The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

My favorite article of the day

I'm chilling in my hotel room on the second day of my trip, not sure how much longer I'll remain awake. (Waking up at 5am sucks, even more so when it's 4am back home.) This is a problem in that I need to write some code before tomorrow.

So I've spent a few minutes perusing the blog feeds and news reports that came in today, and I have a favorite. The favorite is not:

No, though all of those brought little flutters of joy to my heart, the story that London is going to make Oxford Street a pedestrian utopia by 2020 really got my interest. Since I have never driven a car anywhere in Zone 1 and have no intention of ever doing so, I think blocking 800 meters of Oxford Street to cars is fookin' brilliant.

Travel day; link round-up

I'm heading back to the East Coast tonight to continue research for my current project, so my time today is very constrained. I hope I remember to keep these browser windows open for the plane:

So much to do today...and then a short, relaxing, upgraded flight to BWI.

Economics 101; or, why taxi fares are regulated

Yesterday, a man reportedly threw himself in front of a CTA train at the Fullerton El stop, shutting down the three busiest lines in the system during the morning rush hour. Commuters faced hours-long delays and an already at-capacity bus system struggled to adapt to the demand.

So did Lyft and Uber, as people found out. Lyft presented one of my friends with a $75 fare to go six kilometers; she wound up taking a bus and suffering through a two-hour commute. (I wasn't affected because I had the option of walking to work yesterday.)

Chicago's City Hall is outraged:

"It is unfortunate that at least two ride share companies chose to take advantage of this morning’s difficult commuter situation," said Lilia Charcon, a spokeswoman for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection spokeswoman.

But that's their business model. If demand goes up faster than supply, prices rise.

Graph: Ray Bromley.

The only way to stop that from happening is through regulation. Like the way we regulate taxis. But then there is no way to get a taxi when demand goes up like it did yesterday, because they're all in use.

Welcome to economics.

Why can't we have these things in the U.S.?

I'm on a train hurtling through the English countryside at 200 km/h and using WiFi.

Seriously, why can't we have a train like this back home? I mean, some Amtrak routes have WiFi, and Acela maxes out at 240 km/h between Boston and New Haven, Conn. But that's it. Chicago to Milwaukee trains plod along at half that speed, and the trains to St. Louis are even slower (and frequently delayed by freight traffic).

Where's the President's infrastructure investment plan that we've heard so much about?

What Brexit means to Crossrail

Crossrail, the UK's £14.8bn rail line connecting London's far western suburbs with its eastern ones, either represents the end of an era or the beginning of one, according to today's New York Times:

Before Britain voted last summer to leave the European Union, Crossrail was conceived for a London open to the world and speeding into the future. Now, with Brexit, the nightmare scenario is that this massive project, to provide more trains moving more people more quickly through a growing city, ends up moving fewer people more quickly through a shrinking city.

Extending roughly 110 km, it is built to speed about 200 million passengers a year in a kind of Y from far to the west of the city, in the county of Berkshire, through Heathrow, to the heart of London, forking east to Shenfield in Essex and to the neighborhood called Abbey Wood, on the historically neglected southeast side of the Thames River. Linked with the existing Underground subway network, it will be rechristened the Elizabeth Line, inserting what is in effect a new steel-and-wheels spine into Britain’s capital.

“The danger with Brexit,” [George Iacobescu, Canary Wharf’s longtime chairman said], “is that if Britain gets out of the European Union and doesn’t keep the U.K. an attractive place for financial institutions, they will think twice about growing here. The issue isn’t banks leaving Canary Wharf. Most of them have long-term leases. The issue will be the pace of growth.”

But that’s not quite true. Because of Brexit worries, construction plans for several of Canary Wharf’s new buildings have already been put on hold. And long-term leases can always be broken.

The subway will open to passengers in 2018.

Where did the day go?

Usually when I work from home, I get a lot done. Today...not as much. I've run errands, had two meetings outside the house, and (to Parker's horror) vacuumed.

Now I'm off to another meeting, with half the house un-vacuumed and many emails unread.

