Top News

Tokyo does not subsidise its transport system! Is that the secret to its success?

Tokyo does not subsidise its transport system! Is that the secret to its success?

Should private vehicles always have to pay for the space they consume?

In an earlier article I discussed Tokyo’s remarkable return to housing affordability in recent decades. I speculated that a cultural tolerance to intensification could be a factor in Tokyo’s switch to affordable housing following the property boom of the 1980s.

Internationally, it is unusual for a city to change its long-term pattern of affordability. Generally the experience has been for unaffordable city to remain unaffordable -perhaps due to the difficulty in achieving a societal consensus and therefore the political will to implement significant housing reforms (this seems to be the case for New Zealand in the last thirty years).

Given that Tokyo is the exception which might prove the rule, it is worthwhile looking at what other urban economic aspects the city is exceptional in.

The first and most obvious one is its size, the metropolitan area of Tokyo-Yokohama is the world’s largest urban area containing 38 million people. Interestingly, despite Japan’s declining population, Tokyo itself is still growing. Tokyo at a systemic level must have efficient mechanisms to allow it to function and grow to such a large size.

Secondly, the issue which this article focuses on is how a network of transport arteries, veins and capillaries in Tokyo are allocated by competitive forces. There are two main elements to this – carparking is not subsidised and neither is public transport. It is possible that this creates a positive systemic effect where the competitive transport mechanisms combine with competitive urban housing intensification characteristics to make Tokyo a relatively affordable city. Which as I have said is amazing given Tokyo’s size.

The Economist recently wrote an article -Parkageddon -discussing that perhaps more powerfully than anything else, parking influences the way cities look, and how people travel around cities.

Many cities mandate that residential and commercial dwellings must provide a certain proportion of car parking places. These parking minimums can boost supply far beyond what the market demands. When London abolished minimum parking requirements in 2004, research showed that the amount of parking in new residential blocks promptly plunged, from an average of 1.1 spaces per flat to 0.6 spaces.

Usually car parking minimums are justified on the grounds that free car parking is a good thing. Unfortunately, when something is free there is a tendency to overuse it -like we would if water, electricity… was free. This is especially problematic as space in growing urban areas is an increasingly limited resource and of all the transport options -the private vehicle is the one that consumes the most space. The Economist explains that minimum car parking requirements are in fact a hidden subsidy for some and cost for others.

Free parking is not, of course, really free. The costs of building the car parks, as well as cleaning, lighting, repairing and securing them, are passed on to the people who use the buildings to which they are attached. Restaurant meals and cinema tickets are more pricey; flats are more expensive; office workers are presumably paid less. Everybody pays, whether or not they drive. And that has an unfortunate distributional effect, because young people drive a little less than the middle-aged and the poor drive less than the rich.

Another Economist article -Aparkalypse now -reported that research shows that parking adds 67% to the cost of building a shopping centre in Los Angeles and a study of Washington, DC, found that the availability of free parking is associated with a 97% chance somebody will drive to work alone.

Japan has not subsidised car parking in this way. In Tokyo car parking must respond to market forces. In Tokyo cars do not park on residential streets and all car owners must show a receipt for a private car park when they register their cars. There is no assumption that cars can freely park on the street -in fact it is a foreign concept. Car parking is the owner’s responsibility to make suitable arrangements. In Tokyo, how much, if any parking is provided by new residential or commercial premises is a commercial decision. The pricing of car parks varies, for instance, parking close to train station might be say $150 a month, versus a 10 minute walk further away, where the price might be less than $100. The price varying because of competition from commuters for space close to the train station.

In the future driverless cars will make car parking redundant as residents will order a driverless car to drop them off and pick them up -so drop-off zones are all that will be needed. This will necessitate congestion road pricing to prevent excessive congestion from large numbers of zero occupancy driverless cars circling urban areas 24/7 looking for passengers. Driverless car companies will want to acquire a network of private car parks to store their cars between rides to avoid these charges. The number of car parks and their locations will be commercial decisions based around factors such as, congestion charges and other operating costs, the cost of car parking, estimated search times etc.

