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[P]
Subscription cars?

By tweek in Op-Ed
Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 06:42:21 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

I came across this site while reading Clark Howard's show notes. It seems eMotion Mobility is planning on a fairly large rollout of electric cars in Atlanta, California and the rest of the United States.


The concept behind eMotion Mobility is that you will be able to pay a subscription fee to rent one of thier cars whenever you like. The current plan is to have stations around the city for pickups and dropoffs.

This may or may not work in a city like Atlanta, Georgia where I live. While we may be on the cutting edge of technology when it comes to Segway scooters, we have a serious case of urban sprawl. It can take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to get anywhere in the city you need to go. During rush hour (or should it be hours), you are guaranteed almost an hour commute.

In addition, we have a woefully inadequate public transportation system. The layout of Marta makes sense ONLY if you need to get to locations DIRECTLY off the the rail line. Buses run all over the city but still take an hour to get to some locations because of the traffic and route lengths.

My girlfriend could ride a Marta train from our apartment (North of Atlanta in Roswell - Northmost rail station) to her office (South of the City near the airport - Southmost rail station) and it would only take her about 45 minutes. Considering she might spend that much time in her car to get to work, the tradeoff would be nice.

The problem comes when she has to get to her office from the train station. The bus that runs from the station to her office only runs once an hour!

If there were an eMotion point at the train station, she could simply schedule a car every morning and drive it to work and then drop it back off when she caught the train at the end of the day. The upside is that she could have a car available during the day to run errands if needed.

This brings me to why this is a two-edged sword in our city. Forgetting what you may have learned in school about the North vs. South in U.S. History, one thing remains true. We Southerners LOVE our independence. The reason that public transportation has never really taken off here, besides its poor planning, is that everyone wants to drive his car. You feel at home in your car. Many people I know complain that the feel like they lose a bit of freedom and flexibility when they don't have their car available. I felt the same way when I used Marta.

Maybe the eMotion idea is a nice tradeoff between healthier air, public transportation and flexibility. Maybe it's another startup doomed to fail. I'm not affiliated with eMotion at all, mind you, so nothing other than my sanity in traffic rests on its success.

What I'm looking for is feedback from K5'ers in Atlanta and other cities on how they feel about the idea. I'm also wondering if any European countries have anything similar going right now and how it works.

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Subscription cars? | 89 comments (74 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
Belgium, twelve points (none / 0) (#4)
by somebaudy on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 01:30:06 PM EST

For what it's worth: there's something roughly similar going on right now in Namur (quite not the size of Atlanta but not exactly a blink-once-and-you-missed-it city). Namur is in Belgium.
Somebaudy.com Everybody needs Somebaudy.
Interesting (none / 0) (#12)
by tweek on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 01:51:42 PM EST

Is it in effect now or is it just planning?
Some people call me crazy but I prefer to think of myself as freelance lunatic.
[ Parent ]
More info on this web site (none / 0) (#89)
by somebaudy on Mon Jul 22, 2002 at 08:03:10 AM EST

http://www.cambio.be/ (english available)
Somebaudy.com Everybody needs Somebaudy.
[ Parent ]
subscription fee (3.50 / 4) (#6)
by FredBloggs on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 01:39:52 PM EST

"you will be able to pay a subscription fee to rent one of thier cars whenever you like. The current plan is to have stations around the city for pickups and dropoffs"

You could call the device a `train` or `bus`. You could also make things cheaper and safer by having someone else drive.

Not the same thing (5.00 / 2) (#7)
by nosilA on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 01:46:41 PM EST

Busses drop you off a few blocks from your destination.  Busses run on set schedules that may put them 30 minutes apart or more.  Busses are frequently late.  Busses that are only carrying 1 or 2 passengers are worse for the environment and roads than ordinary cars.

I worked for a transportation company who was researching public individual transportation.  Basically it would be a network where you had small cars (4-6 passengers) and you punch in your destination and it would route you there.  This is an interesting idea, but expensive to build and still quite far away.  This subscription car service is a much cheaper way to get there, at least in the short term.

-Alison
Vote to Abstain!
[ Parent ]

True but ..... (none / 0) (#9)
by tweek on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 01:48:38 PM EST

the urban sprawl problem makes carpooling damn near impossible. We have RideFind but I don't know about carpooling with someone I don't know and depending on them to that degree.

The real fix is to overhaul Atlanta's public transportation. We have three different public transportation companies in Metro Atlanta. Marta is the largest and services most of the metro area. Cobb County Transit (CCT) handles Cobb County and connects to Marta at ONE single point. Gwinnett County Transit services Gwinnett county and doesn't even connect to MARTA. The problem lies in the independence I spoke about. The counties want to do it themselves and reap the revenue.

Imagine if every county in Georgia did this? We have more counties than any other state in the US next to Texas.

159!
Some people call me crazy but I prefer to think of myself as freelance lunatic.
[ Parent ]

Good for certain purposes, but not yours (3.66 / 3) (#15)
by inoyb on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 02:02:37 PM EST

I've been a member of the Vancouver Co-operative Auto Network for about 3 years and while I find it quite handy, it probably doesn't suit your girlfriend's needs.

Most car sharing systems (check out Car Sharing Network) charge an hourly fee for the car, along with a monthly fee. If you're going to spend most of your time with the car just sitting in a parking lot, its not going to be very cost effective.

I pay $1.75/hour, plus a $0.27 kilometer fee, plus a $12.50 monthly fee (all values are $Canadian). These are my only costs however, as the car, insurance, fuel and maintenance are all included. (If the car needs some gas, I put it in myself and get reimbursed).

It works better in areas with good public transportation, where people can commute to work using the public transportation, and then use the cars for short trips in the evenings or weekends. If you're planning longer trips, it becomes more cost effective to rent a car from a standard car rental agency.

few things (none / 0) (#18)
by tps12 on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 02:25:40 PM EST

"Atlanta, California, and the rest of the United States." Haha.

Now, you say 20-30 minutes and an hour during rush hour is bad? That's really damn quick for transportation in any city I've ever been in.

Also, didn't Holland try this with bicycles? I thought someone had tried something like this and it had failed.

I think (none / 0) (#21)
by krek on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 03:40:53 PM EST

it was Copenghagen, or maybe it was Stockholm.

It was definitly a Scandinavian capital.

[ Parent ]
PS (none / 0) (#22)
by krek on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 03:44:40 PM EST

I believe that it has worked quite well at that.

There are public bicycles all over the place. If you need one, you take one, when you are done with it, you leave it at the nearest public bicycle stand for someone else.

I imagine they must have some employees going around assuring that the bicycles do not become too clumped up.

