US taxi & FHV association TLPA changes its name to ‘The Transportation Alliance’ at New Orleans Spring Conference & Expo

US taxi & FHV association TLPA changes its name to ‘The Transportation Alliance’ at New Orleans Spring Conference & Expo

The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) will now be known as ‘The Transportation Alliance.’

The name change is part of a strategic positioning and rebranding effort that has been underway for more than a year within the 101-year-old trade association. The name was unveiled and officially adopted at a meeting of the group’s membership during its Spring Conference & Expo in New Orleans today.

“The Transportation Alliance is a modern, inclusive name we can all embrace as we look to the future of how our professional for-hire fleets connect with passengers,” said Terry O’Toole, president of the association. “Transportation is one of the most rapidly changing industries on the planet right now, and that will continue. We needed a name that welcomes old and new partners alike into our broadening tent, and The Transportation Alliance imparts that strategic direction.”

The association has changed its name several times over the past century to best reflect its membership, which now spans 250 cities on four continents. Its last name change was nearly 30 years ago.

The new name was the product of several strategic planning sessions in 2018 aimed at positioning the association for the changing landscape of transportation. The new logo and rebranding campaign were created by MESH Design and Development, the same company that created the association’s Ride Local™ campaign. The name change and associated rebranding are expected to be fully in place within the next 90 days.

  • TLPA becomes ‘The Transportation Alliance’. This is the new logo.
9 Shared-mobility startups eager to disrupt transportation

9 Shared-mobility startups eager to disrupt transportation

Nine upstarts pitched ideas to advance the booming shared-mobility industry Thursday in Chicago. Some tackled the young industry’s most dogged problems.

Executives from nine fledgling companies faced three judges and 120 conventioneers on the opening afternoon of the Shared Use Mobility Summit. Read to the end to discover which three were selected as semifinalists to compete for votes over the next two days.

CLEVR is offering a three-wheeled scooter that can be fitted with a seat to make it viable for disabled persons. But the company’s real secret weapon is a super-precise GPS tracking module that’s accurate to within three feet. So CLEVR can tell where the scooter is being ridden and it can modify the scooter’s top speed.

“Rather than try to control user behavior management, we can try to control the vehicles deployed through intelligence,” said CEO Alex Nesic. “Sidewalk driving can now be geofenced and controlled at a reasonable speed.” And data showing where users prefer the sidewalk can tip city officials off to streets that feel unsafe.

Koloni began as a bike sharing operation in Pocahontas, Iowa, when its founders thought, Why not use the same platform to share other things too? Users with the app can not only unlock bicycles and scooters, but also unlocks Koloni’s storage lockers to borrow basketballs, tennis rackets, or whatever objects a city, university or property owner wants to lend.

“They can download the app and they essentially have a key to the city,” said co-founder and CEO Brian Downey.

Bellhop. There are now a billion people worldwide using thousands of different apps to access rideshareing services, according to Bellhop CEO Payam Safa, often with each app tied to a single platform or company. This makes it difficult for potential users to know which company offers the best rates or even which mobility options might be best. “The solution is pretty straight forward,” Safa said, “We combine all of these into one app.” Bellhop wants to build a mega-app that integrates rideshare, bikeshare and public transit.

Mobility 4 All seeks to provide a trusted source of mobility for seniors and people with disabilities who are unable to drive.

The company will vet and certify drivers from other transportation companies through the app it calls MO. A rideshare transaction will take place between three parties—the driver, the rider, and the rider’s caregiver, who is able to request the ride and monitor its progress through the app. “Imagine a world when mobility doesn’t end when you can’t drive,” said CEO John Q. Doan, “when you never have to have that talk with your parent about losing their keys.”

RideOn. The Spanish company RideIT wants to clean up the dockless scooter mess in other cities by providing universal docks that can serve multiple scooter brands, charge the scooters with universal charging architecture and manage them with universal tracking keys. “This platform, which is managed by RideOn, is the solution for all those shared electric mobility companies that do not have their own charging stations,” according to a promotional video that helped make RideOn’s pitch.

SomEV. The battery engineers behind the Somerville Electric Vehicle Company designed a bike- and scooter-share system that addresses the three main obstacles they identify to use: cost, charging time and range anxiety. When users rent scooters and e-bikes equipped with SomEV batteries, they can supplement range by stopping at a battery kiosk to swap out a dying battery pack for a charged one.

