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Environment Governance Innovation Population Transportation

A different approach to an Uber problem

It seems there’s no end to the Uber drama in Canada. Major urban centres across the country continue to debate how best to deal with the supposed ride-‘sharing’ service. Vancouver is leaning toward regulating the service, in a similar manner to taxis; Calgary’s already proceeded to do so. Montréal has banned the service until it can decide how to deal with it. Edmonton, Ottawa and now Toronto have passed bylaws to legalise the service, with conditions.

One possible approach that has received little consideration to date is co-optation. Given what appear to be the company’s future designs, that could prove a critical oversight.

Categories
Environment Governance Innovation Population Transportation

Why focus should be on mass transit instead of tolls to relieve traffic congestion, part two

Map 1 Usually take public transit to work
2006_2B_CSD_CT_MoT_transit_Montreal
Map 2 Usually vehicle passenger to work
2006_2B_CSD_CT_MoT_passenger_Montreal
Map 3 Usually drive vehicle to work
2006_2B_CSD_CT_MoT_driver_Montreal

Source(s): 2006 Census (20% sample) topic-based tabulations

As previously discussed, variable-rate tolling as a means of moderating traffic congestion in Canada makes little sense. Unable to cite relevant research to support its “toll everything everywhere” proposal, the recent paper from Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission (CEC) instead turned to reviewing anecdotal evidence from the USA, Canada and Sweden.

Notably, the Canadian examples referenced were Toronto and Calgary. As previously mentioned, the CEC conceded Toronto’s 407 ETR did not work as intended. The Calgary example, along with one from San Francisco, of a variable-rate parking scheme, has neither proven effective nor popular. Another example, of a distance-traveled toll scheme in Oregon, likewise neither proven effective nor popular (and highlights an important privacy issue). 4 of the 6 anecdotes CEC could come up with were ineffective and unpopular.

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Environment Governance Innovation Population Transportation

Why focus should be on mass transit instead of tolls to relieve traffic congestion, part one

MTO_401_Keele_1970_2005

It’s déjà vu all over again. By extolling the virtue of variable-rate tolls on all highways and bridges leading into major Canadian central business districts, the recent paper by Montréal’s latest conservative think tank, Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission (CEC), mimics the 2008 proposal by the even more conservative Montréal Economic Institute.

The latest proposal was dead on arrival. The recently elected Prime Minister of Canada had campaigned on a promise to scrap his predecessor’s toll plan for the new Champlain Bridge in Montréal. Québec’s Transport Minister, also the Minister responsible for the Montréal region, immediately scuttled the CEC proposal. In doing so, he succinctly made a point that all such proposals glance over: “What are we offering as an alternative?”

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Employment Financial security Innovation Trade and investment

UAW VW defeat: Sign of what’s in store for labour?

labour_VW

Volkswagen Vote is Defeat for Labor in South
Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times February 14, 2014

Comfy, no?

Major defeat for decimated US labor union

On Valentine’s Day, the rejection by the Chattanooga, TN Volkswagen workers surely was a heart-breaker for the United Auto Workers. Not only did the employer remain impartial, but VW actually wanted the workers unionised.

The UAW had been trying to organise the VW plant for two years.  In the US Midwest and Northeast, home to what’s left of major domestic automakers’ US operations, UAW membership had plummeted. In 1979, the union claimed 1,530,000 members; in 2010 they counted just 355,000. It was desperate for a foothold in the South, where Japanese and German automakers have located their (to date) non-unionised US operations.

The UAW drop in membership accelerated following the Great Recession. Interest in membership further eroded as the union threw young members and future workers under the bus during auto sector bailout negotiations. As The New York Times succinctly put it in the wake of the recent debacle, Sweetheart Deals Hurt Labor.

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Employment Financial security Innovation Technology Trade and investment

What’s next?

Economists have been loathe to discuss the possibility of machines displacing workers. The facile counterargument is that labour-saving innovation started with the industrial revolution, and subsequent labour-saving innovations coincided with rising employment. Few ever concede that technological innovation could eventually transition from labour-saving to labour-replacing.

Thankfully, that’s begun to change. Nobel laureate Paul Krugman recently reconsidered this long-held economic view.

As have others, including one of our new favourite economists, Tim Harford, whose page we discovered on this University of Toronto Library site (where this page is also linked – thanks).

The robots are coming and will terminate your jobs
Tim Harford, Financial Times December 31, 2013

Categories
Employment Governance Innovation Trade and investment

RIP RIM: A case study in corporate ineptitude and government indifference

blackberries-bin

This past Friday, Blackberry, a relatively empty shell of what not long ago was Canadian and global telecom titan Research in Motion (RIM), announced another round of lay-offs. The announced 4,500 job cuts add to the already massive downsizing of the company’s workforce undertaken over the last couple years, including 5,000 lay-offs last summer and 2,000 lay-offs summer 2011. That’s more than half the nearly twenty thousand workers the company employed at its peak in 2009. The remarkable impact RIM’s demise has had on the Canadian labour market pales in comparison to the potential impact it will have on Canadian innovation.