In the future electric vehicles will also become more efficient and be more frequently used. Fuel tax revenue from conventional combustion engine vehicles will fall and new revenue sources will be needed to fund road maintenance. This could be another factor in moving to congestion road pricing. Given the size and flexibility of Tokyo it would not be surprising if the city was an early adopter of driverless cars, electric cars and road user charging systems.

Tokyo has the world’s most concentrated collection of competitive and profitable private commuter rail companies. Japan has always had a significant minority of private railways and in 1987 with the privatisation of Japan Railways a majority of the system is now in private hands. Today there are 16 major private railways in Japan, most of them competing against the Japan Railways Group which includes 6 passenger operating companies, separated by region. The most successful, profitable and competitive part of the private railway industry is centred around Tokyo. Tokyo demonstrates that in a healthy, growing city -private railways can be successful.

I believe it is not just that Tokyo is growing in population that makes private railways a success. It is because commuter rail’s chief rival -the private motor vehicle is not excessively subsidised, which allows trains to successfully compete. In particular, not subsidising car parking means that private vehicles in Tokyo never receive hidden subsidies like they frequently do in western cities. Is there a theory which links up competitive transport and urban land markets?

Read more….

  • Tokyo’s unsubsidized public transport system.


One year of “JiXing”: car2go is establishing flexible carsharing in China

One year of “JiXing”: car2go is establishing flexible carsharing in China

Almost exactly one year ago, the carsharing pioneer car2go opened its first Asian location in Chongqing in southwestern China. In that time, it has become clear: flexible carsharing also works in the Middle Kingdom. The demand for the smart fortwo from car2go, which is on the roads in Chongqing with the brand phrase “JiXing” (“set off immediately”), is enormous. Thanks to unparalleled growth in the number of customers, Chongqing has become car2go’s largest location worldwide after just one year.

In order to adapt itself better to the local mobility needs, car2go merges with Car2Share, the station-based carsharing program in China.

The business region of car2go in Chongqing comprises 86 square kilometers (33.2 sq mi). Originally started in April 2016 with 400 smart fortwo cars, there are now 600 cars on the streets. Klaus Entenmann, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler Financial Services AG, is highly satisfied with these figures: “The successful market introduction of car2go in China is extremely important to us. It shows that our concept of flexible carsharing is coming up in one of the world’s largest growth markets. In this way, we are strengthening our regional, as well as global, leading role in innovative mobility services.”

Olivier Reppert, CEO of car2go Group GmbH, sees additional growth potential for the flexible carsharing service of car2go in China – and what’s more: “Flexible carsharing reduces traffic in cities, frees up valuable parking space and improves air quality. car2go is thus helping to improve the quality of life in Chongqing while at the same time fulfilling the mobility needs of residents. We are therefore convinced that we will encounter a great response to our mobility services offered in other Asian metropolises as well.”

In order to make the mobility services offered even more attractive in the future, car2go and Car2Share are merging under the roof of Mercedes-Benz Auto Finance Ltd. to form the consolidated car2go China Co., Ltd. With this move, car2go China can provide the right mobility solution for different situations. Chen Bing, CEO of car2go China, explains: “With the concentrated power and the comprehensive know-how of the car2go and Car2Share brands, we will offer our car2go China customers tailor-made mobility solutions in the future.”

  • One year of “JiXing”: car2go is establishing flexible carsharing in China
Fastned expands into Germany

Fastned expands into Germany

Fastned, which is building a European network of fast-charging stations is expanding its network into Germany. On April 19 Fastned announced that it has acquired its first 14 locations in Germany. At these locations Fastned will build and operate stations with multiple fast chargers, that are suited to charge the next generation of EVs at power levels of 150 kW to 350 kW. These will be the first of such stations in Germany that are accessible to all car brands, and where EVs can be charged with up to 500 kilometers of range in just 15 minutes. Fastned commits itself to open the stations before the launch of major new electric cars such as the Audi Q6 e-tron, Volkswagen I.D., Porsche Mission E, Tesla Model 3 and the Jaguar I-PACE.

Fastned is concessionaire for 201 fast charging stations along Dutch highways and already has 60 stations operational. At these locations Fastned sells electricity to electric drivers. For the last two years Fastned has shown consistent rapid growth of around 10% month-on-month.

