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April 06, 2009

Comments

Joe Simpson

I totally agree - great to see you talk about Dan Sturges and Intrago. I think I speak for many of those who've met Dan when I say that he's THE most visionary and passionate person I've met in the transportation space to date.

On a separate note, it's great to see that someone at GM can see that it's not all about cars... the PUMA concept with Segway is clearly a step in the right direction, but if all they plan to do is sell it - then it'll be a wasted opportunity, as I suggest in this piece: http://is.gd/rcmV

Jerry Yudelson

I have owned only one car for six years now, both in Portland, Oregon, a fairly well served city with public transportation, and in Tucson, a city that's really spread out with only slim bus service. It's not that big a problem for a two-person household to own only one car, in our case, a hybrid Civic paid for with cash. But this is a really spread out country compared with Western Europe. Their solutions may not be our best choices.

Ken Bateman

Hummmm. Cars are an enormous burden on the Planet but I dunno Joel. Looks to me like your common use car advocates are fighting an uphill battle with a rod knocking and the radiator overheating.

Asking for a world without a personal vehicle market is asking The Lone Ranger to give up Silver and ride a rental horse from the livery stable.

What would the Beach Boys and Chuck Berry have sung about in a culture with no Little Duce Coupes or no Maybelenes? You’ll never be able to create a common use Duce Coupe and I doubt if you can come up with a stirring song about "size-appropriate transportation options for people to move about local environments." Cars are sex and when it comes to sex, mammals will choose it over, well, you know.

FYI, GM, et al didn’t get into trouble because of the lack of engineering and styling talent. They drove into a ditch because the real car guys in management were elbowed out by Harvard Business ‘bean counters.” Mr. Wagner, would never made it out of the accounting department in Japan or Germany.

When addressing mobility needs of Americans, come up with solutions that have sex appeal or you’ll be jilted.

KenB

Doug Campbell

Wouldn't it be nice if some of the bailout money went to the rising stars of tomorrow like Dan Sturgis and Intrago.

They were there in the early days, and will be a big part of the solution in the future.

Mike Liquori

I think its a great future vision, but the value proposition does not arise until an integrated system of transportation options are available. That takes a lot of coordination, capital, and social change engineering.

In the history of business, its not the large, mature companies that make these transitions, but the smaller nimble entrepreneurs that typically capitalize on such opportunities.

But a large organization is more likely to have the coordination, capital, and marketing capacity.

Dan Sturges

These smart mobility solutions for lower-density suburban areas are expected to be different from those in dense urban areas. In the suburbs, consumers would have small, low-cost EVs instead of a 2nd or 3rd car (and be able to travel in safety enhanced travel lanes / corridors) to reach nearby shops, transit (and future carshare pods). These "local cars" will cost much less and require less energy or land (space to park). But they will be one's proprietary vehicle standing-by for them similar to today.

On the other end of a transit (or one-way carshare trip), local cars / vehicles (long with local i-transit services) will be available on-demand for that last mile of travel.

Just a little clarification regarding the "thin city" applications that we see coming in our future.


Thanks Joel for sharing some of our thinking on rethinking mobility!

Christao

Excellent post. When I lived in San Francisco - in the years before zipcar, etc - I eventually shed my car and was so pleased with the sense of freedom I enjoyed with no significant loss of mobility. I can only imagine how much more convenient life would be there now, with microrental services readily available.

As for the claims that this is an uphill battle, of COURSE it is. But the more success stories we get, whether on rural college campuses or dense urban areas, the more momentum we will gain.

Thanks again for a very insightful post.

Perfectly Natural

Joel, as always I really enjoy your comments and vision.
As for reinventing mobility I love the idea but it would require to reinvent the USA.
This country was built around mass highway systems and not public transportation like in most of Europe, where even when you go outside of the big city you find a pretty good public transportation.
For this to work we would need to reinvent the whole country and the mindset of most of the general public living outside of the big cities.
By the time we would make this happen, global warming would be in full effect in everybody's life.

dan sturges

I guess I feel the need to respond to Perfectly Natural - because I disagree with the idea that this would take 20 years and it would be to late.

