Mapping May Impede Self-Driving Car Development

Urbanists, futurists and car enthusiasts buzz has been building over self-driving car technology. Traffic planners see them as a way to improve traffic flow on congested roadways. However; Slate’s Lee Gomes takes an in-depth look into the technology behind the curtain of the self-driving car and his conclusion is that it’s not ready for prime-time and it may never be ready. More from Slate:

But the maps have problems, starting with the fact that the car can’t travel a single inch without one. Since maps are one of the engineering foundations of the Google car, before the company’s vision for ubiquitous self-driving cars can be realized, all 4 million miles of U.S. public roads will be need to be mapped, plus driveways, off-road trails, and everywhere else you’d ever want to take the car. So far, only a few thousand miles of road have gotten the treatment, most of them around the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.  The company frequently says that its car has driven more than 700,000 miles safely, but those are the same few thousand mapped miles, driven over and over again.

EXCLUSIVE: Donald Shoup Talks Parking Policy, OTR Permit Fees With UrbanCincy

Donald ShoupIn advance of his lecture Tuesday at the Mercantile Library, UrbanCincy was able to get an exclusive interview with Dr. Donald Shoup to discuss a variety of issues ranging from Cincinnati’s own parking management efforts, the controversial OTR Parking Permit proposal and how parking reform is changing with the emergence of ride sharing services.

The digital interview took place on Thursday, October 23 and included the following discussion.

John Yung: Last year the City of Cincinnati almost committed to leasing its parking meters and some garages to a private corporation (Xerox) for a lump sum payment and yearly revenue for 40 years. What are your thoughts on cities attempting to lease or sell their parking assets to generate revenue?

Donald Shoup: Like burning all the furniture to stay warm on a cold night, selling a city’s parking meters for an upfront payment to cover current operating expenses is a bad idea. Some cities are considering more farsighted parking contracts that share the annual revenue rather than maximize the upfront payment. A contract with a professional operator who meets performance pricing goals and shares the resulting revenue with the city can give the city two big advantages: a well-managed parking system and a perpetual stream of income.

For example, a city can require its private contractor to set meter rates that keep the curb occupancy rate between 75% and 95% on every block for at least a certain number of hours every day, with penalty payments for failure to meet the occupancy goal. If professional operators can manage parking more effectively and at lower cost than cities can, private contracts with performance goals can be a good deal for almost everyone.

Xerox already manages the prices for on-street parking in downtown Los Angeles, and the program is a great success. Charging the right prices for curb parking produced some surprising benefits. The Express Park program showed that many meters had been overpriced, especially in the morning. During the program’s first year, 59% of the meter prices decreased and only 29% increased. Average meter prices fell by 11% and average parking occupancy increased by 17%. Total meter revenue increased by 2.5%. Parking reform is working well in Los Angeles.

Yung: Cincinnati political leadership is currently looking at increasing meter rates, hours and implementing a residential parking plan for Over-the-Rhine, a neighborhood that is next to the central business district. The residential permits are proposed to be $300 a year, which will be the highest permit price for on-street parking permits in the country if implemented. The neighborhood is very walkable; however, many employment centers and retail destinations are not very accessible by transit therefore many residents of OTR still have to drive.

Do you think that this is a fair market price for a neighborhood in a city like Cincinnati where approximately 10% of the population utilize some form of alternative transportation?

Shoup: The proposed price of $300 a year for a residential parking permit seems chosen to generate revenue rather than to manage parking. It is less than $1 a day, but an on-street parking permit may not be worth even that low price to some residents. I would instead aim for the fair market price, which means the price at which demand equals the available supply.

Yung: The city is currently in the midst of a zoning code rewrite and the topic of parking requirements is up for debate. Last year the city eliminated parking requirements in the CBD and OTR; however, there is little appetite from city leaders and planners to expand the effort to other areas.

In discussions, some developers advocated for parking requirements as a way to protect on-street parking impacts around the University of Cincinnati and other high-traffic commuter areas. They argue that there are not enough parking options in the area and other developers, eager to cut costs by cutting out parking if the requirement is eliminated, would incidentally create more demand for scarce on-street spots for students and visitors.This is similar to a debate in Portland regarding high-density apartments. What would your response to this be? Are there instances where you think parking requirements would need to be preserved?

