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Uber, lyft and other taxis

New York Experiments with a ‘Holy Grail’ to End Gridlock

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Sam Schwartz knew that New York’s crippling traffic jams were bad for the city long before he coined the term that would become synonymous with urban automotive nightmare. As a young New York City traffic engineer in the 1970s, Schwartz worked on never-implemented plans to close midtown Manhattan to cars at midday and charge tolls on 14 bridges that connect Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Schwartz’s “grid-lock prevention program” during New York’s 1980 transit strike, which earned him the nickname “Gridlock Sam,” kept traffic flowing by banning driver-only cars during rush hour in most of Manhattan.

For 48 years, Schwartz has pursued his holy-grail solution to gridlock: congestion pricing. He wanted to charge drivers a fee to drive in the busiest parts of Manhattan. “I knew it was inevitable,” says Schwartz, now 71, “but would it be inevitable in my lifetime?”
Now it’s coming. In 2021, New York will be the first American city to charge drivers a toll to drive downtown. Congestion pricing has been deployed successfully in recent years in cities such as London and Stockholm, but in the United States, charging car owners to pay extra to get to where the action is has always seemed like a reform too far.

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Our award-winning What Works series travels the nation to highlight cities finding fresh solutions to big national challenges. Starting this issue, we’re tackling one big idea every other month, starting with the plague of traffic. Read more.

Last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators agreed on a plan to make all of Manhattan south of Central Park—the business-dense end of the island—a congestion-pricing zone. The tolls, estimated at $12 to $14 per car and $25 per truck weekdays (lower on nights and weekends) and levied using EZPass devices and license-plate cameras, will raise $1 billion a year to improve New York City’s transit system.

“You have traffic being the worst it’s ever been in the central business district,” says Robert Mujica, budget director for Cuomo. “The other cities that have done this internationally have done it at a point when the traffic has reached a tipping point. And that’s where we are here.”
Ironically, it was a New Yorker who invented congestion pricing—the late Columbia University economist and Nobel laureate William Vickrey. (Schwartz says Vickrey used to pester him about the idea at community meetings.) But until now, it’s been most widespread overseas. It has reduced central-city traffic in Singapore by 44 percent and in Stockholm by 10 to 15 percent, and it’s cut traffic delays in central London by a quarter.

In the U.S., however, it is highways, not downtowns, where Vickrey’s concepts have been deployed. In several states, such as Virginia, dynamic tolling charges extra to use express lanes during rush hour or when traffic gets heavy. In Manhattan, despite the interest of civic leaders, congestion pricing proposals failed again and again, the most recent in 2008 during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure. Drivers in New York’s outer boroughs protested having to pay to get around the city, and getting hard things done hasn’t always been easy, given the rocky relationship between city pols and their counterparts in the capital upstate.

Meanwhile, congestion grew. About 800,000 vehicles enter Manhattan every day. Average traffic speeds in midtown Manhattan dropped from 6.5 mph in 2012 to 4.7 mph in 2017, says Schwartz. Subway delays tripled from 2012 to 2017. “You had a crisis above and below ground,” Schwartz says. A rider-led campaign deluged the governor’s Twitter feed with subway horror stories bearing the hashtag #CuomosMTA. “Every delay was being reported,” says Danny Pearlstein, policy director for Riders Alliance. “The governor could not escape.”

Once Cuomo endorsed congestion pricing in 2017, Riders Alliance joined a “fix the subway” coalition to push it through the Legislature. “Bus and subway riders are paying to get to work in Manhattan, and drivers are getting in for free,” says Pearlstein. Congestion pricing, he says, “is correcting a failure in the market for a very scarce resource, which is New York City streets.”
A state panel will set tolls and decide how to treat taxicabs and ride-share vehicles, who had congestion-pricing fees of $2.50 and $2.75 levied on their trips in southern Manhattan earlier this year. Truckers, motorcyclists, bus companies and even New Jersey residents want relief, too, which Schwartz warns could drive up tolls for everyone else. The state has already decided to exempt residents of the central business district who make less than $60,000 a year.

Economist Charles Komanoff estimates that the governor’s NYC congestion pricing plan will save drivers and bus passengers 140,000 hours a day on average, or 50 million hours a year. Also, once the congestion pricing revenues are invested in better transit, he predicts faster and more reliable transit trips will eventually save another 367,000 hours a day, or 134 million hours a year.

Despite a track record of success elsewhere, congestion pricing will have to win over a skeptical public. New York City voters opposed it, 54 to 41 percent, in an April poll, with 52 percent saying it won’t reduce traffic. Support for congestion pricing could become a political vulnerability for leaders—probably one reason the state panel’s decisions on tolls aren’t due until after the November 2020 election. In European cities, congestion pricing’s popularity grew once it was implemented, a shift Cuomo and other New York pols are banking on.

