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Monday, August 19, 2013

Transportation with a pink mustache


    One of the things I love about San Francisco (and probably California too) is that what starts there many times reaches the rest of the country in a few years.  I remember first seeing rollerblades in California back in the 1980's and wondering what they were.  A few years later I was rollerblading around Columbia.  As an aside, the Mid-West and the South seem to be the last ones, if ever, to adapt to new things.
     On my recent visit to San Francisco I started to notice these cars driving around with pink mustaches on the front.  I finally asked my daughter what they were for.  She explained that it was a taxi service called Lyft that used private vehicles as taxis.  These taxi drivers were college students and some unemployed people who wanted to make some money.  The drivers have through DMV and criminal background checks and are insured for $1 million dollars of insurance.  Most innovative about this system is how the fare is charged.  Ride arrangements are made through a smartphone app and the price for the ride is negotiated between the rider and the Lyft driver.  The ride describes the ride requested and a price they are willing to pay and the first available driver agree to provide the ride at that price gets the ride.  While the California regulators of taxis has said this service is illegal, it is unclear whether this is a service that would fall under the taxi regulations.  This is another example of how the digital age has threatened another traditional business.  Are we looking at the future death of traditional taxis just as we have seen the demise of bookstores and newspapers?
     Maybe there are some solutions to our transportation needs in Howard County that might use some new technology.  Maybe the buses that we have are an inefficient model to meet our mass transit needs.  Are there newer digitally driven ways to meet our transportation needs that don't try to adapt mass transportation models that were designed for larger cities. There will always be the question of how to design transportation models for an area like Columbia and Howard County where we are not an urban area large enough to efficiently use the traditional mass transit models.

P.S
   We have seen other examples of how the internet has put some power back in the hands of consumers.  Lending Tree for mortgages and Car Direct for buying a car are just a couple of examples.

P.S. 1
While not parallel locally we have seen how a service like NeighborRide has provided a service to seniors that is more convenient and less costly than taxis.

P.S.
I came across this quote and wanted to pass it along.
"Life is mostly froth and bubble, Two things stand like stone, Kindness in another's trouble, Courage in your own."    Gordon, Adam Lindsay

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