Monday, July 30, 2012

Call for Papers: Spatial and Land Use Implications of Taxis, Jitneys, Paratransit and Flexible Transportation

The Journal of Transportation and Land Use (JTLU) has issued a Call for Papers on the Spatial and Land Use Implications of Taxis, Jitneys, Paratransit and Flexible Transportation. I will be serving as volume editor for the issue and encourage those doing research in these areas to submit a paper. JTLU is an open access, peer reviewed journal.
Here is the link, and here is more information:

Call for Papers: Call for Papers: Spatial and Land Use Implications of Taxis, Jitneys, Paratransit and Flexible Transportation

JTLU Call for Papers: Spatial and Land Use Implications of Taxis, Jitneys, Paratransit and Flexible Transportation
Volume Editor: David King ( dk2475 AT ; Columbia University)

The Journal of Transportation and Land Use seeks original research papers that explore issues associated with taxi service, jitneys and other flexible or informal transit systems in cities throughout the world. Ideal papers for this special issue will explore how these transport services influence existing transport networks and urban form, affect travel behavior or negotiate contested urban spaces.
Taxicabs, jitneys, low-cost bus services and other paratransit services represent unique, flexible transit services in cities throughout the world, and recent scholarship has explored regulatory, economic and labor characteristics of these services. Areas that have received less attention include how these services influence travel behavior, complement or compete with conventional transit, and the role of land uses for service provision. GPS and consumer data also provides new opportunities for spatial analysis of driver and passenger trip characteristics at a level of detail previously impossible.

Researchers working in any area of taxicabs, jitneys, flexible or informal transit, both intracity and intercity, are encouraged to consider submitting a paper.

Specific Areas of Interest Include:
• Competition among for-hire vehicles at the curb, including taxis, jitneys, intercity buses and jitneys
• The effect for-hire vehicles have on demand for parking
• Paratransit operations and opportunities
• For-hire vehicles as feeder systems for fixed route transit
• Locational issues with taxi garages, dispatch sites and other facilities
• Land use considerations with for-hire services (stadia, airports, theater districts, etc.)
• Spatial dispersion of taxi, jitney and other services
• Models and simulation of taxi, jitney and other services
• Case studies of novel policies involving for-hire vehicle services, such as use of taxis as paratransit
• Travel behavior and mode choice research
• Social equity issues with regard to service areas
• Urban design characteristics of for-hire vehicle services
• GPS and consumer data used for planning and regulatory purposes
• Spatial analysis of taxicab, jitney or flexible transit services

Monday, July 16, 2012

How Many are a Flock? Evidence from Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Daily News reports that San Fernando Valley residents are "flocking" to the new Expo rail line. Here is the story. (LA Observed picked up the story here.) Here is the opening paragraph:
The dozen riders aboard the Expo Line train car early Wednesday morning used the quiet morning commute in different ways: fiddling with phones, playing video games, or reading a book. All were strangers, but a handful on the train were neighbors, of sorts.
Are a dozen riders a "flock"?  The Daily News thinks so. Here is the third paragraph:
Turns out, San Fernando Valley commuters are flocking to the new Expo Line.
Here is a photo of the flock:
 Not to pick on the Daily News, but that is a photo of one dude on an empty train. That's not exactly photographic evidence that the service is popular with anyone, yet alone Valley residents.

Here is the photo from the LA Observed story:
I know that lots of people ride transit in Los Angeles, even if some trains might underperform a bit. I don't think transit in LA is done any favors by featuring pictures of empty stations and trains as part of stories that LA transit is really popular. Where are the people?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Today's Taxi News: July 12, 2012

The New York Daily News picked up on some new research by Matt Daus, Jon Peters and me where we looked at NYC yellow cabs taking fares in New Jersey. Here is the story. From the article:

Yellow cab drivers make hundreds of thousands of pickups and dropoffs in the Garden State each year — even though though their services are needed in the five boroughs — an analysis of GPS data revealed.
The numbers crunching by a team of experts found that yellow cabs annually make more than 360,000 trips that start in New Jersey. And nearly 160,000 trips begin and end in Hudson County alone, the researchers told the Daily News.
“New York City taxis are doing a better job serving the needs of Hudson County than Staten Island, or southeast Brooklyn or eastern Queens,” said Jonathan Peters, a finance professor at the College of Staten Island.
Peters, former city Taxi and Limousine Commission Chairman Matthew Daus and David King, an assistant professor at Columbia University, analyzed GPS data for 3 million randomly selected taxi trips. They used it to figure out how much business hacks were doing on the other side of the Hudson in one’s year time.
James Fallows rounds up the reporting on Uber's successful regulatory challenge in Washington, D.C. at this link.