Shoup: If Cincinnati uses fair market prices to manage on-street parking – the lowest prices that will leave on or two open spaces on every block at every time of the day – it won’t have to require off-street parking spaces for every land use. If the government regulated any other aspect of our lives as precisely as it regulates the number of off-street parking spaces everywhere, everyone would join the Tea Party.

Yung: Futurist seems to be talking about driverless cars as a way to streamline commutes for suburbanites however there is also some discussion on utilizing them as a automated taxi service in cities. What are your thoughts on driverless cars and what do you think their impacts will be on cities and parking reform?

Shoup: I don’t think driverless cars will have a big impact on cities during my lifetime. I do think that Uber, Lyft, Zipcar and the like are already having a big impact.

Yung: Can you elaborate on how car sharing services are impacting the parking demand market in cities?

Shoup: Uber, Lyft, and Zipcar reduce parking demand because they can substitute for a second car or even a first car for some families. Several studies of carsharing services like Zipcar have found that each shared car replaces between 9 and 13 privately owned cars because carshare members reduce the number of cars they own or avoid buying a car as a result of joining. Here is the link to a recent article about how carsharing reduces vehicle ownership and thus parking demand. And here is the link to another article about how dedicating an on-street parking space for a shared car reduces the demand for car ownership and thus parking demand.

Yung: SFpark has been widely discussed as a success in national urban blogs. Do you think this system is the ideal model for ensuring demand driven market pricing for parking in cities? Are there any suggestions that you would make to change or improve this system?

Shoup: SFpark, San Francisco’s new pricing program, aims to solve the problems created by charging too much or too little for curb parking. If the price is too high and many curb spaces remain open, nearby stores lose customers, employees lose jobs, and governments lose tax revenue. If the price is too low and no curb spaces are open, drivers who cruise to find an open space waste time and fuel, congest traffic, and pollute the air. SFpark bases the price adjustments purely on observed occupancy.

Planners cannot reliably predict the right price for parking on every block at every time of day, but they can use a simple trial-and-error process to adjust prices in response to occupancy rates. This process of adjusting prices based on occupancy is often called performance pricing. Beyond managing the on-street supply, SFpark helps to depoliticize parking by setting a clear pricing policy.

San Francisco charges the lowest prices possible without creating a parking shortage. Transparent, data-based pricing rules can bypass the usual politics of parking. Because demand dictates the prices, politicians cannot simply raise them to gain more revenue. Here is the link to a short article that explains SFpark.

Immediately after conducting this interview with Dr. Shoup, it was revealed that many recently constructed parking garages in Portland, as required by law, are now sitting mostly empty.

Dr. Donald Shoup’s lecture at the Mercantile Library will take place tomorrow at 6pm. The Mercantile Library is located less than a block south of Government Square and is accessible by a plethora of Metro Bus routes. It is also located near the Fountain Square Cincy Red Bike station.

Join Us for a Special URBANexchange with Ed Glaeser Thursday at 5:30pm

Triumph of the CityThis month our URBANexchange event will highlight an influential urban thinker and writer who is in town to speak at the University of Cincinnati.

Noted author, urbanist and economics guru Dr. Edward Glaeser will be at the Lindner College of Business this Thursday to speak on behalf of the TAFT Research Center. In 2010, Glaeser, an economics professor at Harvard University, wrote the book Triumph of the City which received a great deal of praise from the urban planning community.

Glaeser’s ideas on cities, skyscrapers and the future economy are much debated yet very carefully considered. As a result, his discussion at this event is expected to be very interesting and thought provoking.

The event will be held in Room 112 in the Lindner College of Business. The event is free and will begin at 5:30pm. The event is a short walk from the #19, #24, #78 and Metro*Plus bus routes, and is located near the Jefferson and University Avenue Cincy Red Bike station.