This approach has also reduced the amount of bicycle theft in the city as well, I have heard.

[ Parent ]
Atlanta is BAD (none / 0) (#23)
by khallow on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 03:48:05 PM EST

I've been in LA, Sillycon Valley (SJ and SF), and New York City during rush hour. Atlanta keeps up with the best in the US (dunno how American cities stack up worldwide). The problem is that Atlanta has effectively two highways carrying the load. It's amazingly ugly particularly at the intersection where those two highways meet.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

#9, apparently (none / 0) (#24)
by nosilA on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 03:54:36 PM EST

CNN has a new article on the latest figures.  This is based on total amount of time spent stuck in traffic. The order goes:
  1. Los Angeles
  2. San Francisco
  3. Washington
  4. Seattle
  5. Houston
  6. San Jose
  7. Dallas
  8. New York
  9. Atlanta
  10. Miami
And I do believe the US is worse than pretty much anywhere in the world.  Of course, there are other metrics that shuffle the cities around a little bit, but basically all of the US cities are pretty bad.

-Alison
Vote to Abstain!
[ Parent ]

ha (none / 0) (#33)
by tps12 on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 04:32:31 PM EST

I knew Seattle had to be worse. And New York might be ranked higher if you count the traffic into the city from New Jersey and Long Island in the mornings.

[ Parent ]
True (none / 0) (#36)
by nosilA on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 04:38:19 PM EST

I didn't look up exactly how they came up with numbers, so I don't know who they count for New York.

Honestly, anyone who lives in New York and commutes by car deserves any time they have to sit in traffic.  Even if you live outside, there's park'n'ride... there's just no reason to drive to new york as a commuter (I'll excuse out-of-town visitors, since trains have gotten so expensive).  

In other cities there are better excuses for not using public transportation, but there is simply none in New York.

-Alison
Vote to Abstain!
[ Parent ]

What about Detroit? (none / 0) (#44)
by thenick on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 06:11:35 PM EST

Atlanta is bad, but it is nothing compared to Detroit. I can't believe that Detroit didn't make the top ten. Everytime I have to drive to downtown Detroit, It takes at least an hour and a half longer than it should. Driving in the suburbs is even worse than downtown. Would it kill MDoT to make a HOV lane on the expressways?

Seven or eight of the cities on this list have light rail systems in place, while the only mass transit option in Detroit is the bus system. I guess the People Mover counts as a rail system, but it's only good if you want to make a complete loop around downtown. I guess they don't call it the Motor City because of it's great mass transit system.

 
"Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler, he did a lot, but don't we all wish he would have stayed home and gotten stoned?" -Dex
[ Parent ]

I'll have to ask my girlfriend (none / 0) (#68)
by tweek on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 08:32:56 AM EST

She's just moved down here from MI. Allegan (near GR) actually.

One thing she always jokes about is that Michigan will never have a decent public transportation system because of the automakers. I'm beginning to believe her.
Some people call me crazy but I prefer to think of myself as freelance lunatic.
[ Parent ]

People are idiots (none / 0) (#62)
by phliar on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 10:10:16 PM EST

This is based on total amount of time spent stuck in traffic.
...
2. San Francisco
I assume they mean the entire San Francisco Bay Area.

I live in San Francisco. And I say people are stupid. Why? You have only yourself to blame if you have to spend ridiculous amounts of time in traffic.

I decided that living in San Francisco (the city) was important to me; I also decided that 30 minutes was the longest I was willing to accept as a daily commute. This meant that I would only consider jobs in certain areas -- it's that simple. For me the job has the lowest priority. I had the chance to work at Google; I turned them down because it would be a 45 minute commute. I'd have really liked to work at Google, but I know what my priorities are so I just had to let it go.

Some people live in south San Jose (where it's cheaper) and work in Palo Alto (where there's a cool job), and then they complain about the time their commute takes. You knew what the commute was going to be be when you bought that house or accepted that job; deal with it.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Well, there is a difference (none / 0) (#77)
by Karmakaze on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 11:27:36 AM EST

There is a difference between time spent in traffic and time spent stuck in traffic.

I've had jobs that were a forty-five minute commute, and not had a problem with it. Driving isn't that painful for me.

Now, a drive that is fifteen minutes in clear traffic, but forty-five minutes every morning and evening is aggravating. I now have a twenty-five minute, seven mile commute.(It only takes that long because I have to take a slow twisty road through a very pretty park - I don't mind).

The funny thing is, I could take mass transit. It works out to about fifteen minutes on a train and twenty on a bus. Hey, you think, that's not much more time. Except for the hour (or more) wait between the two on the way home. Oops. (The bus gets in to the train station stop as the train is pulling out. Frequently I see it leaving). I do take the train/bus when my car is in the shop, but it's just not worth it day to day.

Where I live and work, it's pretty common for folks to live in Pennsylvania and drive an hour into New Jersey to work. Routes 78 and 80 are (comparatively) clear arteries for that commute.

It's not just length, it's aggravation level.

You knew what the commute was going to be be when you bought that house or accepted that job; deal with it.

And how sweet for you that you have so much money and so many job offers that you can pick and choose based on location alone. How wonderful the job market must be where you live.
--
Karmakaze
[ Parent ]

Not quite. (none / 0) (#31)
by kitten on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 04:29:56 PM EST

Now, you say 20-30 minutes and an hour during rush hour is bad? That's really damn quick for transportation in any city I've ever been in

When your destination is only a few miles away, a half-hour or 40 minute commute IS really bad.

By the way, Atlanta's "rush hour" is from 7am to 10am, and 4pm to 7pm, no joke. And the traffic situation isn't much better on the weekends, either. It isn't just a rush hour problem.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
in my experience (none / 0) (#34)
by tps12 on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 04:34:57 PM EST

That seems about average, or a little faster, for most cities I've been in.

[ Parent ]
White Bicycles (5.00 / 2) (#64)
by MuglyWumple on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 01:51:24 AM EST

Amsterdam
The white bike plan, led by Luud Schimmelpennink, also proposed that the municipality purchase 20,000 bicycles to be owned be "everyone and no one".
from
www.communitybike.org/files/amsterdam/
and,
http://www.communitybike.org/cache/amsterdam_abcnews/



[ Parent ]
Ah yes, the White Bikes of Provo (5.00 / 1) (#70)
by ennui on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 09:55:39 AM EST

Decent info here. Pretty good case study if you're researching the tragedy of the commons.

"You can get a lot more done with a kind word and a gun, than with a kind word alone." -- Al Capone
[ Parent ]
not so decent (none / 0) (#79)
by kubalaa on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 12:01:40 PM EST

Maybe the link changed, but I found only 1.5 paragraphs which did little more than outline the idea.

