Uber lost $5.2B, cars are 💩, scooter riders embracing ownership, Tesla misleading on safety, & more!

Issue 98

Hey urbanists,

Turns out Uber’s loss was larger than predicted — a staggering $5.2 billion in a single quarter — combined with the lowest sales growth in its history. But yes, it surely has a great future.

What else? A great Independent op-ed compared cars to shit buckets (big fan!), the Kochs are trying to kill another transit project, dockless service users are switching to ownership after price hikes (what did I say?), the AV delay gives us more time to get rid of cars, NHTSA says Tesla is misleading on safety, high-tech jobs don’t benefit low-income workers, Sidewalk Toronto could be dead by October, and more!

Oh, and check out Lizzie O’Shea’s book Future Histories! (It seems to still be on sale). I’ve been reading a bunch about streaming services and the history of antitrust in the television and film industries lately as I may start writing more in that space, and I particularly liked the arguments Lizzie made about the platform business model.

Other than that, I’m headed to Melbourne tomorrow to see a bunch of films at MIFF, and hopefully meet a few people (including Lizzie!) to chat about transport and tech. The past few weeks in Asia have been pretty great, but I’m looking forward to getting away from this humidity.

Have a great week, remember to hit the heart if you like the issue, and feel free to reach out with questions and comments.


💩 “We need to think of private cars like the 21st century equivalent of Victorian buckets of waste; people will keep emptying them in the street until the city provides a better alternative.”

Transit and trains

🛑 NYTimes article outlines Uber and Lyft’s attempts to become public transit or work with transit agencies. I find it very hard to see how transit officials think it’s a good idea to work with these companies when they’ve explicitly said they want to replace transit, have a record of lying about their negative impacts, have already decreased ridership, and refuse to share their data with cities.

🇦🇺 Transport workers in Melbourne will walk off the job for four hours later this month after Metro Trains got an injunction to stop it from keeping fare gates open on two Mondays. The union and agency are at a standoff over pay in contract negotiations, and the agency will dock the pay of workers engaging in strike actions.

🇸🇪 “Sweden is at the forefront of a growing global movement recognizing the extremely high climate damage from flying.” Train passenger numbers were up 10% in Q1 2019 y/y, while air passengers fell 4.4% in the first three months of 2019.

💰 The plan to oppose Phoenix, Arizona’s light-rail network was developed by a group that received funding from the Koch brothers

🚝 Elon Musk’s Las Vegas tunnel could cripple the city’s monorail

🇺🇸 Salt Lake City might make transit free

Bikes and scooters

😬 After Jump, Bird, and others raised prices, some users switched to using their own bikes and scooters instead of using the dockless services. These companies are also very vulnerable to an economic downturn, which seems on the horizon.

🇩🇪 After hundreds of people were caught using scooters drunk, Munich officials want restrictions placed on them during Oktoberfest

🚲 In British, American, and Kiwi cities, urban residents are protesting auto dominance with their bodies — just as the Dutch did in the 1970s

🇺🇸 Atlanta passed a nighttime scooter ban after the death of a fourth scooter rider

Cars and roads

👍 Self-driving cars are still many years away, and that’s a good thing. It gives us more time to shift cities away from cars, instead of just replacing drivers with computers.

📉 Uber reported a quarterly loss of $5.2 billion and the slowest sales growth in its history. It also made some changes to its international structure to avoid paying taxes.

🛑 NHTSA sent a cease-and-desist order to Tesla in October 2018 over safety claims and referred it to the Federal Trade Commission: it is “inaccurate to claim that the Model 3 has ‘the lowest probability of injury of all cars,’ or that Model 3 occupants are ‘less likely to get seriously hurt,’ or ‘have the best chance of avoiding a serious injury.”

🚗 NYC extended its cap on ride-hailing vehicles for another twelve months and limited deadheading — time in vehicle without a passenger — to 31%

🇨🇳 Sales growth at BYD, China’s largest electric-vehicle company, is tanking after the government slashed EV subsidies

🇩🇪 Berlin is the latest major city with plans to pedestrianize major streets

🇺🇸 Joint analysis released by Uber and Lyft shows they generate a significant amount of vehicle miles in six major U.S. metro areas — but it leaves out NYC

Environment and climate crisis

🇬🇱 “Mass losses from Greenland this past week were already approaching levels not expected until 2070 based on the best available models”

✊ Red Nation is proposing a Red Deal to accompany the Green New Deal, ensuring decolonization and anti-capitalism are central to climate action

🛢 Ahead of New York’s case against Exxon over misleading shareholders on climate change, the company is accused of intimidating witnesses to stop their testimony

🗺 Major IPCC report says that land use is a major contributor to climate change, but could also be part of the solution

🐟 Excerpt from Vanishing Fish by Daniel Pauly explains the challenge we face, what governments are doing (and should be doing instead), and has a particularly good (and relevant) analogy on aquaculture:

Aquaculture in the West produces a luxury product in global terms. To expect aquaculture to ensure that fish remain available — or, at least, to expect carnivore farming to solve the problem posed by diminishing catches from fisheries — would be akin to expecting that Enzo Ferrari’s cars rather than an emphasis on public transport can solve the gridlock in Los Angeles.

🇷🇺 As temperatures rise, permafrost across Siberia is melting. That means long-frozen things like mammoths are being found more often, but it’s also destroying houses, buildings, roads, and livelihoods. Meanwhile, fires in Siberia “have consumed more than 13 million hectares—an area larger than Greece.”

The loss of permafrost deforms the landscape itself, knocking down houses and barns. The migration patterns of animals hunted for centuries are shifting, and severe floods wreak havoc almost every spring.

The water, washing out already limited dirt roads and rolling corpses from their graves, threatens entire villages with permanent inundation. Waves chew away the less frozen Arctic coastline.


🏠 “I could pretend to not like houses out of reasons of conscience, or a preference for living in high-density areas (which I do have). But my big reason for not liking houses is the inefficiency and time sink of maintaining them.”

🇨🇦 Transit expansion is fueling suburban transit-oriented development in the suburbs of major Canadian cities

🇦🇷 Buenos Aires wants to turn a notorious slum into an official neighborhood with new investment in utilities and services, but residents don’t trust the government

🇺🇸 Bernie Sanders should declare housing a human right through new programs and legal changes to prioritize transit-oriented public housing

🇮🇩 In Jakarta, 78 suburban-style houses form a community on top of a shopping mall

Other great reads

💸 Counter to previous claims, high-tech job growth doesn’t benefit low-wage workers. New research finds high-tech jobs create fewer new jobs than previously predicted, and they don’t raise the incomes of low-wage workers; they’re actually worse off because of high housing costs.

🇪🇸 As a new smoking ban comes into effect in Catalonia, restaurant owners in Barcelona are concerned and residents say it doesn’t address the real problem

👁 China’s social credit system “as it exists today is more a patchwork of regional pilots and experimental projects, with few indications about what could be implemented at a national scale.” But the Western focus on it has had the effect of downplaying the pervasiveness of surveillance at home.

🛑 Sidewalk Labs’ attempt to take over a section of Toronto could be dead by October 31 if disagreements with Waterfront Toronto can’t be resolved

🇸🇦 As skyscrapers built with oil money keep going up in Riyadh, it’s a lack of water that could ultimately cripple Saudi Arabia. 50% of its water comes from desalination, and the other 50% from groundwater that could be exhausted in 13 to 25 years.

🖥 Elizabeth Warren’s new public internet plan would ban states from restricting municipal broadband, then create an $85-billion grant program to fund 90% of the costs for utility coops, non-profits, cities, counties, and First Nations tribes

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