✊🏙 Drivers strike as Lyft goes public; Facebook charged for redlining tools; lessons from Copenhagen; Auckland transit; Chinese e-bikes; private cities; & more!
Lyft has gone public, touting its vision to reduce car use as academics say it’s doing the exact opposite and drivers protest their poor treatment. Facebook is also back in the news, this time for developing tools that literally let real-estate companies redline their ads. And everyone’s looking for lessons from Copenhagen this week.
Plus, Sweden’s launching self-driving buses, Auckland is doubling transit ridership, Uber is fighting a docked bikeshare expansion in Chicago, Amsterdam is taking away thousands of parking spots, Melbourne has a new city plan, and Beira, Mozambique could be the first city destroyed by climate change.
Sorry to end it on a terrible note, but have a good week.
Lyft goes public as drivers strike
Lyft became the first ride-hailing company to go public this week. Its market cap initially jumped over $30 billion, but has fallen closer to $22 billion at time of writing. Uber will also go public in the coming months, but the images of Lyft executives and shareholders celebrating their newfound wealth as their contractors were driving for poverty wages — some even on strike to demand better treatment — was particularly perverse.
Alissa Walker at Curbed wrote about how Lyft is trying to argue it wants to take cars off the streets, despite a growing body of academic research which shows it does the exact opposite. Jalopnik’s Aaron Gordonprovided an effective counter to the idea that Lyft is the “progressive” ride-hailing company, however, detailing how the company has fought NYC’s minimum wage for ride-hail drivers and had a profoundly negative effect on cities.
But how can a company like Lyft, which lost $911 million last year and has no path to profitability, command that high a valuation? Bloomberg’s Eric Newcomer interviewed Lyft’s co-founders ahead of the IPO and they either evaded questions about the business model or provided contradictory responses. Nicole Gelinas argued companies like Lyft and Uber can only pull this off because “a decade of record-low interest rates has made a fun-house mirror out of investment markets.”
Of course, it’s important not to forget the drivers — the very people who created the wealth that executives and shareholders are reaping. Drivers in Los Angeles and San Francisco were on strike this week to demand transparency, benefits, and a living wage in the face of even more pay cuts.
Lyft and Uber have seen it fit to subsidize their IPOs on the backs of the drivers. They want to generate as much profit right now as possible to make them look really attractive to investors, but they’re not doing that responsibly. Uber is now dropping their rates down from 80 cents a mile to 60 cents a mile. And to give context, the IRS says it takes about 58 cents a mile to operate a vehicle, so Uber is handing down basically a two-penny-a-mile profit to their drivers. No one can buy a decent life with only two pennies a mile in profit.
Redlining for the twenty-first century
The tech industry loves to pretend they’ve invented a ton of things that already exist, but now it’s in hot water for building tools to enable housing discrimination.
On Thursday, the Department of Housing and Urban Developmentcharged Facebook for violations of the Fair Housing Act. HUD is filing the complaint because the people affected likely wouldn’t even know they’ve been discriminated against due to the tools Facebook makes available.
Simple drop-down menus with hundreds of thousands of options for advertisers help them to sidestep renters or buyers of almost any conceivable characteristic. Facebook users can block people from seeing housing listings who describe themselves as “moms of grade school kids” or “foreigners,” for example, or list their interests as “hijab fashion” or “service animals”—or any other number or combination of categories, including all those protected under federal law, according to the HUD complaint.
A toggle button that excludes men or women from seeing an ad facilitates potential housing discrimination at an enormous scale. The charges even describe a mapping tool that allows advertisers to block people from seeing the ad by drawing a red line around those areas, an iteration of the historic and illegal practice of redlining updated for the social-media age.
But Facebook isn’t the only major tech company that could face charges. HUD informed Twitter and Google that their advertising policies were also under investigation and charges could come later.
What can we learn from Copenhagen?
Copenhagen seemed to be everywhere this week, and for good reason: the city is closing in on its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025 and shows exactly how much a city can change not just to meet its climate goals, but to promote a better quality of life for its residents.
Somini Sengupta went to Copenhagen for the New York Times and provided perspective on how much the city has changed over the past half century.
