Fixing What’s Broken

Citibike may find redemption after all. The bike-sharing program’s new owner has made a splash, shutting down the service over the weekend in order to update software and make other improvements. Long-term upgrades are also on the horizon, and there is hope yet for New York’s bike-sharing users. From WNYC’s Morning Edition:

“Things were broken when we came in,” said Jay Walder, the CEO of Motivate, which took over the bike share program last year. “The system wasn’t really built to handle the demands of this city.”

Things that didn’t work: the software, the management, and the infrastructure. It looks like Motivate is going to overhaul all three to finally give NYC a bike-sharing program that lowers the obstacles to use and blends more seamlessly into the larger transportation network.

So many city residents were turned off by the cacophony of complaints surrounding the Citibike service. Many never even bothered to try it, figuring it was just another hassle in a city already full of transportation hassles. But if Motivate follows through with better bikes, better docks, and better service all around, we may finally get to see the full potential of bike sharing in our fine city.

Click the thumbnail below to read and listen to the full story at WNYC:



Uber’s Offices Raided in France & South Korea

This could’ve been avoided. But again, it illustrates that governments don’t have the proper tools to regulate apps. They don’t even know where to begin, so after sending “warnings” they use police force. Neither is effective.

Uber, for its part, is acting like a rebellious teenager. Except this rebellious teenager has more money than its parents, so it can kinda do what it wants.

So what’s the solution?

Governments need to develop the tools to work with start-ups. One place to start would be by developing partnerships, putting out RFPs, and trying to work in unison to mesh the rules and the innovations – and to change each where appropriate. In other words, governments need to begin acting a little more like start-ups. And start-ups, for their part, could use a little growing up (well, some of them, at least). It’s time for cities, states, and countries to embrace innovation while being smart about how to handle it. That would be the biggest innovation of all.

BBC News has the story:

BBC News

When “less expensive” actually means “more expensive”

Lo and behold, there’s another new app out there. This one, called OpenStreetCab, lets you compare Uber prices with yellow taxi fares in New York City. A bunch of computer scientists compared these prices from 2013 and 2014 and discovered the benefit shifts from yellow cab to Uber at around $35. That means for the majority of taxi rides, which are short and therefore less than $35, a yellow taxi is cheaper – despite Uber’s advertising to the contrary. I haven’t tested this, but the logic here sounds about right.

Uber has a higher minimum than a yellow cab, and their algorithm is mysterious. Taxi pricing, on the other hand, are comparatively straightforward. Prices are regulated by the TLC and measured by the meter. Sure, there are ways to influence the meter (taking some air out of tires to increase wheel revolutions is one example), but these are severely punished, and it’s not worth it for many cab drivers to even try. Uber’s fares, famously, have no limit, and are measured by time and distance using an algorithm that a regular passenger has no access to. You find out how much your ride costs after you’ve left the car. Their model, however, is elegant and slick. The convenience of using the app still makes it an attractive option despite the lack of fare transparency.

It’s good to have choice. It’s even better to know the options you’re choosing between.

Click the thumbnails to read more:

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 9.18.34 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-17 at 9.18.40 AM

You can check out OpenStreetCab here:

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 9.29.35 AM

Lyft + the White House

Now maybe the picture gets clearer as to why Uber is suddenly so interested in women. While I’m not crazy about the idea of the White House promoting one private business over another, it’s great to see the Federal Government embracing the idea that new technologies like Lyft and Uber can provide a valuable, dare I say “innovative,” solution to some of our problems — in this case, sexual harassment.

Obviously the White House can’t partner with the bad boys, especially not on this particular initiative. But the recognition is there: the on-demand economy, for all its unknowns and perceived dangers, can be valuable, not only as an economy shifter but as a tool of social change.

Click the thumbnail below to read Taylor Soper’s full story on GeekWire.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 8.49.57 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-17 at 8.58.21 AM