✊🏙 Lyft’s terrible financials; NYC mayor backs congestion pricing; Chicago done with Elon Musk; scooter economics; Amazon betrays Seattle; climate; & more!
What to expect this week: Lyft’s IPO filing shows its financials are also terrible, congestion pricing may finally move ahead in New York City, and The Guardian goes in-depth on concrete.
Plus, Chicago looks ready to give up on Elon Musk’s tunnel, pedestrians deaths in the U.S. are soaring, Amazon lied to Seattle, Newfoundland & Labrador’s climate plan isn’t that great, and we should really build more public housing.
I hope you enjoy the issue, and have a great Sunday!
Lyft’s IPO shows ride-hailing isn’t sustainable
Lyft filed for IPO this week, and that provided insight into their business. They’re honest that things aren’t looking great for profitability.
In 2018, Lyft lost $911 million, up from $688 million in 2017. In its prospectus, it warned investors that it may never be profitable: “We have a history of net losses and we may not be able to achieve or maintain profitability in the future.” It doesn’t plan to focus on profitability in the near future as it projects expenses “as we develop and launch new offerings and platform features, expand in existing and new markets, increase our sales and marketing efforts and continue to invest in our platform.” However, Alissa Walker suggests at Curbed that going public may ultimately force Lyft’s prices to increase in an effort to become profitable.
Its market share in the United States has increased significantly in the past year, aided by reporting about Uber’s culture. Lyft estimates it captures 39% of rides completed by the two giants, up from 22% at the end of 2016. However, just as Uber’s sales growth has slowed, so too has Lyft’s.
Finally, when talking about risks to its business in future, Lyft acknowledged that “[o]ur arguments may ultimately be unsuccessful” to keep drivers as contractors instead of employees and that arbitration clauses that keep drivers and riders from going to court could be challenged. It also admitted it may not be able to develop self-driving tech in a reasonable time.
Daniel Kay Hertz@DanielKayHertzhttps://t.co/iMWeme31Ve
NYC mayor backs congestion pricing
After championing a millionaire’s tax to fund subway improvements, NYCMayor Bill de Blasio gave into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s congestion pricing plan on Tuesday as part of a larger plan to address the MTA’s problems.
In addition to congestion pricing, it includes a new internet sales tax and a commitment to spend revenue from marijuana legalization on transit. The plan could raise $1.4 billion per year, which would back bonds of up to $22 billion in the next 5 years. Fare increases would be capped at 2% per year.
Questions about who is in charge will end. Gov. Cuomo will take control of the MTA, and thus the problems will be on his shoulders. The six entities of the MTA will be consolidated, which could better align schedules and fares. However, NYC Transit President Andy Byford, who moved from Toronto last year, will be sidelined, and some suburban Senators aren’t happy.
Yonah Freemark@yfreemarkParis' example is really worth studying. The city has no congestion charge yet has managed to reduce in-city traffic by 45% since 1990. https://t.co/RD8kue29R9 This is better performance than London, which has such a fee.
While this week has been a good one for the mayor, he didn’t escape criticism for taking so long to agree to a plan to address the subway and recognize its importance. As Ginia Bellafante wrote in the New York Times:
The mayor is increasingly oblivious. This week he rode the subway and seemed surprised to discover just how exasperated New Yorkers are with their inability to get to where they are going without delays and hassles and endless anxiety.
“What I gleaned is people really depend on their subways,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference later, sounding as if he were a tourist from Havana with limited access to the tens of thousands of words that have been devoted to this subject by the local press during the past few years.
All about concrete
The Guardian did a series on concrete. It provided a fascinating look at a building material that has been essential to construction by highlighting its benefits and the significant drawbacks that come with it.
China uses almost half the world’s concrete and, since 2003, has poured more cement every two years than the U.S. did in the entire 20th century. Japan also embraced concrete in the second half of the 20th century, and despite being about the size of California, has laid as much as the entire U.S. with severe environmental consequences.
Concrete has had benefits for public health from facilitating access to clean water and easing access to floors that protect poor residents from parasites. However, it also has significant negative physical health impacts, including on joints and the respiratory system, as well as detrimental effects on mental health.
What’s the future of construction? Science fiction often uses concrete in its cities, but could emphasize other materials. Timber is en vogue and scientists are experimenting with new forms of concrete.
Sadly, many of the brutalist treasures of the twentieth century are being demolished. Here are some photos of what we’re losing.
Nikita Khrushchev’s first major speech after the death of Stalin had been on the advantages of concrete. It lasted three hours. No head of state before or since has delivered such a lengthy or detailed speech about concrete, nor made concrete the subject of such a politically explosive address: Khrushchev used it to announce his break with Stalinism. He did so by criticising the inefficiencies of the craft methods of construction favoured by Uncle Joe, and arguing instead for the benefits of prefabricated concrete construction that would draw upon Russia’s vast resources of unskilled labour.
Around the world
Trains and transit
🇩🇪 Berlin has a €28 billion ($32bn) plan to improve transit: tram network expansion, new subway lines, electric buses, improved frequency, and more
🎉 Elon Musk’s tunnel between downtown Chicago & O’Hare Airport looks to be dead. “If you look at Elon Musk’s career—he comes off as a grifter.”
🇱🇺 Luxembourg is making transit free, but will that really be good for users?
🇫🇷 As Macron allows private competition for French high-speed rail, SNCF’s new trains will be cheaper, more efficient, and have more passenger space
🚌 Fun! Public transit seat fabrics from around the world.
Bikes and scooters
🛴 Louisville, Kentucky data shows scooters last less than a month and lose about $300 per scooter before permits are factored in
🚲 In Sacramento, Uber’s Jump e-bikes are more popular than ride-hailing
📈 New study suggests bike share increased ridership on subways by 6.9% and light rail by 4.2%
☠️ 6,227 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. last year, up 35% over 10 years
😡 Amazon threatened to abandon a building in downtown Seattle if the city didn’t cancel a head tax to fund homeless services. Council repealed it but Amazon abandoned the building anyway. Bring back the tax.
🇨🇦 Bianca Wylie on Sidewalk Toronto: “While frustration with government may be legitimately acute, the answer is not to sign off on corporate capture of government and the people it is designed to serve.”
🇦🇺 Heritage Victoria will decide whether to grant heritage protection to Melbourne’s Fed Square in April to stop a proposed Apple store
🇸🇪 Apple was “furious” when council rejected its store in Stockholm’s central public park
☀️ Study of 79 countries shows those with successful emissions cuts had governments which incentivized renewables and energy efficiency
🐋 Iceland will kill up to 2,130 whales. Should there be a tourism boycott?
🐟 Climate change and overfishing are decimating fish populations
🇨🇦 Newfoundland & Labrador’s new climate plan will miss its targets and keep pushing oil & gas. By 2050, it will see large temperature increases, 20cm per year more precipitation, and sea levels rise of 0.5 meters.
🌇 Across the United States, cities are revising zoning regulations and development plans to embrace residential density
🇭🇰 Hong Kong is taking land from a golf course to build new housing
🏠 Could community ownership be a solution to the housing crisis?
The new “dream home” should be a condo, not a McMansion
Other great reads
💵 Los Angeles MTA voted to analyze congestion pricing and new ride-hailing fees
☕️ In Ho Chi Minh City, there’s an apartment building filled with different cafés on every floor
🇧🇴 “Cholets” are brightly colored buildings representing Bolivia’s indigenous Aymara, but not everyone likes them. They’re “an expression of de-colonization, because they’re a way to recover and project our culture.”