Articles also unread:

Now, time for a board meeting.

How the Windy City got its name

By boasting, it turns out. And writing in the New York Times, Mayor Rahm Emanuel carries on the tradition of thumbing New York's eye:

On Thursday, in the wake of a subway derailment and an epidemic of train delays, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York declared a state of emergency for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the busiest mass transit system in America. That same day, the nation’s third-busiest system — the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority — handed out coupons for free coffee to riders stuck in the second year of slowdowns caused by repairs to prevent chronic fires.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, a recent survey found that 85 percent of passengers are satisfied with service on our transit system, the nation’s second most used.

The L, Chicago’s system, turned 125 this year. The elevated railway began as four wooden cars powered by coal and steam. Last year, more than 238 million rides were taken on the system, which, unlike the ones in New York and Washington, has not been troubled by systemic failures, breakdowns and delays. Even during a 28-day stretch of arctic temperatures in 2014, the L was never interrupted.

I mean, hey, it's the one bit of infrastructure Chicago has going for it. Of course, New York City's roads aren't great either.

Monday evening reading

Stuff I didn't get to because I was doing my job today:

Time for a martini, clearly.

Chicago's taxi fleet is dying

USA Today is reporting that Uber and Lyft are destroying the taxi industry here:

About 42% of Chicago’s taxi fleet was not operating in the month of March, and cabbies have seen their revenue slide for their long-beleaguered industry by nearly 40% over the last three years as riders are increasingly ditching cabs for ride-hailing apps Uber, Lyft and Via, according to a study released Monday by the Chicago cab drivers union.

More than 2,900 of Chicago’s nearly 7,000 licensed taxis were inactive in March 2017 — meaning they had not picked up a fare in a month, according to the Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Local 2500 report. The average monthly income per active medallion — the permit that gives cabbies the exclusive right to pick up passengers who hail them on the street — has dipped from $5,276 in January 2014 to $3,206 this year.

The number of riders in Chicago hailing cabs has also plummeted during that same period from 2.3 million monthly riders to about 1.1 million.

The Illinois Transportation Trade Association of Illinois unsuccessfully sued the city of Chicago, arguing that Chicago had unconstitutionally enforced two sets of rules for taxi and ride-sharing industries and made it impossible for cabbies to compete with Uber and Lyft.

But the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately rejected the taxi industry’s argument. Cabs and ride-hailing, the court ruled last October, are distinct services and could thus be regulated differently. In April, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case and the 7th Circuit’s finding stood.

As a consumer of these services, I have switched almost entirely to Lyft. (I hate, hate, hate Uber's business practices and refuse to patronize them.) So though I'm part of the problem, I believe the taxi industry did a lot of this to themselves. How difficult would it have been for the taxi fleet to solve the predictability problem? I mean, if there were an app that would summon a taxi to a specific place and tell you what the fare is to your destination ahead of time, how would Lyft have become so successful?

Happy birthday, El

Chicago opened its first elevated train 125 years ago tomorrow, on 6 June 1892:

On June 6, 1892, 125 years ago this week, the first elevated line called the "Alley L" opened for business, running from Congress Parkway and State Street to 39th Street, along the alley, behind and around buildings and through backyards, said Graham Garfield, CTA general manager of customer information and unofficial agency historian.

It was a novel way to travel — above the streets and eye-level to people's second- and third-floor windows. Garfield said some residents along the path may have forgotten that the train was coming that first day and had to quickly draw the curtains to protect their privacy, while others gathered on back porches to watch the smoky, steam-powered "L" go by.

The wooden train, run by the private Chicago and South Side Rapid Transit Railroad Co. along what is now the Green Line, was popular and crowded from the start. And along with other north, south and west sections of the "L" built over the next 10 years, it helped to both expand the city and create its character... The combined subway and elevated system now has 224.1 miles of track and sees more than a million riders daily.

The first elevated train anywhere—which still exists, to some extent—ran from London Bridge to Greenwich and opened in 1836.