Road to Nowhere: What Silicon Valley Gets Wrong about the Future of Transportation with Paris Marx
We will get started in about 1 minute. >>: Recording in progress. GERIKA LOGAN: Hello, everyone.
Welcome to our last event of the Tech In the City series. Today's guests, Paris Marx will assess the past decade of transportation failures and argue that we don't need a differented or entation towards transport if we are to solve key problems like road death, traffic, and emissions. My name is Gerika Logan. I am the outreach coordinator at the center for urban regional analysis, otherwise known as CURA.
I will be your host for this even vent. If you require closed captioning, you will find a box at the bottom of the screen, called CC. Click the box and select show subtitles. This will allow you to see the subtitles curing the presentation. Please feel free to submit questions at any time in the webinar using the Q&A box.
We will ask as many of your questions as we can in the last portion of the presentation and if we do not get to your question, we do apologize. If you have any questions following the event, please feel free to email me at Logan.433 at OSU.EDU. This erent say proved for one AICP, CM credit. To claim your CM credits, log into your A Pi account on the website and enter event into the CM event log.
There will an brief survey at the end of this webinar. If you do have time, please provide your feedback. I am now going to pass it over to our director, Harvey mill per. HARVEY MILLER: Okay.
Thank you,er go qua. And welcome, welcome, welcome to today's webinar. This is the final event in our series we have had all year, all academic beamic year on Tech In the City, the promises in peril to meet the challenge of an urban planet. And we are happy to have Paris max here today. Before we get into his talk, we will -- I will tell you about some our future events coming up. This summer, we have an event series called Race and Place, learning from the past and looking to the future.
Our first webinar in that series will be May 12th. We will have Michael Corey from the university of Minnesota. He will talk about the history of racial korve mention and how they develop into a powerful technology fl segregation. Le also demonstrate the machine, custom built software that allowed mapping prejudice to break decades long.
That will be an exciting event May 12th. A little teaser for the autumn series, called just streets, we are going to invite transportation scholars, social justice advocates and community engagement leaders to look at both the safety and social justice impacts of how we design and manage our streets in our community. This is still under development. Stay tuned for that one.
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You can also follow us on Twitter. We will be there until they experience a rapid unscheduled disassembly or something like that. That way, you'll never miss any of the great events happening at your friendly neighborhood Center for Urban and Regional Analysis at The Ohio State University. So now, to our speaker today, Paris Marx.
He is a Canadian tech critic, author of Road to Nowhere, when silicon valley gets wrong about the future of transportation and host. A award-winning podcast. Their work has been published in many outlets. Their work has been translated into more than 10 languages.
Paris earned a master's degree in urban geography from McGill University, researching silicon valley's efforts. He has spoken internationally about the future transportation. With that, Paris you, welcome. The floor is yours. PARIS MARX: Thanks so much, Harvey.
Thanks to Gerika as well for inviting me and for hosting this, putting it all together. Bringing up my slides here and then we will get started. The presentation is based on research I did in my master's degree, kind of writing that I had been doing can before that and ever since. A back that I wrote called Road to Nowhere, what Silicon Valley gets wrong about the future of transportation digs into all of these issues. Ie willing going throughies pieces of that, but not all of it. Feel free to ask me questions afterwards.
Happy to address them. I want to start by talking a bit about the history of where the car comes from before we talk about Silicon Valley's response to what is going on right now. So when we go back to the late 1800, the early 1900, this is the period when the car is really emerging. If we think back to that today, it can be easy to think that, okay, there's this new technology that invented, commed the automobile. And it rolls onto the streets and naturally this is just, you know, how things change, right. We get rid of of the horse and buggy and rid of the streetcars, and the car takes over.
Actually when we look back at that history, we can see it was a very contentious process that faced a lot of fears opposition. Car was tig that was for wealthy people, the people who were buying it initially were the higher class people in society, and they were entering this kind of road space, road atmosphere where you had people getting around in many different ways from walking to cycling to streetcars, to horse-drawn carriages, et cetera. They were all moving relatively slowly. They were all navigating the space not perfectly, but it worked. And then the automobile enters.
It's going faster. It's kind of operating in a different way than some of these other forms of transportation. What you see very quickly is, is that the number of people being injured and the number of people dying on the streets start to increase very quickly. And young people and young women in particular are most affected by that. So there's a backlash in particular by the working class people in cities who say, this is something this is kind of a benefit that's being enjoyed by the wealthy, but hurting all of us and changing the way that we live in our communities. So that is kind of of the nature of this backlash that happens where there are funeral parade, when people die, they ring the bells on churches, to draw attention to this.
