Uber

In Our Uber-ed Out Future, Cities Won't Be Covered With Ugly Parking Garages

Next generation of ride-sharing will make cities more efficient, solve mass transit problems.

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Mark & Audrey Gibson Stock Connection Worldwide/Newscom

If Bill Gurley's right, American cities are about to get a whole lot more free space.

That's because they won't need as many space-wasting parking lots and eyesore parking garages to store the thousands of cars that sit unused between morning rush hour and its evening counterpart.

"This will be the way that you solve mass transportation problems," Gurley, an Uber board member, told Bloomberg West on Monday night. "And it has the ability in the U.S. to create much more efficient cities."

Most American cities are built around the idea of car ownership. As Gurley told Bloomberg's Cory Johnson, that means "you cover most of your geography with cement."

But that might not be necessary much longer. In the next decade, Uber plans to compete head-to-head with government-run mass transit services and eventually to become a full-fledged alternative to car ownership.

"I think you will see over the next 5 to 10 years, Uber to continue to invest all it can in the types of algorithms that drive that price point down," Gurley said. "We want to be the price leader in the market."

That would be a game-changing development for commuters, and for the cities where they work–and park.

A 2014 study by civil engineering professors at the University of Connecticut looked at aerial photos of more than a dozen U.S. cities over a period of five decades. They found some cities, like New Haven, Connecticut, had experienced a five-fold increase in parking lots and garages since the 1950s (the study didn't look at street parking). That's not unexpected, of course, as many cities lost population to the suburbs during the second half of the 20th Century and responded by building more parking facilities to provide for commuters and visitors.

But those cities are missing out on thousands of dollars every year by using all that land for parking rather than more lucrative development, lead researcher Norton Garrick told Bloomberg in 2014.

As ride-sharing evolves, those parking lots could be torn down and the space used for other, better purposes. That doesn't even touch on the aesthetic benefits of getting rid of all that concrete in downtowns.

Meanwhile, services like UberPool allow a computer algorithm to design what are essentially bus routes created in real time based on riders' demands—rather than designed by city planners and set in stone.

Uber already has partnerships with government transportation agencies in cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles, as Jared Meyer wrote earlier this year. The point of these partnerships, Meyer writes, is to create greater integration between government transit systems and Uber by coordinating the systems' and Uber's apps.

It's not hard to see how that could replace much of the current demand for mass transit services.

The only thing that might get in the way of this better transportation future, as Ronald Bailey wrote in Reason's July issue, is the politicians who fear change and refuse to embrace the new technology that could reshape our cities and the way we commute.

If they allow people like Gurley to follow through with his plans, we'll have more, and cheaper, ride-sharing along with fewer parking garages, parking lots and public buses.

That means American cities of the future are going to be cleaner, more beautiful and way easier to navigate.

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  1. I think this is bullshit myself. A lot of people like to be able to drive themselves and that isn’t going to change. But I don’t know, maybe this can be used to poke the progs so whatever.

    1. Yeah, i don’t think people will give up their own cars for Uber en masse any more than they do now whenever some centralizers open up a new light rail line or whatever.

      1. No, but people who own cars might not want to take them to an NFL game, for example, when using Uber could save time (avoiding the massive crush as everyone leaves) and money ($25+ to park). If that were the case, the stadium would need fewer parking spots.

      2. Uber is great for going places where parking is a hassle or needlessly expensive. Downtown on a Friday night, or the airport, etc.

        I think we’ll end up seeing a generational shift and the bigger changes will come over an extended period of time. Once on demand car-service reaches a certain level of affordability, people who have not yet reached the point in their lives where they own a car will just not get one, since the solution they are already using (uber, or lyft, or whatever) will be good enough.

      3. Not so much for the burbs. But if you want to go someplace in a city center where parking can cost $3 or more an hour, could be a lot cheaper to go Uber and avoid parking costs entirely than to shell out a bunch of money for parking and feel pressured to do stuff before the meter runs out.

