Why would people in one city prefer to ride bicycles more than their neighbors in the town over? Why is it that Uber is viable in some cities but not others? Can we explain the choices we make when preferring one means of transportation over another in one unified theory? Well, it turns out we can. This article starts with a simple request for the TV remote and ends with an analysis of the MAAS’s chances of replacing private ownership of cars.
Have you ever read the book “Scale” by Geoffrey West? An excellent read, and I completely disagree with most of what it has to say. I think that if you’re engaged in urban planning you owe it to yourself to read it. That book was actually one of the first sparks that ignited this very blog.
Let’s put my reservations in perspective – the urban environment; the book describes it very well but I think it completely misses the mechanism and model behind it. It is quite easy to disprove the model presented in the book and I have a feeling that the author knew it. Most of the book does not deal with cities but rather explains the mathematical thinking behind “Scaling” lows. The way organisms and organizations vary depending on their size. In the section that relates to cities the book begins with a great momentum while describing urban behavior but stumbles when it comes to the big question – Why the hell is it happening?
“Where there’s a will there’s a way.” she text me. But even when it comes to sex, as an urban economist I don’t respond well to binary options. “The longer the way, the lesser the will” I replied. Yes, I am that kind of geek.
I would like to talk about some market behaviors in the city that we usually disregard – sex and love. On these “markets” we are simultaneously both the service providers and the customers, no money is involved (yes… by all means, feel free to make your jokes here) and yet Supply and Demand of those are playing a role in the way our cities function.
Our cities are not taking the lead. On the surface everyone talks about a smart city and a new generation of public transportation, but in practice most cities are dragged into this revolution rather than actually lead it.
Transportation companies do not represent the city’s residents. Uber for example considers (at best) the interests of its drivers and passengers. From its perspective, other public transports and pedestrians are considered as a nuisance or worse, as competition. It would have been easier for Uber if those two were not part of the public space.
These days, most of the cities that deal with smart city projects and new types of transportation do not initiate solutions. Most of them are simply following on proposed business solutions. Uber, Lyft, Bird and other companies spread their transportation networks in the city with minimal coordination or without any coordination at all. At present, no one stands to represent the pedestrians and the residents of the city in front of these transportation companies, resulting in the chaos we see today .
… and here comes crisis #1. I knew this book is not gonna be easy. Thinking in Hebrew and writing in English is much more than reversing the text direction.
But I think the real block I have now is the opposite of writers block. it’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s that I have too much and I can’t figure out what comes first. I have realized now that I’m actually writing two books. one about Spatial Economics and the other about Urban Transportation. In my mind those are combined but here I find myself skipping back and forth.
I need to choose and I prefer to talk more about Spatial Economics. I’ll just wrap the 4th article in the “Seamless Transportation” block and then restrict myself to the City Economics stuff.
Let’s see if this will be the end of crisis #1.
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough on the speakers is a good place to start.