Chandler, Ariz.— On the chilly October day the New York City subway opened in 1904, the marvel of engineering and grit was greeted with horns, steam sirens and stations overrun by thousands of revelers. “Fast Trains in Tubes,” blared one headline.
On Wednesday, 114 years later in sun-swept Arizona, the launch of the 21st-century equivalent came in a blog post and an email invitation.
Google offshoot Waymo announced it is launching the nation’s first commercial self-driving taxi service in this and other Phoenix suburbs. The 24/7 service, dubbed Waymo One, will let customers summon self-driving minivans by a smartphone app, a la Uber or Lyft.
The current management of transportation in American cities is, to put it mildly, balkanized. Powers to regulate, tax, and allocate budgets for modes like transit, automobiles, and taxis are divided across numerous transit authorities, state agencies, and city departments. The predictable result: organizational friction and confusion about who is ultimately responsible for achieving policy goals such as equity, safety, and the reduction of pollution and congestion.
This situation is not sustainable, especially in an era when new mobility services like ride-hail and scooters have made the pursuit of regional mobility goals more challenging—and more important—than ever before. It’s time to consider a dramatic step: consolidation of all mobility oversight into a single regional authority.
Uber is launching wheelchair-accessible service in the District and five other cities, the company announced this week, pledging a 15-minute wait time for customers with disabilities for fares equivalent to UberX.
The ride-hail giant has entered into a contract with MV Transportation, which calls itself the country’s leading paratransit firm, to provide the service for customers with disabilities. MV will supply drivers and vehicles, while trips will be arranged through the Uber app.
Uber has long been criticized for its lack of wheelchair-accessible vehicles, and a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit Equal Rights Center in 2017 called out the company for its failure to provide access for passengers in wheelchairs and motorized scooters.
The apphas offered an option called Taxi WAV since 2015, allowing customers to hail a ride in a wheelchair-accessible cab — though advocates said it fell short of providing service equivalent to the door-to-door UberX. In a blog post announcing the deal with MV, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the company needed to better accommodate customers who use personal mobility devices.
The flying car — the stuff of sci-fi dreams for decades — could become a reality next year and spark the biggest disruption to urban life since the postwar baby boom and interstate highway system.
From “The Jetsons” to “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “Blade Runner” and “Back to the Future,” the flying car has been pop culture’s ultimate symbol of the future. Now, aerospace giants like Boeing (BA) and Airbus(EADSY), Silicon Valley startups like Uber, and auto giants like Toyota (TM), Volkswagen (VWAGY) and Daimler (DDAIF) are racing to make short-range air travel part of daily life.
“It’s coming because it has to,” said Robin Lineberger, the leader of Deloitte’s Aerospace & Defense industry practice. “We have no more room on the ground to move cars around.”
The greatest constraining factor to urban real estate development, ZOM Living CEO Greg West said, is parking. Building entrances for people to walk in is easy, he said, but constructing entrances and garages to store hundreds of cars is a major challenge.
If autonomous vehicles can drop people off at work and not have to remain parked there all day, he said it could open a world of opportunity for development.
“Ultimately what that means is developers will be able to build in urban places without any parking at all,” said West, speaking last week at the Dreamit x Bisnow Innovation Summit in Tampa.