Move Over Ola and Uber, LibreTaxi Is Here

You read that right.

Move over Uber and Ola. There is a new, Open Source platform! LibreTaxi!

According to it’s homepage, LibreTaxi is a free platform that eliminates the third party in the middle. Among the features are:

Fares are decided prior to the ride being confirmed. Drivers can set their fares and passengers can negotiate.

Payment is made in cash. While this could be a not-so-great scenario, the app developers are working on BitCoin integration.

The app runs atop the Telegram messenger platform, and is built using the MIT licence. It can be be easily modified to serve multiple purposes, which is a good move. Additionally, it uses Javascript (ES6) which can be used to enable region-specific features.

The confusing part of it is that the App claims to be Battery-Friendly as it doesn’t use the phones GPS. Are fares predetermined for the distance?

The founder of LibreTaxi, Roman Pushkin has the following to say about LibreTaxi:

“LibreTaxi gives flexibility to passengers and self-employment to drivers. People, not corporations, should have control over how a taxi service works!”

I agree. Having a taxi service where individual drivers and passengers get to decide is ideal. It is probably the best example of Freedom of Enterprise.

I had earlier written about how Uber and Ola drivers were better off classified as Self-Employed. A platform like LibreTaxi ensures that the driver is self-employed, thus giving them the flexibility and decision making power that they should ideally have.

What do you say?

Further Reading: India Is Better Off With Self-Employed Uber And Ola Drivers

 

1,368 total views, no views today

Flattr this!

Uber Movement: Can it help us solve our Transport Problems?

Uber recently debuted its new Platform, Uber Movement (http://movement.uber.com) which will offer users access to its traffic data.

According to Uber’s blogpost on the same, Movement is meant to be a website that uses Uber’s data to help urban planners make informed decisions about our cities.

Now this might actually work out to be the best thing to happen to us!

Let us take Mumbai and Bengaluru as an example.

Both BEST and BMTC and an eTicketing system and an ITS with a vehicle tracker in place. With these two systems, the transco is able to:

  • Place the bus on a map.
  • Compute the number of tickets sold on different stages of different bus routes.
  • Superimpose the two onto a single dataset to identify where maximum passengers are and and what time. Using this data, one can come to the conclusion of time taken between two stops, and what time people are more or most likely to catch the bus.

Now, what can Uber’s data add to this dateset:

  • Average traffic conditions. While this can be ascertained using the Vehicle Tracking in Buses as well, Uber’s data is bound to be a little more accurate.
  • Alternative routes between two points. Since Uber relies on Google Maps for its navigation, it normally is able to plot multiple routes from Point A to Point B. This data can be used to launch additional bus routes.

The purpose of a Public Transport Undertaking like BEST or BMTC using Uber Movement’s data is to provide streamlined traffic flow.

Now let us take a real-world example:

Bengaluru

Building up on a previous post (Stuck in Traffic: How I Might Have Averted a Major Jam), let us assume that one would have to travel between Arekere Gate on Bannerghatta Road and the junction of 5th Main and 17th Cross in HSR Layout. As discussed earlier, there are two main routes. Traffic data from Google, Uber and BMTC’s ticket sales would be able to place things on a map. Since BMTC does not have a smart card system in place, it would be difficult to ascertain if the passengers disembarking at Jayadeva are taking a bus towards HSR Layout. If it did have a Smart Card system, or load passes onto an RFID card, this could be ascertained easily.

BMTC can then, based on traffic movements and passenger loads, introduce minibuses between Arekere and HSR Layout via Bomanahalli during peak hours.

Mumbai

Here, let us assume that one has to travel from Cadbury Junction, Thane to SEEPZ, Andheri.

Buses have two routes. Some of them like AS-422 take the Cadbury Junction-Marathon Chowk, Mulund Check Naka, Bhandup, Powai Route. Some, take the direct route by continuing on the Easter Express Highway and taking a right turn onto the Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road and then proceeding on to SEEPZ. Uber Movement can help BEST figure out when there is maximum congestion, and using its dataset on how many passengers and where they travel from and to, plan a more optimal route.

 

At the end of the day, Uber Movement is nothing revolutionary, it is merely Google Maps with a little more data, but more data is good for all of us.

What Uber Movement will certainly help us with is planning of land acquisition for newer transit projects, wider roads, metro lines, et al. But those are capital intensive projects. Newer bus routes would be the first step to implementing a full-scale transformation project. It will help make the city’s people smart, irrespective of whether city itself is smart or not.

1,022 total views, 4 views today

Flattr this!

Stuck in Traffic: How I Might Have Averted a Major Jam

Getting stuck in traffic is possibly the worst thing ever, especially in the morning. It simply ruins the rest of your day.

You wake up, get ready, and leave for a 9 hour job. You leave and end up stuck in traffic and your entire day goes for a toss. You are frustrated, irritated, and end up antagonizing others.

Now, where does the problem start? In today’s world, everybody relies on Google Maps. With Google advertising on Television about the awesomeness of it’s Navigation and Live Traffic relay, every Tom, Dick and Harry is busy using it to get to their destination. I’m not blaming the efficiency of Google Maps, but it did cause what I would call an Antagonising Disaster in Bengaluru.