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to raise taxi fares by 17 percent starting in September. This should be good for drivers. Not only will they get higher wages and tips, but six cents from each taxi ride will go into a healthcare fund for drivers. Hopefully we can estimate the elasticity of demand for certain types of rides from this natural experiment.

In Vancouver, TransLink announced that it will maintain a taxi voucher program for disabled people. From the story:

Admitting that TransLink failed to fully understand how disabled people use its services, the agency’s board chair announced Wednesday it is reversing a decision to eliminate a program that provided taxi discount coupons for them.
“I regret any angst we have caused for people. That was never the intent,” said Nancy Olewiler. The board chair formally announced the TaxiSaver program would continue for people who can’t use the region’s regular transit system or its specialized HandyDart buses for all rides.
“But even some of the folks employed in the program didn’t understand all the ways it was used.”
I will add that we know very little about how users use taxis and other for-hire services. Taxis are a great opportunity to improve access and mobility for many who now rely on paratransit services, many of which are poor quality (due to scheduling problems) and most of which are unnecessarily expensive.

CNN reports on the Parisian taxi market and the potential to expand the fleet to create jobs:
Back in 1937, Paris capped the number of taxi permits at 14,000. Now, 75 years later, a bigger and vastly richer Paris receives some 27 million tourist visits per year -- and the number of cabs has edged up less than 14%, to 15,900. Result: In wind and rain and baking sun, Parisians must stand in long lines at taxi stands for cabs that never come.

In 2007, the new government of Nicolas Sarkozy proposed to supplement the existing fleet. It would license 6,500 new cars in Paris, 23,500 in the rest of France. The proposal triggered a strike that shut down the city for a day -- and frightened Sarkozy into surrender.
Five years later, it's as difficult to find a cab in Paris as ever. (Paris has about 2,000 more cab licenses than New York, which has a much bigger population, but New York has a vast fleet of cars for hire to supplement medallion cabs -- and except for the luxury market, car services are illegal in Paris.)
On the list of world problems, the difficulties of Paris taxi riders may seem to rank low.
Think again.
Almost 3 million French people are now out of work, the severest unemployment in 12 years. Millions more have quit the workforce altogether, subsisting on disability pensions or other social benefits.
Prolonged mass unemployment in Europe has triggered a global debate about the euro currency, and rightly so. Yet it's also true that every day, people in Europe are denied work by dumb laws that prevent willing customers from hiring them.
Adding 30,000 new taxi licenses in France would mean more than 90,000 daily taxi shifts: In other words, upwards of 90,000 new jobs.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Taxi Links of Interest

James Fallows writes a post defending taxi company Uber against proposed vicious fare requirements:
"Here's the headline version of what comes below: As a longtime resident of DC, I am accustomed to misadventures in governance in our "taxation without representation" existence here. But a fight over a new competitor to the District's (often horrible) taxi service offers something I haven't seen in a while. Not routine retail-level corruption, nor skillful top-level favor trading, but instead what appears to be a blatant attempt to legislate favors for one set of interests by hamstringing another. I know, I know, this happens all the time -- but the seeming crudity of this one gets my attention."
Sommer Mathis at The Atlantic Cities wonders if the taxi model is dying.

 [DK: I think there are major challenges to the taxi model and broadly speaking there may be something to her thesis. However, it is an open question if entrenched taxi and transit interests will squash new competition into for-hire vehicle services. History suggests that the old, flawed regulatory model will be hard to break. Let's hope, but we'll see. The optimal amount of regulation is less than we have now but more than none.]

New York City taxi fares are set to increase by 17 percent. Here is a NY Times story about this. Also in the Times, Michael Powell writes about the  plight of the taxi driver.

