Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Every public good must be commoditized

It's the only way a third party tech giant can squeeze some profit out of the services you thought we paid for with public funds.
Sidewalk also wants to redefine public transport. Flow Transit would integrate information and payment for almost every form of transport into Google Maps. Choose a destination and the app will estimate a journey price and duration using everything from buses and taxis to Uber, Lyft, car-share services like Zipcar and even bike-shares.

“This idea makes sense in general,” says Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab at MIT. “It is important however, that such a platform be open to multiple players.” While Sidewalk did not rule out other partners, its documents focused on Google apps. One said, “During the demo period, the [city’s] data platform includes… data exchange with one party - starting with Google.”

For the demo, Sidewalk wants 90,000 low-income transit users, who might currently be given discounted or free bus passes, to be able to spend those subsidies on ride-share services instead.

Pozdnoukhnov worries that this would threaten traditional bus services: “The problem is that this money will end up with Uber rather than the transit agencies, undermining their existence. The only public systems that will survive will be light rail and subways.”

Columbus would receive 1% of the revenue from the app, earning about $2.25m annually according to Sidewalk. Sidewalk did not disclose its cut. Google owns about 5% of Uber.

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