TIKD works behind the scenes to solve a problem that has hampered the growth of the rideshare movement: the muddled responsibility for traffic and parking tickets. Currently, the ticketing agency tickets the vehicle, and eventually contacts the owner via snail mail. The owner then has to pursue the driver, who may have rented the vehicle weeks before. “This process is incredibly inefficient, there’s so much room for error, and as a result agencies are not able to collect on time for these citations,” said TIKD co-founder Megan Broccoli. Meanwhile, vehicle owners may face late fees, collection fees, booting, towing or impounding of the vehicle.

Velocia. Public agencies have generally had to resort to punishing companies or users for bad behavior or taxing modes of transportation they want to discourage. Velocia wants to try positive behavior modification instead. “Rather than look at an approach of taxing or penalizing, why not reward people for parking in a specific area,” said Velocia CEO David Winterstein, or for taking the bus or train instead of driving, or for using a shared bicycle instead of a car. The company is working on a pilot project in Miami.

Vostok took on the same three obstacles to sharing that SomEV identified—cost, charging access, and range anxiety, and designed a scooter to address them. The Vostok E7 has a removable battery pack with a 60-mile range that can be charged in any standard electric socket. “A lot of times, people won’t adopt an EV solution because of the range, because of the lack of charging points and because of the price,” said co-founder Rachel Lesslar, so Vostok developed a removable battery at lower cost that’s easily recharged anywhere.

And the winner is…. Three judges listened to these pitches yesterday in Chicago and selected three that will compete for votes during the remainder of the summit.

Read the full story and see the winners:

  • 9 Shared-mobility startups eager to disrupt transportation.
The unethical greed of Deliveroo and Uber Eats

The unethical greed of Deliveroo and Uber Eats

Home-cooked meals can be a troublesome affair. First, a savoury,

nutritious meal must be chosen from what seems like an endless selection of dishes. Then a trip to the supermarket is required to locate the various, skillfully-disguised ingredients, a task more challenging than identifying a Bichon Frise in a cotton field. Finally, there’s the messy business of actually cooking the meal, during which everything must be chopped appropriately, timed precisely, and presented somewhat handsomely.

If the troublesome task of cooking is too much for us, we can visit a local restaurant instead, though this requires us to adorn appropriate clothing and the proper facial expressions, when we’d really rather sit in front of the television like blissfully comfortable, rotund slugs, with no nearby humans to offend.

Enter food delivery services Deliveroo and Uber Eats. For the lazy among us, their discovery was one of air-punching jubilance — we suddenly had access to a huge selection of local restaurants, via smartphone apps designed with such skill that not a shred of brainpower is needed to successfully order luscious food, right to your front door.

Deliveroo and Uber Eats are a lazy consumer’s dream, and their popularity is unsurprising. They release us from the effort of home cooking and the social obligations of dining out, granting us the convenience of being slothful hermits, comfortable and gratified within the safety of our home.

Deliveroo and Uber Eats are wonderful for the consumer, but not-so-great for restaurants and delivery riders. Beneath their wonderfully-designed facades are business practices that appear to be hell-bent on profit, with negligible ethical considerations. Here’s why.

Uber Eats take a 35% commission on every single order, and Deliveroo an average of 30% (negotiated per restaurant). For many small business owners, that’s their entire gross profit. Each restaurant must calculate whether food delivery services bring enough additional profit to justify the work. Caitlin Crawfurd — owner of Petty Cafe in Melbourne — accused Uber Eats of acting like “feudal overlords,” and decided to remov her restaurant from the directory due to the excessive commission rates, and their insistence upon sharing the cost of order errors — another financial penalty that makes it even harder for small eateries to make profit. Burgers by Josh owner Josh Arthurs made the same decision, declaring that “you’re doing it for free with Uber Eats.” Tax specialist Cameron Keng agrees, who after comparing average gross profit margins with Uber Eats commission rates, concludes that “Uber Eats will eat you into bankruptcy.”

Mr Arthurs has also taken a reputation hit due to Uber Eats, after a customer gave his restaurant a one-star review due to the food being cold on arrival — a factor completely outside of his control.

If food delivery services are so costly, why do restaurants use them? One of the main reasons appears to be free marketing — a way to gain additional exposure in the hope that customers will forego their laziness and decide to visit the eatery in person, though it’s questionable (and difficult to measure) how often this actually happens. What’s worse, Deliveroo and Uber Eats have the potential to turn a profitable, regularly visiting customer into a non-profitable, regular delivery customer.

