The elite belief in Uberized, Muskized cities is at odds with fundamental, irrefutable facts of geometry

Jarrett Walker:

Walker's overarching thesis is that city transit is undermined by "elite projection," where rich people pretend that the way they like getting around -- in private vehicles that go from door to door -- can possibly work at urban scale, despite the fact that simple geometry shows that this is a physical impossibility.

As in, "It doesn't matter how tightly you pack self-driving Ubers together on our roads. If all the people who make your coffee and empty your wastebin are in private vehicles rather than on buses and trains, the roads will be at 5 or 10 times their physical capacity." [...] These all share the geometric flaw: even the smallest cars, packed as tightly as possible, multiplied by all the people who rely on buses and trains, will overflow all the roads we have now and all the roads we could ever build.

There is another flaw: when you make it cheaper to ride private vehicles (rather than public transit), you siphon transit riders out of the buses and trains, and put them on the roads, increasing congestion: so adding "efficient rideshares" actually makes transit worse, not better

Walker tried to explain this to Elon Musk on Twitter [...] Musk called him an idiot.

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11 Responses:

  1. MrEricSir says:

    Is it really a shock that a guy who runs a car company would willfully ignore all evidence that doesn't fit his windshield perspective?

  2. jwb says:

    Musk apparently needs to get control over his mind and focus on the car business. It turns out they have no idea how to make cars. Even Reddit is turning against them.

  3. Thomas Lord says:

    They are automatic cars. Bezos has clerkless stores. And someone is arguing that it will be necessary to provide transit for baristas and janitors?


    • MattyJ says:

      I fail to see a future where a few robots make janitors obsolete.

      • Tim says:

        Low paid, unglamorous jobs like janitors will be automated last -- as a book I read over 30 years ago pointed out.

      • emacsomancer says:

        Right, so given our current trajectory, perhaps Elon is right after all:

        > when you make it cheaper to ride private vehicles (rather than public transit),

        All you need to do is make sure the majority of the populace can't afford to travel frequently by either private vehicle or public transit.

        With low-paying jobs automated, there's really no reason poor people have to travel at all. (Or exist, for that matter).

  4. k3ninho says:

    Say, if you're building autonomous vehicles and leasing them to subscribers (because your billion-dollar company can afford to insure them) and you have the data, I think you'll notice the shared common routing and decide that the cost-benefit for the business is in ride-sharing, especially when you can segment the market with a mark-up for smaller or exclusive vehicles. You will make the most of your money meeting demand for a the bulk of people at the lower price-point in your subscription model. I think it is an inevitability that autonomous buses and a ride-sharing approximation to 'public' transport will dominate.

    For example in London, CityMapper[1] 'filled in' a gap[2] when Transport for London needed a northbound bus from Aldgate (south-east corner of City of London, starting point of the East End) north up a road called the A10 to the formerly-hip areas in Shoreditch, Hoxton, Haggerston and Dalston. An autonomous taxi service driven by this sort of data would trade off filled seats for $$$ in subscriber numbers -- and might even tease people to upgrade to the more expensive tiers with fewer 'other people' before permitting exclusivity.

    But it's SiliconValleyBros deciding, so who knows?



  5. Happen Muche says:

    You can tell Elon Musk is all marketing and no product by the fact that he is trying to sell a shitty propane torch as a 'flamethrower' for $500, when you can buy a real flamethrower for a grand or less. Hell you could probably pick up a used working X-15 and burn that shill to death for that sort of money.

  6. Blissex says:

    The real story here is that an old political study (1970s England) showed that people who travel by car, own a house, have a 401k, own a gun, vote to the right of people who use public transports, rent a house, have a pension, don't own a gun, even at the same level of income and status.
    Therefore switching people, even low income people, from public transport to private cars increases the number of Republican and clintonista voters.

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