    2. In DC, a lot of people would gladly give up paying for parking and wear & tear (another name for DC is Pothole City) on their cars to take transpo if it were reliable, smelled nice, cheap, and had no weirdos or panhandlers.

    3. Forget the uber/mass transit optimized combo.

      I’ll wait for the next leapfrog in tech – flying drone cars.

      1. Coming apparently.

        http://www.geekwire.com/2015/n…..nd-faster/

    4. Even if people did give up their cars you still need the same amount of cars to move the same amount of people. This is known. You’re just moving the ownership portion. Uber and Lyft aren’t some magical panacea, they’re just a less regulated cab company. Did cab’s transform urban centers into Utopia? The answer to both questions is the same.

      1. No you don’t. People aren’t driving all the cars in a city simultaneously.

        1. People aren’t driving all the cars in a city simultaneously.

          That’s actually what rush hour is. More relevantly, the cars don’t cease to exist just because somebody steps out of them. You aren’t exactly obliterating the problem as much as shifting inefficiencies around and giving technocrats (the best kind of bureaucrat) more authority/ability to fuck with civilization/society. You either have less parking and longer lead times going into commutes or the same/more parking and lower/zero wait times. This ignores unpredictably predictable things that further affect driving/commuting like when people are forced to ‘park’ their cars in construction zones. With two cars, one could conceivably avoid the construction, with a shared car, the second commuter is affected by construction that may have nothing to do with their actual commute.

          1. Bingo. This does nothing to address the limited carrying capacity of the roadways. In fact it makes it worse. Imagine if the fraction of productive real estate doubled in a downtown with no change in road capacity. Rush hour would turn into rush day.

            Too many urban planners and journalists writing this crap.

      2. It’s a mixed bag. If I take an uber, I don’t need a parking space when I arrive. Which is why I take an Uber. If I go to a soccer or baseball game downtown, I no longer drive, even though downtown is 5-7 minutes away. Precisely because I don’t want the hassle of parking/paying for parking.

        Cab companies operate slightly different from Uber. They have a permanent fleet of cars whereas Uber/Lyft type services are more dynamic and respond to demand. That tends to answer the question I’ve asked myself: Why do I readily take an Uber when I rarely if ever used to take cabs? Answer: Because the Uber type system is more responsive to my need, and more efficient in regards to payment.

        I agree with you… urban centers haven’t been transformed, but the popularity of such services has made a noticeable impact on how people get around. I have to believe there’s been a measurable impact on the number and rate of parking used in your typical urban center.

        1. If I take an uber, I don’t need a parking space when I arrive.

          If you own a car, you actually do. Your car still needs a parking place somewhere, just not where you are going.

          1. Yeah, but we’re talking about urban parking structures and their shrinking or demise.

      3. Even if people did give up their cars you still need the same amount of cars to move the same amount of people.

        For the part of the trip where you’re actually driving, sure. But if no one but Uber drivers owned a vehicle, you’d have a lot fewer cars sitting around fallow.

        Uber doesn’t solve the congestion problem on roadways — until they come up with UberBus service, where you’d have private buses carrying large amounts of people on optimized routes that take people directly to their destinations.

    5. maybe this can be used to poke the progs so whatever.

      The Uberfied future is absent something very important: Public sector transit unions. Oh, you thought that push for mass transit everywhere had something to do with reducing traffic? No. If you got everyone out of their cars along transit corridors, the progressives still won’t be happy if you achieve it by shrinking the state footprint.

      1. I bet that’s why Uber was partnering with government transportation agencies–to avoid taking their dwindling ridership away from them by sending their drivers away from bus routes or something. With the implied threat being they’ll legislate against Uber if they don’t.

  2. After all, the future is where we will spend the rest of our lives.

  3. That means American cities of the future are going to be cleaner, more beautiful and way easier to navigate.

    And a helluva lot more rapey.