There’s also the palpable fear of becoming “invisible”. If a restaurant decides to abandon food delivery services, will customers bother to visit now that they have quick access to a hoard of other eateries via the apps? The existence and popularity of the apps is likely to make a restaurant feel forced to continue using them, out of fear that they’ll shrink into oblivion. Uber Eats and Deliveroo has them by the balls, which is why they can continue to charge extortionate commission rates. Maybe if restaurants rallied together and quit, the services would consider charging a fairer percentage?

Delivery riders get next to nothing, and have little power

Delivery riders for Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Foodora staged a protest in Sydney last year, claiming to earn as little as $6 p/hr—less than a third of the Australian minimum wage. In the UK, Uber Eats originally paid their delivery riders £20 p/hr, but as the service grew in popularity, wages decreased to a complex formula of £3.30 per delivery, plus £1 per mile, plus a £5 “trip reward.”

Deliveroo engaged in similar tactics, initially paying £7 p/hr, plus £1 a delivery, petrol and customer tips. It shortly moved to a one-off delivery payment of £3.75. Many riders struggle to earn a living in the food delivery gig economy, lacking the protection of a standard minimum wage.

Business author Sangeet Paul Choudary believes that the creation of a well-functioning food delivery market is at odds with empowering workers, and as a result, Uber and Deliveroo are exploiting their workers in order to be successful. The platforms afford little control to their riders, setting wages, shift times, and delivery routes, without the possibility of negotiation. Delivery riders for these services simply cannot work on their own terms. In addition to this, the reputation that they build while working for Uber Eats or Deliveroo cannot be ported over to another job, as they’re technically self-employed. This makes it difficult for workers to shift to employment that is outside of the platform, which is all other employment.

There’s also the question of collective bargaining rights, recently denied by the UK courts for Deliveroo riders, due to their self-employed status. These food delivery services appear to have designed their businesses in such a way as to grant their riders as little power as possible, ensuring that collective action is impossible.

Back in Australia, a recent workers right inquiry confirmed that gig economy workers have lower wages than regular employees, and miss out on a number of other benefits. Until governments consider protective regulation for gig economy employees, food delivery services will continue to exploit their workers.

Former restaurant hostess Darby Hane believes that delivery services make the work day in a restaurant a “living hell,” cluttering up the establishment and diminishing the experience for profitable guests. “There are more delivery people than there are restaurant patrons waiting for a table, because new guests cannot bypass this cluster at the front door.” — Darby Hane

Entering a restaurant to be faced with a wall of brightly-clad delivery workers, heads bowed staring at their phones, makes for a terrible first impression and could set a potentially negative tone for the evening.

In light of the unethical business practices of Uber Eats and Deliveroo, what should we do instead? (…) Though our lethargy will probably defeat us from time to time, if we have any care for the well-being of delivery workers, or the prosperity of culture-boosting local restaurants, we should consider a boycott of Uber Eats and Deliveroo. Their exploitative business practices have been supported by us for long enough.

Continue reading…

  • “…. if we have any care for the well-being of delivery workers, or the prosperity of culture-boosting local restaurants, we should consider a boycott of Uber Eats and Deliveroo.”
Women in public transport: Ground-breaking agreement announced on International Women’s Day

Women in public transport: Ground-breaking agreement announced on International Women’s Day

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and UITP (the International Association of Public Transport) have signed a joint agreement to strengthen women’s employment in public transport. The two parties will now work with unions and employers to implement the agreement in pilot cities, with an announcement of the first city expected later this year. This agreement, announced on International Women’s Day, is another step forward in advancing the role of women in our sector.

In 2018, UITP partnered with the World Bank to shed light on the needs of women as public transport users. The global campaign, ‘PT4ME’, was launched with the support of over 240 of UITP members who disseminated it from their stations and social networks. This year, for International Women’s Day (8 March 2019), and under the theme #BalanceforBetter, UITP is relaunching the PT4ME campaign and shifting the focus to women as workers in the public transport sector. ITF are proud supporters of the campaign.

UITP is also delighted to announce that Moovit, a leading Mobility as a Service (MaaS) provider and the world’s #1 urban mobility app, making getting around town easier and more convenient, will be disseminating our PT4ME messages from their mobile application! The special messages on International Women’s Day will be given further prominence due to Moovit’s global reach across 90 countries in the world.

