to Minneapolis doesn’t even have a bus alternative: you have to take a once-a-day north-south bus ninety miles south to get an an east-west bus, and then take a third bus north.

      11. Inconvenient timing is inherent in long distance train travel. Because it literally takes days to get from Seattle to Chicago either one or both of those destinations have atrocious arrival/departure times and you’re guaranteed at least some of the intermediate stops are going to be at Oh-dark-thirty. Add to that the competing demand of sightseeing versus basic transportation. People want to see Glacier National Park during daylight but then stops either side are going to be at night. You can’t just add trains because it cannibalizes ridership from the existing routes. You’re back to the basic issue of Amtrak attempting to be a spork. A private for profit company would undoubtedly adopt the high end model enjoyed by the VIA Canadian. Your complaint was that 90% of the public couldn’t afford it but isn’t it better to provide a service that 10% are interested in rather than <2%? A private company could also "pivot" and create special service when unique opportunities arise such as the oil boom in N. Dakota. Thanks in no small measure to the ability to just as easily delete service that is no longer popular rather than letting it drag down the rest of the system in perpetuity.

      12. If the trains ran 12 hours apart rather than 24, then stops with always-nighttime service would have daytime. That would put both Seattle and Chicago in darkness, but as I said they could run shorter-distance trains and a few hours’ adjustment.

        How is Amtrak dragging down the rest of the system in perpetuity? The subsidy isn’t very much in the context of the federal budget.

  3. A streetcar ran in snow Christmas eve,
    icy river crossing three and more bridges.
    Snow kept 4-wheeled conveyances at bay.
    Electric EVs ran proudly putting the cart before the horse,
    Robocar or voice actuate and otherwise programmed,
    self-driving sports limo travel devices.
    Should side-windows become monitors?
    Displaying passing scenic vistas,
    while in find parking place mode?

  4. I’ve been working in Japan for almost two months now with a little over a month left to go. The amount of dedication they give to their train infrastructure is astounding and it really pays off. It makes getting around really easy.

    Plus, most everyone here is really civilized when it comes to boarding/deboarding a train. People wait in orderly lines and step to the sides of the doors to give people space to get off the train before anyone tries to get on.

    The most interesting setup I’ve seen so far is the Meitetsu in Nagoya. The main hub station for that system has multiple lines that use the same platforms. So, they have different lines and stagger where train doors end up so that people can all wait for different train lines simultaneously. Plus, they’ve set it up so that it’s double sided, with one side that opens a second or two early to let people out before the people waiting on the other side get in.

    1. Ha! I’ll be heading to Nagoya this spring. I’m looking forward to it.

      But, yes, dedication to rail infrastructure really pays off. We could learn a thing or two from Japan. Or Germany. Or Europe in general. Or……

  5. Just want to wish all the Seattle Transit Blog staff and contributors a very merry Christmas and thanks for all you do.

    Also bumped into the legend that is Zach Shaner recently. Doing great. Looks like the Star Trek: Discovery’s USS Discovery Security Officer.

    I know many of you in the STB community see differently than I do on many issues. Just understand we want the same thing (I hope): More transit, more places, more often.

  6. Oran, most interesting point in this posting is that a first-rate transit system measuring time to a second finds human drivers better for the job than computers. Maybe it’s what I keep suspecting: that we humans have senses evolved into us since before we had tails, let alone lost them.

    But because we’re unaware of having them, can’t program them into a computer. Which couldn’t perform as well as a human if they could. Informed by forces a computer itself can’t feel. Like perhaps the rotation of the Earth or its per second location in its orbit around the sun. Have read that migratory birds navigate by Earth’s magnetic fields. Just looking at the operator, you can tell he’s feeling those seconds, not reading them on the gauge.

    But chief suspicion of all, for any autonomous set of wheels, is that unlike its digital counterpart, a human hand on the controller is attached to a body and brain that know what a subway train is, and also care if input and reactions get him killed on duty.

    Also, under management whose budget gives max value to performance on duty, instead of fewer workers with fewer benefits yet.

    Mark

  7. Bernie, you’re assuming that anybody’s share-holders will want Amtrak. Veolia might be interested LINK when last bus leaves the DSTT. But wouldn’t have touched joint ops with a twelve-foot long trolleypole.