There is propaganda drawn up to show the car is the modern requires child sacrifice. A lot of opposition that would seem weird to us today where so many of us are dependent on cars. So part of that is, you know, part of what ultimately happens, obviously the car takes over. part and a half is chaining the way that people think about streets and think about transportation. Demonizing jaywalkers and ultimately over time, takeing away those alternatives, means of getting around and basically requiring people to own a car in order to transport themselves in a city.
That is done in many ways. And the government, the state plays a key role in that. I want to talk about a few different aspects of that in the United States. We can go back to 1933, and Franklin Roosevelt's new deal where there is a lot of investments in infrastructure. There are highways built that that period as well. You are seeing beginnings of investment in this infrastructure for automobiles.
You also have the creation of the federal housing authority in 1934. That is what offers mortgage insurance to a lot more people so it becomes for white people in particular to buy homes. Because, as we know there are redlining in sitties that ensures a lot of black people are not able to access mortgages and homeownership and wealth and things that come with.
That's the important thing to understand that. Is the beginnings of moving toward this kind of car centric suburban kind of living model. And then if we move forward after the second world war in 1956, we have the intrastate highway system, which happens under president eyes enyou . THE PRESIDENT: Dent EISENHOU re at a cost of over $500 billion. The map is the map of the interstate highway system.
It's a massive project that is not only an infrastructure project that creates a lot of jobs, but also kind of puts a greater focus on cars as being the way the that people will get around into the future, rather than rail and other forms of transportation. And then even if we move ahead again to 1986, we can see in president Reagan's tax reform that the top income tax rate is cut from 50% to 38%. So wealthier people are getting a lot more money.
Depreciation subsidy for apartment construction is eliminated more incentive to invest in single family homes. Low-income housing tax credit is introduced. They increased the mortgage interest deduction. So there are, you know, further pleasures to incentivize homeownership or people living in single family homes and less incentive on public housing and on pantment living. This prays into this larger effort.
We that there are subsidies and bailouts for automakers over the years. Tax credits for vehicle purchases with electric vehicles. Free parking across many cities is a subsidy for drivers to encourage people to get around in that way. It also forces us to build our communities more spread out. Of course, there's billions in subsidies for fossil fuels that still occur and other wars that are fought in the name of access to fossil fuels.
If we look at what that has meant to our cities, there are a lot of deaths and injuries from automobile crashes. In the US, over 40,000 people a year who die because of cars and many more than that get injured. There sl significant time lost stuck in traffic.
In major sitie, people lose days of their lives every year. There are negative health effects from sedentary living and sprawl. Being in communities so that so spread out and having to spend so much time in cars.
There is the environmental footprint, emissions from driving and other effects of this. Theres is the an neckable transportation of development that comes from this. Certain people can afford to live in certain areas to own cars, and other people, can't access those things as well. Might have to wait for long periods of time to get on the bus. And then, of course, is the high cost of maintenance and service delivery when we spread people out over a large area, don't have the population density to support all of that infrastructure.
It becomes much more expensive for us to keep it up. Recognizing those problem, the tech city has come in this the last 15 years, about that period of time, and had a lot of ideas for how we are going to address these problems. They recognize that people are getting fed up with being stuck in traffic for so long. Cost of car ownership and other issue exprs they proposed a number of I hadsia. Some of the photos here, in the top left is an early concept of the Elon Musk company for cars.
The top right, autonomous vehicles. The bottom left, excuse me, is flying cars, this idea that companies like Uber are going to offer these services where we will hop in a helicopter-like vehicle all the time and use that to get around the city. And then, of course, Uber and L Lyft and those services.
If we look at tech's approach to transportation and to these ideas there is a real focus on personal grievances. That's where a lot of their ideas come from. ^ musk's ideas has been motivated he has been annoyed stuck in traffic. That's where the boring company comes from. His first idea for a tunnel was from his home in Los Angeles to the space tech headquarters. We can also look at how their big ideas are not grounded in the fundamentals of transportation.
Can you look at the idea that musk has had and so we have experimented for a long time with adding new roads and capacity to roads as a way to address traffic congestion that. Hasn't solved the problem and we are trying to reckon with that now. There is also belief that technology alone will solve these transport problems. Forget about that long history I was talking about, the decisions and and policy put in place to create this trance pore Teays system that we have today, forget all of that.
All we need is brilliant tech founders to think up these tech solution, implement them and this is how we solve the problem. And we can see that is often not how these things get addressed. We are not seeing the problems get solved that way.
They also tend to overpromise and underdeliver as we have seen many times and we will discuss. So I'd like to think of this quote by GORZ, a social philosopher. He says...((reading). The tech industry fits into this as well because there's not really the desire to move us away from cars.