Fastned has been working on the development of locations outside the Netherlands for some time. For the realisation of its fast charging stations Fastned approaches (local) authorities and private parties which have high-quality locations close to the highway. In the coming months the charging company expects to sign more locations in Germany as well as in other countries. By doing so Fastned takes concrete steps towards the development of a pan-European fast charging network where all electric cars can fast charge.

Michiel Langezaal, CEO Fastned: “We are witnessing the start of the ‘Autowende’, from fossil to electric. This is accompanied by the start of a transition from petrol stations to fast-charging stations where electric cars can charge super fast and continue their journey. Fastned is building a pan-European network of fast charging stations that will provide freedom to drivers of electric cars to travel across Europe. As charging speeds increase, charging will become like refuelling your car, and fast charging stations will be the petrol stations of the future.”

For the German locations Fastned cooperates with the municipality of Limburg, hotel chain Van der Valk and property developer Lutzenberger Projektentwicklung (

Dr. Marius Hahn, Mayor of Limburg an der Lahn: “We are pleased with the commitment of Fastned in Limburg. For us this is an additional offer for mobility managing without combustion engines. With Fastned we will enter a new dimension to increase the attractiveness of electromobility between the agglomerations of Frankfurt and Cologne. The quick charging station will significantly strengthen the industrial estate at the Intercity Railway Station connected with the purpose to settle innovative companies with creative ideas in this area. The international character of the provider is particularly valuable for our city.” The mayor of Limburg hopes that this sustainable mobility will prevail to existing and future companies in the ICE-Railway-Station business park.”

Vincent van der Valk, Director Van der Valk Deutschland GmbH: “Both Van der Valk and Fastned offer service to people who are on the road. Our hotels are located near major highways and therefore also interesting to Fastned. This forms the basis of our partnership. We are delighted that we will soon have qualitative charging facilities available for our guests and other EV drivers, while we don’t have to operate these stations ourselves. Fastned takes care of everything and makes sure the chargers are always working. And of course the EV driver can also use the the services that Van der Valk hotels has to offer. A clear win-win situation.”

Elmar Lutzenberger, Managing Partner Lutzenberger Projektentwicklung: “We have been developing traffic-oriented service areas on the left and right side of the German highways since 2001. It is becoming more and more obvious that electric cars are a part of the mobility future. That’s why I think it is important to have qualitative fast charging stations on our service areas. Fastned is a leading player in this market, and provides extremely high-quality charging services.”

  • Fastned is expanding its operations in Germany.
Mercedes-Benz makes customers’ lives easier with Google Home and Amazon Alexa

Mercedes-Benz makes customers’ lives easier with Google Home and Amazon Alexa

Customers will be able to use both Google Assistant on Google Home and Amazon Alexa with all 2016 and 2017 Mercedes-Benz models in the United States. Customers are increasingly benefiting from seamless and intelligent interactions between Internet of Things (IoT) devices connected through their Mercedes-Benz cars. Voice-activated personal assistants are one such means of interaction, supported by robust artificial intelligence (AI). By connecting these powerful services to Mercedes-Benz’s vehicles, customers gain personalized engagement and experiences.

With targeted commands to their personal assistant-enabled and voice-enabled devices, customers will be able to activate various functions for their vehicles. Natural language understanding allows the services to interpret these commands and turn them into actions.

For instance, customers with Google devices can simply say, “Ok, Google, tell Mercedes me to start my car,” and it will remotely start the customer’s car. Another available feature includes remote lock. With Alexa devices, customers can say, “Alexa, ask Mercedes me to send an address to the car” for remote navigation input and point-of-interest requests.

“We want to offer our customers a broad range of services 24/7, not just when they are in our cars,” says Nils Schanz, Head of IoT and Wearable Integration at MBRDNA. “Mercedes-Benz’s goal is creating an intelligent ecosystem around cars, and developing cutting-edge technology to make everyday life more convenient for our customers.”