    Mark

    1. It would be great if someone would actually buy Amtrak. Although not a shining beacon of efficiency we do have the example of the Post Office partial privatization. If Congress would get out of the way and let them set their own rates and do things like cut automatic Saturday delivery it would help. Which gets back to a root problem, if there isn’t paid demand for a service it just needs to go away. Passenger rail is not part of the social safety net. And don’t cry about some obscure town in Central Dakota that would die without Amtrak service. Lots of towns have dried up when the highway passed them by.

      1. All the non voting shares are already privately owned by some hedge fund owner, plus a collection of the freight railroads.

        I’m not quite certain what complete privatization really gains anyone. They’d eliminate the engineering department and long term capital investment, since those areas don’t have any income associated with them. Congress would probably still put various requirements on the fates, just like they do with FTA grants.

      2. A privatized postal service wouldn’t serve rural areas, or would have to find a way to charge more for rural service. Republicans hate socialist programs, until you go after the ones they like (farm subsidies, highway spending, postal service, etc).

      3. I have mixed opinions about Amtrak. On the one hand, it’s important to realize that if Amtrak were privatized, it would basically be the end of passenger rail service as we know it. Outside the northeast corridor, the rest of the network would be sold for almost nothing, and immediately dismantled. The most likely buyer would be owner of the freight lines, excited about running more freight trains, without pesky passengers on the track to slow them down. The passenger locomotives would most likely be sold or rented to agencies like Sound Transit for use as commuter rail.

        On the other hand, it’s not like the end of train service between two cities would be the end of transportation service. Long-haul trips, like Seattle->Chicago are well served by the airlines, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Short-haul trips like Seattle->Spokane are served by Greyhound buses, and aren’t likely to go away either. Even smaller communities like Olympia or Bellingham, on the way between big cities, have private-sector bus service today. Yes, communities like Minot, North Dakota would most likely lose all service, even there, a driverless van service could potentially turn a profit. With small vehicles and no driver to pay, it is not at all difficult to imagine a 10-person van running a profitable jitney service, at a cost similar to today’s Amtrak fare.

        I would also presume that routes supported entirely by the states (like Cascades) would continue to operate under a different brand name, even with Amtrak has a whole, were to disappear.

      4. Bernie, there’s a scene in “Gangs of New York” showing how the pre-Civil War city handled paid demand for fire protection.

        As soon as your house caught fire, there’d be at least two gangs of thugs with fire-axes attacking each other to see who got to steal your possessions. Who would then Demand to be Paid for their Services. Look up “shillelagh” except the winning Fire Captain said it “shil lay-ly”, he did he did! Before he whacked you with it.

        A few years later, the one vote passage of our military draft indicated to the Japanese high command we thought something else deserved to go away:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbNv7njA-Aw

        Would you say that the Interstate highway system isn’t part of the social safety net? I’m with you there. Toll ’em all, right? Steep. And ever see an employment form that didn’t require a car to get hired? Which employer senses no demand whatever to buy for you.

        Now, Congress. There’s some evidence that when opioid prescriptions became a concern, the demand for patient protection was far exceeded by the pharmaceutical industry’s polite request to get a lot of regulations out of their way.

        For the victims- well nobody said they couldn’t use it!- demand in one hand, get the other really wet, and see which one fills up first, a replaced Congress or the Medical Examiner’s really cold chest of drawers.

        But I owe you a clarification. Other day you saw me on that stretch of the Interstate headed past a mall that used to be a favorite town of mine, I wasn’t crying. Just using the handkerchief to wipe off the puke.

        And thinking best way to word a demand to supply your philosophy’s departure from the front side of my face.

        Mark

      5. “I would also presume that routes supported entirely by the states (like Cascades) would continue to operate under a different brand name, even with Amtrak has a whole, were to disappear.”

        Part of the law creating Amtrak is that the railroads can only charge it for the incremental cost of hosting it, and they must give it priority within its scheduled time window. That’s why state lines like Cascades use Amtrak to operate it. If Amtrak disappears or is restructured those privileges will no longer be enforceable and the railroads will be able to charge Amtrak a thousand dollars an hour for their freight maintenance costs and give it the lowest priority.

    2. In a very theoretical way, I wonder if our railroads should work like the public roads or public airports model.

      All rails and signaling would be built, owned and maintained (by contract possibly) by the state government including signals. The actual engines and cars would however be owned by private companies, who pay for the tracks as a user-based toll.

      I can only imagine how high the cost to buy out tracks would be. Transition difficulties notwithstanding, our entire approach to rail would be radically different.