New York Magazine just published the Everything Guide to Taxis. There is lots of great stuff there.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Taxes are Not Benefits, and an EIA is Not a BCA

California is intent on moving forward with building a high speed train. There are lots of supporters of the project, and lots of attempts to make the project economically justified. For instance, here is a new economic impact report from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that has high speed rail supporters excited. Here is what America 2050, an enthusiastically pro-high speed rail group, reported on the Bay Area report:

The Council's study identified a potential economic benefit of up to $2.5 billion for the region over time from construction-related jobs and investment, improved real estate values near stations and the right-of-way, and employee time savings. The additional benefits of the fewer polluting diesel locomotives and shorter travel times are in addition to this economic boon.
The headline of the America 2050 piece claims that the two reports cited in their story show the benefits of the project outweigh the costs. Neither report did any such thing. The BACEI report is an economic impact analysis (EIA), which is substantially different than a benefit cost analysis. See here for details. An EIA only looks at how a project will affect a given location's economy. There are no mentions of costs, and because many of the economic effects are transfers rather than new activities EIA should be used with caution.

For instance, according to Table 14 of the BACEI the report (page 27), the $2.5 billion in benefits is the high estimate. The low estimate of benefits is just under $1.5 billion.The BACEI counts state, local and property taxes as benefits, which in this EIA they are because it is new money to the state. But to evaluate the project's benefits against costs you recognize that taxes are not benefits (and certainly taxes should not be called an economic boon). They are transfers. The state gets revenue from taxes, but the people who pay the taxes don't have that money anymore. The costs and benefits balance each other out.

If this report was a BCA, then many of the benefits claimed get wiped out. The report highlights increased property values as a benefit and travel time savings as a benefit. You don't get to count both of these. The reason the property values increased, according to the study, is because of travel time savings. So either travel time savings are capitalized into property values, in which case you do not include travel time savings in your cost benefit analysis, or they are not, and then you estimate travel time savings as a benefit and leave property values out of it.

In any event, the BACEI economic impact report is fine for what it is, but it isn't a benefit-cost analysis. The EIA makes no claims as to whether or not the project makes sense economically, and this should be made clear when this, and similar, reports are highlighted.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Now Published: Credible Commitment and Congestion Pricing

Mike Manville and I are pleased that our paper "Credible Commitment and Congestion Pricing" is now published in Transportation. Available online at this link (gated). Here is the abstract:

Transportation analysts frequently assert that congestion pricing’s political obstacles can be overcome through astute use of the toll revenue pricing generates. Such “revenue recycling,” however, implies that the collectors of the toll revenue will not be its final recipients, meaning that any revenue recipient must believe that the revenue collector will honor promises to deliver the money. This raises the potential for credible commitment problems. Promises to spend revenue can solve one political problem, because revenue is an easy benefit to understand, but create another one, because revenue is easy to divert. Revenue recycling may therefore not be a promising way to build political support for congestion pricing. We highlight the role commitment problems have played efforts to implement congestion pricing, using examples from around the world and then focusing on California. Because congestion reduction is a more certain benefit than any particular use of the toll revenue, demonstration projects, rather than revenue promises, will be key to pricing’s political success.


Taxi Links

In New York City a federal appeals court ruled that the Taxi and Limousine Commission is not in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act even though only 231 of over 13,000 medallions are required to be wheelchair accessible. Here is a story about last week's ruling. Here is a story about the legal options disability rights advocates are considering. One potential benefit of more taxis being fully accessible is that taxis can then be used to offer rides now served by contracted paratransit. Access-A-Ride services cost way too much (about $60 per ride) and need to be fixed. Chicago has been expanding their accessible taxi fleet through a Taxi Access Program. See details here and this story that notes the number of accessible taxis in the city increased from 92 to 139 due to Mayor Emanuel's work.

Also in Chicago, the taxi drivers had a brief strike yesterday over lease rates and fares. And a new law allows drivers to charge passengers who vomit in the cab $50.

This story from the New York Post about the Master Cabbie Taxi Academy notes that New Yorkers don't really know their way around the city.  Part of the gap in knowledge may be related to the cognitive maps that people develop are related to their modes of travel.

In Sydney, Australia Allan Fels' work has prompted interest in improving taxi services. Here is an op-ed about some poor service issues.

Uber, the unlicensed for-hire taxi service, is opening up a lower cost service. See here and here. I'm not certain if Uber will break the existing regulatory structure for taxi licenses or ultimately succumb to it.