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This week we spent much time considering the troubled state of West Coast ports, now crippled by a struggle between port operators and the union representing dock workers.
There’s a long list of American-grown and -raised products that aren’t getting to Pacific Rim customers in a timely fashion, due to the congestion and work slowdown at ports from Seattle to Los Angeles.
We heard dire warnings about lost markets for:
Uber, Sidecar and other app-enabled car services have dealt a blow to regulated taxi cab monopolies because they’re nimble and operate outside some of the established rules.
A Cato Institute panel on Tuesday debated what, if any, regulations cities should impose on Uber and similar car services.
Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said that the newer car services have forced taxis to become more efficient.
But he still sees a need for regulation of Uber and its peers.
Every hour of every day cell phones are generating data which transportation planners, real estate developers, and investors use to help them to understand traffic flows, shopping patterns, and population shifts.
An Atlanta-based company, AirSage, collects real-time data (15 billion data points every day) from cell phone tower interactions – whenever a person sends a text, makes a phone call, or when a phone is searching for the next cell phone tower.
AirSage was one of the exhibitors at the annual Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington this week.
The company draws the data, which come from more than 100 million mobile devices, from two of the top three cell phone providers. The data cover more than a third of the U.S. population.
With gasoline now below $2 a gallon in many parts of the country, it might not seem like the most urgent priority to consider electric vehicles.
But the analysts who spoke at Monday’s panel on electric cars at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board were looking not primarily at today but 30 and 40 years into the future.
Major takeaways from the panelists:
Using a systems dynamics model, Dawn Manley of the Sandia National Laboratories tested a number of scenarios, including one that was very favorable to electric vehicle adoption by consumers.
“What if batteries were nearly free out into the future, 25 or 30 years from now? What if people who were willing to pay [a higher price for an electric car] had a longer payback period that they were willing to consider?”
The typical consumer is willing to wait three years to recover the higher cost of a higher-priced alternative technology. What if they were willing to consider a nine-year payback period?” And what if oil prices were much higher than they are today or under EIA projections? Then market penetration could reach 20 percent.
Market failures have locked drivers into a fossil fuel-based infrastructure, said Axsen. “We need a strong climate policy” which should include a carbon tax to stimulate innovation on batteries and recharging facilities, for example.
Most of the electric vehicle recharging infrastructure that was built with money from the 2009 stimulus act was not used, but the data gathered from those projects can be used to identify and perhaps predict where the demand for public recharging stations will be, Smart said.
That decrease in battery performance and range may limit the customer interest in buying electric vehicles in colder weather states, such as those in the Upper Midwest and Upper Plains states.
And as it currently stands, electric vehicle sales are highest in states with milder winters in their urban areas such as Washington state and California.
According to Yuksel, a round trip in an electric vehicle from Washington to Baltimore and back could be done in an electric vehicle, but on a very cold day the driver would need to stop and re-charge on his return trip from Baltimore, adding up to two hours to the total duration of the trip.
FedEx chairman and CEO Fred Smith said Wednesday, “The slow-down in the West Coast ports has been a much bigger deal than people think and a tremendous amount of inventory was simply not put through the ports in the time frame that the retailers had expected.”
Smith spoke on his company’s earnings conference call for the second quarter of its 2015 fiscal year.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has been in contract talks for months with port operators represented by the Pacific Maritime Association. In addition, there have been severe problems with the distribution of truck chassis and other factors slowing down traffic.
Smith said “because of these delays at the West Coast ports and the East Coast ports, because a lot of people saw this coming and diverted traffic into the East Coast ports, we [FedEx] received a lot of traffic on the two coasts which normally we would have anticipate being from distribution centers in the middle of the country.”
It’s the final episode in the rhetorical skirmish between Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and the fast-expanding car service Uber before Franken, now chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, becomes a member of the Senate minority.
Franken said Monday he’d gotten a reply to his Nov. 19 letter to Uber in which he’d posed 20 questions about its potential misuse of customers’ data.
Franken said he wasn’t satisfied with Uber’s response.
“While I’m pleased that they replied to my letter, I am concerned about the surprising lack of detail in their response,” he said, adding that Uber “did not answer many of the questions I posed directly to them. Most importantly, it still remains unclear how Uber defines legitimate business purposes for accessing, retaining, and sharing customer data. I will continue pressing for answers to these questions.”
New York City’s frenzied pace of life will continue as it always has, but state lawmakers have reduced the city’s speed limit to 25 miles per hour, from 30 mph, to try to reduce traffic accidents and fatalities.
Last year, more than 11,000 pedestrians were injured by cars in the city and 291 people in the city were killed in traffic accidents. There are now about the same number of traffic fatalities in New York City as there are homicides every year.
Uber, the company with the popular car-hailing app that has spawned taxi driver protests in cities from Milan to San Francisco, has hired President Barack Obama’s former political strategist David Plouffe to run its political and public relations operations.
A thriving city with new restaurants and other businesses has a healthy surge of revenue, but there’s one constraint the transportation manager or mayor can do little about: space on the roads and at curbsides.
“Our biggest challenge would certainly be use of right of way or space,” said Larry Marcus, the Transportation and Engineering Bureau Chief for Arlington County, Va., at a transportation data panel this week sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
At Monday’s U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation panel discussion on using data to expedite transportation, RideScout co-founder and CEO Joseph Kopser played the role of visionary and crusader.
His company has an app allowing travelers in more than 60 cities in the United States and Canada to figure out the quickest way of getting from one point to another, whether’s it’s a taxi, a bus, or their own car.
The regulatory battles over Uber — the taxi-hailing service that has sparked protests from established taxi drivers in London, Paris, Milan, and San Francisco — may have global significance as an indicator of how regulated markets with high barriers to entry cope with disruptive competition. But the regulatory ruckus is being fought on the state and municipal level, not in the halls of Congress.