It's a desir to find a way to make cars work more efficiently so we can keep being dependent on them so the tech industry can get a bit of profit from the system that these other companies are profiting from right now. I want to look at a couple examples of this. Again, I'm happy to answer questions about more of these. Just to break down how these tech ideas are not actually addressing the serious problem here. If if you look at ride services is like Uber and LYFT, they promise to connect people up with public transit service, that they are going to reduce vehicle traffic because their technologies are more efficient, they say. They are going to serve underserved communities and provide freed.
For driver contractors people delivering the services now that they are not taxi drivers anymore. We can see that a lot of these narratives have serious problems. If we look at traffic congestion, for example, the studies that have been done on this suggest that 70%, if looking agent the slide, TNC is for ride han healing services. And VMT, is vehicle miles traveled. In the nine largest US metro area, 70% of US ride healing trips have added billions of trips in vehicle miles in travel on the road.
When there are more miles to travel, that means more congestion because more cars are on the road. We can see that private services, if you just hail an Uber or LYFT on your own, add 2.8 vehicle miles of travel for every personal mile of travel that's being replaced there. If you had driven there on your own, it's adding 2.8 miles for every mile you would have driven if you drove yourself. The shared services, you might share a ride with somebody else, reduces that very marginally to an additional 2.6 miles of travel.
In San Francisco, kind of ground zero for a lot these idea, there is 10 times as much vehicles of mile of travel from ride han healing services on weekdays. So they have taken over that mark echt we see that most of that use of these services are concentrated in the most congested areas of the city, which are also the best served by transit and the most walkable. It's not really addressing that issue of traffic congestion.
It's actually making it worse and the companies have admitted this. If we look at transit, for example, the effect of transit services we see that 49% to 61% of ride-hailing trips would not not been made at all, but by walk, biking and trance I. for those percentage of trips, we are adding more miles to the street. It's making the roads more congested because if they have existed people would have been taking those trips in more efficient ways. And these ride han healing hail services when reduce heavy rail ridership by 1.29% a year and
bus ridership by 1.7% per year. We know clearly that they are not supplementary with transit, actively taking people away from transit and in many cases making them worse. If you are adding more congestion to the street and the transit system is based on bus, the buses will be stuck in traffic nor often become less reliable as a result of that. Who ultimately benefits from these services is the question? We know based on studies that have been done that the users of these services are not primarily underserved communities or anything like. That
it's college educated people, hire incomes in the United States over $70,000 a year usually in Toronto, over $100 Canadian dollar, usually urban or younger people. These services are created by tech workers and generally serve people like themselves. Obviously there are barriers with credit card use and wheelchair accessible. Uber has argued that it shouldn't have to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that it provides good wheelchair services in the way that taxi services are required dispovment that has meant that access to those services is not as good on an Uber.
Of course, black, queer and trans passengers have reported a number of issues. The promise of ride han healing hailing services has not been fulfilled and negative impacts on cities and not actually had the benefits that they suggested. So if we bring that self-driving car, which build on this idea of ride-you a hailing services which is a, basically instead of a person driving the vehicle, that we will have a computer do it. We can see something similar. They promise that they are going to eliminate car ownership, eliminate park, dasticly reloose reduce vehicle deaths. They haven't really arrived yet.
Obviously they are being tested on a few streets around the world and around the United States. They are not as ubiquitous what is being suggested to us. Real wakeup call was in march 2018 when a Uber test vehicle in Arizona killed a woman. As a result of that, there were leaks that showed the Uber team was under pressure to catch up to you WAYMO because they were not performing as well. They were rushing to try to catch up.
National transportation safety board report found there were serious flaws in the system that were being used. The emergency braking was disabled because they didn't want the vehicle stopping on its own rec larly. And it was also not programmed to consider jaywalking pedestrians. In this case, Elaine was walking across the road at a place where there wasn't a crosswalk, and the transportation safety board's report found that the system wasn't designed to consider a pedestrian could walk across in a place where there wasn't a crosswalk. That's why it couldn't identify or what she was to figure out that it needed to stop. Immediately after that, it a lot of the kind of CEOs of this company, the people who are pushing these technologies completely shifted on what they were saying before that.
They were saying, you know, these vehicles, these technologies are going to be ready in just a few years. It's not going to be much longer. Only exception to that is Elon Musk who still keeps up this fiction. Afterwards, the Google division said autonomy will always have constraint, that it will be decades before the services become wide spread and they will never be able to drive themselves any time of year in any weather, which was the initial promise.
Volkswagen ex ebbtive who worked on these systems said that level 5,which is kind of the version of autonomous driving where a human would never have to take over, the vehicle doesn't actually need a steering wheel or anything like that because the vehicle would be able to drive itself in oi road condition, any weather condition, any time, anything you threw at it it could handle. This executive said that level 5 will never happen globally, that it would be a minimum of five years to further develop the technology for select cities. It has been five years and it's still not ready.