After the lecture, UrbanCincy will trek over to Taste of Belgium on Short Vine for an informal gathering to further discuss the lecture and current events. Dr. Glaeser, if you’re reading this, you are more than welcome to attend.

Tiny Living Space Concept Intrigues Capacity Crowd at Niehoff Studio

Last month UrbanCincy worked with the Niehoff Urban Studio to host our annual fall event. This year the partnership focused on the idea of tiny living, or living in a space that is less than 400 square feet.

According to the information presented at the event, the average tiny home is, on average, about 243 square feet. They can be either completely mobile, as in mounted on a truck, or somewhat permanent such as constructed out of shipping containers. They can also, but rarely are not in the United States, constructed as normal practice with standard materials.

The event saw a larger than expected turnout with well over 100 attendees. Food truck Bistro de Mohr was on hand to serve hungry patrons. The main room hosted a display of different tiny living arrangements.

Presentations were given by a local design firm named Department 7, and Dan Elkin who is developing a tiny home project in Detroit. Following the formal presentations, a panel discussion was held that was moderated by UrbanCincy.

The panel included Vince Sansalone with SAID-DAAP, tiny home owner Natalie Hendricks, artist and designer Joe Hedges, architect and UrbanCincy contributor Bradley Cooper, and University of Cincinnati professor Leah Hollstein. The panel’s discussion was very engaging and ranged from the reasons for developing tiny houses, which includes demographic shifts in the way Millennials view housing, to how tiny houses can fit into the urban fabric of cities. The group also discussed the various challenges for developing ways to make tiny houses legal in cities.

Overall the event was informative and engaging. Participants came away asking for more information about tiny homes and the audience generated good discussions with the panel conversation.

Cooper also distributed a survey about living preferences on tiny houses to those in attendance. Cooper is assembling the information as part of his application to develop a tiny living project through the Haile Foundation’s People’s Liberty Fellowship grant. If you were not able to complete that survey in person, you can do so now online.

UrbanCincy, as a public outreach partner for Cooper’s project, will provide regular updates on his efforts.

C-Change Class Hoping Interpersonal Challenge Starts to Break Up Cincinnati’s Provincialism

It’s a question that no one from outside Cincinnati has a good answer for. A question feared or reveled in by a native from the city. It is almost a code question determining a person’s origin, their loyalties, their location and even their net income or political affiliations. It’s probably the most daunting question anyone could ask in any random conversation here in Cincinnati: What high school did you go to?

And some believe that it needs to stop.

“Our story isn’t Skyline or the Reds. Our story is the different people that came here,” Aftab Pureval, co-chair of the Grand City Experiment told UrbanCincy.

The Grand City Experiment will feature daily challenges, throughout October, that will aim to plug people into what can oftentimes be Cincinnati’s insulated social circles. And Pureval says that the goal is to go beyond targeting young professionals and engage as many people as possible, even those that do not use technology.

The idea for the project project came from a team within C-Change, a program run by the Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce. This year’s C-Change class was challenged to come up with ways to better engage residents and newcomers to the city alike.

“You don’t have to be a part of the experiment for the experiment to have an affect on you,” Pureval explained.

So how does the experiment work?

Basically, participants sign-up through the Grand City Experiment website. Then, beginning on October 1, they will receive daily challenges via email that could be as simple as striking up a conversation with someone in line next to you, or something more involved like taking a trip into uncharted territory – things like westsiders going to the east side, Northern Kentuckians checking out areas north of the river, and so on.

Not every challenge, however, needs to be accomplished; only the ones participants feel comfortable doing.

Participants are then encouraged to share their experiences on social media with the hashtag #thegrandcity. The C-Change group will be tracking these experiences and sharing different stories of their own.

For people looking to participate that do not have access to the Internet, the group reached out to Cincinnati area Community Councils, who will then distribute challenges through the area’s many community councils. Organizers also say that daily challenges will be broadcast on the video board overlooking Fountain Square.

After the experiment concludes, the group says that they will collect the data to determine whether or not the effort was a success. If so, the idea could find its way to other cities throughout the country. But as Pureval explains, for now the goal of the experiment is to spark real connections with new people and places.