Besides the devices, Mercedes-Benz customers will need an active Mercedes me-account and an active mbrace© subscription. In order to link their accounts, customers will have to download the Google Home or Amazon Alexa app and connect it with Mercedes me. The service is now available in the United States. Europe will follow later this year.

In December 2016, Mercedes-Benz announced the integration with the Google Assistant on Google Home. Today, Mercedes-Benz is one of the first carmakers to integrate Google Home with their vehicles. This integration signals a significant step forward in the company’s connectivity strategy.

  • Google Assistant on Google Home and Amazon Alexa talks to all 2016 and 2017 Mercedes-Benz models.
First autonomous electric shuttles arrive in Quebec – Keolis Canada and NAVYA demonstrate at UITP Congress

First autonomous electric shuttles arrive in Quebec – Keolis Canada and NAVYA demonstrate at UITP Congress

Keolis Canada and NAVYA announced that they will officially present their autonomous electric shuttle project at the UITP Global Public Transit Summit, one of the largest public transit events in the world, being held in Montreal May 15 to 17. In September 2016, in Lyon, France, Keolis launched experimental testing of NAVLY, the world’s first public transport service using autonomous electric shuttles. Since then, it has tested a number of other autonomous shuttle projects in major cities, including Las Vegas in January. The shuttle epitomizes the transport of tomorrow, and both Keolis Canada and NAVYA welcome the collaboration of the Ville de Montréal.

“This is a great progress for us, as we have been evaluating the Quebec market for some time. The UITP Summit is the perfect venue at which to present the product, which offers a solution for the initial and final stages of a trip. Keolis will also play a visible role at the Summit. We believe that electric vehicles represent the future of public transit, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to test this new autonomous vehicle here as a Canadian first. The enthusiasm for the project is already contagious,” said Patrick Gilloux, President and Chief Operating Officer of Keolis Canada.

“We know there is keen interest in Quebec for innovative mobility solutions such as autonomous electric shuttles,” stated Christophe Sapet, CEO of NAVYA. “We are pleased to have deployed more than 35 vehicles to date and transported more than 130,000 passengers world-wide, and Canada is an important step ahead in our international development. We look forward to theMontreal demonstration of this product, which is a viable response to the problems faced by cities today: congestion, pollution and parking.”

“Montreal is actively preparing for the emergence of autonomous and electric vehicles. The new institute to study and promote electrification and intelligent transportation will draw on Montreal’s many assets as a city of innovation. We have what it takes to become a global leader in the mobility of tomorrow, and I applaud the contribution of Keolis Canada and NAVYA in this field,” stated Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montreal.

The autonomous electric shuttle
Environmentally-friendly and providing flexibility in its management, the autonomous shuttle enables communities to better adapt their transit offering to the needs of citizens while controlling the impact on infrastructure and reducing traffic and pollution. With a capacity of 15 passengers, it also facilitates the transportation of personnel, visitors or service agents on private sites, improves access and mobility, and optimizes employee work time. Ideal for urban areas, airports, industrial sites, amusement parks, hotel complexes and hospitals, it has been designed to help organizations and businesses improve performance by streamlining the flow of movement.
• Keolis Canada and NAVYA demonstrate autonomous vehicles at UITP Congress.

25% of U.S. driving could be done by self-driving cars by 2030, study finds

25% of U.S. driving could be done by self-driving cars by 2030, study finds

Self-driving still seems to be a ways off from active public use on regular roads, but once it arrives, it could ramp very quickly, according to a new study by the Boston Consulting Group. The study found that by 2030, up to a quarter of driving miles in the U.S. could be handled by self-driving electric vehicles operating in shared service fleets in cities, due mostly to considerable cost savings for urban drivers.

The big change BCG sees is a result of the rise in interest in autonomous technologies, paired with the increased electrification of vehicles. There’s also more pressure on cities to come up with alternate transportation solutions that address increasing congestion. All of that added together could drive reduction in costs by up to 60 percent for drivers who opt into using shared self-driving services vs. owning and operating their own cars.

This won’t result in a precipitous drop in the car sales market, however, according to BCG. Total demand for cars will remain high, but the shift of who owns them and how they’re used will change dramatically, if the report’s findings prove correct – particularly in large cities where the fleets could have ramifications including decreased traffic congestion, but also decreased ridership, which the research firm says could lead to regulated limits on how many self-driving taxi services can operate in a given area.