To give a background, I need to travel to HSR Layout from Bannerghatta Road. There are two primary routes to reach this destination:

  1. BTM Layout and Central Silk Board
  2. Bommanahalli and Mangammapalya

The first route is perennially jammed because a vast majority of the traffic flows on this route, especially buses, and with bus stops placed precariously close to the signal, say goodbye to reaching office early.

The second route is less congested, faster and allows you to enter HSR Layout from the other end.

Now, the fastest way to reach HSR via the second route is: Vijaya Bank Layout – > Kodichikanahalli Road – > Devarachikanahalli Road – > Begur Road – > Mangammapalya Road and then turn into whichever main road of HSR Layout you would like to go to, starting from 5th Main.

Now, in order to get on to Mangammapalya Road [MR], one has to turn right onto Hosur Road, and take the immediate left. There is an opening on the Service Lane. This, is where the problem started.

BBMP had shut down the junction for a few days, in order to build a median on MR. Along with this, as part of traffic control, they barricaded part of the Service Lane. Thus anyone going from Silk Board towards Bommanahalli would have to get onto the main carriageway because the service lane is shut. Further, those coming out of HSR Layout via MR, would have to compulsorily take a left towards Garebhavi Palya because there was a Median that extended to the service lane barricades. Sounds complicated doesn’t it?

Once this was done, Google, which tracks every Android device, assumed that the junction was shut and thus stopped directing traffic on this route. It would direct all traffic towards Silk Board from the Bommanahhali signal, or worse, divert people onto a teeny-weeny, narrow, pothole ridden road parallel to Devarachikanahalli that went thru Virat Nagar, Vird Nagar and came out at Roopena Agrahara. Ultimately, all traffic ended up at Silk Board. Now, Uber drivers normally prefer following Google Maps. The situation is worse if you’re in an Uber Pool. The driver does not know the route, and even if some passenger wants to get off on MR, the map would direct them to Silk Board, then turn into HSR 5th Main, and then come back to MR. Very agonising, and antagonising.

I figured, let me try and fix this issue.Thus, I began shaking my phone. I shook it. Submitted feedback. No change. Repeat process. This went on for THREE WEEKS till Google finally removed the Road Closed Sign. I even tried to upload a pic of the junction in my feedback. It took a while, but in the end, it worked.

The reason why this affected me so much was, since all traffic going towards HSR Layout, or even beyond Agara, towards Marathahalli would end up going to Silk Board. Not just Uber and Ola drivers, but even regular folk who didn’t know the city ended up on this route. A major Pain in the Nether Regions, I say. This often resulted in nasty waiting times at Silk Board, sometimes lasting up to 25 minutes. This pileup also impacted traffic going toward BTM since all those waiting to turn right would hog up the left lanes. Further, the ripple effect caused by this caused pile-ups on all sides of the Silk Board flyover, creating a Royal Mess!

Now that the situation is back to normal, I for one am happy. Lesser traffic jams, faster traffic, but unfortunately, no reduction in people mindlessly following Google Maps.

Here is a screenshot of the junction in Question.

A Google Maps Screenshot of the Junction of Mangammapalya Main Road and Hosur Road at Bommanahalli.
A Google Maps Screenshot of the Junction of Mangammapalya Main Road and Hosur Road at Bommanahalli.

Save

3,056 total views, 8 views today

Flattr this!

Uber’s Tryst with Autos

Auto rickshaws in India have traditionally been the most prominent mode of transport. I have made out with my girlfriend in one.

The market, although unruly in most cities, is changing. It is slowly changing itself to keep pace with its biggest rival: Ridesharing.

Below, is an FEE piece that talks about how Auto Rickshaws are changing in India.

The Rickshaw Market Is Being Uberized

One of the great pleasures of visiting other countries is seeing how different cultures have attempted to solve the great human problem of getting from A to B. The question of transit is both a personal human undertaking and also a national challenge, essential for individuals and societies to thrive.

What’s so interesting is the vast array of solutions we’ve come up with to such a universal puzzle. There are often unique local obstacles to navigate, but the variety of different forms of public transport is wonderfully broad.

In India there is a striking number of options – some ingenious, some seemingly bonkers – but then when you have a billion people to move around a bit of variety is understandable. Pedal power is still in effect, the classic cycle rickshaw is a genteel option for short trips.

Busses packed to bursting careen through city centres with passengers dangling off the side or climbing onto the roof (Virgin Trains eat your heart out). The busses don’t so much as stop but decelerate long enough for customers to hurl themselves aboard. Grand looking Hindustan Ambassador taxis lazily cruise the streets often overcharging with a new wave of Uber and Ola drivers snapping at their heels.

The Auto-Rickshaw

But by far the most fun form of transport for traversing Indian cities is the auto-rickshaw. A physical and economic marvel, you can be whisked across town for a few rupees in what feels like a cross between a go-kart and a Rascal van. They perform up to 20% of the 229 million motorised trips taken every day in Indian cities.

The multitude of crisscrossing routes means you can usually catch one to where you want to go, but determining the routes can be a challenge. Local knowledge is vital. Stops are also a fluid concept, most will pull over to squeeze on another fare. It’s amazing how what seems like a vehicle with three passenger seats can multiply into six with some judicious lap-sitting and a bit of hanging off the side.

