Episode #31: Technology & Transporation

Microsoft "Connector"On the 31st episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, Jake, John, and Travis cover a few issues at the intersection of transportation and technology.

We discuss the “Google bus” phenomenon in the Bay Area and speculate why some companies opt to run their own private shuttles, in contrast to companies like Amazon that help fund public transportation improvements. We also speculate on why some of these companies are choosing to maintain their headquarters in areas where many of their employees don’t prefer to live.

Finally, we discuss taxi alternatives like Uber and Lyft, which provide a more high-tech but less regulated way of getting around. We question whether driverless cars will ultimately disrupt both taxis and public transportation, and ponder their overall impact on urban areas.

Photo of Microsoft shuttle bus near Bellevue, Washington by Travis Estell.

  • Fantastic episode! I am really interested about what the future of cities is with driverless cars, and I have long been intrigued by the taxi industry. It is really terrible in Cincinnati, but it’s pretty bad in many American cities. I guess it has to do with the margins or lack of regulations forcing them to do so, but I can’t figure out why taxi companies don’t include easy-to-use credit card payment options.

    In Chicago it is city law that the taxis accept credit cards. Of course, some drivers try to avoid it so they can up their individual margins. I get it, but if I don’t have cash, I don’t have cash. In Seoul it is remarkable easy to pay with credit card, or even easier to use a T Money Card, which is their universal transit payment card. In all honesty, the cab drivers in Seoul often get annoyed when they need to make change, because the processing of tapping a T Money Card is so unbelievably fast and easy.

  • Mark Christol

    The driverless car always reminds me of the Johnny Cab

    As far as east vs west on tech, the east is where it started. They used to have an east vs west TV contest
    Part 1

    Part 2

  • Robert Trippel

    Great episode. With regards to why Silicon Valley is where the biggest and most tech companies are located can be answered by watch the documentary Silicon Valley. The documentary discusses Failchild Semiconductors and the rise of Silicon Valley. The link is below and anyone can watch it online for free.


  • Matt Jacob

    John hit the nail on the head about the demographic shifts west and south since air conditioning being a major factor in many cases for these newer companies locating there. The quality of the internet infrastructure is another big one keeping them on the west coast. I believe it’s closer to the Asian standards (not to mention closer to the Asian talent who are leading the way in some regards on the tech front).

    I don’t know that it’s necessarily the gatekeepers of SF downtown keeping the tech companies out but rather than the high costs in general to build new in their downtown (it costs a lot in general out there, but downtown has to be substantially more). When you’re bringing that many new employees to a downtown, the price of what’s available goes up. It was probably more cost effective for space to buy a field in the valley way back when and bus them than try to build something of comparable size in the middle of downtown. Imagine how much the Google basketball courts and gymnastics would have cost downtown that they’d then subsidize to their employees! Not even possible downtown probably. Now that it’s built they don’t have much incentive to move downtown and transit is coming to them.

    I think Kansas City has had some success with their fiberhoods by Google in attracting startup internet companies. I’ve heard that single family homes are getting rented by the week to startups that need the faster connection. Not sure it’s that replicable here, but interesting. I’ve heard that Cincinnati’s standard internet connections aren’t the greatest as well, but don’t know much more. It would be interesting to see how we compare on internet speeds. I’m just using my phone for internet right now until Cincinnati Bell gets fiber optics to my neighborhood, which will probably take upwards of 7-10 years. (There are too many vacant buildings around me in OTR to justify it for them). Otherwise you’re just wasting your money on these slow connection speeds.