    1. STEVE SMITH FIRED FROM UBER, NOW WORK FOR LYFT.

      1. STEVE SMITH DEMAND LIVABLE WAGE FOR RAPE!

      2. Actually a chick at the hostel got dropped off by a Lyft driver who looked like Saddam Hussein with a neck pillow on and a shitty, filthy car. He reportedly hit on her the entire ride, as direct as “want me to eat you out?”

        1. Maybe the direct approach works for him every once in a while. Don’t judge.

          1. Yeah, he was very Borat-like.

  4. A company has already popped up in DC and a couple other cities that is already providing alternatives to public transpo and taxis.

    In DC, they are running a set loop paralleling the Red Line.

    1. Wow, I looked at the service area maps. How the fuck have they not been sued for racial discrimination yet?

      1. It’s probably coming any day! Or the city councils in those cities will get all “up in arms” and have to “do something”.

  5. The only thing that might get in the way of this better transportation future, as Ronald Bailey wrote in Reason’s July issue, is the politicians who fear change and refuse to embrace the new technology that could reshape our cities and the way we commute.

    Nah, just couch the changes in terms of climate change. Idiot politicians are ready to sign onto any boondoggle presented to them if it is combating climate change.

    1. Only if it also provides opportunities for graft, Zun.

      Big Uber needs to figure out how to structure itself to provide a steady stream of payoffs to politicians and their minions. Until that happens, the Uber future ain’t gonna arrive.

  6. So where are all the uber vehicles going to park? Ride load isn’t constant all day. Will there be huge parking lots 10 miles out of town where they don’t look icky? Won’t that use more gas?

      1. IE, Uber is privately-owned cars.

      2. Exactly. It’s hard to get past the central-planning mentality of “where will the cars go?!?!?” Uber relies on privately owned vehicles organically transitioning into a public accommodation based on market demand. It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s so different from the mentality of “we’ll need this many cars and a place to put them”.

        1. This system has the same problem mass transit has; uneven demand. To meet the demand at rush hour means you have to have an over capacity for every other time. That is very inefficient and hard to make a profit on.

          The reason why Uber works well now is that it accounts for the rush hour problem by allowing people who are already going to work during that time to pick uber passengers and make extra money. That is a beautiful and elegant solution. Get rid of rush hour and no one is already going there. Everyone is looking for an uber. That makes uber just like a bus line and forces it to maintain an inefficient supply of vehicles for every time but rush hour.

          This system isn’t going to be much of an improvement over what we have and certainly isn’t going to replace normal commuting.

          1. There’s always work for vehicles to do. As we continue on we’ll probably end up with drivers who drive for more than one service. Drive Uber during rush hour, deliver Amazon prime packages, during the day, deliver food at night, etc, etc, etc.

            1. Sure there will be, if you are willing to pay a premium to get people to do it. And driving for different services doesn’t get around the demand problem. There isn’t enough food delivery demand to make up for the drop in demand for rides after rush hour.

              And instead of using all of these cars, how about we get one big efficient car that seats like 30 people and send it around on a route that stops and picks people up? We could call it bus service. It is so crazy it just might work.

              1. There’s not enough food delivery demand to make up for the drop in demand for rides, but there are other things that need to be moved. The point is that we don’t need to plan for it – companies like Uber and Amazon have shown that they can convince people to allocate the resources needed to make it happen.

                Ultimately, self-driving cars do away with all of this.

                Also, as somebody who has made thousands of trips on city-buses in my life, fuck bus service. I’ll be perfectly happy if I never have to set foot on one of those things again.

  7. Why will there even be cities in the future? All business and life can be conducted digitally by teleconference (or telepresence). No need to travel anywhere. Rich people will live on the coasts. Less rich people will live in Modesto.

    And with no high paying taxi driver jobs left, why will there be any economic demand for more businesses downtown?

    1. The hermit’s digital utopia will never come to pass. There are quantifiable benefits for teams whose members operate in close physical proximity to each other, and for a not-insignificant number of functions this will outweigh the cost of rent and infrastructure associated with maintaining the required office space. This is especially true when you account for the decreased demand for office space as telecommuting increases among roles where this is not the case.