“Our challenge is going to be to make sure people see that the revenues that come from this are going to improve the mass transit system,” Mujica says. “People don’t want to pay a toll when they don’t see what the benefit is going to be.”

Source; https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/05/23/new-york-city-without-cars-transportation-226927

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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Lyft Is Another Step Closer to Driverless Ridesharing

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Ridesharing company Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) inched a little bit closer toward self-driving ridesharing last week when it said in a blog post that it’s adding Chrysler Pacifica hybrids to its autonomous vehicle (AV) testing fleet and opening a new self-driving vehicle test facility.

The new facility, located in East Palo Alto, California, will allow the company to increase the number of AV tests it can run. It will also let the company test how the systems do with different road configurations, including intersections, merging lanes, traffic lights, and similar challenges. The company said in the post that the new facility will let Lyft “further accelerate the speed of innovation.”

Lyft says that it’s driving four times more autonomous miles per quarter than it was just six months ago and has about 400 employees worldwide working on self-driving tech. That figure is likely to expand, considering that Lyft has more than 40 autonomous vehicle job openings listed on its website.

In addition to the new facility, Lyft said that it’s adding Pacifica minivans to its AV fleet, which is the same vehicle that Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car company, uses for its public self-driving ridesharing project and AV tests. Lyft said that, “The minivan’s size and functionality provide our team with significant flexibility to experiment with the self-driving rideshare experience.”

Why does all this matter for Lyft’s autonomous-vehicle future? Because to have a successful, public self-driving ridesharing fleet in the coming years, Lyft needs to lay the groundwork right now.

Isn’t Lyft already doing AV testing?

Lyft is, of course, already working on AV testing. The company’s original self-driving test facility has been up and running since early 2018. The company also started a partnership with Waymo earlier this year to test autonomous ridesharing. Additionally, Lyft also works with Aptiv, an AV tech company, and together they’ve created “the largest publicly available commercial self-driving program in the country” and have completed more than 75,000 rides through the partnership.

But the recent announcements by Lyft show that the company is taking its AV focus a bit further. The Pacifica minivans have been used by Waymo’s AV ridesharing program in Phoenix for more than a year now, making them a proven choice for shuttling around ride-hailing passengers. Lyft may not be ready to launch a wide-scale autonomous ridesharing service just yet, but testing out these vehicles likely means that it’s moving past earlier stages of AV testing and is now looking at how its next-generation self-driving tech can handle new vehicles.

Why this matters for Lyft

Lyft and other ride-hailing companies, including Uber, are keeping a close eye on self-driving developments and testing out the technologies themselves because it could eventually become an integral part of their business model. Research from Intel predicts that the AV ridesharing market could be worth $3.7 trillion by 2050.

Additionally, as regulations surrounding ridesharing drivers continue to increase, Lyft is likely looking to AVs to eventually replace some human drivers. Just a few months ago, the state of California introduced a bill that could pave the way for independent contractors, including Lyft’s drivers, to be reclassified as employees. If a version of the bill becomes law and other states follow California’s lead, it could significantly increase operating costs for Lyft. That could be bad news for the company, which is unprofitable right now and hoping to be in the black just two years from now.

While Lyft’s announcements may not seem all that significant right now, investors should know that these baby steps moving the company closer to AV ridesharing could have huge results in the coming years. For now, investors should be pleased that Lyft is beefing up its own AV testing. Each move the company makes now means that it’ll be much more ready for a self-driving ridesharing future.

Source www.nasdaq.com

By Chris Neiger

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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Uber fined $650 million by New Jersey over driver classification

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New Jersey is the latest state to say Uber’s drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development said that because of this misclassification, the ride-hailing company owes it roughly $650 million in unemployment taxes and disability insurance, according to Bloomberg Law.

The Department of Labor reportedly has been trying to get unpaid employment taxes from Uber going back as far as 2015, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg Law. It said the company owed the state $523 million in overdue taxes along with another $119 million in interest and penalties for the last four years. Uber disputes these findings.

“We are challenging this preliminary but incorrect determination,” an Uber spokesman said in an email. “Because drivers are independent contractors in New Jersey and elsewhere.”

Driver classification is an issue that government regulators have been taking a closer look at over the past year. California passed a law in September that could require Uber and other on-demand companies to reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1. New York, Oregon and Washington state have considered similar legislation.