[ Parent ]
There's really not much to it (none / 0) (#80)
by ennui on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 12:49:54 PM EST

They supplied free bicycles, the intent was ride it whereever and leave it for someone else to ride elsewhere, the reality was most were vandalized or stolen. The link isn't so much about the bikes but more why the philosophy doesn't work.

"You can get a lot more done with a kind word and a gun, than with a kind word alone." -- Al Capone
[ Parent ]
Bad bad bad idea (2.00 / 1) (#27)
by greyrat on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 04:06:37 PM EST

Whatcha' gonna do with the ones that some ass vomited in before returning? That's a pretty big investment made ugly real fast.
~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

What does Avis do? (nt) (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by davidduncanscott on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 05:38:52 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Take a cab (4.00 / 2) (#49)
by inoyb on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 07:00:28 PM EST

Report it back to the car sharing company and then take a cab or rent a car from a standard rental agency. The cab ride or rental car fees will be covered by the car sharing organization and then charged back to whoever made the mess. At least that's how it works in the car sharting co-op I'm part of.

[ Parent ]
questionable economics (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by gbroiles on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 04:09:53 PM EST

My first reaction is that the numbers don't work out - the electric cars are going to be expensive to purchase, and expensive to maintain. Traditional gas-fuel cars in the US are partially subsidized by the domestic car manufacturers (mostly via discounted pricing) to expose consumers to the new cars, hoping to encourage them to buy a new car. I don't think there are any electric car manufacturers with the resources to do that sort of thing here.

Also, having one available "whenever you like" seems very unlikely - otherwise, people will just treat them like leased cars and not give them back for several years. Surely they'll end up with some sort of usage limit - cars are simply not a good application for "all-you-can-eat" pricing.

And, once they've got a usage limit, it'll be pretty easy to compare that to pricing for alternatives - like conventional fuel cars, taxis, or public transit. If the electric cars are positioned so they're lots cheaper than a traditional fuel car (owned, leased, or rented) then I suspect the electric car business won't be very profitable .. but if they're lots more expensive, they'll only get business from the tiny number of people whose motivation is largely ideological and not very practical. There are a few of those people in the world, but not very many, and they usually don't have much money to start with because they use that approach in the rest of their lives, too. Again, not a very attractive business.

The other motivating factor for the subscription/shared car market is lack of parking - I get the impression that the reason the shared-car thing has been moderately successful in San Francisco (though I haven't heard much about it since the dot-com crash) is because parking is totally impossible in S.F. - so owning a car there is a liability much of the time, because of the need to find defensible parking, remember which days streets are being cleaned, etc - shared cars eliminate that, by allowing you to give the car back to the garage when you're done with your errands/adventure/etc. Does Atlanta have big parking problems, such that lack of parking motivates people to avoid car ownership? Is the public transit infrastructure good enough to let people live happy lives without cars for 9 out of every 10 days, or so? My impression is that people mostly use shared cars for big shopping expeditions, out-of-town day trips, or picking up relatives at the airport.

I think it'd be interesting to rent an electric car sometime - or use one for short errands - but I think the basic economics are going to have to change a lot before they see widespread use. If batteries get a lot cheaper or gas gets a lot more expensive, electric cars may look economically sensible .. but not until then.



Flaws in your rhetoric. (none / 0) (#71)
by tekue on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 10:05:23 AM EST

Traditional gas-fuel cars in the US are partially subsidized by the domestic car manufacturers (mostly via discounted pricing) to expose consumers to the new cars, hoping to encourage them to buy a new car.
Could you tell me, what would be the incentive for car manufacturers in that? How can a company subsidize itself? If the car makers are making a profit, then they're not subsidizing it, and if they aren't, then why they do it?

Also, having one available "whenever you like" seems very unlikely - otherwise, people will just treat them like leased cars and not give them back for several years. Surely they'll end up with some sort of usage limit - cars are simply not a good application for "all-you-can-eat" pricing.
There's a need for usage limit if they are not priced by hour and by kilometer (as someone wrote in a post here).

If the electric cars are positioned so they're lots cheaper than a traditional fuel car (owned, leased, or rented) then I suspect the electric car business won't be very profitable .. but if they're lots more expensive, they'll only get business from the tiny number of people whose motivation is largely ideological and not very practical.
And I don't think there's any way you could accept, that there are some options other than "lots cheaper" and "lots more expensive"?

I think it'd be interesting to rent an electric car sometime - or use one for short errands - but I think the basic economics are going to have to change a lot before they see widespread use. If batteries get a lot cheaper or gas gets a lot more expensive, electric cars may look economically sensible .. but not until then.
The economy of scale shows us clearly, that as things get widespread use, they get cheaper. So, with time, the technological advances and more and more common use of electric (or bio-gas, which I consider more efficient) vehicles, they will get cheaper. Look at personal computers, they used to be crappy and expensive, yet I don't see you typing your comment on an Olivetti.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]
no "rhetoric" here - (none / 0) (#83)
by gbroiles on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 01:50:25 PM EST

perhaps I was unclear re subsidies - to clarify, the traditional auto manufacturers subsidize car rental companies by selling them cars at an aggressive discount because car rentals can and do serve as unintended/unexpected test drives for new cars.

At the time my message was posted, the original poster claimed that the electric cars were available on an unlimited basis. Later posts have confirmed my analysis that such rental terms are uneconomic and unlikely to be correct. It appears you agree.

There aren't a lot of interesting options between "lots cheaper" and "lots more expensive" because people and businesses have a lot of habits and infrastructure to support the conventional fuel status quo - an electric car is going to have to have a big advantage over a gasoline car to gain acceptance, because of the initial hassle re purchasing parts, service, recharging, etc. That big advantage will appear (if it appears) through some combination of conventional cars getting less attractive (more $, less convenient) and electric cars getting more attractive (less $, more convenient).

Yeah, sure, if electric cars can gain widespread use, then economies of scale will make them cheaper, and then they'll be more popular, and they'll get cheaper, blah blah blah... but, first they've got to get enough early adopters (or enough really, really deep pocket investors) to sustain the industry through multiple cycles of increased utility and decreased cost.

.. and the interesting question is, is that going to happen? in Atlanta?