Pedaling through the city these days, it is difficult to imagine what Copenhagen once looked like. There were factories in the narrow streets and ships in the oil-stained harbor. Coal-fired power plants brought electricity. The air was smoggy. A generation of city dwellers moved out to the clean-air suburbs.
Copenhagen and other European cities with high percentages of cyclists — 43% in Copenhagen’s case, in spite of the wind, rain, and snow — are often positioned as different than North American cities, but they too were once in thrall to the automobile until choosing to take a different path.
Alissa Walker reflected on what U.S. cities could learn from Copenhagen, in particular how mid-sized cities could benefit from greater density(remembering that Copenhagen is a city of just over 600,000 people). She also noted how the shift to carbon neutrality will bring savings for residents: the average couple will save ~4,000 DKK (US$600).
Jesper Berggreen reported for CleanTechnica that Copenhagen is ahead of schedule on its electric-bus rollout plans, and Bruce Katz and Luise Noring reflected on what U.S. democratic socialists might be able to learn from the Danish left — though it’s more of a moderate shift than a revolution.
Around the world
Induced demand: “The old cliché ‘you can’t build your way out of congestion’ has been proven true over and over again. And the opposite is also true; when you make a car lane into a bus lane or replace an expressway with a linear park, traffic disappears.”
🇸🇪 An ideal autonomous implementation? Sweden will open a self-driving bus route next year with dedicated lane so other traffic won’t be a worry
🇬🇧 Mayor Sadiq Khan wants Transport for London to take over suburban rail lines so they can be “metroised” with high-frequency service
🇳🇿 Auckland on track to double public transit use over ten-year period
🇮🇩 Crippled by congestion, Jakarta opened the first phase of its North-South metro line. Phase 2 will open in 2024 and East-West line in 2026.
Bikes and scooters
🛍 Retailers in Auckland find scooters are increasing foot traffic and sales
🇨🇳 New Chinese e-bike standards forcing adoption of lithium-ion batteries, higher speed limits, and causing long lines for plate applications
🤦♀️ Why are drivers aggressive toward cyclists? They don’t see them as human.
Cars and roads
💷 London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone will charge £12.50 (plus congestion fee) on 8 April 2019 to non-compliant vehicles. It will expand in 2021.
☠️ “The overriding industry message is that, once the bugs are worked out, so many more people will be saved by the promise of autonomous cars that killing a few here and there is acceptable in the name of progress.”
💵 “Congestion pricing accounts for how a person’s decision to drive affects other people,” and more North American cities are considering it
🇳🇱 Amsterdam to remove over 11,000 on-street parking spots by 2025
🇦🇺 Melbourne is the fastest-growing city in the developed world. Its mayor will soon announce a new five-year transport strategy to widen sidewalks, add bike lanes, and restrict vehicle traffic.
👩 “There’s a generation of architects and designers that were trained to build to the universal man.” Designing with women in mind improves cities for everyone.
🙃“The reason a privatized city is so much quicker and easier to build is not down to the inherent superiority of the free market, but because it removes power from people and communities and centralizes it into the hands of one person or corporation.”
🇲🇿 After Cyclone Idai, former Mozambique first lady Graça Machel says Beira “will go down in history as having been the first city to be completely devastated by climate change.”
🇮🇳 Flamingos are flocking to Mumbai because untreated sewage and industrial pollution has caused the algae they feed on to bloom
🚌 How should a Green New Deal incentivize better transit?
💰 Rich people in San Francisco started a GoFundMe to stop a homeless shelter planned near luxury towers. In response, a new GoFundMe was created to get the shelter built — and GoFundMe donated $5,000.
😡 Housing complex in London built separate play areas for wealthy and poor children. It now says all the kids can play anywhere. The Guardianidentified more complexes trying to keep out kids from social housing.
💸 WeWork wants to get into the smart-city game as European investors are wary of giving it anymore money.
Other great reads
🇦🇷 Eviction of street vendors in Buenos Aires hit women hardest of all, but they’re fighting to return
🕐 In 2021, the E.U. will stop observing daylight savings time and the decision of which time zone to adopt falls to transport ministers