The patchy and chaotic arrangement for matching supply and demand, as well as sometimes variable pricing, left inefficiencies in the system crying out for some tech-based organization.Each of these three-wheeled people movers represents an act of economic endeavour, an entrepreneurial venture into the fast flowing current of Indian transport competition.

They provide jobs for tens of thousands of drivers and are inexpensive to buy and run. As old models are replaced by modern versions powered by compressed natural gas, they are also helping reduce pollution in overcrowded urban areas.

Such is their ubiquity it’s understandable that Uber turned its sights on trying to capitalize the auto-rickshaw market. The patchy and chaotic arrangement for matching supply and demand, as well as sometimes variable pricing, left inefficiencies in the system crying out for some tech-based organization.

Using the billion mobile phones in India, initially hail companies would track real-time driver availability by text message. As the number of smartphones has increased, however,  the use of live GPS tracking has allowed the potential for riders and drivers to connect in a timely and systematic way.

This mash-up of new and old technology spawned a host of start-up hailing firms with home-grown Indian companies Jugnoo, AutoWale and Ola seeing off competition from Uber which has suspended its auto-rickshaw service in India. Jugnoo, which bought out AutoWale last year, recently raised $10 million in its latest investment round.

Empowering drivers, many of whom are illiterate, with technology has seen incomes double and brought at least a little order to an often haphazard and stressful job.

With so many people to keep on the move, improving the efficiency of India’s auto-rickshaws is a significant contribution to the country’s transport mix, especially for the less well-off who rely on this low cost form of transportation. As Jugnoo CEO Samar Singla said:

“Uber is for the top 20 per cent of people, we’re for the bottom 80 per cent.”

The post The Uberisation of the rickshaw appeared first on CapX

Joe Ware


Joe Ware

Joe Ware is a writer at Christian Aid.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

674 total views, 4 views today

Flattr this!

Subsidies in Transport: Good or Bad

Subsidies in Transport are visible everywhere. Tamil Nadu has kept its bus fares at rock bottom rates, gives free bus passes to school students, Delhi has dirt cheap rates with the maximum fares being ₹15 and ₹25 in a non-AC and an AC bus. So, what else?

As stated earlier, extreme amount of subsidies bleeds the Transco of its revenue, and create a heavy indifference among the commuters to quality of services. Given that a vast majority of India’s transport services are entirely General Class services, revenues are inherently low. Similarly, in the case of Roads, a lot of people argue that Tolls are a “scam”, especially when they pay road taxes. Again, this is a false notion, one that can be explained if we cared to look at the Basic Difference between Toll and Road Tax: Toll is a User Fee. Road Tax is a Tax. I repeat, Toll is a Fee, and not a Tax. A tax is levied on a category of people on the basis of the income or what they own, in this case a vehicle. A toll, or a fee, is levied only on those who use the certain service or product, in this case the road. Many users accept this, but go on to further state that they are unjustly charged for using the entire section of a road rather than just the portion they used. Again, this is a flawed point of thought. In India, it would be a superhuman effort to set up Toll Plazas at every junction, man them [an automated one wouldn’t work, people will definitely find a way to avoid paying it then] and operate it. Of course, the Coimbatore bypass has 6 Toll Plazas on it, but 6 of them on a 28km two lane road, we all know the jam that occurs most of the time.

Toll Roads and other BOT transport projects, such as BOT Railway lines, like the Mumbai Metro One, Rapid Metro Gurgaon, Hyderabad Metro, et al, have specific intervals at which they are allowed to hike fees and fares, which makes it easier to operate and break even. In case of Transcos, most of them are either under pressure from the state or municipal body to keep their fares low [Prime Examples being DTC, MTC, TNSTC]. A few exceptions exist in the form of BEST, BMTC, TSRTC, which by virtue of the autonomy enjoyed by them revise [hike or slash] their fares at a reasonable interval. One method of determining rates is market oriented rates, which is what Uber and Ola normally does. When demand goes up, fares go up so that those who are willing to pay extra for it. However, this isn’t a feasible solution in all cases. In such situations, BEST’s Happy Hours concept works well. Similarly, KSRTC and the Indian Railways have successfully emulated the aviation industry with dynamic pricing in the form of Premium Tatkal tickets. Every transport corporation has schemes to attract customers. Similar to Toll Plazas offering a return ticket and seasonal pass, buses offer Passes and other forms of subsidies to frequent customers like the market.

Now, to take this further, below is an article from the Foundation for Economic Education which talks about the ill effects of subsidies.

 

The Distorting Effects of Transportation Subsidies

This article won the 2011 Beth A. Hoffman Memorial Prize for Economic Writing.

Although critics on the left are very astute in describing the evils of present-day society, they usually fail to understand either the root of those problems (government intervention) or their solution (the operation of a freed market). In Progressive commentary on energy, pollution, and so on—otherwise often quite insightful—calls for government intervention are quite common. George Monbiot, for instance, has written that “[t]he only rational response to both the impending end of the Oil Age and the menace of global warming is to redesign our cities, our farming and our lives. But this cannot happen without massive political pressure.”