Uber, Lyft and several other tech companies have vowed to fight the California law, collectively putting more than $90 million behind a ballot initiative that’ll take the issue to voters next November. Many drivers have said this move is a slap in the face as they struggle to earn a living wage.

Uber’s and Lyft’s business models depend on bringing aboard hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, whose labor is typically cheaper than that of employees. That’s because Uber and Lyft drivers supply and maintain their own cars and also pay for their own health care and benefits, such as sick days or overtime pay.New Jersey is the latest state to say Uber’s drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development said that because of this misclassification, the ride-hailing company owes it roughly $650 million in unemployment taxes and disability insurance, according to Bloomberg Law.

The Department of Labor reportedly has been trying to get unpaid employment taxes from Uber going back as far as 2015, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg Law. It said the company owed the state $523 million in overdue taxes along with another $119 million in interest and penalties for the last four years. Uber disputes these findings.

“We are challenging this preliminary but incorrect determination,” an Uber spokesman said in an email. “Because drivers are independent contractors in New Jersey and elsewhere.”

Driver classification is an issue that government regulators have been taking a closer look at over the past year. California passed a law in September that could require Uber and other on-demand companies to reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1. New York, Oregon and Washington state have considered similar legislation.

Uber, Lyft and several other tech companies have vowed to fight the California law, collectively putting more than $90 million behind a ballot initiative that’ll take the issue to voters next November. Many drivers have said this move is a slap in the face as they struggle to earn a living wage.

Uber’s and Lyft’s business models depend on bringing aboard hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, whose labor is typically cheaper than that of employees. That’s because Uber and Lyft drivers supply and maintain their own cars and also pay for their own health care and benefits, such as sick days or overtime pay.

 

“New Jersey is sending a message that the state’s labor laws aren’t dictated by corporations,” Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said in a statement. “It’s a stinging rebuke of the architects of the gig economy, and we hope it permeates across other sectors.”

Even if Uber’s drivers were determined to be employees rather than independent contractors, Uber said the $650 million New Jersey tax fine would be too high — particularly if it’s based on what the company has earned in the state. Uber didn’t disclose the revenue it generated in New Jersey over the past four years, but its combined revenue for all the markets where it operated in 2018 was $11.3 billion.

 

 

 

Source www.cnet.com

By Dara Kerr

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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Adams Clinical removes hurdle to clinical trial participation

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How Adams Clinical increased retention and streamlined operations by switching to Uber.

One of the hardest parts of conducting a clinical trial is identifying willing participants. Once a participant is identified, strict qualifications and an often-lengthy time commitment limits who can participate, and a lack of access to transportation can make it difficult for participants to commit to and complete the study. To help improve recruitment and retention rates, Adams Clinical offered taxi rides to their participants. However, this solution became a burden on operational efficiency since taxis were only accessible to participants who lived close by and required the staff to pay at the end of each ride.

Finding the perfect transportation solution with Uber Health

To expand their transportation offering, Adams Clinical became an early beta partner with Uber in 2016. The team started using Uber’s web dashboard to arrange and pay for rides for participants with just a few clicks. Over the three years of this partnership, the switch to Uber Health simplified operational management, while reducing time spent on recruitment with increased retention rates. The easy-to-use Uber Health dashboard tracked all the rides and processed payments from one centralized interface, allowing the staff to arrange rides without the hassle of paying at the end of each trip. This flexibility, plus the extensive reach of Uber driver-partners in the Boston area, provided Adams Clinical with the transportation solution needed to successfully manage their participants in need of rides—which removed the headache from recruiting and retaining their study participants.

The result: Improved retention rates, simplified financial records, and an overall lift in team morale

By teaming with Uber Health, Adams Clinical enjoys a number of key benefits including:

• Expanded Recruitment—Using Uber Health cut down the length of enrollment by providing a larger pool to recruit from, resulting in a 5 to 10 percent reduction in recruitment time over the last two years. 

• Centralized Billing—All rides are charged to one company credit card, which is then processed at the end of each month to streamline the amount of administrative effort required.

• Reliable Service—Each ride is tracked in the dashboard so the team knows when the participant will be arriving to help keep the rest of the study on schedule.

• Improved Retention—In the first two years of the partnership with Uber, Adams Clinical estimated up to 20 percent fewer people dropped out of a trial when transportation was arranged to and from the clinic.

• Financial Accountability—Details for each ride are available in the dashboard, and can be downloaded to a spreadsheet, offering convenient management with trial-specific reporting per participant.

• Easy to Use—Using Uber Health has been easy for both staff and participants, even among populations without smartphones or passengers new to Uber.

 

by Kendall Brown

Source uber.com

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