The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Pricing in externalities

Uber, the ride-sharing company that pretends it isn't a ride-sharing company, has started a massive PR campaign against the city of Chicago because Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants them to pay for the damage they're causing to the commons.

Let's unpack all of that.

Lightfoot has proposed a $3 tax on ride-sharing trips into the Loop, Near North, Lincoln Park, and other affluent areas, and a smaller tax on trips out of the center city, because trips in and out of those areas cause several kinds of damage to the city's infrastructure. This is the definition of "negative externalities." In fact, Uber's and Lyft's pricing model has caused the following problems:

  • A glut of cars on the road during rush hour, with all the emissions and traffic they cause;
  • Reduced public-transit ridership and revenue, which disproportionately harms less-affluent users;
  • The destruction of the regulated taxi industry in Chicago, including thousands of bankruptcies due to taxi medallions losing more than two-thirds their value since 2014; and
  • The enrichment of Uber's officers and shareholders on the backs of underpaid Uber drivers.

Lightfoot's tax will increase the cost of a trip from Lincoln Park to Chicago by $3. If that pushes people to use public transit instead, we win. If people pay the tax, we win. If Uber's board take home less money, that's a neutral result we can all cheer anyway.

Compared with the way London, for example, has dealt with the environmental damage of cars in the central city, Uber's getting off easy in Chicago.

But of course, having gotten very rich through exploitation of other people, they don't see i that way. (Why are billionaires so whiny these days? Even Carnegie built libraries.)

Because we don't have Satanic mills employing thousands of 9-year-old orphans any more, it's hard to see the direct similarities between companies like Uber and companies like those portrayed in Dickens novels. But guess what? They're fundamentally the same. And Lightfoot's tax is only the first, modest step in Chicago government making life better for everyone in the city in the aggregate. The people complaining the most about the Uber tax are the people to whom $3 hardly matters. You can tell because $3 is more than the price of a CTA ride, and less than the current cost of an Uber ride.

If some Uber shareholders have to suffer a little so that people on the South and West Sides can get to work more reliably, I'm OK with that.

Another anniversary

Twenty years ago today, I launched wx-now.com. It's now on version 4.5 with version 5 in the works (when I get the time).

The earliest view on the Wayback Machine comes from late 2000, but the design looks similar enough to the first beta version on 11 November 1999.

Hard to believe I've had two websites in continuous operation for over 20 years.

So sorry I'm missing this

It's rush hour in Chicago right now, where commuters are slogging through snow and -5°C temperatures as the second significant winter storm pushes through the area.

And I feel for them. But here in London, it's 9°C and sunny, so one doesn't even need a coat to go out for lunch.

I also had the presence of mind to park in the $17-a-day garage instead of the $19-a-day outside parking lot at O'Hare, which will add 5 minutes to my trip from Terminal 5 to my car and save 15 minutes shoveling it out.

Sometimes I can plan ahead effectively.

Quite a remodel

One of the pubs I've frequented in London has apparently re-imagined itself as a 19th-century public house. The Blackbird, in Earls Court, used to look like this (May 2015):

Then it looked like this (Sept. 2018):

(Notice all the building permits and the closed door.)

This morning it looked like this:

I mean, wow. That's quite a remodel. Plus, apparently they've converted the upper three floors to "beautiful bedrooms."

I'm still staying at the hotel around the corner, and not at the Blackbird. But it's an interesting shift, to say the least.

Thirty years ago

I remember the early evening of 9 November 1989. A bunch of us were hanging out on our floor in my college dorm when my roommate told us to come in and watch what was on TV. We saw Germans atop the Berlin Wall waving the Federal (West German) flag, and not getting shot.

Today's Times has a good set of photos from the wall's construction in 1961 to its destruction in 1989. as does CNNBerliner Zeitung has an interview with Andrei Gratchev, Mikhail Gorbachev's spokesman from then, about the relationship between East Germany and the USSR. The Beeb explains how illegal raves brought the younger generation together and helped precipitate the East's collapse.

Germany reunified less than a year later.

All good things

My 207-day streak of 10,000 steps per day ended, as I suspected it would, at midnight GMT tonight.

Traveling from Chicago to London takes 6 hours out of the day, and it's hard to get enough steps before 7am to get to 10k by 6pm when most of that time is on an airplane.

Anyway, I'm in the Ancestral Homeland, about to finish the book that inspired the opera I'm performing in next week.

And then there's the other opera that requires I sing rapidly in Russian, without rushing. I brought the score for that one so I don't lose out on missing Monday's rehearsal.

More later. I actually have to get in sync with GMT so I can function on Monday. Wish me luck.

Off to the Ancestral Homeland

It's bitterly cold (at least for November), but otherwise the weather is perfect for flying this morning. My destination, London, is just dreary today and probably will be tomorrow as well. This is what I expect; it's as it should be.

Kudos, by the way, to the TSA. The Pre-Check line stretched back almost to Terminal 2, but the screeners managed to get me through in less than 10 minutes. Color me impressed.

Next update from South Kensington.

Must be lunchtime

Today's crop of articles:

And now, back to coding.