But this is precisely backward. Existing problems of excess energy consumption, pollution, big-box stores, the car culture, and suburban sprawl result from the “massive political pressure” that has already been applied, over the past several decades, to “redesign our cities, our farming, and our lives.” The root of all the problems Monbiot finds so objectionable is State intervention in the marketplace.

In particular, subsidies to transportation have probably done more than any other factor (with the possible exception of intellectual property law) to determine the present shape of the American corporate economy. Currently predominating firm sizes and market areas are the result of government subsidies to transportation.

Adam Smith argued over 200 years ago that the fairest way of funding transportation infrastructure was user fees rather than general revenues: “When the carriages which pass over a highway or a bridge, and the lighters which sail upon a navigable canal, pay toll in proportion to their weight or their tonnage, they pay for the maintenance of those public works exactly in proportion to the wear and tear which they occasion of them.”

This is not, however, how things were actually done. Powerful business interests have used their political influence since the beginning of American history to secure government funding for “internal improvements.” The real turning point was the government’s role in creating the railroad system from the mid-nineteenth century on. The national railroad system as we know it was almost entirely a creature of the State.

The federal railroad land grants included not only the rights-of-way for the actual railroads, but extended 15-mile tracts on both sides. As the lines were completed, this adjoining land became prime real estate and skyrocketed in value. As new communities sprang up along the routes, every house and business in town was built on land acquired from the railroads. The tracts also frequently included valuable timberland. The railroads, according to Matthew Josephson (The Robber Barons), were “land companies” whose directors “did a rushing land business in farm lands and town sites at rising prices.” For example, under the terms of the Pacific Railroad bill, the Union Pacific (which built from the Mississippi westward) was granted 12 million acres of land and $27 million worth of 30-year government bonds. The Central Pacific (built from the West Coast eastward) received nine million acres and $24 million worth of bonds. The total land grants to the railroads amounted to about six times the area of France.

Theodore Judah, chief engineer for what became the Central Pacific, assured potential investors “that it could be done—if government aid were obtained. For the cost would be terrible.” Collis Huntington, the leading promoter for the project, engaged in a sordid combination of strategically placed bribes and appeals to communities’ fears of being bypassed in order to extort grants of “rights of way, terminal and harbor sites, and . . . stock or bond subscriptions ranging from $150,000 to $1,000,000” from a long string of local governments that included San Francisco, Stockton, and Sacramento.

Government also revised tort and contract law to ease the carriers’ way—for example, by exempting common carriers from liability for many kinds of physical damage caused by their operation.

Had railroad ventures been forced to bear their own initial capital outlays—securing rights of way, preparing roadbeds, and laying track, without land grants and government purchases of their bonds—the railroads would likely have developed instead along the initial lines on which Lewis Mumford speculated in The City in History: many local rail networks linking communities into local industrial economies. The regional and national interlinkages of local networks, when they did occur, would have been far fewer and far smaller in capacity. The comparative costs of local and national distribution, accordingly, would have been quite different. In a nation of hundreds of local industrial economies, with long-distance rail transport much more costly than at present, the natural pattern of industrialization would have been to integrate small-scale power machinery into flexible manufacturing for local markets.

Alfred Chandler, in The Visible Hand, argued that the creation of the national railroad system made possible, first, national wholesale and retail markets, and then large manufacturing firms serving the national market. The existence of unified national markets served by large-scale manufacturers depended on a reliable, high-volume distribution system operating on a national level. The railroad and telegraph, “so essential to high-volume production and distribution,” were in Chandler’s view what made possible this steady flow of goods through the distribution pipeline: “The revolution in the processes of distribution and production rested in large part on the new transportation and communications infrastructure. Modern mass production and mass distribution depend on the speed, volume, and regularity in the movement of goods and messages made possible by the coming of the railroad, telegraph and steamship.”

The Tipping Point

The creation of a single national market, unified by a high-volume distribution system, was probably the tipping point between two possible industrial systems. As Mumford argued in Technics and Civilization, the main economic reason for large-scale production in the factory system was the need to economize on power from prime movers. Factories were filled with long rows of machines, all connected by belts to drive shafts from a single steam engine. The invention of the electric motor changed all this: A prime mover, appropriately scaled, could be built into each individual machine. As a result, it was possible to scale machinery to the flow of production and situate it close to the point of consumption.

With the introduction of electrical power, as described by Charles Sabel and Michael Piore in The Second Industrial Divide, there were two alternative possibilities for organizing production around the new electrical machinery: decentralized production for local markets, integrating general-purpose machinery into craft production and governed on a demand-pull basis with short production runs and frequent shifts between product lines; or centralized production using expensive, product-specific machinery in large batches on a supply-push basis. The first alternative was the one most naturally suited to the new possibilities offered by electrical power. But in fact what was chosen was the second alternative. The role of the State in creating a single national market, with artificially low distribution costs, was almost certainly what tipped the balance between them.

