Paul Krugman says the decline in truck drivers’ wages is “not a technology story … robot truck drivers are a possible future, but not here yet … the obvious thing: unions.”
Certainly, the collapse of union power in trucking had a lot to do with the collapse of wages. But that does not mean that technology was not a factor. In trucking, technology has done little to change the hours of work, or the level of skills, required to deliver a load. But technology has improved management surveillance of truck drivers. Continue reading →
Sadiq Khan promised during his campaign to pedestrianize Oxford Street. That would mean no buses or taxis (black cabs, which is to say traditional London taxis, not mini-cabs or Uber), which are the vehicles allowed there now.
I’ve been ambivalent about this plan because there are a lot of buses on Oxford Street and it’s not clear how they could be re-routed, yet a pedestrianized Oxford Street would be a terrific improvement for central London.
In November, the first installment of the plan was unveiled in a Transport for London (TFL) consultation. TFL proposed changes to 17 of the bus routes that now use Oxford Street, perhaps this year. They calculate that these changes will require, every weekday, 17,200 riders who now ride through would need to change buses – that is if, with that added inconvenience and delay, those people keep riding buses at all. That represents a serious deterioration in bus service, but it’s not close to taking all the vehicles off Oxford Street, and actual pedestrianization remains a few years off.
One might say, well, baby steps. Yes, you’ve got to start somewhere, but why here? The fact is that a large share of the motor vehicles on Oxford Street are black cabs. Many of these taxis are dead-heading, no passenger, to the City or a train station. As buses thin out on Oxford Street, they are simply replaced by taxis – the road becomes a magnet for ever more taxis, a grand rat run through the West End. And the November consultation is all about reducing the number of buses, saying nothing about taxis. Continue reading →
Image from silentsketcher.deviantart.com, via Fast Food News.
San Francisco is the latest American jurisdiction to find an answer to what are called, here in Britain, “zero hours contracts”. As reported by Claire Zillman in Fortune:
[San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, which is also the city council of that city+county] voted unanimously on Tuesday [25 November] afternoon in favor of measures aimed at giving retail staffers more predictable schedules and access to extra hours. The ordinances will require businesses to post workers’ schedules at least two weeks in advance. Workers will receive compensation for last-minute schedule changes, “on-call” hours, and instances in which they’re sent home before completing their assigned shifts.
In many places, while supermarkets are free to fill the streets with cars and cover the ground with asphalt, the customers of small shops pay high prices for on-street parking: in England this is about the only discretionary revenue source for local governments, with predictable results – in my neighborhood, Harringay, in London, a non-resident on-street space is priced at £3 (about $4.80) per hour, 9.5 hours per day, 6 days per week. Allowing for holidays, and assuming full occupancy but ignoring additional charges (fines) for over-staying, this works out to £8,607 ($13,771) per year. Continue reading →