He also said it would require high definition 3D mapping, the roads would have to be basically perfect, the weather would have to be good. In streel shift from what the companies were saying to us before and what they have been promising to us. If we look at what's been happening in the past number of month, we see that airingo AI has shut down. We is that apple has scaled back its plans for a self-driving vehicle, not until 2026 now. I'd be surprised if we see it then. Therein have been other layoffs and things happening throughout the industry that suggest that it's not moving forward as was suggested to us.
We also see that California regulators, and nationally have been looking closely at teslas, assistive driving systems and self-auto pilot saying they are falsely advertising their capabilities to consumers. But also, you know, that they have been in it a lot of accidents and there's more investigations and lawsuits that are happening as a result of that. And when we look at San Francisco, General Motor and WAYMO were finding there have been a lot of issues with those services, that haven't always been suggested by the way that they talk about them. But people in San Francisco, the lawmakers have pushing back saying these things probably need to come off the roads because they are disrupting traffic patterns and things so much. Like they are not ready for prime time, for public roads in the way the that the companies are suggesting. So what that really tells me, when I look at these examples and more broadly is, is that these tech fantasies distract from real solutions to these problems.
Tech companies come out and say, we are going to develop this technology, this it's going to solve all these problems that we all recognize exist in the transport system. But we're going to ensure you don't need to make difficult political decisions. You don't need to go through any of that because we are just going to create a technology that's going to address this for you.
And we can see that they are not able to follow through on these things. So if we look at the boring company again, one example I like to point to it, I would say this has happened in a number of cases where the boring company has gone to cities across the United States, said we will build you a transit system and then it never really materializes. In for the Lauderdale in 2021, the city there needed to build a new tunnel for the train system that is being built in Florida. And they went to Elon Musk boring company hope nag they would be able to do it on the cheap. And so by the time that they had actually signed a contract, what they had actually signed a contract for was not for a tunnel for a train, but rather for a tunnel for teslas to go to the beach in for the Lauderdale, not very useful. It's very likely that tunnel is going absolutely nowhere.
Meanwhile the train tunnel has not been built. And the recent flooding we have seen in fort Lauderdale provides further proof that was not a realistic expectation. The hyper loop, proposed by musk in 2013.
When we go back and look at his statements at the time, although what he told his biographer that was published in 2015, we can see that the whole reason why he proposed this idea was that he did not want to see California build a high speed rail network between Los Angeles and San Francisco. He wanted to disrupt that process, provide a distraction and the hyper loop was it. Even going back, we could see there were a number of people who could clearly see that was not going to work. And more recently we have seen that now that interest rates are rising, now that it's a much harder to keep funding the big tech ideas that don't have much foundation to them, a number of these startups and companies that we are trying to move forward with hyper loop ideas have been dieing and going under because this is not a realistic technology that's going to be built. It was just a distraction from high speed rail. If we look at self-driving vehicles in tar, this is this a story that was in the "New York Times" in 2018.
It says that the KOCH brother, one of them has died now, but they are right-wing billionaire whose make money from oil and auto pars did not want to Sao Paulo transit projects being built around the you knitted states. If but read the second sentence there,... So they were explicitly using the kind of idea, the vision of self-driving cars to argue against further investments in public transit in dozens of campaigns across the United States. And saying that these technologies are coming, so why would we invest in an outdated system of public transportation when these autonomous cars are going to solve it. As I was saying, the narrative changed a lot on autonomous vehicles since then.
We have still she these narratives today. I was in New Zealand giving a series of talks. One thing that stood out to me was the labor party is in power there, more of a center left party. They are proposing a new kind of light rail system for the biggest city in New Zealand.
And the right wing national party was opposed to that. So this is a quote I want to read you from an interview or conversation that was happening on one of their TV networks between a labor minister and a national right-wing MP. This national MP was saying...((reading). So we can see that this narrative that was being used by the KOCH procedures in 2018 and before that, hasn't gone away. And is still being laundered and used today in 2023 to argue against transit projects even though when it's very clear those technologies are not going to realize the benefits that were promised and not just in the United States, but the narratives have filtered around the world and affected a lot of conversations around how we are going to address these serious problems in the transport system. And so ultimately the question is, what is the future that we are headed toward? What is wra is future we want to achieve? I would say the tech industry is pushing us toward a more utopian future where we are distracted from the real problems with real solution, but the solutions they are offering us are making many of these problems worse.
We see that division is forbidding a bunch of tunnels and you can see how these are exclusive tunnels only going to be people who can pay for them if they are ever built at all. Can you see a vision where this connects up gated communities, exclusive areas where only wealthy people can access, and we are building this society, this city that is even further kind of tilted toward the elite and well-off people and not addressing real problems. We can see, like with the cyber truck that the proposal now is for massive electric vehicles with bulletproof glass and enhanced security features. What is the kind of world that people are imagining when designing vehicles like this. With renewables and battery storage, are things we need to address to reduce our emissions. We can see how this can be used where it allows the wealthy people to opt out of the general problems that everyone else faces to ensure they have their own, as one scholar I quote here says, a form of grid defecks, not be concerned with the bigger questions that address so many of us.