[ Parent ]

Well, rhetoric or not. (none / 0) (#87)
by tekue on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 04:50:16 AM EST

perhaps I was unclear re subsidies - to clarify, the traditional auto manufacturers subsidize car rental companies by selling them cars at an aggressive discount because car rentals can and do serve as unintended/unexpected test drives for new cars.
Being able to rent a cheap car certainly isn't going to make me buy a new one for myself. I'd say to the contrary. I know that what you mean is that car manufacturers are selling cheap cars to the rental agencies, but I don't think their reasons are what you said. I also think that it works to the contrary, because rental cars are usually worn-out, and you don't want your clients to see that it can be ("I've rented that El Dorado last week, but it broke down after a few miles. I don't think I'll be buying a Caddillac any time soon.").

There aren't a lot of interesting options between "lots cheaper" and "lots more expensive" because people and businesses have a lot of habits and infrastructure to support the conventional fuel status quo - an electric car is going to have to have a big advantage over a gasoline car to gain acceptance, because of the initial hassle re purchasing parts, service, recharging, etc. That big advantage will appear (if it appears) through some combination of conventional cars getting less attractive (more $, less convenient) and electric cars getting more attractive (less $, more convenient).

Yeah, sure, if electric cars can gain widespread use, then economies of scale will make them cheaper, and then they'll be more popular, and they'll get cheaper, blah blah blah... but, first they've got to get enough early adopters (or enough really, really deep pocket investors) to sustain the industry through multiple cycles of increased utility and decreased cost.

I don't think so. I think it needs to be a cheaper option for just one, big industry — like taxi cabs, or rental cars, or car manufacturers. If they are, they are going to get less expensive with time, as they gain additional adoption. As they get more widespread use, they will get to be a cheaper option for more and more industries, and the process continues.

.. and the interesting question is, is that going to happen? in Atlanta?
Well, something will have to happen with the personal transportation industry, as we're going to run out of oil at some time in the future. As we get closer to that point, the more expensive will oil be, the less expensive the other options will seam in comparision. At some point drilling oil will not be an financially viable option. We will have to turn to some other resource, probably the sun (with improved solar panels, and as biogas and such), but earth warmth could be used, too.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]
eMotion == rental+; and Segway (none / 0) (#29)
by jabber on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 04:16:31 PM EST

This eMotion system sounds like a typical rental outfit, only with more points of presence. Do they do rentals by the hour? By the mile? On a monthly basis between 8 and 6? What's their MO, that differentiates them from a Hertz or a Budget? I think that your article would benefit from additional info in this area.

On the practical side, how far from the rail station is your girlfriend's office? Maybe she should just buy a Segway?

If I were to go to a major city, like NYC, Boston, Atlanta or LA, and didn't need to run all over the city, or if I did, could use public transport to do so, I would not bother with a car if I could use a Segway instead.

Maybe the eMotion people should forget about cars and prove Dean Kamen right by using Segways instead?

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Segway's are cool indeed (none / 0) (#41)
by davidduncanscott on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 05:40:39 PM EST

but where I live it rains sometimes.

[ Parent ]
So? (none / 0) (#54)
by jabber on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 08:08:48 PM EST

If the handle can support a mail-bag, it can support an umprella. I'm sure they're easy enough to outfit with a little roof.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

And then! (5.00 / 1) (#84)
by skim123 on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 04:40:02 PM EST

I'm sure they're easy enough to outfit with a little roof

Maybe you could add a couple other wheels, and perhaps a seat, and doors, and maybe replace its engine with something a little more powerful, like a V4 Gasoline engine, and then maybe a radio/CD player, and A/C, and, and... wow, segways are cool! :-)

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
Atlanta's traffic. (4.80 / 5) (#30)
by kitten on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 04:19:49 PM EST

I live north of Atlanta in Roswell, and the traffic situation in this city is truly horrendous, but there's so many factors at play that the solution you're talking about won't cut it.

We need to understand that by and large, most of the traffic problems in this city are caused by the poor planning and civil engineering, not by the number of cars. While Atlanta is, indeed, one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, it is currenly hosting a population of 4 million or so, and is much, much larger, spatially, than say.. New York, which has 12 million people or so.

And yet, despite having much less people with much more room, our traffic is still almost as bad (not quite) as theirs.

The problem isn't the number of cars.

So what IS the problem?:

1. Traffic lights.
This city throws traffic lights up like they're going out of style. Every two-bit intersection has one, no matter if it's needed or not, and the timing on them is horrendous. Quite often, the main road will get the green light only for a few cars to go through, and the insignificant sidestreet - where nobody ever comes out - is green for a full minute, maybe longer. (I'd like to think I'm being objective here and not merely overreacting to the annoyance.)
Traffic lights are ridiculously overused around here; sometimes you'll see them twenty feet apart, in groups of four or more. You'll watch as the lead one turns red and the rest turn green - so nobody can go anywhere, and by the time the lead turns green, the rest of them are red, so nobody goes anywhere.
I don't care if it costs the city extra to install "smart lights" - the traffic lights with magnetic sensors in the road to detect when a car is actually waiting at a red light. There are few things more infuriating than grinding your brakes down to stop at a light which just turned red even though nobody's coming the other way.
Atlanta should also consider timing lights like Chicago - if you hit one green light, you'll hit them all if you maintain the speed limit. This has the added benefit of reducing speeding.

Of course, the city's solution to any traffic problem is "add more traffic lights", not realizing or not caring that the lights are the problem to begin with. Instead of adding more, they should make the ones they already have more efficient, and get rid of the ones that aren't needed.

2. Curb cuts.
Once again, the city approves these willy-nilly, to anybody that asks and has the money. A curb-cut is the point at which a parking lot meets the road, and to make it accessible to the road, they literally cut the curb.
Problem is, Atlanta allows these without any regard for traffic flow, as many as someone asks for, wherever someone asks for. Now you've got cars dropping into the traffic flow at ten points instead of one, which of course causes problems.

3. No centralization.
When you live on the outskirts of the city, as I do, you get to witness the petty border disputes of counties. While this city is not unique here (or any of the other points I've made), it certainly does have it worse than most, especially given the sheer number of independant and autonomous counties in this state (one of the highest, if not THE highest, in the country).
For twenty years, I have watched Cobb and Fulton, two bordering counties, bicker with each other about a Johnson Ferry Road, which is a main artery of the area, conveying the majority of commuters who don't use the highway. Cobb wants to widen the road, Fulton doesn't. Cobb says the traffic is too bad, Fulton says it's Cobb's fault. Back and forth. For twenty fucking years; finally Cobb widened their side and Fulton didn't, so there's a lovely bottleneck at the border, slowing traffic down to an insane degree.
This sort of nonsense happens all the time. If there was less petty counties (why do we need 'counties' anyway? This isn't the 18th century where we need to localize everything!) to bicker with each other, or if Atlanta had the authority to tell them to quit behaving like children and widen the damned road, things would be a lot better.