The railroads, themselves largely creatures of the State, in turn actively promoted the concentration of industry through their rate policies. Sabel and Piore argue that “the railroads’ policy of favoring their largest customers, through rebates” was a central factor in the rise of the large corporation. Once in place, the railroads—being a high fixed-cost industry—had “a tremendous incentive to use their capacity in a continuous, stable way. This incentive meant, in turn, that they had an interest in stabilizing the output of their principal customers—an interest that extended to protecting their customers from competitors who were served by other railroads. It is therefore not surprising that the railroads promoted merger schemes that had this effect, nor that they favored the resulting corporations or trusts with rebates.”

Reprising the Role

As new forms of transportation emerged, the government reprised its role, subsidizing both the national highway and civil aviation systems.

From its beginning the American automotive industry formed a “complex” with the petroleum industry and government highway projects. The “most powerful pressure group in Washington” (as a PBS documentary called it) began in June 1932, when GM president Alfred P. Sloan created the National Highway Users Conference, inviting oil and rubber firms to help GM bankroll a propaganda and lobbying effort that continues to this day.

Whatever the political motivation behind it, the economic effect of the interstate system should hardly be controversial. Virtually 100 percent of roadbed damage to highways is caused by heavy trucks. After repeated liberalization of maximum weight restrictions, far beyond the heaviest conceivable weight the interstate roadbeds were originally designed to support, fuel taxes fail miserably at capturing from big-rig operators the cost of pavement damage caused by higher axle loads. And truckers have been successful at scrapping weight-distance user charges in all but a few western states, where the push for repeal continues. So only about half the revenue of the highway trust fund comes from fees or fuel taxes on the trucking industry, and the rest is externalized on private automobiles.

This doesn’t even count the 20 percent of highway funding that’s still subsidized by general revenues, or the role of eminent domain in lowering the transaction costs involved in building new highways or expanding existing ones.

As for the civil aviation system, from the beginning it was a creature of the State. Its original physical infrastructure was built entirely with federal grants and tax-free municipal bonds. Professor Stephen Paul Dempsey of the University of Denver in 1992 estimated the replacement value of this infrastructure at $1 trillion. The federal government didn’t even start collecting user fees from airline passengers and freight shippers until 1971. Even with such user fees paid into the Airport and Airways Trust Fund, the system still required taxpayer subsidies of $3 billion to maintain the Federal Aviation Administration’s network of control towers, air traffic control centers, and tens of thousands of air traffic controllers.

Eminent domain also remains central to the building of new airports and expansion of existing airports, as it does with highways.

Subsidies to airport and air traffic control infrastructure are only part of the picture. Equally important was the direct role of the State in creating the heavy aircraft industry, whose jumbo jets revolutionized civil aviation after World War II. In Harry Truman and the War Scare of 1948, Frank Kofsky described the aircraft industry as spiraling into red ink after the end of the war and on the verge of bankruptcy when it was rescued by the Cold War (and more specifically Truman’s heavy bomber program). David Noble, in America by Design, made a convincing case that civilian jumbo jets were only profitable thanks to the government’s heavy bomber contracts; the production runs for the civilian market alone were too small to pay for the complex and expensive machinery. The 747 is essentially a spinoff of military production. The civil aviation system is, many times over, a creature of the State.

The State and the Corporation

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the dominant business model in the American economy, and the size of the prevailing corporate business unit, are direct results of such policies. A subsidy to any factor of production amounts to a subsidy of those firms whose business models rely most heavily on that factor, at the expense of those who depend on it the least. Subsidies to transportation, by keeping the cost of distribution artificially low, tend to lengthen supply and distribution chains. They make large corporations operating over wide market areas artificially competitive against smaller firms producing for local markets—not to mention big-box retailers with their warehouses-on-wheels distribution model.

Some consequentialists treat this as a justification for transportation subsidies: Subsidies are good because they make possible mass-production industry and large-scale distribution, which are (it is claimed) inherently more efficient (because of those magically unlimited “economies of scale,” of course).

Tibor Machan argued just the opposite in the February 1999 Freeman:

Some people will say that stringent protection of rights [against eminent domain] would lead to small airports, at best, and many constraints on construction. Of course—but what’s so wrong with that?

Perhaps the worst thing about modern industrial life has been the power of political authorities to grant special privileges to some enterprises to violate the rights of third parties whose permission would be too expensive to obtain. The need to obtain that permission would indeed seriously impede what most environmentalists see as rampant—indeed reckless—industrialization.

The system of private property rights . . . is the greatest moderator of human aspirations. . . . In short, people may reach goals they aren’t able to reach with their own resources only by convincing others, through arguments and fair exchanges, to cooperate.

In any case, the “efficiencies” resulting from subsidized centralization are entirely spurious. If the efficiencies of large-scale production were sufficient to compensate for increased distribution costs, it would not be necessary to shift a major portion of the latter to taxpayers to make the former profitable. If an economic activity is only profitable when a portion of the cost side of the ledger is concealed, and will not be undertaken when all costs are fully internalized by an economic actor, then it’s not really efficient. And when total distribution costs (including those currently shifted to the taxpayer) exceed mass-production industry’s ostensible savings in unit cost of production, the “efficiencies” of large-scale production are illusory.

Kevin A. Carson


Kevin A. Carson

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. Carson has also written for such print publications as The Freeman.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Save

Save

1,503 total views, no views today

Flattr this!