If we really want to make a more equitable trance pore system, a more equitable society as a whole, we need to challenge this constant focus on auto mobility and not give in to the wishful thinking that all we need is technology to solve all the problems we need to challenge these elite revisions on of mobility and refocusing on the needs of those at the bottom. That requires focussing on things that we know work, things like public transit, encouraging greater use of bicycles and E bikes. And building our cities in a more dense way where things can be more walkable, access to forms of transportation so we don't need to be reliant on cars. It's kiwi don't get distracked by PR campaigns, by auto companies and tech companies as they have their vision for transportation that are serving them and their profits and benefiting them at the end of the day. So that is the end of my presentation. But I'm more than happy to take any of your questions based on any before that.
Thank you. Let me start off before a couple of questions myself and turn it over to the audience. Keep the questions coming in. We will get to them pretty soon as they keep coming in.
This may be more of a rant than a question. I just want to get -- yes, Elon Musk and all these tech pros and their fantasies and magical thinking that keep promising solutions that never occur, it amazes me that, like, after the Las Vegas loop debacle. That cost $47 million for a 1.7-mile loop that's basically for teslas, I just looked you will our operating budget for the entire public transit authority in one year is $189 million. That would be about 25% of the budget for our local transit authority.
What is it, why does this keep happening than despite the repeated failures and overpromising, underdelivering solutions that people keep coming to these tech elites for these solutions. Is it because we don't want to think about the hard problems. Is the fact that we have a combination of the above. And then the important question is: how do we break out of this fantasy? PARIS MARX: It's a good question.
It's a very important one. I think the disappointing thing is that the kind of tech industry and these influential people in the tech industry have really captured a lot of our ideas of what the future should look like and how we should address various problems. That has meant for a long time we haven't been thinking about the real solutions that we have in front of us to address these things. And I think that part of the problem is that the political system is incentivized toward looking at kind of easy quick fix silver bullet solution, even if they don't address the real problem. And I think it's been beneficial for, you know, some of our governments to ensure that they are getting close to people in the tech industry because it looks good, and maybe it helps them at reelection time, even though those solutions don't actually address the real problems. As you're saying in Las Vegas, that has not been a real solution.
I have call it more like a Disneyland ride for tesla owners. You get into this tunnelle with a bunch of flashy lights and get driven to the other end of the conference center in a tesla. Again in Arizona as well, where they reduce the regulations on self-driving cars so that Uber and other companies will come in and test. As a result, a person died because they didn't have the regulations in place and we're doing the move fast and break things. One thing I think is hopeful is that we are moving away, or at least some of the governments are movefinging away toward being obsessed with what the tech companies are doing and being distracted by them. I think there is still a problem where Arizona lot of our government gets a bit too -- are too easily influenced to this buy-in notions.
The more we can push back on that, the more people within cities can organize for real solutions to the problem, the easier it will be to push back against the influence of the tech companies and executives. HARVEY MILLER: I will give you a couple examples here in Columbus. We -- they wanted to install a bike lane in Columbus. It got push back from business owners despite how much evidence we brought to the table about how bike lanes don't hurt businesses it was, talk to the hand.
With Intel coming here and massive impacts with housing and transportation a month or two ago, Ohio department of transportation floated a second beltway around Columbus. So there's a lot scientific evidence to back up the fact that these -- that these things don't work, that we can't keep building our way of congestion, that we know the fundamental principles of movement. We know how to satisfy that in an inclusive equitable way. What is it when we have all these scientific evidence and we still can't move the needle in the political conversations? Is it a problem with the wire communicate our science? Or the headwinds are just so tough? PARIS MARX: Maybe communication is part of it. I have probably wouldn't see it as, you know, the core piece of it.
I think that one of the problems is that we often talk about evidence-based decision-making. But when we actually look at it, that's not always what wins out at the end of the day, unfortunately. I think that when we look at problems that you're talking about, we have plenty of evidence that building more road roads is not how we solve traffic and congestion problems of it's the fact that people are so dependent on cars and have to drive to get where they are going to go.
When we build new roads it encourages people to drive more. Again, as you are saying we have plenty of evidence that bike lanes are good things to invest in, that they are beneficial for businesses. Everyone, really. But there is still that resistence to it. I would say part of that is explained. We can look at the tech companies and see how they provide a really easy distractible alternative that doesn't address the problem, but allows to push the problem down the road.
