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Atlanta

Three Uber stories

Uber

We’re still waiting for Council to take action on vehicles for hire, so here’s some more reading on the subject to keep you up to date on what’s happening elsewhere.

Wonkblog: Are Uber and Lyft responsible for reducing DUIs?

Wonkblog: Uber is tapping into the too-drunk-to-drive market, user data suggest

A question asked and then tentatively answered about a possibly beneficial side effect of having companies like Uber and Lyft and the added transportation options they would bring to one’s city. It’s hardly a ridiculous question to ponder – Grits was pondering the same thing over two months ago, after some high-profile DUI fatalities in Austin, including one particularly tragic on at South by Southwest. More transportation options was the subject of a Statesman story at the time, and Uber and Lyft were suggested as possible remedies. The data so far is extremely preliminary and comes from Uber itself, but again, the premise is sound. It’s worth considering and keeping an eye on.

Techblog: How Uber is disrupting the taxi business: It’s simply great.

Chron tech writer Dwight Silverman and his wife visited Atlanta, used Uber exclusively to get around, and generally had a great experience with it. Note that in Atlanta, as in Houston, Uber is currently operating without the authorization of city officials, and they are as fast and loose with the rules there (picking up people at the airport even though their not supposed to) as they are here. Make of that what you will.

WSJ: Seoul Moves to Ban Uber, Plans Own App

For those of you that think cab companies should just adapt to changing technology or suffer the market consequences, I give you this:

Uber Monday evening called Seoul city government’s earlier statement a sign that it lags behind in adopting what it called an innovation in transportation. “Comments like these show Seoul is in danger of remaining trapped in the past and getting left behind by the global ‘sharing economy’ movement,” the statement said. An Uber spokesman in Seoul denied that the service was illegal as Uber is “a technology company that connects drivers with passengers” and doesn’t directly run a taxi service with rented cars.

The Seoul city government said Monday it would seek a ban on a car-hailing smartphone app from Uber Technologies Inc., joining a global battle by municipalities and traditional taxi services against the service.

The local authority said in a statement that Uber is illegal under South Korean law, which forbids fee-paying transport services using private or rented motor vehicles unregistered with the authorities.

The city added that it will launch in December an app that will provide similar features to Uber for official taxis, such as geo-location data on cabs nearby, information about them and their drivers, as well as ratings.

A Seoul-based Uber spokesman said the company was preparing a response to Seoul’s move, which follows a string of other actions taken by the city against the service in recent months.

Be careful what you wish for, I suppose. Definitely worth keeping an eye on this as well.

“America’s largest city with no pro sports teams”

This Houston Press lamentation about the city of Austin contained the following tidbit that caught my eye:

Austin is America’s largest city with no pro sports teams (though some would debate the amateur status of the Texas Longhorns).

Well, that depends on how you define “city”, and on how you define “pro”. I presume they mean a team from one of the big four leagues – MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL (*) – as Austin does have an NBA D-league team, and until 2008 had a minor league hockey team that could restart operations again. One could arguably include the Round Rock Express as well, but I think the meaning of “pro” is clear enough, so let’s not belabor this.

It’s the definition of “city” where it gets complicated. The list of US cities by population confirms the Press’ assertion: Austin comes in at #14, with a population of 790,390, and every city ahead of it has at least one pro team as defined above. In fact, the next two largest cities without pro teams are also in Texas – #16 Fort Worth (741,206) and #19 El Paso (649,121). You have to go down to #27 Louisville (597,337) to find the first non-Texas example.

The reason why I hesitate to use this as the definition is that if you keep going down this list, you find some places that sure seem like they’re a lot bigger than that. Cities like #40 Atlanta (420,003), #44 Miami (399,457), or #58 Saint Louis (319,294), for instance, sure don’t seem like they’re half or less Austin’s size. What gives with that?

The answer, of course, is that nobody cares about the municipality in which a stadium is located, as any fan of the Arlington Rangers, East Rutherford Giants, or Auburn Hills Pistons can attest. Teams may be identified with a city, but it’s the wider area that actually supports the team. Austin is only the fifth-largest urban area without a pro sports team, trailing Riverside-San Bernadino CA, Virginia Beach VA, Las Vegas NV, and Providence RI. It’s the third-largest MSA without a pro sports team, trailing Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario CA and Las Vegas-Paradise NV. More to the point, those lists give you a much better representation of the true big population centers in the US. Having Atlanta at #9 makes a lot more sense than having it at #40, barely half the size of Austin. There’s a much larger discussion in all of this about how these large metro areas are governed and how that governance could be vastly streamlined and more effective if a bunch of otherwise arbitrary boundary lines were obliterated, but that’s way beyond my scope here. Point is, making that statement about Austin is technically correct but kinda misleading. Which shouldn’t stop you from reading the story, which would be blog-worthy in its own right if I had the energy for it. Just keep this in mind when you get to that sentence.

(*) – You can include MLS if you want, but a peek at their standings tells me that they do not have a team in any city that wouldn’t already be counted in the Big Four. And in case you’re wondering, Chivas US is in Los Angeles, and Columbus OH is also the home of the NHL Blue Jackets franchise.