Traffic Congestion

TIGER: Congestion Mitigation = Innovation

The US Department of Transportation recently released this map of so-called innovative projects funded by the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants program.  The article that accompanies the map is entirely devoted to defending the program’s focus on congestion mitigation – something that researchers have argued can’t really be achieved, especially through capacity expansion. While I applaud the US DOT for combining highway projects with bicycle and pedestrian improvements like this one between Maine and New Hampshire (side note: the article doesn’t even highlight these improvements), these “innovative projects” lack the force of innovations like the ones we’ve been talking about here at Living Labs or the ones coming out of Silicon Valley.  Where are the car-sharing programs?  The intelligent transportation systems?  The elements of “smart cities”?

Perhaps these things are best left to the private sector.  But I think DOT needs to find better ways of encouraging that innovation whether or not it falls under their roof.

-Terra Curtis

The Dreaded Hunt and the Spotscout Solution

Spotscout CEO and Founder, Andrew Rollert, becomes animated when asked about his company.  Over the course of our conversation, his sentences dipped and hooked, weaving a narrative about traffic patterns, consumer habits, Newton’s laws of motion and spatial exchange.  As we spoke, his voice took on a tone of undeterred, optimistic confidence so magnanimous, I would have thought we were talking about baseball or football. All of this is funny, of course, because this conversation began with a few simple questions about parking.  Rollert’s Boston based, six year old venture is trying to change the way people use and consume space, specifically parking space, by providing a free platform for people to buy and sell parking spaces within an expanded and inherently more transparent marketplace.   Wade Roush, the chief correspondent at the Xconomy, aptly summarized the basic logistical ins and outs of these transactions in a blog post last year.  Here’s Wade’s SpotScout crash course:

People who own parking spots—whether they’re commercial garage operators or just private citizens with driveways or other spots that are empty during certain hours—can upload that information to SpotScout. (They’re called “SpotCasters,” in SpotScout’s parlance.) Then, using their desktop computers, laptops, or Internet-enabled cell phones, people seeking spots— or “SpotScouts”—can tell the service where they need a parking spot and when; see a list of available choices, organized by cost, user rating, walking distance to the final destination, or other criteria; reserve a spot, effectively taking it off the market; pay for the spot electronically, from their SpotScout account; and receive a text-message confirmation, sometimes accompanied by discount offers at businesses near the parking spot.

The spot-finding service (not counting the cost of parking) is free to SpotScouts, but SpotCasters pay the company a small percentage of each transaction.’

Don't miss the Spotscout Showcase on Living Labs Global Showcase.  The Living Labs Global SpotScout user review is coming soon.