4. Nonstop construction.
A week ago the road was fine, and then suddenly, there's a crisis at 5:15pm on Thursday afternoon that necessitates ripping apart a main road, while one guy with a shovel "works" and nine other guys sort of stand around and point? I don't fucking think so!
Construction should be limited to evening and night hours only, and if there's no construction going on, then get those fucking orange cones out of the lane. (No, I don't mean the lane they're working on, I mean the ones that were carelessly placed halfway into the neighboring lane, the one we're supposed to be driving on.)

6. People drive like jerks.
Yeah, that's right. The biggest problem is people. Of course I cannot truthfully state that we have more assholes here than other cities, but it certainly seems that way. People speed like demons on winding narrow roads, or travel under the speed limit for no discernable reason. They slow down to ridiculous fractions of a snail's pace so they can gawk and rubberneck - half the time it isn't even an accident, just someone getting pulled over.
A lot of this one could be remedied if people would follow these simple steps:
  • If you are passed by someone in the lane to your left, move one lane left.
  • Repeat as necessary.

    7. No public transit.
    You covered this one already, but I'd like to expound upon it. MARTA is a bloody joke, so useless that riding it is something of a new and exciting novelty to people. It has a very limited range and doesn't cover even a tenth of the city. For the suburbanites and those on the outer rim such as myself, it's even worse - MARTA doesn't come to us, or our counties, run by racist fucks, won't allow MARTA in (it will bring in the "bad element" from the city, they say, which is their code for "black people"). So Cobb has their own little bus system called CCT, which hardly ever runs anyway, and is supposed to connect to MARTA bus points, only it doesn't, and anyway, busses aren't much better than cars; they're sitting in the same stupid traffic.
    Again, we have an example of counties having far too much power - unnecessary power - which they wield for antisocial and idiotic ends. Atlanta, again, should be able to step in, tell them to STFU, and put a fucking MARTA rail in, and zoom the commuters into downtown at high speed. It'd be great.

    Bah.
    I think I should just take off to a safe distance and launch tac missiles at the city until I'm sure it's vaporized.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
  • One comment (none / 0) (#32)
    by nosilA on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 04:32:20 PM EST

    You're counting people and claiming that there must be a constant ratio of cars to people.  This simply isn't the case.  Many people in New York City, and the vast majority in Manhattan, do not own cars.  This is because the density is higher and people do not need a car to function... they walk to the supermarket, take the subway to their job, take a cab to the airport.

    No matter how much public transportation you put in Atlanta, it won't make you like New York.  The density is needed, because if you can't walk comfortably to the most common destinations, you will want a car.  And once you have a car, you're less likely to take public transportation, even if it's faster.  Building better public transportation should still happen, but comparing to New York isn't very realistic.

    -Alison
    Vote to Abstain!
    [ Parent ]

    That was my point, partly. (none / 0) (#35)
    by kitten on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 04:37:30 PM EST


    Yes, the density of New York is lower, and thus people don't need cars as much to get around - but that's because New York had and has decent civil engineers and planning, something Atlanta sorely lacks, which was part of my point.

    The other reason that New Yorkers tend to not have cars is because, as you mentioned, an excellent public transit system exists for them, which again was part of my point - Atlanta has nothing comparable.

    Yes, we all already have cars, and yes, we won't be quick to give them up.. but introduce a well-maintained, efficient public transit system, and eventually people will use it. If you build it, they will come.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    True (none / 0) (#37)
    by nosilA on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 04:41:46 PM EST

    But don't follow New York as the lead, New York was constructed over 100 years ago in a specific way... look at other places like Philly, DC, Minneapolis, Raleigh.  DC has worse traffic than Atlanta, but it has a better public transportation system and has growth plans that make sense.  

    I'm not belittling things like traffic lights and curb cuts, but public transportation is the real way to alleviate traffic, and density is the only way to make public transportation viable.

    -Alison
    Vote to Abstain!
    [ Parent ]

    Not true (none / 0) (#74)
    by hovik on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 10:41:41 AM EST

    Look at european cities. The density is probably lower in most european cities than in New York, but alot of people don't have cars because they don't need it. I currently live in a german city with about 250.000 inhabitants. Everything in this city is in reach in 10-15 minutes by walking + using the Straßenbahn.

    [ Parent ]
    I'm not sure (none / 0) (#75)
    by nosilA on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 10:47:00 AM EST

    I don't really have any personal experience with European cities, but my impression is that they were built around walking and don't really have the same suburban tendencies that american cities have.

    The problem in the US is that most cities are built around living one place and working another place... there's little housing downtown, and there are large supermarkets that people drive to rather than walking to the local grocer.

    New York is not this way, and some other cities are better constructed than others for walking (DC, for example) but most are pretty bad.

    -Alison
    Vote to Abstain!
    [ Parent ]

    I'm guessing we aren't far from each other (none / 0) (#53)
    by tweek on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 08:05:32 PM EST

    I live Right on the river off Roswell Rd and Azalea.

    I'm glad you mentioned the bad element issue. Gwinnett County is the absolute WORST about this. They sat there and bitched about MARTA bringing crime and "bad element" as the justification for denying it.

    The funny thing is they ended up running their own bus lines. What's even funnier is that most serious crimes I've heard about on the news (Los Vatos Locos gang rape et. al.) happened in Gwinnett. And before the bus line came out.

    My solution is that if you want to be part of Metro Atlanta and have a say in it, you must allow Marta in your area. How many of those counties could sell themselves without claiming to be a part of Metro Atlanta?

    Some people call me crazy but I prefer to think of myself as freelance lunatic.
    [ Parent ]

    Curious, that. (none / 0) (#63)
    by kitten on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 11:24:21 PM EST

    I live about two seconds from Azalea, on Atlanta Street, which brings up another gripe about the city's road planning..

    Atlanta Street? Excuse me, but what the fuck is that? It's Roswell Road, then it becomes Atlanta Street for no readily discernable reason for about half a mile, and then goes back to being Roswell Road.

    Atlanta and it's surrounding municipalities do this all the time; randomly changing the names of streets and avenues six times over on the same stretch of asphalt, and to me this only makes it more difficult to navigate (as if having every bloody road named "Peachtree" wasn't bad enough).

    Anyway. I agree with you - the key selling points in the area are that we're part of the metro Atlanta area, so the local governments and county commissioners are proud of that fact, and tout it regularly, until it comes time to talk about transit and rail systems, at which point they distance themselves as far from Atlanta as possible.

    Fuckin' idiots.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Don't forget (none / 0) (#65)
    by tweek on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 06:37:14 AM EST

    It also becomes Alpharetta Street when you get near Holcomb Bridge.