      1. Every once in a while someone brings up the idea of “open access” and the freight railroads protest so vociferously the subject isn’t brought up again until everyone that remembers it has been voted out of office or retired.

    3. I recently found out that Neil Postman was the sample in the song Faustian Bargain, “In America we’re considering whether to spend billions of public dollars for something called the super information highway. What is the problem to which the super information highway is the solution? When you ask the authorities the same question I ask a car salesman about power windows and cruise control, you get some curious answers. One is that we have only fifty television channels. With the super information highway there will be five hundred, maybe even a thousand. Is this a problem that really needs a solution?”

      The same question can be applied to Amtrak privatization. What is the problem to which selling Amtrak is the solution? If the proponents were forced to make their reasoning explicit to Congress, most of the answers would probably have nothing to do with improving transportation, but instead focus on an ideological “Privatize everything” or saving the annual Amtrak subsidy. And probably the proposed uses for the recovered Amtrak subsidy would have nothing to do with improving public transportation in any form. the net result would be cutting down people’s choices, and leaving areas in even greater car-and-plane dependancy than before. (Since intercity buses are also skeletal. Greyhound runs two buses per day from New York to either Los Angeles or San Francisco, and all trips from other places are funneled through these two buses between Denver and St Louis and a bus further south.
      In what universe can a country of 320 million people possibly have only a hundred people per day traveling between the midwest and west coast?)

  8. For services needed, as opposed to merely wanted, by the public, some cold business questions. By law, isn’t a publicly traded firm required to give first consideration to the demands of its shareholders?

    If so, is there any chance that an unforeseen downturn could create a legal conflict of interest between customers, read “passengers” and shareholders?

    With passengers obligated by contract to pay private profits with money they could have used for service had the system stayed publicly owned? So in common legal phrase:

    For the proposition that private companies generally provide better public service than those owned by the public themselves….Show Me The Proof.

    Mark

    1. Corporations in the mid century recognized a balanced responsibility to their shareholders, employees, customers, and the public. But in the 1980s deregulation environment shareholders hijacked this and convinced everybody that their profits was the companies’ sole responsibility. Likewise CEOs claimed that they were the only valuable person in the company and fanagled astronomical salaries for themselves. There’s an interesting parallel with monopoly law. It’s now used to keep companies from price-gouging people if they’re the sole supplier of something, but originally it had a larger purpose, to keep companies from amassing so much political power they essentially bought politicians and regulators. If we went back to enforcing antitrust law like in the early 20th century, thousands of congressional lobbyists in DC would find the door shut on them. And then we’d have a more level playing field, and questions like “Should companies focus solely on shareholders’ profits?” would be silly because corporations have responsibilities to everyone they relate to.

      1. Agreed. Now what do We the People do to fix it? From what I recall, it didn’t take either violent revolution or civil war, but large numbers of motivated, skilled, experienced, intelligent, and tough people to run for office.

        And for people too long on the losing end of a national monopoly to vote for them. One thing that’s made present system so tenacious is the credit card- probably most effective suppressionary measure in history. A limitless, painless, lifelong loan.

        Other really important thing about debt, from system’s point of view, is that a debtor is a human hooked fish. Feed him more than he could ever get by his own efforts in the wild, and give him enough line that the hook is finally painless. Unless he decides to get away.

        No one harder right than a permanent debtor. While he’s got an endless credit line for possessions, every cent he gives someone else, he has to pay back with interest. Main reason, I think, that this time the far right has held on for all these years.

        My own prediction is that when the system itself comes to the end of its own line of credit, Federal bailouts, it’ll also lose its ability to lend, leaving it only its collections agencies. What are they going to do? Repossess a million sound systems? A hundred million college degrees?

        But this is what makes me see so much opportunity in approaching student loan revolt. This time, debtors are young, and not a lot of mansions to repossess. Have heard talk of pulling licenses to practice medicine over unpaid debt. Wouldn’t put it past panicking creditors to jail people for contempt of court over failure to repay.

        Maybe major part of private prisons industry’s business plan. But if credit card collapse removes all ability to repay, can easily see a relatively young population, not a few with combat experience, making each other very hard to jail. Well-regulated, too.

        Luckily, what I’m really seeing among the young is real determination to get into partisan politics for the first time. And every election one wins, one more vote for the Federal national repair hiring program I think could be our country’s last chance to put ourselves, literally, back together. Without a dime or “stimulus” or charity.

