Commentary and reflection on an article originally appearing in a Geek Wire posting by Bob Sullivan on 24 January – which when posted last week to our World Streets Online Facebook site at https://www.facebook.com/WorldStreetsOnline attracted considerable attention. In the posting that follows, we propose an open thinking exercise in three parts which you are invited to join.
It opens with a series of one-sentence excerpts which have been selected because they appear to us to some of the most interesting thoughts that appear in the article itself. (The section is intended to be quickly scanned as a sort of subliminal exercise). Then, in the second section, we put before the reader the full text of the original article for a more leisurely read. And then in a final short section we comment briefly on what strikes us as the underlying message and challenge, along with a bit of background on our work thus far on this broad topic. Off we go!
1. Selected bits of Sullivan on Ubernomics
• He’s very worried it has begun a race to the bottom that no one can win, and no one is talking about.
• Netflix users weren’t signing up for a service as much as they were joining the resistance.
• If you want to see what happens when there’s a race to the bottom in something that involves critical safety issues, do a little reading on the Chinatown bus wars between New York, Washington and Boston
• But the only thing worse than regulation is no regulation.
• .It’s not easy to get 20 drivers out of bed to flood a car-starved neighborhood in 2 minutes or less.
• What does that mean? Everybody still has to guess. Drivers still have to guess where the demand will be be; riders have to guess when and where cars will be
• Remember, anything goes with dynamic pricing. What about the elderly, or the handicapped? Folks who suffer car accidents or layoffs and are without cars for a while? Do we really want them to, effectively, negotiate a new price each time? Do you want to do that?
• Think about all Uber knows about you.
• An Uber driver I spoke to recently said he has to drive twice as many hours in Washington D.C. to make the money he made driving a yellow cab, but he does so gladly because of the quality of the clients.
• Uber denies it’s a common carrier, but that’s kind of like denying English. It carries around people
• As Uber become more ubiquitous, it will be even more essential that it accepts the role of common carrier. Those problems are easy to predict.
• Transit systems operate on an equation that is terrible for businesses, but (theoretically) good for society.
• And the only thing worse than Uber succeeding at that goal is Uber failing – and burning down the taxi business, and other modes of transportation, along the way.
• The best thing to do with a market failure it to intervene and clean it up before it causes a disaster. You inspect the planes before, not after, the plane crash.
• “The old transportation for hire rules have to change. To me that is pretty clear…. Credit Uber for showing the better way.
• If we don’t have smarter regulation, we’re going to discover the need for smarter regulation, because the market will fail. … Just to throw away the economic regulations with the dear hope that the invisible hand of the market will just sort all this out is nonsense.”
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2. Six reasons Ubernomics could be fatal to itself, its customers, and mass transit
– BY BOB SULLIVAN, Geek Wire, January 24, 2015 at 11:30 am
– – – > Click here for original text and graphics – http://goo.gl/gsBXCy
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3. Quick Comment
That last sentence holds the key: ““The old transportation for hire rules have to change. To me that is pretty clear…. Credit Uber for showing the better way,” Sulmona says. “But we’ve really got to be careful. If we don’t have smarter regulation, we’re going to discover the need for smarter regulation, because the market will fail. … Just to throw away the economic regulations with the dear hope that the invisible hand of the market will just sort all this out is nonsense.”
This is the challenge. We and others are working on it. Stay tuned.
4, World Streets coverage to date (Titles hotlinked):
* Click ⊕ bottom right for latest European Citizens Mobility Forum report on our topic
+ Shared content thus far of our Pubic Library
(Round 1. More to follow shortly)
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About the editor:
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Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at https://goo.gl/9CJXTh and @ericbritton