Ultimately, the dramatic uptake is down to cold, hard cash: BCG says that shared fleets might be able to effectively double discretionary income for the average city-dweller over the course of a year, and we all know fun money is a powerful motivator.

Read more:

• By 2030 25% of US driving done by self-driving vehicles?

Register now: Taxi & Mobility Update shows all sides of the mobility debate

Register now: Taxi & Mobility Update shows all sides of the mobility debate

Join us in Brussels on May 4 and 5! A great variety of eminent speakers will be showing all sides of the mobility debate at the annual international Taxi & Mobility Update conference at the Van der Valk Hotel in Brussels. Now is the time to register as there is still room. Don’t miss the chance to update yourself on the latest developments in the taxi & mobility industry! Regulatory issues, autonomous vehicles, Mobility as a Service (MaaS), the future of public transport, new business models and more.

Register now on MobilityIntell for Taxi & Mobility Update 2017, Brussels, 4-5 May!

Some of a host of confirmed speakers:

  • Shwetha Surender from Frost & Sullivan who gives a riveting introductory keynote: “A view towards the horizon: Mega Trends in the Mobility Industry”
  • “Rethinking mobility for a human city” by Prof. Dr. Cathy Macharis, Head of the VUB Research group MOBI – Mobility, Logistics and Automotive Technology Research Centre.
  • UITP Secretary-General Alain Flausch on “The leading Role of Public Transport in New Mobility.”
  • Andy Boland, CEO of Addison Lee, one of the largest private hire companies in Europe: “New business models for a changed business environment”
  • “Mobility as a Service – The Future of (Public) Transport” by Sampo Hietanen, CEO MaaS Global Ltd
  • Alwin Bakker, Founder and CEO of “The Autonomous Future”
  • Olli-Pekka Rantala, Director-General of the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communication’s Services Department, Helsinki on Finland’s new Transport Code.
  • Kate Toran, Director of Taxis and Accessible Services SFMTA), San Francisco: “A view towards the horizon from where it all began.”
  • Regulatory keynote – Matt Daus, President of the International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR): “A quick update on new regulatory accents worldwide.”

Register now on MobilityIntell for Taxi & Mobility Update 2017, Brussels, 4-5 May!

Canadian Innisfil latest town to adopt Uber to combat ‘expensive’ public transit system

Canadian Innisfil latest town to adopt Uber to combat ‘expensive’ public transit system

The town of Innisfil, Ontario, has a transit problem but instead of going the traditional route, they’re partnering up with Uber. Although the ride-share service has proven controversial in major cities across North America – including Toronto – Innisfil’s council approved the deal with the tech company in March. Pinellas County in Florida (US) was one of the earliest adopters of this approach. Several smaller communities followed.

Mayor Gord Wauchope said the decision came after a transit feasibility study was completed in 2015. The study recommended the town start with a one bus route that would have cost nearly $300,000. But the route would only service a small portion of the town. In 2016, the town’s planning department suggested going a different way – Uber. “To run a transit system in a town at this present time is too expensive. You’d have a lot of taxpayers paying taxes on a transit system they wouldn’t even be able to use,” Wauchope explained.

“This was a great way to have everyone in the town participate in using the Uber system … Hopefully it will be a great benefit for the town of Innisfil and its residents.” Part of the appeal is the lower cost of running Uber versus a traditional transit system. “We all know transit systems lose money. This way we’re going to lose some money but it’s not going to be in the hundreds of thousands, it’s going to be $100,000 maybe $125,000,” Wauchope said.

Residents will pay a base fee to travel around the town and the city will foot the bill for the rest of the fare. Uber will offer discounted trips to certain destinations in the town. “We were thrilled when the Town of Innisfil approached us last year as they were interested in running a dynamic ridesharing-based transit service to test the feasibility of such a service in the Town,” Uber said in a statement.

“Since then, we have worked closely with Town staff to develop a public transit partnership that will provide affordable and cost effective transit to their residents.” Wauchope said taxis will still operate in Innisfil and offer services not available through Uber, such as accessibility transportation. The project will officially launch May 1.