Uber is focusing on a lot more apart from Transport

Uber has off late being doing a lot more apart from Transport. Isn’t that a good thing? It improves the scope and impact on Transport. People seem to view transport as just moving from one place to another, but the larger point is, it includes a lot more. For many of us, a daily commute is a new learning experience. Ola did the same with Ola Cafe, but they didn’t gauge the market correctly, thus leading to a premature death, similar to Flipkart’s Flyte Music Store shutting down in 2013, when Apple iTunes entered the Indian market. Both Flyte and Ola Cafe shut down when the competition was relatively low.

Why don’t people understand the need for diversity within the transport ecosystem? Is it that hard to understand? Is the traditional get into a train and let the conductor tear a ticket the only way to travel? Is driving your own car the only way to travel? Technological disruption cannot be ignored. It is the same disruption that allows for multiple possibilities in any sector, be it transport or food.

Below is an article from the Daily Caller on this matter.

What are your thoughts? Do leave them in the comments below.

Uber’s New Ventures Have Little To Do With Their Transportation

Uber is full steam ahead on their mission to permeate every aspect of the service industry by integrating far more than ride-sharing. The introduction of “Uber + Travel” and “UberLIFE” showcases that the ride-hailing company isn’t satisfied with its current global stature. The new features will be available in China over the coming months, and will…

Save

Save

1,060 total views, no views today

Flattr this!

[Satire] Taxi Services in India take a Hike

Taxi and Ridesharing services in India have decided to upgrade their services in India to give a boost to the ailing market. Both Multinational entities as well as their local counterparts have decided to take the game to the next level.

UberMob and OlaMafia

Uber and Ola have launched their new services: UberMob and OlaMafia, although it is unclear at this point as to who launched what first. Touted as the first legitimate Taxi service for Gangsters, both companies are looking to great successes with the new launch.

On condition of anonymity, an employee at Uber stated, “We want Indians to experience the same feeling that people living on Staten Island experience.” When contacted, an employee of Ola retorted, “We just want our customers to experience an Uber ride in Delhi”. Industry sources stated that the two were keen on emulating an American local cab fleet that protested against Uber with taxicabs designed like cars owned by mobsters, complete with doors without handles on the inside of the car. Uber officials were rumoured to be deputing their notorious Delhi service provider range for this, while Ola has been said to favour its Bangalore fleet’s drivers.

Excited Uber employees also leaked out news that the company was willing to try out something drastic, like attaching a city bus after Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was seen taking a ride in a BEST bus. Ola employees, coincidentally, within minutes leaked out plans to expand OlaBoats to include a submarine, specially for Mumbai and Chennai rains.

Handicar

Handicar from South Park.
Handicar from South Park. Image copyright Comedy Central.

American Network Comedy Central announced its foray into the Personal Transport space with Handicar. Handicar, which formed the basis of a South Park episode, involves a Wheelchair user with a Cart attached behind it. Drivers wear a cap, known as a “Handicap”. Users are a provided a complimentary snack and beverage.

A South Park Studios animator anonymously stated that the company intended to redraw the Handicar with Toon Boom, and print it using a 3D printer. Handicar drivers would also be provided with a Mask of Timmy’s face which would be fitted with a Voice box that would randomly yell “Timmy!” with different variations and tones. They were keen on starting the service in India because they liked the booming ride-sharing industry and the fact that it would be easy to run the vehicle without a permit.

When contacted, Kyle Broflovski and Stan Marsh were unable for comment. Eric Cartman was attending the funeral of Kenny McCormick. Kenny was last killed when his orange parka got caught under the wheels of a Handicar.

Handicar is coming to India! Click To Tweet

Mooch

In a Desi-twist, Avinash Sharma, who claims to be the “Sharmaji ke bete” who scores higher than all the boys around him, announced a new service named ‘Mooch’. Twirling his mustache, he said, “Mooch is a brand name, identifiable by both its name and appearance. The Mustache is a true man’s identity. Mooch seeks to create a brand of it.” When asked if the idea of Mooch might violate trademarks of Lyft in the USA, Sharmaji’s son replied, “There the cab has a mooch, here the driver has a mooch. The cab has a fluorescent pink mooch that lights up and our drivers will have a jet-black [Kesh Kala] mooch that will be waxed nicely. Only drivers with a mustache similar to mine will be employed.”

Recruitment is going on to hire mustached drivers for Mooch. 35 drivers have been selected so far, across a two week period, with many of them emerging from Kanpur and parts of Chhattisgarh as well as from the Satyamangalam forest which used to be the former hideout of the notorious bandit Veerappan. Training is being given to potential drivers to groom their mooch well.

Presenting Mooch- The Mustached way to travel! Click To Tweet

B’Ve

Started by a student as a dedication to his professor of a prestigious Media College, in Western India, B’Ve is touted to be an upper luxury hatchback service. While no major details are available at this time, it is rumoured that all drivers are to have long hair in a Bandana and drive Maroon-coloured Hyundai i20s.