    Which brings me to another clusterfuck!

    Holcomb Bride becomes Jimmy Carter to the east and Crossville Road to the west. What the hell?

    Azalea is Riveside when it crosses Roswell Rd./Atlanta Street/Alpharetta Street.

    At least we got the reversable lanes thing down right, eh?
    Some people call me crazy but I prefer to think of myself as freelance lunatic.
    [ Parent ]

    Yeah, that'll happen (none / 0) (#67)
    by cpt kangarooski on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 07:53:38 AM EST

    It seems to be the most common along the East Coast. I used to live in Boston, and not only would road names change whenever you hit a town line (which was fairly common, a lot of towns run right into their neighbors with no discernable seperation), streets that cross Washington St. also change names. Most notably at Downtown Crossing, Winter St. turns into Summer St. The other zillion-odd changes aren't so humorous though. But it only seems to really bother people from out west, so it's alright. ;)

    --
    All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
    [ Parent ]
    Number 5? (none / 0) (#76)
    by FattMattP on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 11:00:10 AM EST

    Where is # 5?

    [ Parent ]
    I can (5.00 / 1) (#82)
    by epepke on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 01:16:37 PM EST

    Of course I cannot truthfully state that we have more assholes here than other cities,

    I can. Atlanta has more assholes than other cities. Way more.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    possible last-mile solution (none / 0) (#38)
    by durkie on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 05:23:01 PM EST

    I live a few MARTA stations away from the "center" - the intersection of the east/west rail lines, in northeast Atlanta. Around these parts, the emphasized cause of MARTA's incompetence isn't that it's waiting in the same traffic that everyone else is, but rather that there's just too much to cover. When I was a student at Tech, my return trip via MARTA was about 1 hour and 45 minutes. 45 minutes via subway, for the 20-30 miles out of the city, and 1 hour for the remaining 6 miles between the train station and my house, criss-crossing down side streets and neighborhoods. I might as well power-walk home. These eMotion cars would be of incredible use in situations like these, which anyone who lives >3 miles from a MARTA station is in. The initial investment (covering an entire CITY?) would be astronomical, but it's worth a shot. We'd just be screwing over public transportation riders without a driver's license at that point. :)

    Maybe that's where the market is (none / 0) (#55)
    by tweek on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 08:09:47 PM EST

    in a last-mile solution. One of the key points they made was that there would be pickups/dropoffs AT the MARTA stations.

    If anything is to help this work, I think that's it.

    As far as those without driver's licenses, I don't give a shit. I have a feeling that the people without the licenses are the same ones who leave industrial ladders in the middle of I-285 in the middle of rush hour ;)

    Some people call me crazy but I prefer to think of myself as freelance lunatic.
    [ Parent ]

    I feel more free without a car. (4.75 / 4) (#39)
    by quasipalm on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 05:28:09 PM EST

    Many people I know complain that the feel like they lose a bit of freedom and flexibility when they don't have their car available.

    I used to feel this way, when I first gave up my car. Now, since I've been without a car for a few years, the idea of going back seems horrible. With a car I felt like I had a ball and chain around my leg everywhere I went. Currently, I can get drunk anywhere, anytime, and I always know I can get home on foot or transit. I also can aimlessly wander around downtown on nice sunny weekends without worrying about getting a parking spot, or paying for parking, or getting towed, or anything! Plus, I have plenty of other things I'd rather spend money on then gas, parking, insurance, tickets, licensing, etc... It really is liberating once you make the transition. Nowadays, I wouldn't consider moving to a city where you need a car to survive.
    (hi)
    I feel the same way. (5.00 / 1) (#60)
    by vectro on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 09:45:39 PM EST

    Outside the city and on a particular trip, it's a lot more restrictive to be without a car: You are beholden to transit routes and schedules. But there is immense liberation in not having a car at all: Besides the costs, there's all the hassles of maintainance, dealing with accidents, remembering to get gas, etc. Doing away with the car altogether is very liberating, and I certainly wouldn't live in an area that didn't have good transit.

    “The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
    [ Parent ]
    Fundamental Crime Problem? (4.00 / 1) (#42)
    by HypoLuxa on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 05:48:36 PM EST

    I've heard these types of plans discussed elsewhere, and I've never heard a good comment addressing crime. I'm assuming that to sign up for this subscription, you are going to have to have some valid ID, a drivers license, and a valid credit card to be billed for your use.

    Fakes of all of those can be purchased for about $200 total, and acquired in a couple hours.

    And then you can drive $20,000 car off into the city.

    How does this work? How can they possibly be insured against the number of thefts?

    --
    I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons.
    - Leonard Cohen

    Expensive Insurance, other info (none / 0) (#43)
    by nosilA on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 06:10:08 PM EST

    For FlexCar, a similar service, you have to submit your application some amount in advance for verification.  I'm sure they are insured against theft, and they probably have videos of the area where the cars are kept.  No doubt theft is a concern, but then again, their insurance is priced appropriately... anything can be insured for enough money.

    -Alison
    Vote to Abstain!
    [ Parent ]

    Bicycles. (none / 0) (#47)
    by mr strange on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 06:46:20 PM EST

    A few years ago in the Netherlands they had a scheme where free bicycles were left at train stations and in city centres. You could take a bike from the free rack, and leave it in the free rack near your destination.

    All of the bicycles were stolen.

    intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
    [ Parent ]

    Same thing in Portland (none / 0) (#73)
    by outlandish on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 10:14:19 AM EST

    They did the same thing in Portland, Oregon about 10 years ago. Not all the bikes were stolen, but enough of them were to cripple the program.

    Speaking of the Netherlands, I was just there and I went to a state park (the one with the sand dunes) and they had free bikes there without any big problems. That system works for a couple of reasons. First of all, the park is a little remote. You could conceivably ride a bike out and into Arnhem (the nearest city), but it would take you a good hour. Secondly, the bikes have a very distinctive design, so they'd be easily recognized outside the park and the rider put to great shame.

    I don't know about the other NL program, but in Portland the only distinctive feature was that the bikes were yellow. Thieves take bike, repaint, and no one is the wiser.


    -------------
    remote-hosted soapboxing, mindless self-promotion, and salacious gossip -- outlandishjosh.com

    [ Parent ]

    Could work in some places (3.50 / 2) (#45)
    by thenick on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 06:44:22 PM EST

    I can see this working in US cities with dense urban areas like New York, Chicago, and Boston. Parking spots in the downtown areas of these cities are few and expensive. Offering a cheap rental for a few hours would allow most residents living in these downtown areas to get errands done without having to find a permanent parking spot, pay annual insurance, and worry about finding a gas station. eMotion gives downtown residents another reason not to own their own car.