The ITF and UITP agreement on women in public transport shows the practical recommendations for policies to strengthen women’s employment, equal opportunities and promote decent work. It covers nine areas:  Working culture and gender stereotypes, recruitment, work environment and design, facilities (including sanitation), health and safety at work, work-life balance, training, pay equality and corporate policy.

“It is clear that when you improve working conditions to support women’s employment, you improve public transport working conditions for everyone”, said Diana Holland
Chair of the ITF Women Transport Workers’ Committee. “That is why the recommendations in this agreement are so important; every worker and every passenger will benefit from their implementation. But it needs public transport workers and employers to work closely if the agreement is going to lead to real change. That’s why we are working with the UITP, and together we’ll identify pilot cities to implement the agreement and create a public transport system that everyone,
including women, deserves.”

Cécile Sadoux, Head of People Management at UITP added: “Women’s participation within the sector should not only be promoted, but actively celebrated, with strong institutional and top management support. We need to see changes and improvements in female participation rates from “onboard” our vehicles to “on the Board” of management throughout our organisations.”

  • More women in public transport: ITF and UITP join forces to get women ‘onboard’ of public transport and ‘on the Board’ of public transport companies.
Lime’s integration with Google Maps expands to a further 80 cities

Lime’s integration with Google Maps expands to a further 80 cities

Lime’s bikes and scooters can now be found via Google Maps by users in almost 100 different cities worldwide, from London to Mexico City.

Better connected mobility is set to be one of the hallmarks of 2019, and in line with that trend, micromobility provider Lime has announced that riders in more than 80 new cities around the world will be now be able to find a nearby bike or scooter in Google Maps.

How the Lime options appear on the transit tab in Google Maps

Lime users have been able to find bikes and scooters in Google Maps since December 2018, when the company integrated its services into the transit option on Google’s app. Then, users in 13 cities could find bikes and scooters from the app, meaning the inclusion of more than another 80 locations marks significant progress in making the potentially congestion-busting services more accessible.

Users can also see estimated costs and arrival times next to each vehicle, which Lime says will help users to better gauge their transportation options.

The feature is available on both Android and iOS. To view nearby Limes, Google Maps users need to tap the transit icon when viewing directions to any nearby destination. Once ready to unlock the scooter, a tap on the Lime card will direct users either to their Lime app or the appropriate app store if it’s not already installed. A complete list of cities is available from Google and Lime.

Read the full story:

  • Lime’s integration with Google Maps expands to a further 80 cities.
NAVYA announces the appointment of Étienne Hermite as CEO

NAVYA announces the appointment of Étienne Hermite as CEO

NAVYA,  a leading company in the autonomous vehicle market and in smart and shared mobility solutions, announces today the appointment of Étienne Hermite as Chief Executive Officer. His mandate will take effect on March 18.

After graduating from HEC in 1999, Étienne Hermite, 42, started his career as Business Development Manager for Vivendi Universal’s digital branch before joining Boston Consulting Group in 2004, where he worked on several Strategy and Organization assignments, notably for industrial clients. From 2006 onwards, he joined the Strategy Department of FNAC Group, with the challenge of developing new digital Business Models.

In 2008, he was appointed Strategy and Development Director division for France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg at Avis Europe. Following the company’s acquisition by Avis Budget Group in 2011, Étienne Hermite ensured, in 2014, the launch and development of Zipcar (digital car-sharing services company for rental cars acquired by Avis Budget Group in 2013) in France, Belgium and Austria.

From 2017 onwards, he provided its expertise in the mobility sector to several European in international startups. He notably operated the launch of Mobike (Chinese startup providing self-service bicycle offerings) in France before being appointed Managing Director France.

“I am honored and thrilled to be joining NAVYA, a reference autonomous mobility player,” says Étienne Hermite, NAVYA’s new CEO. “Positioned across the entire mobility solutions value chain, NAVYA stands out by its technological lead in a rapidly-changing market. Today, the company has the keys to achieve new milestones in terms of technology, products and services and activity development”.

  • NAVYA’s new CEO: Étienne Hermite.
Can a ridehailing app be ethical? Via thinks so.

Can a ridehailing app be ethical? Via thinks so.