(S)mooch

A rather cliched startup, this is a product of AyyoLabs. We aren’t trying to imitate Mooch”, says founder Raghu Iyer. He adds, “(S)mooch is much more than ride-sharing. It’s life-sharing. It’s a combination of a ride-sharing app as well as a dating app. Couples looking for a ride are randomly matched on the basis of what they enter on their profile. The profile data is cross-checked and verified with their parents, and Kundlis. The service is right now only available for TamBrahms”.

Ride-sharing is old, it's now time for life-sharing! Click To Tweet

With such massive changes in the transport industry, we have a lot coming in in the near future.

Apart from this, you also have the choice of taking Hawala Travels.

Note: All content in this article is fictitious, and must not be taken seriously. This article is satire, and should ideally be treated as such.

7,704 total views, 4 views today

Flattr this!

Motorcycle Taxis: Zooming Past Traffic

Motorcycle taxis in India have been in existence since the 1980s.

Founded in 1980, The Goa Motorcycle Taxi Riders Association (GMTRA) was set up to operate two-wheeler taxis in the state. The following year, the Government of Goa began issuing licences to riders, known as Pilots. They use Yellow-coloured motorcycles and have fixed rates.

Pilots waiting to pick up passengers at a Motor Cycle Taxi Stand in Vasco da Gama, Goa.
Pilots waiting to pick up passengers at a Motor Cycle Taxi Stand in Vasco da Gama, Goa. Image copyright AaronC, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Generic, available on the Wikimedia Commons/Flickr.

In June 2015, a company called HeyTaxi started two-wheeler taxi services in Mumbai. Taxis could be booked using an app. A few months later, a Bangalore based startup called HeyBob began offering the same services. Here too, taxis were to be booked with an app.

What happened next?

The Regional Transport Authority [RTA] in both states began preparing various guidelines and regulations for bike taxis. That is, until Maharashtra’s Transport Minister Diwakar Raote decided that “Such taxis are extremely unsafe and should not be allowed” and rejected the proposal of the RTA to permit them with a fixed colour-code and fare slab on the lines of existing autos and taxis in the city.  Karnataka meanwhile said that the Transport Department could issue such permits, but the State Government would have to notify guidelines for their operations. In spite of this inanity, both HeyTaxi and HeyBob continue to operate today.

Bike Taxi Stand at HUDA City Centre.
Bike Taxi Stand at HUDA City Centre, Gurgaon. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

In late 2015, two companies Baxi and m-Taxi started offering Bike Taxi services in Haryana’s commercial capital of Gurgaon. With inadequate public transit in Gurgaon, they were quite successful. Taxis can be booked using an app, or hailed from a taxi stand like the picture above. Both companies had the necessary permits from the Haryana government and were looking to expand services into neighbouring Delhi.

Now, in a significant move that will boost the Motorcycle Taxi industry in India, Uber announced the launch of UberMoto, a move that was emulated by its local rival OlaCabs within hours as Ola Bikes. Both services are confined to Bengaluru as of now. Both have a minimum fare of ₹15, with Uber charging ₹3/km and Ola charging ₹2/km thereafter.

Given the massive userbase that Ola and Uber enjoy, this is going to be a big advantage to the entire industry. The advantage Ola and Uber will enjoy is that existing customers merely have to update the app. However, existing service providers have experience in dealing with the industry and traffic, and as existing entities, can also slash prices to compete with the two giants. HeyTaxi also allows people to send shipments across Mumbai using its fleet.

It remains to be seen how this will affect streets. Hopefully, it will help rationalise and streamline traffic, rather than mess things up more.

We look forward to women driving Motorcycle taxis in India.

UberMoto and OlaBikes have arrived. What next? Click To Tweet

3,108 total views, 4 views today

Flattr this!

Travis takes the Bus

The Uber guy took a bus. Yes, that’s right.

Travis Kalanick, Founder and CEO of Uber, the ride-sharing app was in India recently, where he was present as an invitee to the Launch program of the Government of India’s Start-Up India program.

Post this event in Delhi, he made his way to Mumbai for an event at IIT-Bombay where he spoke about Entrepreneurship and Jugaad with Ronnie Screwvala, Founder and Former CEO of the UTV Group.

This is what Travis had to say, after he took a ride in a BEST bus.

Travis runs a company that is valued at $20billion. Never mind the fact that Uber has been banned in several countries, and several parts of India as well, for various reasons, from Regulatory issues, to Safety, to flouting Online Transaction Norms to apparent Monopolisation of the market.

All said and done, Uber has a significant presence in India. It has done better than its desi competition Ola Cabs, which has launched services such as Ola Cafe, Ola Market, etc to keep up with the competition. Uber has also eaten into a significant chunk of not only BESTs revenue, but the revenue of many Transcos across the globe.

When the CEO of a ridesharing company takes a bus, and talks of Jugaad, it means something. The impact of this, is reasonably significant.

I’m going to take this as a reminder that BMTC is getting a new Intelligent Transport System, which, from what is visible is a Trimax Project.

The new BMTC ITS will soon provide live data of buses on an app, similar to what BEST had proposed and what even NMMT had mentioned.

Travis came to India to talk at the launch Startup India. The need of the hour is for an Indian StartUp to set up a proper Research and Development firm in India with partnership or support of international players so that we can have a set of Intelligent Transit Systems in India which will br better suited for Indian projects, since each Transco [road, rail and water] in India has a different story.