    I don't think eMotion will work in a city like Atlanta. They don't have as dense of a downtown and most people who live outside of downtown have parking and gas stations available everywhere. Having a large, well run mass transit system helps enormously, because it encourages people not to own their own car. As far as I know, Atlanta's MARTA rail system isn't as big as the elevated trains in Chicago or the subway of New York.

     
    "Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler, he did a lot, but don't we all wish he would have stayed home and gotten stoned?" -Dex

    The problem (4.00 / 1) (#56)
    by CaptainSuperBoy on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 08:09:50 PM EST

    The problem with doing this sort of thing in New York  or Chicago is it's still cheaper and faster to take the subway or the L. Unless they put an eMotion depot on almost every block, you're going to have to do some walking anyway. Plus, there's the problem with finding a parking spot. Parking in NYC is a nerve-racking experience, and I think most people would just drive their eMotion to another depot.. so you're still tied to stations, plus you had to deal with traffic.. it's usually faster to take the subway through Manhattan than to drive.

    --
    jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
    [ Parent ]
    Agreed (none / 0) (#58)
    by thenick on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 09:10:25 PM EST

    Just getting a car to drive around in a big city is a dumb idea. If this is all that eMotion is hoping to provide for customers, it's going to fail within a year. I was thinking more of errands that required carrying bulky things that can't normally be taken on the subway. Since all the web groceries have closed down, many people have to go to the grocery more often. If someone could rent a car for an hour and get all the food they need at one time. There's only so much that one person can carry, so having the ability to rent a car to pick up or drop off a load of cargo could be very beneficial to a lot of people.

     
    "Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler, he did a lot, but don't we all wish he would have stayed home and gotten stoned?" -Dex
    [ Parent ]

    Sounds like another GSI (4.00 / 3) (#46)
    by sypher on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 06:44:59 PM EST

    The story is really good, it has a few points which i am sure will be addressed, but to answer your question about Europe:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/wales/newsid_1765000/1765120.stm

    This is something in cardiff, wales.

    http://www.latimes.com/communities/news/pomona_valley/20010307/tiv0012407.html

    This is something about the future of electric cars ;)

    Do you get a segway in the boot? that would be a pacifier to seperate you from your independence withdrawal maybe :).

    Wishing England luck in the morning, footballs coming home.

    I dreamt of it once, now I fear it dreams of me
    It's working in the Bay Area (none / 0) (#48)
    by thither on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 06:47:02 PM EST

    A company called City CarShare has been running a successful car-sharing program in the San Francisco Bay Area for a year or so. The San Francisco Chronicle ran a pretty good article about it last March. Seems like a good idea to me; the San Francisco public transit system leaves a lot to be desired.

    Suburbanization, speaking as a suburbanite (5.00 / 1) (#50)
    by webwench on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 07:09:40 PM EST

    What kills us in Atlanta is suburbanization. When the population isn't dense, it's much more expensive to provide mass transit. Although at the individual level, the suburbs make sense -- more real-estate at less cost, cleaner, safer, amenities available nearby, neighborhood cohesion can exist, etc -- as a whole, the commuter culture is killing the city, not to mention eating away our away-from-work time.

    If the city were more livable (cleaner, more residential space, better transportation, businesses like grocery stores within the city), I think we'd see less highway traffic. I've seen a couple of great cities where there is an actual livable in-town, where real people live, can do their grocery shopping, etc, all without need of a car. I'm not sure how to make Atlanta fit this ideal. The Atlanta tax burden on businesses would have to be cut. The political picture would have to settle down, and there would need to be more general faith in the police and the city government to combat crime effectively and keep basic services available. The schools would have to improve. If there were easy answers to these problems, the problems wouldn't exist anymore.

    I don't know about you, but if I could ride a train to work for 30 minutes, drinking some coffee and reading a newspaper along the way, rather than driving a car in stop-and-go traffic for :45 to an hour, I'd take it in a heartbeat. But the rails don't come to my house nor to my work (at the intersection of 75 and 285); I'd have to drive :20 to a MARTA station, ride that out to Cobb County, and pick up CCT the rest of the way to work. I have no doubt it would be a total commute time of an hour and a half each way -- and I'm not willing to donate 3 hours of every workday to support a poorly-planned public transportation infrastructure.

    Good point about CCT (none / 0) (#52)
    by tweek on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 08:00:49 PM EST

    I made mention of it in response to another post.

    I took CCT for a year. I would catch it on Powers Ferry and ride to Cumberland Mall. I would then take a Marta bus down to Arts Center and catch the train to the Chamblee station. THEN a bus would ride over to Chamblee-Tucker.

    What kind of Rube Goldberg design is that when Marta (if CCT would let them) could take 285 all the way around? I had a 1h45m commute to get somewhere that without traffic takes about 20 minutes.

    It's too bad I went to school in Cobb County or else I'd really want to bad mouth em ;)

    Some people call me crazy but I prefer to think of myself as freelance lunatic.
    [ Parent ]

    What really kills me about MARTA (none / 0) (#59)
    by webwench on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 09:36:13 PM EST

    is that they built that huge new MARTA station up GA400... about 2 miles north of 285. Correct me if I'm wrong, but riders are interested in bypassing traffic, not driving through the worst traffic, make it nearly home free (285 being 'home free' compared to GA400 most days), and then park and ride mass transit.

    I understand they plan to build the next MARTA rail station up 400 soon... in about 20 years.

    [ Parent ]

    This exists in Boston, with regular cars (none / 0) (#51)
    by mdecerbo on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 07:56:21 PM EST

    The "zipcar" (http://www.zipcar.com/ is getting to be a pretty familiar sight in suburban Boston, where we do have pretty good public transit, but there are more and more things that you just can't get to except by car.

    It's pretty straightforward: you pay $75 a year to belong, then $5-$8 an hour (depending on the car) plus 40 cents a mile. You have to reserve the cars before checking one out, though.

    It works out about on par with a rental car for trips to the beach, etc., but is ludicrously much cheaper than a taxi for (say) buying a largish appliance out in the 'burbs and driving it home to the city.

    The key, I think, to Zipcar's apparent success is that the cars are just in damn convenient places: in municipal parking lots, grocery store lots, etc., and mostly near subway and bus stops on the arteries you'd take to get to the burbs. The city of Cambridge, in particular, seems to be pretty good to Zipcar in blocking off city lot spaces for them; maybe they recognize a good thing when they see one; or maybe the Zipcar people are ponying up big bucks.

    I doubt it would work ... (none / 0) (#57)
    by gregholmes on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 08:51:47 PM EST

    ... in the medium-sized US city where I live.

