Tag Archives: Sustainable Transportation

Here’s Where Electric Vehicles Are Growing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Source: ReCode

Japan’s Underground Bike Parking Towers

In Japan, though, the authorities have come up with a solution, in the form of a new system of underground bicycle parking. Users set up an account with Eco Cycle, the system’s operator, and are issued a chip which is attached to the bike’s frame. When the cyclists wheel their bike towards the entrance to the parking, the system recognises the bike, grips the front wheel and whizzes it underground to an available parking space.

via Video: Japan’s amazing underground bike parking towers | CityMetric.

How Green Trends Will Impact Your Business In 2013

solar_panels_american_directThe term “green”  evokes a wide array of meanings, spanning political ideology, lifestyle choices, and climate change. So when businesses hear the term green, it’s no wonder there’s so much confusion.

Here are three trends where green is a key element, but not the key driver.

Sharing Is Changing Consumption and Commerce

The sharing economy permeates nearly every facet of every industry. From cars to the driveways left empty when they’re gone, the Internet has made it easier than ever to sell idle resources. Lisa Gansky, one of the catalysts helping companies tap into sharing, describes a perfect storm of accessible data, the open Web, and connected communities as a “cocktail” being tested by businesses in every vertical.

Companies should be looking inward at their own idle resources and figuring out how to provide that information to other businesses, or municipalities. New revenue streams will come from services that can be reconfigured or modified to operate within these sharing communities and networks.

“Data is a kind of connective tissue and when we liberate data (between communities, companies, investors, governments), we play better, faster,” Gansky said in a recent interview. She says that sharing is being accelerated by the next big social network, and it’s not Facebook. It’s the neighborhood.

The Economist built on that notion in a recent profile of the sharing economy’s impact: “The idea of renting from a person rather than a faceless company will survive, even if the early idealism of the sharing economy does not.”

Tapping Into Greener Transportation

Businesses are finding ways to tie into the rise of walk-able communities. Marketing opportunities are everywhere as smartphones become more connected to the open data available on the Web. Companies like RideScout can now deliver multiple transit options to its users, whether they prefer pedicabs or Car2Go.

The transparency of transit data has much larger implications, especially when it comes to cities. That’s one of the areas where opportunity exists for small business. Faced with rising populations, traffic congestion and parking woes, city officials are taking matters into their own hands.

Portland is a prime example, highlighted in a recent CitiWire article: “It has a 35-year-old urban growth boundary to curb sprawl, plus America’s only regional governance structure. It leads in transportation – not just regional light rail but America’s first streetcar service of recent times.”

That’s an approach that should buoy businesses in every sector, certainly ones that adapt their products and services to complement the urban density model that continues to develop. It’s an obvious step to see all sorts of businesses eventually appear alongside the bus routes on RideScout’s app.

The nation’s capital has similar initiatives for which sustainable transportation is the centerpiece of economic development.

The CitiWire article goes on to report, “[Washington D.C.] Mayor Vincent Gray has just unveiled proposals to create the ‘healthiest, greenest and most livable’ city in America with a raft of measures to curb energy use, reduce traffic and boost use of fresh fruits and vegetables. By 2032, a quarter of all commuter trips would be by bike or foot and at least half by public transit. Major chunks of energy would be delivered from nearby wind farms.”

Other cities are sure to follow as fuel prices rise, populations increase, and better infrastructure emerges. Businesses that capitalize on these trends will reap the early awards.

The Built Environment and Boosting Your Profile

Improving productivity and differentiating your business are constant challenges. An easy way to boost both is by plugging into the green building movement. Aligning with local providers that can help with energy rebates can easily spur some economic gains. Beyond the numbers, productivity can also be lifted through smarter and more efficient design. Healthier employees are happier and more productive.

recent New York Times article highlighted research from an affordable housing community in Seattle that showed how small changes can have big effects. Spurred by medical research, a local coalition of architects, designers and citizen-led groups were able to impact asthma rates within 60 “Breathe Easy Homes” with better air filters, less carpet, and low-allergen landscaping.

The Times reports, “A study in 2010 performed by the University of Washington School of Public Health found that the Breathe Easy residents had reduced emergency room and urgent care visits by 67% and that symptom-free days had increased by 61%. As designers, that was the first time that we had really seen a direct relationship shown between the built environment and the health of residents.”

It’s easy to see how that could translate to your workplace.

Another project that promotes healthy work sites is the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), an organization started to accelerate best practices in sustainable land development and management. It has pilot projects across the country that are taking green spaces beyond atria and waterfalls.