Let's just imagine someone living in Irvine California in a nice house without a car in 1970 and in 2010. In 1970, they we're in bad shape. The nearest stores may be a few miles away - a long walk. Other than that, they had little to no access to their world without a car.

Now fast forward to today. They might have broadband Internet and can have most anything they find on the web delivered. Great start.

If they were to get a Neighborhood EV - which are now legal in CA and take only pennies to power, they'd have a way to get to the local shops easy, and even a way to get to a transit stop or station. Carsharing (hourly car rental) hasn't worked well in these settings, because few have a convenient way to reach the cars. The NEV makes that possible. Yes our NEVs cost $7K, but when a Tata Nano can be sold for $2K do we have so little imagination that we can't see $4K (super golf carts) NEVs being used to get around locally?

Sure a rental bike, scooter or little car would be great if they took the train to Fullerton or into LA for the last mile.

And these mobile phones are enabling folks to find rides with neighbors if they don't want a NEV (see www.avego.com).

If you couple many of the alternative modes reaching the market into a system, you have the start of a system that can be supplemental and reduce the need to own a car.

For our 50+ million commuters, just having car sharing at work makes riding to work a better proposition, as then the commuter has access to wheels when needed to leave work for lunch or go home for some reason.

Smaller vehicles may need special lanes or some traffic calming. We put a man on the moon, is a bucket of yellow paint to make some stripes out of the question in our neighborhoods, where traffic should be driving like boats behave in the harbor anyways.

Small EVs can get beyond 400 mpg and cost less than $5K. Bus-Rapid Transit systems can run from station to station on our great highway system and connect folks to the local mile modes. Make transit work better (we know 80% of Americans can't get to or from transit with ease - but local vehicles and smart local transit can fix that), and you will have less cars on the freeway.

There is nothing impossible about what has been discussed. It is not a system design that takes personal motorized transportation away. Given the state of the country and world economy, is the alternative more road building and more emissions? Or powering those cars with 20% load factor with nuclear power as they sit in traffic. This is not a vision that requires elevated freeways or dramatic improvements in infrastructure. Even smaller local vehicles will enhance public interaction in the community hubs and create better "villages".

The smart multimobility future is viable, solves transport problems in a comprehensive
manner and is completely doable. Yes, it will change the patterns of how people move. It will strengthen local communities. It will make it nicer for people to walk or ride a bike in the future. And the community mobility hubs will be wonderful places for a community to gather.

The foundation of this system could be installed across the USA in just a few years with the right funding. (Even little EVs can be winterized with the proper capital investment)

How many things do we use everyday that were said to be impossible? I'm using one right now, my personal computer.

Perry Goldschein, CSR

How about Segway and GM's new two-wheel urban personal transportation initiative (with optional "smart network") -- what do you think of that? Read at http://bit.ly/8RFWG

Also, anyone not familiar with the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies should check them out -- they've been studying these issues for more than two decades I believe... http://www.its.ucdavis.edu

Michael Norvell

Excellent article Joel! Don't forget vanpooling as one of the tools in a package of sustainable mobility solutions.

Mark Petry

Great post and opens the door to a discussion that is really critical - there are interlocking dynamics of social, economic, and infrastructure models, all of which are to some extent obsolete.

The real solution will (in my opinion) be a combination of behavior change (people work at home 2-3 days/week) drive MUCH smaller "cars" with plug in hybrid power plants, and use alternatives such as bicyles or scooters when trip distance, weather, or passenger requirements permit.

I live on a small island in the PacNW, and have been trying to get an electric car co-op started here. 80% of trips are under 5 miles, under 35 mph, and terminate in just a few destinations (ferry terminal, school, grocery store). An ideal venue for electric cars. However the lack of "community support" in the form of public charging infrastructure makes it a very hard sell for the average person - they just don't see an EV as a viable alternative. Will it take $5/gallon gas to get people to change their behavior ? Seems to me that is the limiting factor.

Again, great post, a critical topic for our times.

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Electric bicycle

I totally agree with you, i thikn that thinking is better put in practice in the european countries. In China people mostly use bikes only because it is more affordable, but in the europeans countries they use it for better mobility, and we have to start thinking more about that as gas become more and more expensive.

Car Transporters

Mobility also translates to how car dealers and car manufacturers conveniently transport vehicles from one place to another.

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