    There's ample parking, darn near everywhere. There's really no reason not to own a car here.

    The scheme described is basically having a lot of linked rent-a-car joints. How can they do that cheaper than rent-a-car companies now, with more expensive electric cars? I don't see how it could be affordable enough to be profitable. Without some kind of one-way, sharing aspect, you're just renting a car by the hour. I certainly couldn't afford that for commuting. And if I didn't have a car and wanted to just rent one for a special occasion, well, I can already do that.

    There would be too much asymmetry in when and where people want them to switch to a sharing scheme - everyone would want one from a few major bus stations in the morning, to scattered locations. There would have to be sufficient surplus to ensure you aren't just stranded at the bus stop.

    Lastly, I didn't see anything about climate control in the cars, which makes me suspect there isn't any. I wouldn't be driving that here in the summer, and certainly not in Atlanta. I guess I could just watch my breath in the winter and stay bundled up, but I don't want to smell me and my passenger crammed in that little thing in the summer.



    Not for commuters (none / 0) (#69)
    by goatse on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 08:57:02 AM EST

    You claim that this would cost the same as usual rent-a-cars is totally obsurd.  Rent-a-car joins have people, pointless people who play no role in the maintanance of the cars, and people cost money.  Cars with credit card sliders in the doors do not require no one besides the maintanance guy.    Rent-a-car joins also require buildings.  These things can be plcaed in Grocery store parking lots or damn near anyplace with a parking lot.

    Finally, these things are not intended for SUV owning road raging subburbanites.  If you want to commute, it goes without saing that you should own a car.  These things are intended for people would would prefer to plow that car payment into living closer to the city, like on a Marta line.  If you have all the public transportation at your finger tips you can just rent one of these things when you need to go to a store which is off the public transit routes.


    [ Parent ]

    in Ottawa (none / 0) (#61)
    by Gwen on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 10:02:43 PM EST

    I remember reading an article someplace about these things we ahve here in Ottawa called "Car Sharing Clubs" which operate on a similar principal.

    Sorry, I couldn't find any info on them locally, although if you do a google search and feel like reading there's some stuff generally

    --
    "So raise your hands in the air like you're born again
    But make a fist for the struggle we was born to win"
    -The Coup ft. Dead Prez, Get Up!


    Ottawa car-sharing (none / 0) (#66)
    by inode on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 07:31:02 AM EST

    In Ottawa, try Vrtucar.

    [ Parent ]
    My personal alternative transportation: (none / 0) (#72)
    by ennui on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 10:12:21 AM EST

    Motorcycles and scooters. Except when it's sub-freezing and/or there's snow on the ground (and your Segway won't help you there) a small motorcycle or mid-size to large scooter is the most effective tool I've found to get from point A to B in minimum time with maximum utility. They're generally allowed in commuter lanes, can lanesplit through traffic jams, and generally parking is allowed whereever you can fit your ride without pissing someone off. Scooters usually have integrated storage, panniers can be fitted easily to most motorcycles.

    The advantages are great milage, highway speed if you need it, and rendering traffic nearly a nonissue. The disadvantages are you need a certain level of skill as well as a certain level of athleticism to survive the city on two wheels, motorized or not.

    "You can get a lot more done with a kind word and a gun, than with a kind word alone." -- Al Capone

    The yellow bikes of Austin (none / 0) (#78)
    by mckwant on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 11:39:15 AM EST

    I think we had something similar for a while, but our bikes were yellow.  I seem to recall an article about a person who owned a bike that happened to be yellow, and was forced to put several signs stating "THIS IS NOT A YELLOW BICYCLE" on it, as it was being targetted by cops thinking someone had locked up a "free" bike.

    I suspect white worked much better.

    Vancouver, B.C. has something like this. (5.00 / 1) (#81)
    by BlueGlass on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 12:51:59 PM EST

    The Cooperative Auto Network in Vancouver, B.C. has a number of stations throughout the region where cars are kept. Members can take any unreserved car from any station, or can reserve a car for single or recurring use. Members get a lockbox key, and can take cars from any of the parking lots around town. Many of these lots are located very near to major public transit hubs.

    There are three basic fee plans: high, medium and low use, each defined according to the time/distance one drives. There is a monthly fee ($35, $12.50 and $5 for the high, medium and low use plans, respectively). Each plan also has some sort of fee per km and for time.

    Everything -- maintanence, repairs, gas, parking (includes some convenient downtown parking), BCAA (like the US AAA), insurance, cleaning, etc. -- is included. I think they even have a couple of cars reserved for smokers now (most don't allow smoking).

    For various reasons, it doesn't work out economically for our family. But a couple of my coworkers use it, and they say they spend about $70 or $80/month to use a car 2-3 times week. I think the coop replaces the cars about every two years, so you get a decently new looking car.

    Vancouver also has the Jack Bell Foundation (Jack Bell is a local philanthropist) which provides carpooling/vanpooling resources. Vanpool drivers get to keep the van & can use it for personal use after work.

    Europe, Italy, Bologna (none / 0) (#85)
    by valdez on Fri Jun 21, 2002 at 08:07:50 PM EST

    This is my first post on K5 :)

    Here in Bologna there is a working project of "car sharing".

    You can read in english the following information page: http://www.atc.bo.it/progetti/tosca/default.htm It describes the european project and other similar experiences.

    They are planning to extend the service, which uses 9 BMW Smart (759cc ecologic diesel). This experiment is part of a larger one which includes: public buses running 24H; periferic 'exchange' parking areas, where you leave your car and take a bus for the center of the city; and you cannot enter the city with your car (unless you live there, of course).

    On the other hand, it must be said that Bologna is a small city compared to Atlanta: here lives only half a million of people.

    Valerio

    Car sharing in Zurich too (none / 0) (#86)
    by Rk on Sat Jun 22, 2002 at 07:32:58 PM EST

    Being run by ZVV, the Zurich Public Transport Authority (runs the commuter trains, VBZ runs trams and buses), which decided to call it "Mobility".

    Apparently, using English words is very popular... it would probably surprise any American tourist to see that more than half of the billboards with English slogans, many of which the locals don't even understand. Never underestimate the follies of the marketroids.

    [ Parent ]

    Park and Ride (none / 0) (#88)
    by sgp on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 05:02:57 PM EST

    This sounds like the opposite of what we have in many UK cities (and elsewhere I'm sure).

    With Park and Ride schemes, you drive towards the city, park outside the city limits, and get on a bus which goes into the city centre - they typically run every 5-15 minutes).

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    Subscription cars? | 89 comments (74 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
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