Read more:

  • Uber now offering (cheaper) solutions for public transport.
The Rural Summit 2017, informative, innovative and connective!

The Rural Summit 2017, informative, innovative and connective!

On March 22 and 23 the Brabant Kempen House (The Netherlands – near Eindhoven) organized the first conference for rural areas in Europe,

The Rural Summit 2017. The conference was a follow-up to the nomination of the Brabantse Kempen as one of the 21 smartest rural regions of the world in 2016. The conference drew a picture of the challenges that rural regions face in terms of economic growth, sustainability, aging and the new opportunities created by the (extended) use of digital applications.

More than 200 participants from 12 countries shared their ideas and experiences on the question if the difference between urban and rural is fading because of the possibilities created by internet and broadband. International speakers presented their examples of digitally connected regions which lead to stronger economic and more vital rural regions with a more robust connection to urban areas.

The conference was attended by delegates and directors from different European regions. To ensure more attention and policies for rural regions in Europe, the Commissioner of King Wim van de Donk encouraged everyone to commit themselves to enhancing connections between European rural regions.

Companies and organizations from the Brabant Kempen region participated in ‘best practices’ during thematic sessions. The Brabant Kempen House looks back on an inspiring, informative and connecting convention. The conference was made possible by, chairwoman and Mayor Anja Thijs-Rademakers of the municipality Eersel, in cooperation with the Kempen municipalities, the Province of Brabant, the Metropolitan Region Eindhoven, Brainport Development, industry and education partners and the Intelligent Community Forum.

The Brabant Kempen House is going to build the European network of smart rural regions further and seeks to work on concrete projects with partners that contribute to a sustainable vital Kempen in the Brainport region, but also those of other European rural areas.

  • The First Rural Summit was held in the Brabantse Kempen.
Bus booking made as simple as flight booking

Bus booking made as simple as flight booking

Hotel room? Check. Flight? Check. Taxi to the airport? Check. What about getting from the airport to your hotel in the city centre? An airport transfer bus could be the best option. Chances are, if you’re an inbound or infrequent traveller, you will wonder where to search and book this last leg. Imagine if that was taken care of through your travel retailer, removing all the uncertainty and stress, just as you would book a flight.

This scenario can now become a reality. With market liberalisation and growing competition, the bus is showing itself more and more to be a promising travel alternative. Now, it’s time to grow at full speed. In a bid to make this travel option much more attractive, accessible and convenient, Amadeus is today announcing new partnership with Distribusion Technologies.

Distribusion brings over 300 airport bus transfer & intercity bus operators in 2.500 destinations to Amadeus’ travel seller network. A single gateway to all this content means travel sellers can easily broaden their offer, attract new types of customers and drive revenues, all while forgetting about costly one-to-one setup and commercial relationships. With content, search, booking, payment, ticketing and settlement capabilities covered, travel agencies can focus on adapting this new offer to travellers, and in turn, bus companies will be more visible to new customers in new channels, ultimately driving sales growth. Initially, Amadeus travel sellers in central, eastern and southern Europe will be able to access Distribusion bus content with more across the world expected to join soon.

“Travelling by bus is an attractive choice for many, but could be for many more. Bus operators now have a complete package to unlock growth and make a significant footprint in the global travel industry. Our two partnerships with Betterez and Distribusion could not come at a better moment, when new entrants and market dynamics are pushing towards improving the overall offer and experience” said Antoine de Kerviler, Head of Rail & Ground Travel at Amadeus. “Imagine booking a convenient airport bus transfer on top of your flight and a weekend getaway by rail – all on the same itinerary through your travel retailer – this is door-to-door travel at its best.”

Julian Hauck, Founder & CEO of Distribusion said “Travel sellers are paying more attention to bus travel to continue enriching their offer to travellers, and have been longing to add this kind of content in a simple, standardised and effective way for some time. The combination of our market leading bus content with Amadeus’ travel seller network will open the door to new travellers. We’re really looking forward to this new phase with Amadeus.”

  • Bus booking made as simple as flight booking: Distribusion joins Amadeus.