      I think the last 25 years have shown that if you can keep away any criminal element then adults often prefer what your typical downtown offers. Revitalization of formerly decrepit mixed-use neighborhoods is all the rage around here.

      1. Having worked in a call center with a bunch of people with criminal records, most jobs in the near future are still going to require you to be physically present where the company can make sure you’re working, aren’t ripping them off, and have someone nearby you can walk to when you have questions about how best to handle a work problem.

        And that doesn’t even account for the jobs where you’re moving physical objects around, not zipping electrons around.

        Takes a lot of trust to allow an employee to work remotely.

        1. Hell, I don’t trust myself to work remotely. It is bad enough I blow an hour a day at work reading and posting shit here. If I was “working” from home, between Reason.com, Netflix and Pornhub, I doubt I would get any work done.

  8. So, wait, this guy expects there to be enough vehicles to support rush hour as things currently stand, then says we won’t need to store the same amount of vehicles that currently exist somewhere close by enough to service those same people?

    So this is basically just saying everyone will take a cab in the future, only now you’ll have to share somehow? How do the logistics of that work out? This article is…ludicrously improbable any which way you cut it. You’d be better off transforming current parking garages into living spaces and saying people have to live immediately next door to where they work. Laughable.

    1. So this is basically just saying everyone will take a cab in the future, only now you’ll have to share somehow? How do the logistics of that work out?

      Maybe someone behind these apps could figure out a way to pool together users in one area that are all headed along the same route into one car? Nah, that’s impossibly difficult.

      1. But see, that’s the thing – most people don’t particularly like sharing rides with other people. It’s not like carpooling/ridesharing didn’t already exist. It’s out there if you want it, but not many people do.

        1. There’s an easy solution there as well: “Click the Carpool-eligible icon for a 25% fare discount!” People will pack themselves like sardines into train cars if it’s cheap and convenient enough. I don’t think the cost has to be as low to justify sitting bitch in some dude’s late-model Camry.

          1. It is seriously like no one here has ever used Uber. They already have the option to use their “pool” service which is less than half the cost and involves sharing with other riders on a similar route.

  9. But those cities are missing out on thousands of dollars every year” if you read the article it refers to municipal revenue, so city taxes!

    If a company bought the lot, and there are too many spots, let the owner change it. But the author of the study isn’t talking about revitalizing industry or allowing the market to function more efficiently. He means, city fathers need to be wiser and more benevolent in bestowing their blessings upon the benighted city dwellers, for whom they are appointed by Almighty God to provide their livings.

    (In case it isn’t obvious, anytime I refer to one god, I am either referencing a monotheist’s theology, or I am being SARCASTIC)

  10. “…you cover most of your geography with cement.”

    If he means parking lots versus “productive business buildings”, these building are still built on foundations of concrete. (By the way, the word is concrete. Cement is the stuff that holds the aggregate together which creates concrete).

    If he means parking lots versus nature, fuck him. Anyone who wants to live in nature, has never actually been in nature.

    1. [in New Jersey accent] “Maybe we should educate these environmentalists on what cement is *really* like.”

      /stupid joke

    2. Yeah, foot traffic also necessitates a durable surface.

  11. If that’s what people want to do, more power to them – I’m driving myself. Driving is one of the few times in my day when I can run the AC as cold as I want, listen to whatever I want at whatever volume I want, and don’t have to listen to anyone else’s bullshit.

    1. I hear you, but I think people would rather someone else drive if the cost in terms of time and money is roughly equal. Fine with me, I’ll just enjoy the lighter traffic on my commute.

      1. My suspicion is that they’re going to try to force people into such things. Same worry I have with automated vehicles.

  12. One of the strangest of all reasons’ lefty cultural biases is their dislike for privately owned cars. Why a bunch of self styled “libertarians” would be so in love with forcing people into mass transit and car sharing rather than owning their own vehicles is beyond me.

    I don’t want to ride to work with a stranger in some strange car. I want to go to work in my own car alone or with someone of my choosing.