The bigger question there is, that one, there is the path dependency we have been doing it this way for a long time; we are going to keep doing it this way because it's the easy thing to do. Did I think on top of that as well is there's also a lot of industry pressure and industry incentive to go in that direction. We keep building -- if we keep investing in automotive infrastructure, that keeps people dependent cars and ensures profits for automotive companies and other companies dependent on them. The tech company, of course, are getting in on this as well, not just with the bigger ideas I talked about, but also we see that with newer cars now, there all of these internet services are built into them.
They are collecting a ton of data on drivers. The data is going back to the auto ands tech companyches they are selling that data to other companies to build advertising profiles on you. They are increasingly building subscription services that are built into your cars so they can make more money off you that way. There is it is a whole industry built around. This this much is it is, I think part of the reason why it's so difficult to push some these governments to stop this investment in spar automotive infrastructure. And I think that the way you ultimately break that, the only way you can could it or hope to is to have more local organizing around these alternatives to try to show that there is a counter bailing force or degree of pressure that can applied to get more winds for transit and bicycles.
Ultimately this is is not going to benefit a ton of corporate interests in that way that continuing to invest in automotive infrastructure will. HARVEY MILLER: One last question and turn it over to Gerika. There are a lot of questions in the Q&A. You have a great phrase in your book you used the term "kinetic elite." The fact that a lot of transportation technology is basically allow the rich to move quicker than the poor. Here in Ohio, we are trying to be the leaderser in advanced air mobility.
In fact, Ohio State's making some pushes to advanced air mobility. Talk to me about the justice and equity issues of that. PARIS MARX: I think it's a big problem and clearly not going to address all of the problems I was talking about in my presentation. I'm sure you are very familiar with many of the viewers, right.
That term "kinetic elite," I know, I took it from somebody and I can't remember who I took it from in the book now. If I'd have to go back and look at it. But I think the problem with the idea of these kind of air services of shifting more toward having these air transportation services that are supposedly going to address traffic congestion and reduce traffic congestion. First of all, it's completely unrealistic to think we will start having a ton of people using basically flying cars.
They are kind of like upgraded helicopter, to give you an idea. But not only is it this going to require a ton of additional infrastructure, you're going to need the places for these vehicles to land and to be stored. You're going to need a local air authority that can coordinate where all of these vehicles are going. Because they are not just going to be able to go wherever you want them to. And ultimately, obviously these companies talk as though they are going to be very affordable to people. In you listen to Uber's PR when it presented this vision, it sold of its air division a few years ago.
It used to say it's going to offer more wheelchair accessibility and serve the underserved. It's very clear these are going to be expensive service, maybe a bit cheaper than taking a helicopter, but not accessible to the wider public. The question of course is, does it really make sense to make all of this investment in this air transportation infrastructure that's largely going to serve more well-off people in society when all of that effort and that energy and that investment could be going to address real problems in the transport system could be addressing the inequities that exist in the transport system, could be improving public transportation and making it so it's easier tore people to get around instead of, as we have been talking about, getting distracted by these kind of big tech ideas that aren't really going anywhere. HARVEY MILLER: Thank you. Gerika will now step in and field some audience questions Ensuring that evidence is presented and that we're able to explain why an important aspect of this is to really look at these wha these companies have been doing recently as well.
Especially since interest rates have been rising and the access to cheap credit has gone away, the companies have been trying to finally, you know, become profitable because they have never been profitable. That is requiring increasing fees and prices. But further pushing back on the pay that sh given to drivers. And there's a larger question as to whether that is kind of the type of system has we want to be reliant on, where, you know, you're basically relying on contract labor in order to get people around. Or do we want greater investment in transit services that unionized drivers, are able to make a decent living. That can actually provide better service to people if we just give them, you know, better funding and improve that service.
GERIKA LOGAN: Thank you. It says VMT is one thing. But what about travel time. It seems like the rest of the question might be a little bit of a statement. But also connected vehicle, teslas without auto pilot are shown to be safer, as well as route selection that can reduce travel time.
So it says level 2 is here. So more, if you you could talk about the differences from the vehicle miles travel versus the travel time. And also like with some of the safety enhancements that tesla's made. PARIS MARX: Sure.
So on one part of that, the VMT is the amount of vehicles that are being traveled on the road, basically. And what we see is that these services are, you know, there's more VMT that are being traveled basically by using these services. That means there is more congestion. That means you are going to be stuck in traffic more often if this is what we are relying on and shifting over to.
Of course, there are reasons why we used to have better regulations on taxi services. Because we wanted to ensure that there was a good kind of tradeoff between the benefits to the public and the benefits to the drivers and also kind of the effect on the city. That part of the reason they were limits on the number of taxis on the roads was so that there wasn't too much competition so that drivers can make has decent living doing this. Also so you didn't have too many vehicles on the road, and weren't creating all this additional traffic and affecting the city in this way. So obviously when we talk about travel time as well, it depends on what your goal is here. Yeah, an Uber might arrive quicker, but there are bunch of tradeoffs that come with that, where, you are affecting traffic, you are having these drivers that are being paid less that often aren't earning as much as they would have in the past if there had been a taxi service.