Via pays its drivers more than any other company, focuses on environmentally friendly practices, and wants to decrease traffic congestion. But is there a catch?

Roman K. tried a lot of car jobs. After immigrating to New York from Tbilisi, Georgia, he worked at an auto shop, but the dust and chemicals made him sick. Then he drove for Uber, but the inconsistent hours and pay weighed on him. Finally, a friend introduced him to Via, and he’s been a driver with the company for more than a year. “I set my own schedule. I get something like a salary,” Roman, who asked not to use his last name, said, as I joined him on his usual morning route in a Mercedes Metris. “I like it so much.”

Via drivers make more than any other ridehail or taxi drivers in the city, according to the Taxi Limousine Commission of New York, the agency overseeing for-hire cars. Unlike Uber and Lyft drivers, they can pick between getting paid per ride and by the hour. They choose shifts for the next day, and know exactly how much they will make every week.

Via is trying to stand out in the ridehailing market by positioning itself as a more ethical company than its competitors. When Uber and Lyft protested minimum wages for their drivers in New York, Via embraced them. Whereas Uber and Lyft have been blamed for increasing traffic congestion, Via is built on shared rides and wants single-occupancy vehicles off the road. And while cities have contentious relationships with the gig economy, Via has successfully partnered with Los Angeles to be part of the public transit system.

But despite projecting wokeness, Via is still limited by the boundaries of an on-demand model where workers aren’t full staff members and those that scale the fastest always lead the pack. If that doesn’t change, the question remains: can Via, or any of the ridesharing companies that have upended the way people get around cities in the past few years, overcome the inherent problems baked into the ridehailing model and make our roads better?

Sitting alongside Roman in the logo-clad Metris, I watch his Via app guide him through the day. When he’s in blue mode—being paid per hour—the screen sometimes shows him flash promotions, where his base pay goes up to $30 and then $45 an hour for three hours. (The base pay is within a range that Via wouldn’t disclose, but the average driver makes about $21 per hour).

Via’s ridehailing system in New York and DC is mostly made up of a fleet of SUVs and vans, with some black cars. The algorithm is different than Uber’s Pool feature or Lyft Line because it routes drivers to invisible “bus stops” to keep them on specific pathways instead of directing them door to door. In slow times, drivers are routed to “terminals,” street-side areas where they wait until the next set of rides.

Roman said he drives 10 hours a day, four to six days a week. He takes a break as needed—sometimes an hour to do groceries for his family in Brooklyn. Via gives him spontaneous bonuses—last month he got a gift card to spend on gas. He often picks up the same commuters, on the same routes, which he likes. “That’s what I love about this job. The connection, the relationship,” he said.

Via has made it clear that it wants to pay drivers more than its competitors and so far, it has delivered. Late last year Uber and Lyft lamented, and actively fought against, the city’s decision to establish a minimum wage of $17 for all ridehail drivers—which would give Uber drivers $10,000 more per year on average. Via supported the change, largely because all of its drivers were already making minimum wage. According to Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) data, in 2018, before the ruling, Via drivers were making an average of $20.99 per hour, compared to Uber drivers who make $14.17 and Lyft drivers making $13.85.

So why would you ever choose to drive an Uber if you could drive a Via? One reason is that Vias are limited in the national market: the cars are only available in New York, DC, and Chicago. And even in New York, Via has a smaller fleet of cars than its counterparts, with around 1,900 cars on the road compared 5,400 for Lyft and 111,100 for Uber, according to the TLC. These numbers aren’t exact because some drivers use both apps, so there’s probably some overlap.

Drivers like Roman say it’s the best option out there. As we cross through the gridlocked Manhattan streets, dodging delivery trucks and waving to other Via drivers, he tells me he is at peace with his job. Roman said he makes decent money, he’s comfortable. He does push-ups during his break to stay limber. He gets to make people laugh.

Via’s narrower scale and model could also limit the diversity of its customers. In DC, the company violated a city law that requires for-hire services to extend across the District and not just in certain areas. Via refuted this claim, however, and said that since they focus exclusively on shared rides, not private ones, they launch in the densest areas and had yet to expand.

Ramot said that the smaller scale of Via’s fleet is by design, in part to support its goal of taking excess cars off the road. “You can’t solve this problem by dumping cars on the road. We want to have enough drivers but we definitely don’t want to have too many drivers,” he said. “The reality is if you’re choosing to ride alone you are utilizing resources—generating greenhouse gases and emissions and increasing congestion—in ways that are pretty significant.”