    1. I missed the part where the article said you were forced to do this.

      We live only a few miles from the train station my wife uses to commute, but she will routinely use Uber instead of driving herself there. The cost of driving both ways is only a tiny bit more than the charge to park all day and frequently when she gets to the train station there is no parking so she’s forced to drive anyway. Using uber solves that for her, too.

  13. The socialist derp is strong with this one.

    cities lost population to the suburbs during the second half of the 20th Century and responded by building more parking facilities to provide for commuters and visitors…. But those cities are missing out on thousands of dollars every year by using all that land for parking rather than more lucrative development,

    Two idiotic statements.

    Most of those parking facilities are privately owned. Unless they’re abandoned, they are serving the market as intended.

    You call it space-wasting. City governments call it “Property – with zoning power and tax revenue.” “Lucrative development” can be a parking garage just as much as it can be an office building.

    If cities really gave a damn about not wasting space, they’d have already quintupled the number of taxi medallions and killed the price-fixing schemes, staving off Uber and Lyft. Instead, they just get a nice shakedown of Uber and Lyft. Then when the ridesharing taxes are enacted, people will have to weigh the benefit of driving and parking one’s self, of paying the tax-inflated ridesharing fares.

    Government is now less likely to get out of the way of the market than ever before. Which makes these utopian articles all the more naive.

    1. The other piece of DERP in that is that the author assumes that people moving to the suburbs is some kind of bad thing that everyone needs to figure out how to reverse. No, people moved to the suburbs because they preferred to live in the suburbs. It is not a bad thing to be solved. That is a good thing that people had the freedom to move to and live where they liked.

      Ultimately, the typical urban hipster half wit just can’t understand why anyone would not want to live exactly like they do. So, anyone who doesn’t must present a problem to be solved. It never occurs to the author that maybe cities are full of parking garages because the people living there like it that way.

    2. If cities gave a damn about wasting space they’d at least get rid of surface parking and insist (not that they should but in the real world they have all the power) that the owners build a parking structure.

  14. I i get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 3 kids at home. I never thought I’d be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless.

    Heres what I’ve been doing:==>==>==> http://www.CareerPlus90.com

  15. In Our Uber-ed Out Future, Cities Won’t Be Covered With Ugly Parking Garages
    Next generation of ride-sharing will make cities more efficient, solve mass transit problems.

    Yes they will.

    You’re forgetting that in order to do without parking garages then there will have to be enough Uber capacity to handle *surge loads* (Rush Hour) traffic OR a major change in the way we arrange our work days. Since hardly anyone, including large employers who would have the most effect, will get to together to stagger start/finish times *now*, I don’t have hope that that will change in the near future (maybe if the government made a law?). If there’s that capacity then there will be alot of unused capacity on non-peak times. Which means it won’t be making money which means it won’t be there.

    All those guys living in the suburbs that won’t take the bus *now* are not going to lock their schedule down to when an Uber driver can pick them up. They’re going to take their car.

    Now, when cars become sufficiently automated and *trusted* to handle running on their own – then you might see a drop in parking garages. IF, and only if, the price of garaging the car is higher than the price of having it drive itself from home to work twice a day. Otherwise simple economics along with hippy-dippy environmentalism will have those cars parked, unused, all day long in a parking garage.

  16. What’s missing from all of these stories (this is just one of many) is that people use parked cars for portable storage of their stuff. No matter how great Uber and its competitors are — and I am a big fan myself — they cannot substitute for private cars until some genius figures out how to provide inexpensive, reasonably secure, temporary storage for stuff.

    Used to be there were things called lockers in places like train and bus stations, but terrorist paranoia would probably prevent the expansion of that concept. … not that a parked car couldn’t equally well be used to deliver a bomb!

  17. I would prefer not to ride to work with an outsider in some weird auto. I need to go to work in my own auto alone or with somebody of my picking.

    On the off chance that urban communities cared the slightest bit about squandering space they’d in any event dispose of surface stopping and demand (not that they ought to but rather in this present reality they have all the force) that the proprietors assemble a stopping structure.

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