These are things we need to consider as well. If we have do make better investments in transit and in cycling and these things like this that can help us to relieve con imetion so that people can get where they need to go quicker, and if we can improve the service frequency, the accessibility of transit, that could mean those things can better serve people as well and hopefully you wouldn't have been to be waiting as long to use those types of services. Tesla and the idea of level 2 automation, there have been studies that have been released by tesla that suggest guest that it is safer is. There's a lot of questions over the accuracy and reliability of those studies. For a long time, tesla was promoting numbers and figures on its safety that were later proven to be incorrect and not accurate.
And the other thing is that a lot of these services in these systems compare numbers that are mainly for highway driving, vehicles that are owned by well-off kind of persons of the public because these are more expensive vehicles to general average figures for the entire driving population. And you really can't compare those two things because highway driving has few your collision, fewer crashes and more well-off people tend to also have fewer collision, fewer crashes, as well. This is what's in the stats I would say that actually the idea that this is kind of settled that tax las are safer is really not necessarily the case. You are not really comparing apples to apples but comparing differ things there. GERIKA LOGAN: That was an amizing response.
We will go to another question that I see. It's ask, what are your favorite examples of technology applications that are helping to advance equitable and sustainable transportation systems? PARIS MARX: It's a good question. I think one of the misconceptions can be that I'm completely opposed to new technologies being used in transportation. That's not the case. I think that there are many ways that we can use technology to improve systems that we already have.
But the question is what is the goal. Are we really thinking about how we are implementing those technologies in order to address real problem, or are we just following on the narratives that these tech companies that are not really addressing the core issues that exist in our cities. I think that one thing I'm particularly interested in, or kind of intrigued by in North American cities is the use of E bikes. There are things we need to study there and be sure that we have proper safety measures in place and whatnot to ensure there's not a lot more crashes and people being injured by using these things.
Because our cities have been constructed and largely built for cars and where they are more spread out, that the E bike can be an additional speed that they can offer, can make it more accessible for people to use a bike to get where they need to go. I would say as well, I think that it's interesting. I spoke to David zipper who does a lot of work on transportation recently. He was telling me about how there are camera systems that reduce vehicle being implemented in buses in New York City and some other cities as well, where they read the license plates of cars that have parked in bus lane, et cetera, and they get automatically ticketed as a result. What they find once they have been ticketed they tend not to do that again because they received a tick tent it's a good kind of use of technology to enforce bus lanes to ensure that things are working better for transit systems.
So is, yeah, I think there are positive implementations. I think we just need to be a bit clearer on where we are implementing that technology, what the goal is with it and making sure that we are actually following through on those goals rather than believing what the tech companies say and not really checking and double checking that. It's actually having the benefits that they claim.
GERIKA LOGAN: Great. Thank so you much. Another question that I see here is it may not make sense that the government spend on air Poeability infrastructure, but the public purpose doctrine, the idea that expenditures of public money should benefit the public generally has been significantly abandoned in many parts of America.
Do you think that conjoining of government and private corporation governance versus government, or public private partnerships and regulatory parts play -- plays Arizona part into this? If so, have we gone too far tore turn back the clock? PARIS MARX: Hmm. I would certainly not be hopeless in saying we have gone too far and can't address anything. I think I still need to believe that we can address these problems and try to roll these things back. I think that there is a serious problem, and I think Paris Marx part of the reason I talked about the history, we can go back to the early days of the automobile and see how automotive companies have been influencing the government in order to have them pass and implement policies that encourage the use of automobiles. So it's not like this is kind of a recent thing that has just happened in the past couple of decades. In is it is a century-long thing of having this relationship between automotive companies and between government.
Can you kind of see automotive companies Aztec companies in an Earl earlier period. They are kind of releasing this new tech product onto the atmosphere, and people are believing in is what the future will look like. And, of course, in the same way that tech company analysis the past 15 years have huge visions for what self-driving cars and other things will mean for our cities, if imu back to the early decades of the 1900, you can see, again, these auto companies had big visions for what the future was going to look like with the automobile and going to be great and wonderful and now beer dealing with the consequences. That's just to say there has always been this relationship. So I think that part -- I think that's part of the problem is, that the policy has been too focused on serving the goals and ends of these various company whose profit from a twar orientation around transportation in a particular way of building a transportation system. That isn't taken into account what benefits the public most.