        Far from the whole story, but worked enough for Franklin Roosevelt enough to get national working morale back up high enough for next move. Mainly the Second World War, whose industries put us on top, more than the weapons themselves. And more important, for a few decades at least, gave ordinary people the sense that we were running our own Government.

        “For every Season….”

        Mark

      2. “Now what do We the People do to fix it?:

        Vote Republicans out of office and convince Democrats to unequivocally put the people first. We need more Warrens and Sanderses. Maybe a Dublin?

        I don’t think everything revolves around debt. But one reason I’m really hesitant to buy a house or condo is I love being debt-free and having some savings, and I don’t want to put all my savings into a down payment and be indebted for thirty years, and possibly foreclosed on and lose my investment. On the other hand are skyrocketing rents and the possibility of someday having to move to a car-dependent burb or be homeless. People shouldn’t have to make that kind of choice.

        Theoretically when the masses have had enough, they’ll term-limit the hereditary aristocracy that’s re-forming. But theory is not actuality, and we don’t want to burn down the house, so it remains to be seen what happens. Hopefully, hopefully, the welfare-for-the-rich and trickle-down economics and nativism and vote-suppression have reached a dead end and will retreat in 2018 or 2020. The best thing for us in deep blue land is probably to move to a swing district if we can tolerate it. I just wish there were more swing areas that weren’t so car-dependent. But I suppose their car dependency is because they’re not blue.

      3. “reason I’m out of both sympathy and pity for the Democratic Party is that I’ve yet to hear Word #1 over a set of events that will give them a young, energized constituency for at least a generation.”

        A mediocre status quo is better than getting our feet cut off. I keep hearing the party has to “energize” them. Where’s their personal responsibility to vote for the best of the options, regardless of whether anybody energizes them?

  9. New York City considers a per-trip Uber fee to raise money to overhaul the subways ($) It says congestion is increasing in Manhattan as scores of cars drive around empty waiting for passengers. In contrast, taxis are capped at a maximum number. Chicago already has a carshare fee for transit. Seattle has a fee but it’s used to pay carshare’s regulatory overhead and to fund wheelchair-accessible cars. Uber says it would support a congestion fee in New York as long as it’s comprehensive; i.e., not targeting rideshares alone. The fee would have to be approved by the New York state legislature, which probably means fat chance.

    1. I read the article too. I like the idea of a congestion charge attached to every car that drives through Manhattan, with the toll varying depending on the time of day and day of week, but I don’t like the idea of an Uber-specific surcharge city-wide, at a flat rate. The latter scheme not only unfairly dings people traveling at odd hours when the roads are empty and transportation options much more limited, but it also increases the economic incentive for people living in the outer boroughs to buy a car, by making the competing option (mix of bus+Uber) more expensive. I would argue it is not fair to charge a congestion fee for Uber travelers in Manhatten while people rich enough to drive and park their own car (or get driven around by a private chauffeur) get to use the streets for free.

      At the same time, New York also needs to be more aggressive about the use of bus lanes. With bus lanes on every street with a major bus route, it would become completely irrelevant to mass transit users how slow and congested the road is for private cars. And if it provides an incentive for people with the financial means to afford Uber to ride the bus instead, all the better.

      Finally, I suspect there is room for improvement in Uber’s operations to reduce the amount of deadhead time drivers experience between passengers. 11 minutes of empty driving between trips, in the middle of Manhatten seems really excessive. Maybe if Uber could get people waiting for a ride to walk half a block so the driver could pick them up at the same time as dropping somebody else off (avoiding a slow circle around the block in stop-and-go traffic), that would help. Converting some of the metered parking to short-term loading zones where drivers could wait between trips, without circling around, would help too.

      Finally, it’s also worth noting that New York charges Uber sales tax, which Seattle does not. Currently, a typical trip across town costs nearly the same in Car2Go and Uber, even though Uber involves paying a driver, while Car2Go does not. The biggest reason is that Car2Go is subject to sales tax + rental car tax, adding up to about 17%, while Uber doesn’t currently charge any tax.

      1. I’m a big fan of congestion pricing. It seems like the obvious fix for Seattle’s tolling problem on the new tunnel. I’d even go as far as to say all revenue generated should go to public transit and pedestrian improvements.

        How is it that Uber skates on WA sales tax? I’m guessing it has something to do with services like lawyers not being taxed but others are.

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