By using SSI’s framework for “healthy ecosystems,” commercial businesses can cut costs and drive efficiency with better land-use decisions. Whether it’s a restaurant, corporate campus, or small business, standards are emerging to address everything from native landscapes and irrigation, to zero waste and air quality.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), an SSI partner, says it anticipates certain guidelines and benchmarks might be included in future iterations of the LEED(Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System.

USGB’s commitment shows how the big picture is starting to play out for businesses in every industry. Companies of all sizes are being judged not only by how much they’re growing, but how that growth impacts surrounding communities.

This article first appeared in Forbes.

I Caught Up With An Austin Startup Providing Real-Time Transit Options

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Urbanites and UT students have a new way to get around asRideScout™ announced its formal launch in Austin this week. CEO Joseph Kopser and his team have built a real-time, mobile aggregator and comparison engine for ground transportation options. And with ties to the sharing economy and transit’s rising importance, they appear to be in a good spot.

Two big hooks provide the lure for the app. Its “best ride” ranking is an easy way to see pricing and estimated times. But the kicker is the breadth of options you get. Buses, transit, subways, taxis, limos, shuttles, car-sharing, and even pedicabs are included. The iPhone app has been out a month or so, and an Android version should be ready this Fall.

It’s been a quick ascent. Just last spring, RideScout was still embryonic before placing second at the HATCH Pitch Competition at last year’s SXSW. From there, Kopser and some of his West Point alums raised $350k  and started building in late July.

ridescout_ride_results_2Now it’s in a bit of a perfect storm. Cities are faced with infrastructure challenges everywhere, as traffic increases, roads are in need of repair, and urban populations continue to rise. The low-hanging fruit for many metros is to optimize what already exists. When buses or rail cars aren’t filled, those are idle resources that are funded with taxpayer dollars. That’s one of the pieces that’s caught the City of Austin’s attention.

“RideScout will push highly motivated citizens to alternative modes of transportation, helping to fill underutilized public transit capacity to keep more cars off the roads,“ said Todd Hemingson, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Development for Capital Metro.

Hemingson and other city planners have no doubt seen the light, or at least the data.
Here’s an excerpt from NextCity that pulled figures from the American Society of Civil Engineers‘ recent report. 

“Public transit ridership increased by 34 percent between 1995 and 2011, according to the American Public Transit Association, and the ASCE report states that access to transit across the country has grown by nearly 10 percent.

That’s the big upside. But here’s the other part.

“Although transit investment has also increased, “deficient and deteriorating” regional transit systems cost the national economy $90 billion in 2010.”

Until those crumbling pieces can be fixed, cities will need more innovation from the RideScouts of the world. A whole ecosystem needs to be nurtured around infrastructure. Part of it’s behavior, but as we’ve seen with other trends, unlocking data with the right technology can open up all sorts of possibilities. As Austin City Councilman Chris Riley puts it, “the default answer for transportation in Austin doesn’t have to be a personal car.”

Last week’s SXSW Interactive was a good test for the young company. Kopser struck deals with  AirBnB and some of the car-sharing companies in town and was able to refine some ideas they’ve been building on.

Gensler_installation


However those pan out, it was clear the transportation needle moved significantly. For the first time, for better or for worse, transit-oriented discussions were everywhere. Regulatory tussles, rideshare launches, and more kept things moving.

However those pan out, it was clear the transportation needle moved significantly. For the first time, for better or for worse, transit-oriented discussions were everywhere. Regulatory tussles, rideshare launches, and more kept things moving.

As SXSW ended, there were other indications they might be onto something. In SX flair, urban design firm Gensler challenged people to come up with ideas to improve the city. It solicited feedback using a physical installation (photo above) with the hashtag #designatx. What were the top things mentioned? Mass transit, traffic, and congestion issues,  things the firm described as “practical and things that could be implemented.”

“Austin has the perfect launch city mix: terrible traffic congestion and rapid population growth of technology savvy residents looking for alternatives to car ownership,” said Kopser.

Can’t argue with that.

First posted at AustinStartup.

A Shipping Container Makes A Good Bike Corral

 

Via GOOD

Global Banks Pony Up $175 Billion to Scale Up Support for Cleaner Transportation

This was timely considering our recent discussion with Electric Cab of Austin. A smaller scale yes, but the core challenge is the same.

“Global CO2 emissions from the transport sector are projected to increase nearly 50% by 2030 – with profound environmental, economic and social consequences – unless dramatic changes are adopted.”

via $175 Billion to Scale Up Support for Transport Announced at Rio+20 | Asian Development Bank.