We hope that Startup India results in something as bright as this post itself. Indian startups have the potential to do wonders in the field of transport. Trimax revolutionised the Ticketing scene across India, and went one step further in the field of Temple Management as well. The next few years are crucial as companies like Uber and Ola have been eating up into revenues of various Transcos and some of them, like BEST, PMPML, and BMTC are doing their bit to innovate to bring back the passengers and thus, give us more options on the road.

Remember, Travis took BEST, so let’s make BEST great again!

You can take an NMMT or a TMT, but if you’re within MCGM territory, go ahead, take a BEST. Bring out the BEST within you.

You could also book thru Hawala Travels.

When @travisK took a BEST bus! Click To Tweet

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

3,454 total views, 8 views today

Flattr this!

The changing face of Mumbai’s Taxis

Most of us associate a taxi in Mumbai with just one entity: The Black-and-Yellow Premier Padmini. I’m going to attempt to track Taxis in Bombay to their current scenario.

A black and yellow Premier Padmini Taxi on the Streets of Mumbai.
A black and yellow Premier Padmini Taxi on the Streets of Mumbai. Image copyright Ask27, CC-BY-SA 3.0, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

These cabs have been on the roads for decades and have remained the undisputed maharajas of South Bombay. They had competition from only one other entity; the Cool Cab. The Cool Cab is a better vehicle; often a Santro, Indica, or a WagonR. They are Blue in colour and air-conditioned. Naturally, their fares are higher.

A Blue Cool Cab on the Streets of Mumbai.
A Blue Cool Cab on the Streets of Mumbai. Image copyright Ask27, CC-BY-SA 4.0, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Taxis first made their appearance in the city in 1911, to complement horse-drawn carriages. Traditionally, these taxis operate in the same way taxis operate across the world. The driver gets a Transport-Vehicle licence. Either the driver, or the owner buys the vehicle, approaches the Regional Transport Authority [RTA] for a commercial registration and a Taxicab permit. Then the vehicle is registered to one of the Unions operating under the jurisdiction of the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Transport Authority [MMRTA].

Under Maharashtra regulations, a cab, like an auto cannot refuse a fare. As long as the Fare-Meter says ‘For Hire’ on it, the taxi driver has to take the commuter to their destination.

For years, these taxis [along with the blue counterparts] remained the primary for-hire service in the city, especially the South, where Autorickshaws are banned to reduce congestion.

The first step towards change, was in 2007 with the appearance of the Fullora Gold Taxi. The Fullora Foundation was an NGO that set up the Mumbai Gold Cab Company. Regular taxi owners were invited to join the company. The deal included the sale of their old Premier Padmini, getting ₹25,000 in hand, shares in the company, a new taxi as well as insurance. A move that the Mumbai Taximens Union vehemently opposed. Among the various reasons to oppose it, the Taxi Union stated that the plan would fail as they would not have a taxi stand and would operate round the clock. When launched, they had a fare lower than that of the standard Cool Cab. The fleet was composed of Esteems, Indigos and similar saloons.

A Fullora Gold Cab in Mumbai.
A Fullora Gold Cab in Mumbai. Image Copyright Mumbai Gold Cabs, All Rights Reserved.

The period witnessed a boom in private cab operations with other players such as Meru, and the all-women Priyadarshini and Forsche joining the bandwagon.

What did this mean for the Common Man in Bombay?

Private cabs can be called when needed. This eliminates the need to look out for a taxi stand. They are mostly monitored by GPS. This makes it easy to track the cab. What really made me happy is the advent of Women-only cabs. Forsche [now Viira] and Priyadarshini cabs. Giving women drivers opportunities, and of course, women passengers feel safer that way.

What happened then?

By 2010, the market was saturated with many call-taxi operators, many of whom had pan-India operations, such as Meru, Mega Cabs, Easy Cabs, TabCabs, et al. The regular black-and-yellow as well as Cool Cabs continue to operate today, as do the Gold Cabs. Somewhere in 2011 Ola Cabs appeared on the scene as a taxi aggregator service. This was followed by Uber and other services. Surprisingly, however, Mumbai was fifth on Uber’s list. Ola and its subsidiary TaxiForSure [TFS], later on tied up with autos to allow you to find an auto on the spot with the app. TFS also launched Tata Nanos in Bangalore, although these are yet to be seen on the streets of Mumbai. Soon, others such as Meru, and TabCab too, lanched their mobile apps.

The scenario today:

The scenario today is rather simple.  If you are in SoBo, you can hail a cab as easy as hailing an auto. Autos and Taxis, traditionally in Bombay have been honest, and rarely overcharge. However, if one is not carrying cash, then an Uber, or Ola would make sense, particularly due to the extremely low fares they charge from their users. Cabs, in the long run do help get user of private vehicles off the streets, but they are among the reasons why BEST is reducing its AC fleet. Its good to see technology being put to good use, for the benefit of the consumer, be it prepaid wallets and Mobile Apps for booking, or Prepaid RFID cards for buses.

 

 

15,490 total views, 12 views today

Flattr this!