Ramot and his Israeli co-founder, Oren Shoval, were inspired to create Via after watching how shared taxis, called service (“sherut,” in Hebrew) taxis, worked in Tel Aviv, Israel. Like many cities around the world, Tel Aviv has ad hoc transport systems; sherut taxis, private minibuses that run up and down certain routes, allow customers to hop on and off.

Ramot and Shoval headquartered Via in New York, away from the Silicon Valley disruption culture, and devised a business based on two main products: ridehailing and ridehailing technology. The goal of Via from the beginning was to strengthen public transit, not replace it, Ramot said. Via, which has raised funding from German automaker Daimler and Israeli venture capitalist firm Pitango Growth, wants to provide “last-mile” transit (that is, getting people from their homes to metro and bus stops) and shared ride options where they don’t exist.

Continue reading….

• Can a ridehailing app be ethical? Via thinks so.

Ride sharing market size worth $11.94 billion by 2025

Ride sharing market size worth $11.94 billion by 2025

The global ride sharing market size is projected to reach USD 11.94 billion by 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc. It is projected to register a CAGR of 7.5% during the forecast period. Increasing awareness in regular commuters regarding environmental deterioration due to vehicle emission is expected to drive the growth.

Key suggestions from the report:

– The North American short distance segment was valued at USD 1.04 billion in 2017

– Indian B2C market is expected to reach USD 815.0 million by 2025, registering a CAGR of 12.7% from 2018 to 2025

– B2C business model and short distance commute is expected to lead the ride sharing market till 2025

– Latin American long distance segment is expected to expand at a CAGR of 9.1% from 2018 to 2025

– South East Asia is another prominent market with the presence of many developing countries such as Indonesia and Thailand in ASEAN nations

– Key market players include GRAB, Uber, and Didi Chuxing among others

The unprecedented expansions of cities and towns and the inherent traffic congestion issues are anticipated to play a crucial role in driving the market for ride sharing in the forthcoming years. Growth in international trade and globalization has facilitated development of many major and minor economies all over the world. This economical and industrial growth has directly impacted the demographics and helped rapid urbanization in many countries.

The B2C business type ride sharing segment is estimated to lead the ride sharing market in 2017 and is expected to continue its dominance through the forecast period. This expansion is attributed to the introduction of ride sharing module in the existing platforms provided by established ride hailing players. The peer-to-peer ride sharing segment is expected to register the highest CAGR over the forecast period, attributed to rising awareness among commuters and also to introduction of newer user-friendly platforms.

The corporate type of commute is estimated to lead the ride sharing market with a slight edge, however the short distance commutes segment is expected to take the lead in the market over the forecast period. The long distance commute type is also projected to register healthy growth amid growing trend of sharing personal vehicles through ride sharing platforms in North America and Europe.

North America led with a market share of around 45.0% in 2017. The region is home to the two major players – Uber and Lyft – competiting to gain more customer base. Asia Pacific followed North America to take the second spot in terms of market share. However, the region is expected to overtake North America over the forecast period. Didi Chuxing and OLA are the two major players in the Asian market.

• Ride sharing market size worth $11.94 billion by 2025.


The double standard of transit accessibility – What other kind of discrimination would New Yorkers tolerate?

The double standard of transit accessibility – What other kind of discrimination would New Yorkers tolerate?

Every day, like millions of other New Yorkers, I trudge up and down two or three flights of stairs to get to and from my train. For me, the steps are exercise, cheaper and more convenient than a gym membership. But what do they mean for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers unable to navigate stairs? Whether you are disabled, infirm or a parent with a small child, you are out of luck at most subway stations.

In 1984, United Spinal Association, then known as the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, settled a lawsuit with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on subway accessibility. The agreement called for New York to become the first U.S. city to retrofit key stations to provide wheelchair access. Also thanks to the settlement, city buses are now accessible and Access-A-Ride paratransit services was created.

New York’s elected officials did not embrace the deal; quite the opposite. They had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to provide key station access. The settlement was opposed by Mayor Ed Koch and the MTA board, which included City Council President Carol Bellamy, MTA Board Chairman Richard Ravitch and Liberal Party Chairman Stephen Berger. Also opposed was the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA.