Urban Transportation Is Ripe For Change. Here’s What Electric Cab Of Austin Is Doing.

You might call Chris Nielsen an artisan. His company, Electric Cab of Austin, actually makes things. And as good a tinkerer as he might be, his goal is to shake up Austin’s urban transportation market. That means everything from how you flag down a pedicab to the type of bus you’ll board in 2020.

“We have strong relationships with local businesses and local government decision-makers, which has helped us play an influential role in the definition and development of new ordinances related to sustainable transportation in multiple areas of public policy,” said Nielsen.

To get a sense of the opportunity, beyond rides back to your house from H.E.B., (though he’ll do that too) The World Economic Forum has a startling data point. We’ll need to build the same urban capacity (housing, infrastructure and facilities) in the next 40 years that we’ve built over the past 4,000 years to meet the demand of urbanization. That’s where Nielsen’s vision for electrification becomes more intriguing.

For starters, utilities and city leadership are being pressed on innovation and need solutions for improved infrastructure. Digitizing the electrical grid, improving traffic congestion and reducing pollution are necessities as cities and towns vie for the quality of life spotlight.

Nielsen says he’s approached Capital Metro with a turnkey package that includes his Low-Speed Vehicle (LSV) designs and drivers at a lower hourly rate.

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A number of transportation groups across the country have already pulled the trigger on similar projects. One example, covered in Scientific American, looked at scenarios in Washington State and California. Washington’s LINK system mentioned a big piece of the upside.

 

“It is no wonder LINK is still bullish on the endeavor: Pezoldt says a comparable diesel-powered trolley would cost about $435,000 and each electric trolley built by Downey, Calif.–based Ebus costs significantly less at $370,000. On top of that, diesel fuel for the same trolley on the same route runs about $1,200 per month, whereas the inexpensive and green hydropowered electricity used for the Ebus trolley comes in at approximately $100 per month—less than one tenth the cost.”

While Electric Cab’s Low Speed Electric Vehicles (LSVs) have been fully permitted since January 2012 for Austin’s Low Speed Vehicles for Hire Ordinance, there’s more to the model than just moving tourists from hotel lobbies to hot spot bars. They want to kill gas-fed routes that originate from all sorts of businesses and government entities. School campuses, prisons, retirement communities and a host of others come to mind.

But that’s the bigger picture. The nice thing for potential investors is the fact that Electric Cab already operates at full speed (OK, half speed until additional funding) with some key alliances in the works. The current model has two components. The first one targets short-range fares, which Nielsen says are often denied by cab drivers. The other segment is the pedicab market, which has its own challenges when it comes to longer routes and safety issues. The company generates revenue by leasing vehicles to drivers for a flat fee, selling on-vehicle display advertising, and by delivering customers to commercial businesses, much like a mobile concierge.

Nielsen wants the additional capital to expand his clean fleet to 25 LSVs. He says each LSV is roughly $9,500, and has an earning potential of $3,500 per month. And returns can be quick, with some units paying for themselves within the first 7 to 10 months under normal circumstances. Just as notable, the maintenance associated with LSV’s is usually very low, while their lifespans are lengthy. According to his figures, an LSV can net an investor more than $40,000 over a 4-year period.

 

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Strategic partners are key as well. The company is in talks with Pflugerville’s Community Cars, a company now run by Austin attorney Stacy Zoern after it merged with Hungary-based Kenguru Services KFT in early 2011. Zoern’s industry knowledge and the need for additional manufacturing and supply chain expertise has both companies eager to explore  joint opportunities.

A few other things might also play out in its favor. Austin Energy has significant grant funding to deploy an electric vehicle charging grid, which could expand rapidly as other regional developments take shape. Pecan Street’s visibility doesn’t hurt either. They’re also exploring a partnership with Formula One to help it utilize large passenger EVs for logistical support and passenger transportation. Apparently, there’s different seating configurations to allow fans to move around the track for the best views.

But perhaps most indicative of its broad appeal, the company is currently working with the  Texas Senior Mobility Project to provide alternate modes of transportation. Electric Cab says Capital Metro has decreased service to that demographic and says its newly available ADA compliant shuttle bus would be the perfect for senior citizens.

I may be a bit biased, but the more I learned about Electric Cab’s business, the more I was intrigued. Whatever the case, with fossil fuel subsidies losing favor, gas prices consistently rising, and more pressure on cities to reduce carbon emissions, what’s not to like about cleaner and more affordable transportation? And besides, we all know another website isn’t going to solve the world’s problems.

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