If we want to start seeing those things shift, start seeing those things move that different direction, it will require an organized public enforced government to do that. It's not they are going to do because they feel altruistic or whatever it. Requires power from the public in order to push back on these corporate interests. Again, that's something we see in the 70, in the early 1900s as people became organized and pushed back against public policies. They didn't always win, but in some cases they did.
A final thing I would say, I think that our governments have been to oriented toward the private sector and toward private partnerships in addressing the problems. What we see time and again, whether it's infrastructure project, in the United States, we see it up near Canada, often whens they public/private partnerships are undertaken, the costs completely balloon we are not able to efficiently build anything anymore because of the way we have kind of post these things together consultants and problems that have come from losing public capacity to build these projects. I think if we really want to construct better transit and think about transportation in a better way, and think about how our governments are going to serve that, we do need to rebuild that public capacity, rather than just constantly outsourcing things to the private sentor and hoping they will deliver it for us. HARVEY MILLER: If I can follow up with a related question.
It that to do with public/private partnerships. Several people in the Q&A asked about micromobility, scooters. I'd like to hear you comments on that. I'd like to hear what you have to say about bike share. Because bike share is an example of public/private partnerships that a lot of us are strong advocates for. Is is that a good example of a public/private partnership or are we doing it right in that case? What are we doing wrong? PARIS MARX: It's a great question with. When I
think of private/public partnerships in transportation, just very quickly, they built a light rail line in Ottawa a couple of years ago through the downtown core. And it was a public/private partnership. It's just been an absolute mess since it was built.
They didn't consider the fact it gets cold in autowith a in the krinter. Things have not been working properly. The cars keep breaking down. It has been an absolute mess. And, you know, it's unfortunate because what we need is greater investment in this. What sh does is push people away from transit at a moment where we need them to be taking it more because this isn't working properly.
I think it's something that we need to be paying attention to. I think the question on bike share valely good one. Because I think that we have had a lot of focus in the past number of years on these dockless bike share services and dockless scooter services. This was promoted, in is the way we're going to address problems with transportation in our cities, encourage more cycling, more active mobility.
What we have seen is that they have not contributed to that, that littering the streets and sidewalks with scooters and bikes is not the way you encourage people to take these forms of transportation. Because the infrastructure really wasn't in place to encourage it in the way that you say, you know, that bicycle lanes have not been built so it's not just access to bicycles, it's ensuring that the infrastructure is in place, that you can safely parka bike when you don't need it any N any morn, when not using it. There are places when you can ride and feel safe and not be hit by a car, whash. That's not to say that bike share is a bad thing. I think that actually docked bike share services that a lot of cities have had for a number of years are actually quite good in that they offer you places where can you park this bike, where it's going to be safe.
You don't need to worry about it any longer. Because of the way these systems are designed, the bike also tends to last a lot longer, one thing we saw with the dockless service, they get trashed really quickly. If there was a high turn overrer in the bikes and scooters, so they were actually not that great environmentally as a result of that.
When analyses were done of the environmental footprint of these services. So one thing that you say about the bike share services that in many cases they were a public/private partnerships. That's true in some cases it was with advertisers.
If we look at cities like in Paris, for example, or various other -- we know LYFT bought a lot of the bike share services in the US. One thing that has been important in places where bike share services dock have been successful, there have been are a proper regulatory infrastructure that was in place, that ensured, there were particular standards for hows they were operated and once we saw,000 they were treated previously around the boom, these companies weren't expected huge profits, that they would put in the work to work with cities to do public consultations to ensure they knew how the services were going to roll out and how they were going to serve the public so that work was done. And they were working closely with government. One the things that we saw that was a serious problem with the dockless bike share service, they did none of that.
They just threw the vehicles out on the streets. Didn't consider how people are going to use them. They wanted to quickly grab maryct share. They often didn't talk to the sit, so it was a complete failure.
I think that ideally you'd have this as part of an integrated policy where you have the dock bike share service. You have greater investment and construction of bicycle lanes. You have also have the construction of parking facilities where even if you are riding our own bike, can you park it there, you know it's going to be safe if going to work or shop or whatever.
And that is really the way the that you encourage it. I think the obvious example during past few years is Paris where they used the opportunity of the pandemic to just vastly expand the number of cycle lane. What they saw was the number of people using bikes just exploded. In the past couple of weeks, the people there voted to ban these dockless services all together because they were a nuisance. That's how you address these things and encourage more use of bike sickles. HARVEY MILLER: Thank you very much, Paris.
We are out of time. We to say goodbye. Thank you for your presentation and for your responsiveness to the questions from the audience and from me. Again, everyone, this is the last event in our Tech In the City series. We will be having the race in place, learning from the past and looking to the future seminar series starting this May, May 12th.
And in the fall, our webinar series. Check us out. Sign up for our newsletter. And also great speakers like Paris Marx. Thank you everyone.
Be well, and be careful out there.