The political leadership’s indifference to the rights of New York’s disabled provided cover for other elected officials as well as everyday New Yorkers to perpetuate discrimination on the basis of a disability.

That was a different era, so surely the situation has been rectified. Right? Wrong.

Today, nearly 29 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act became federal law, only 24% of the MTA’s 472 subway stations are wheelchair-accessible, compared with 71% of Boston’s and 69% of Chicago’s. And even with its inadequate number of elevators, the beleaguered MTA has struggled to keep them clean and operational.

Why is the subway still so inaccessible? Because the moral conscience of the city has not been offended by the public transit system’s indifference to the needs and rights of people with disabilities.

Back in 1984, only a handful of politicians supported transit accessibility, among them City Councilwoman Ruth Messinger, Assemblyman Alan Hevesi, state Sen. John Flynn of White Plains and eventually Gov. Mario Cuomo and state Senate Minority Leader Fred Ohrenstein.

In late January a young mother fell down the stairs at a city subway station and died. The newspapers were all over it. For a New York minute the eyes of the world were on the MTA for its stunning failure to make the subways accessible to the legions of handicapped, elderly and parents with strollers trying to navigate the system. (The medical examiner later determined that the 22-year-old mom likely did not die from the fall but from a pre-existing medical condition.)

That righteous indignation is long past due. But let’s see how long it lasts in a city that has long applied a double standard to accessibility for our most vulnerable citizens. In the state that gave us FDR, a president confined to a wheelchair, we failed and continue to snub them. Where is the moral indignation and public outcry that other forms of discrimination would have triggered?

We like to pat ourselves on the back and say, “How far we have come since the 1970s.” But that would be to take the easy way out. It wasn’t acceptable to deprive hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers access to the subway then and it’s no more acceptable today.

How is it possible, asks United Spinal Association President & CEO James Weisman, that of the world’s major transit systems, our progressive city’s subways have one of the lowest percentages of accessible stations? Countless New Yorkers must rely on inferior methods of getting around including Access-A-Ride and sluggish buses stuck in traffic or in bus-only lanes that are anything but thanks to non-existent enforcement by the NYPD.

Continue reading:

  • “How is it possible that of the world’s major transit systems, our progressive city’s subways have one of the lowest percentages of accessible stations?”
Why companies like Lyft and Uber are going public without having profits?

Why companies like Lyft and Uber are going public without having profits?

The last time unprofitable companies went public at this rate was in 2000 — the year the dot-com bubble burst.

Lyft filed paperwork to become a public company last week, with a valuation of $15 billion. But the ride-sharing company is still deeply unprofitable. Recode investigated.

The company had a net loss of nearly $1 billion last year. To put it another way, Lyft lost about $1.47 for every ride* it gave in 2018. Lyft’s main competitor Uber, which is poised to file for an IPO as well, is also posting losses on a per-trip basis (though it’s tricky to estimate how much since Uber includes Uber Eats deliveries and Uber Freight shipments, in addition to taxi and scooter rides, in trip estimates). Uber’s valuation is expected to be anywhere from $76 billion to $120 billion.

So why aren’t the public markets more concerned about these negative-balance-sheet behemoths?

Because IPOs by money-losing companies are more common than ever. In 2018, 81 percent of US companies** were unprofitable in the year leading up to their public offerings, according to data from Jay Ritter, an IPO specialist and finance professor at the University of Florida. That’s a statistical dead heat with the rate in 2000, the year the dot-com bubble burst, plunging the US economy into recession. It’s the only other time unprofitability was this high, according to Ritter’s data, which goes back to 1980.

Much of the rise in unprofitability has to do with the proportion of biotech companies going public. These companies for the most part don’t have a product, let alone profit, when they sell stock to public shareholders. Instead, they use IPOs to raise money for their expensive clinical drug trials. Biotech companies are a big gamble and are frequently duds, but the success cases pay off well and can be acquired by big pharmaceutical companies. Investors in these companies also tend to be specialists in the biotech industry so, presumably, they know what they’re getting into.

But even without those biotech companies, investors have shown a growing comfort with unprofitable companies, Ritter’s data shows. About half of non-tech, non-biotech companies that went public in 2018 were unprofitable in the year leading up to their IPO. Some 84 percent of tech companies that went public in 2018 were in the red. Typically, investors expect them to be profitable within a year or two, depending on the company.

