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May 16, 2014

3 Reasons @uber is Safer than Traditional Cabs

Filed under: Business,Economics,Politics,Technology & Internet — Chris Chaten @ 3:50 PM

Legislation designed to mandate old school taxi regulations on ridesharing services like Uber, Lyft, and Hailo passed the Illinois Senate. The bill, backed by the taxi lobby, is problematic in that it doesn’t acknowledge the notable safety improvements inherent in ridesharing.

3 Key Distinctions

1. Recorded Events
Taxi: Users hail a cab from the street. They get in a car with an anonymous driver and no record of the trip.

Ridesharing: User records the ride on a phone. The name of the driver is tracked, and there’s a digital record of a user entering the vehicle.

Outcome: There’s a much lower risk of a bad agent acting as a driver in ridesharing. If an event occurs, ridesharing companies know the driver, and the consumer can reference the trip history. In a cab, the user can be subjected to crime/abuse and have no record of who was driving the cab, or even that the trip occurred.

2. Stored Payments
Taxi: Payment method is variable. Drivers risk ‘walk outs’. Consumers risk broken/inoperable card machines / forgotten wallets, etc. Both parties have to wait to settle the transaction.

Ridesharing: Payment is guaranteed in advanced via stored credentials. Ride ends immediately at drop off with no delay.

Outcome: There’s no walk out risk, and a greatly reduced risk of payment related confrontations.

3. Call Ahead
Taxi: Calling a taxi service in urban environments is the execption. Typical use case is a street flag.

Ridesharing: Users ‘call ahead’ in 100% of instances.

Outcome: Users avoid standing next to traffic. Also, users don’t have to wait outside where risk of robbery and other crimes is real, esp. in underserved areas where ridesharing is overrepresented.


February 13, 2014

Why We’re Broke: #Chicago Underestimates Snow Removal Budget by $23 Million

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Chris Chaten @ 1:42 PM

Another winter day in the Chicago brings about snowstorm. Two weeks into February, the Chicago Sun Times reports that we are already over budget for snow removal.  While the mayor can claim this is due to inordinately high snowfall, it’s really due to inordinately poor planning.

Here’s how we came to a budget this year: we took last year’s number, $20.5 million, and stuck that in for this year.

Why is that ridiculous? 2013 was the lowest in recent memory for snowfall at 19.6 inches.

Take a look at annual snowfall in Chicago:

The red line is the budget. The black line is the expected.

The budget is set for a level of snowfall that’s all but unprecedented. It’s so low, it undercuts the estimate of 41.6 inch by more than 50%. Taking the current rate per inch, the budget should have been $43.5 million – or $23 million more than budgeted.1

1 There’s a bit of a ‘volume discount’ that would likely drive the number closer to $40 million.

January 23, 2014

Robberies in Lakeview/Uptown Consolidate at Belmont #chicago #crimeisdown

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Chris Chaten @ 9:55 AM

As a follow up to last year’s analysis of crime in our neighborhood, I’ve put together a time-lapse heat map of robberies from 2008 through full year 2013.

As noted before, the number of robberies in the 19th district is relatively static. However, the trend is a consolidation in a small block that contains the Boystown and Wrigleyville neighborhoods.

Robbery Heat Map in Chicago's 19th District (2008 - 2013)

This trend continues in 2013; the Belmont red line stop is the singular remaining ‘hot spot’.

2013 robberies (n=525) centralize at the stop and radiate out. In 2012, the ‘heat’ was more evenly distributed throughout the Halsted / Wrigley / Belmont triangle.1 In 2008 (n=532)2, the robberies were spread more evenly, including the Wilson and Lawrence stops (near the ‘Uptown’ label on the map).

The CWB blog documents some of the potential causes. It’s worth following if you live in or around the area.


1. Of note, the 2013 green area does push east of Halsted (into residential streets) to a greater extent than in 2012.
2. Source: City of Chicago. N value may differ from published crime stats if exact location was not provided or miscategorized.

July 30, 2013

The Chipotle Proxy

Filed under: Business,Economics,Technology & Internet — Chris Chaten @ 3:45 PM

When traveling to a new city and looking to explore, I’ll often fire up Waze or Google Maps and search for Chipotle. This usually isn’t because I’m looking for Chipotle, but I’m confident in Chipotle’s real estate choices.

This is becoming less relevant as the business expands, but I’m almost never directed to someplace I shouldn’t really be.

The lesson here for product manager types is that just because Waze’s customer (me) is asking for something (Chipotle), it doesn’t mean that’s what I want exactly.  If I could ask the map to find a relatively cool but sufficiently gentrified place that’d be better.  Alas, that’s not a current feature.


May 16, 2013

An Out for Chicago’s Parking Meter Trouble (cc @RahmEmanuel @ChicagosMayor @AldReilly)

Filed under: Business,Economics,Politics — Chris Chaten @ 10:57 AM

Naturally, the deal Chicago signed for parking deals is a tricky mess. The hourly rates are now up to $6.50 / hr, more than double the rate of just 5 years ago.  The 2008 contract prevents the city from lowering these rates.  So the city gets no revenue, citizens are screwed, and there’ s not much we can do about it.

However, there’s an angle we haven’t explored. All revenue from parking tickets still goes to the city.  While there are provisions that require compensation from the city if roads are closed, meter rates are lowered, or inventory is reduce, there are no provisions that limit the rate of a parking ticket fine.  So what can the city do?

Chicago should drastically lower the fine for expired meters.

This may seem counterintuitive, as it’s the only residual revenue source. But if we drop the  price from the current $65 to $5 – 10, anyone parking over an hour wouldn’t have much incentive to feed the meter. If they do get ticketed, the city pockets the revenue.

This would greatly increase the volume of tickets, so revenue would likley be hit only marginally.  And it creates a perfect incentive for Chicago Parking Meters, LLC to re-open the contract, as the meter revenue would plunge.