Along for the Ride #115

Heya friends, happy Friday.

This week it’s been hard to take my mind off of the news of the unmarked graves of indigenous children that continue to be discovered in Canada. For those unaware, earlier this month 215 unmarked graves were found on the properties of a residential school in Kamloops, BC. Since then, investigations have only found more. This week, an additional 751 graves were found on the grounds of another school outside of Regina, SK—with some children as young as three being found.

Residential schools are government-funded institutions that abused indigenous populations across Canada in the name of assimilation, a result of settler-colonialism. These were not sites of education or knowledge sharing—they were the grounds on which genocide was conducted. It is estimated that 150,000 indigenous children attended residential schools in Canada and only 75,000 returned. The last school in Canada closed in 1996. NPR recently referred to these sites as “Indian boarding schools” but the last time I checked, most boarding schools don’t come with unmarked grave sites intended for their pupils.

My ask for you today is to educate yourself on this history. Genocide on indigenous populations continues today in Canada, with one clear example being the inaction taken on missing and murdered indigenous women across the country. Many of my readers are based in the UK, and it is imperative that globally, we connect these events to the impact that the British Empire had when colonizing countries. Resources below:

Government and Policy

LADOT calls for Universal Basic Mobility

The head of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Seleta Reynolds, is calling for Universal Basic Mobility to reorient LA’s transportation system to be more equitable, affordable, accessible and joyful. “The idea that no matter where you live, how much money you have, or who you are, you have access to dignified, frequent, affordable transportation that serves all of the needs that you have… because there is a strong economic argument to make sure that is the case for everybody in L.A.”

TransitCenter launches a Transit Equity Dashboard

TransitCenter’s research team has developed the Transit Equity Dashboard, a first-of-its-kind tool which measures how well transit networks in six U.S. cities connect people who’ve been marginalized by segregation and discrimination to the jobs, services, and amenities they need to thrive.

“This dashboard aims to help transit practitioners, policymakers, and advocates make more informed and equitable decisions by providing clear metrics about access disparities. By adopting these metrics, we can assess whether changes to transit networks close or widen these gaps.”

Indy launches an autonomous shuttle pilot

And this one includes a wheelchair accessible vehicle! Oft overlooked in trials of these sorts.

The trial includes five Lexus vehicles and a wheelchair-accessible shuttle that will give free rides weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The route will connect IUPUI, parts of downtown and link to the IndyGo Red Line. The nine stops along the service loop are trackable online. The pilot program is a first for Indianapolis through May Mobility, the Toyota Mobility Foundation and Energy Systems Network.

Putting a halt to Houston’s highway expansion

In what I’m going to call a power move, the USDOT has asked TxDOT to halt development of a $7 billion rebuild of I-45. The USDOT is invoking the Civil Rights Act to pause the highway project near Houston, “a rare move that offers an early test of the administration's willingness to wield federal power to address a long history of government-driven racial inequities.”

Industry

The policy leaders advancing the AV industry

This short and sweet piece considers how policy teams within AV companys are the beating heart of their work. Winning hearts and minds of regulators while also steering internal decision making to align with political and urban agendas.

Amazon purchases 1,000 autonomous trucks from Plus

Amazon already owns Zoox, but is now setting sights on freight. They recently placed an order for 1,000 autonomous driving systems from Plus, a California-based AV trucking company. Reports note that Amazon is also considering buying a 20 percent stake in Plus (which recently announced plans to go public via a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC). 

Zoox thinks you might actually feel safe in their car

This week Zoox released its first (voluntary) safety report since revealing its electric robotaxi in December. The report highlights what the company considers more than 100 safety features not found in regular (human-driven, conventional) vehicles.

Embark considers going public via SPAC

AV trucking company, Embark Trucks Inc., announced this week that it would merge with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp. II in a deal valued at $5.2 billion. Embark offers AV software as a service. Carriers and fleets can pay a per-mile subscription fee to access it.

Research and Academia

Riders who avoided public transit throughout the pandemic

Researchers in Canada measured the impacts of riders forgoing transit through a survey of transportation barriers completed by more than 4,000 transit riders in Toronto and Vancouver. Researchers predicted six dimensions of transport disadvantage and transport-related social exclusions. “Lack of access to alternative modes is the strongest predictor of a former rider experiencing transport disadvantage, particularly neighborhood walkability and vehicle ownership. Groups at risk of transport disadvantage before COVID-19, particularly women and people in poorer health, were also more likely to report difficulties while avoiding public transit. Barriers described by respondents included former supports no longer offering rides, gendered household car use dynamics, and lack of culturally specific or specialized amenities within walking distance.”

Opinion

Buying a car improved my life… and it shouldn’t have

“Still, when I drive, my indignation is combined with relief. With a car, many of my regular journeys have become half as long. This isn’t just my perception, either. A 2017 analysis of Census data by Governing found that in nearly every U.S. city, driving to work is much quicker than using a bus or train. In Baltimore, the average commute is under half an hour by car but almost a full hour by public transit.”

Extra Bits + Bobs!

  • A reminder that I will be participating in the Shared Use Mobility Center’s 2021 National Shared Mobility Summit. They have invited me to host a session on July 15th for this newsletter audience to come and chat with me, and are offering subscribers to this newsletter 50% off registration (NSMS202150). I would *love* to meet each and every subscriber, so I hope you’ll be able to attend! You can register here!

  • There will also be no newsletter next week, I’m off to NYC to see just how many Citi Bike trips I can fit into five days.

That’s all from me. Have a beautiful weekend friends.

Sarah