“The rise in unprofitable IPOs reflects the general preference in both public and private markets for growth over profitability,” Paul Condra, lead analyst of emerging technologies at startup research firm PitchBook, told Recode. “As we’ve seen during most of the recovery period since the Great Recession, investors are not so margin-focused, but continue to put a premium on businesses with long-term future expansion or disruption potential.” In other words, investors are willing to buy in now in order to subsidize and grow a company that could make lots of money later. They believe that the companies’ future profits will eclipse these current losses.

Let’s call this the Amazon archetype. The retail giant has been notorious for taking in little profit relative to revenue in order to grow its business and invest in new initiatives for future profitability — a strategy that has worked wonders and that many companies are trying to replicate. It should be noted, however, that Amazon also has Jeff Bezos as well as a more diverse revenue stream than some companies attempting the same model.

It’s also important to remember that just because a company doesn’t report a profit doesn’t mean it couldn’t be profitable.

“A lot of these companies, if they cut R&D and hiring, could be profitable,” Ritter told Recode. “But venture capital and public market investors are saying, ‘We want growth. We don’t want to focus on short-term profits.’”

If Lyft didn’t spend any money on sales and marketing or R&D, it would have turned a profit last year. The flip side is that without those expenses, Lyft’s customer base wouldn’t grow and Lyft could kiss the idea of driverless cars — and the potential profit they represent — goodbye.

In the meantime, these companies are using IPOs to achieve profitability. And investors seem to be willing to go along for the ride. “They’re not defying a principle of physics — they’re well-funded,” David Ethridge, leader of US IPO services at professional services company PwC, explained. “They’re living off of the capital they’ve raised until such time as they can generate more cash than they’re spending.”

Investors are looking instead for companies that have a path to profitability. This usually means they see the total potential market for the company as much bigger than it is now. In the cases of Lyft and Uber, that means a future with lower car ownership and with fleets of autonomous vehicles. The share of people with driver’s licenses in the US is declining thanks in part to more people living in cities where they can rely on public transit as well as on Lyft and Uber. Many, including car companies, see a future in which we share cars or rely on vehicles that drive themselves.

Investors are also eager for these new IPOs since companies are staying private longer and and the number of companies that are going public has been low by historical standards. This scarcity makes people invest in companies they might not have if they’d had more options.

In tech stocks, there can also be a novelty factor at IPOs. When it’s possible for the first time to invest in, say, a meal-kit company or a ride-sharing company, investors get excited at owning something new. Without an established set of criteria to consider in a new business, investors tend to be more open-minded regarding a new business’s finances.

One worry is that not all the companies that are being funded like tech companies are capable of paying off like tech companies.

“This is the effect of everybody trying to cloak themselves as tech companies,” said Carol Roth, a former investment banker and creator of the Future File legacy planning system. She referred to the case of Blue Apron, a meal-kit delivery company that went public in 2017 at tech valuations but which she considers to be more of a consumer goods company. “The thesis with tech companies is that when you bring in capital spending, eventually you can enjoy the scale and profit down the road,” Roth said. “A lot of companies shouldn’t be given that leniency.”

Two decades ago, investors were chasing everything internet. This led to a lot of speculative bets on unproven companies. The stock market rose and rose until it had a huge crash, with the Nasdaq declining nearly 80 percent from peak to bottom and losing $5 trillion in value in two years. Many of the internet companies that came up in that cycle no longer exist today. Indeed, many of these businesses —, — are used as cautionary tales in the business world. It’s difficult not to think of the current boom of internet stocks within a similar framework.

There are, however, notable differences. “Back then lots of companies that went public were early-stage, more of a concept, or there were 12 companies in the same space, or no one made money,” Ritter said. Today’s crop of IPOs have generally been around longer than their dot-com predecessors and produce higher revenues — some might even be currently profitable if they set aside their growth ambitions. “The types of companies and maturity of the internet companies and even the maturity of the market are different now than a decade ago,” Roth told Recode. “It’s not, ‘Hey I’m and I’ve got a great sock puppet.’”

Today’s tech companies, private and public alike, also enjoy better infrastructure and consumer acceptance, Roth said. She believes that even dot-com failures like the grocery delivery company Webvan would have performed better had they hit the market today. “They were a victim of timing, in some respects.”

Company valuations are also not as overblown as many were during the dot-com bubble.

Continue reading and see the charts:

  • Why companies like Lyft and Uber are going public without having profits?