Tag Archives: Cars

The Best Laid Plans… Are Flexible

Forgive me for the long absence (it’s been a week since my last post). In fact, I even missed my weekly cognitive bias yesterday. I’ve been out of town for the last couple of weeks. In fact, the last post I wrote was on a train from Toronto to Ottawa. Nonetheless, something happened this weekend that I think makes for a perfect post. (Note: look for the weekly cognitive bias in tomorrow’s post.)

On Sunday morning, I was scheduled to drive from Ottawa back to the DC area. I was in Ottawa for my brother-in-law’s wedding. As Saturday was a rather late night, waking up early and heading back to DC didn’t seem like a good idea, so I woke up without an alarm. Upon waking, I was still pretty tired. As a result, I didn’t get on the road until later than anticipated.

After driving through New York, I was pretty tired. I still had about 5 hours to go and it was nearing the seven o’clock hour. Normally, I would have thought to myself, ‘I’ve gotta get home — push through this.’ Just as an aside: I’ve done quite a bit of ‘long drives’ in my day. I grew up in the Greater Toronto Area and went to school in mid-Michigan, so there were frequent trips back and forth. I’ve also driven across the US twice (remember these two posts?) and back and forth from DC to Toronto or DC to Ottawa.

So, long drives aren’t foreign to me. In fact, of the long drives I’ve done, I can only remember once stopping in a hotel for the night. That was on a drive from Virginia Beach back to mid-Michigan. I was down in Virginia Beach over New Year’s for a conference and when I made my way into Ohio, there was a pretty bad snow storm that made the driving difficult. Instead of pushing through at the end of a long trip, I decided to stay the night somewhere. I was really happy with that decision. Back to this past Sunday.

I’ve got about 5 hours to get back to DC, it’s around 7 o’clock, and I’m still really tired from the night before. I reviewed my Monday schedule to remind myself that I didn’t have any obligations on Monday until the afternoon. I weighed the cons and pros of driving to DC, while still being quite tired. In the end, it didn’t seem worth it — I stopped in Scranton for the night.

What’s the takeaway?

Plans can change. New data are unending and it’s important to notice that. At the 
start of my trip last week, I would have — without a doubt — planned on driving back to DC sans stops. However, with the late night on Saturday and the late start 
to the drive on Sunday, by the time dinnertime on Sunday rolled around, I was ready to grab some grub and hit the sack.

My point here is that it’s important to stay flexible even when you have an idea of how something “should be.”

Note #1: If you’d like a different perspective on the matter of how something “should be,” I’d urge you to read this: “We’ll See…

Note #2: I should say that I wasn’t alone on this drive. My lovely wife was with me and it was our mutual decision to stop in Scranton. Although, we’ve been known to drive straight through on many occasions.

Markets Are Cyclical: Why the Internet Monopolies Don’t Matter (that much)

Survival of the biggestThere was a nice feature on Technology in this past week’s Economist. In fact, there were a number of articles I found intriguing (medical tricorders was a good one!), but I want to draw your attention to one in particular: Battle of the internet giants – Survival of the biggest. The case is made that these internet behemoths are getting too big and that their scope needs to be curbed. Okay, I understand that, but I think that the fear is a bit unfounded. Here’s why.

Remember back to when railroads were the only way to get around? Remember when all commerce and long-distance travel was done by locomotive? Now, I don’t know if this is a perfect comparison, but bear with me for a second. There were at least a few big players in the railroad game back in the 19th century (Union Pacific, Central Pacific, and Southern Pacific). I’m sure that there were people back then who were irked that there were monopolies in the railroad business and probably wanted there to be more regulation (like is being argued in the article about the internet).

However, with the turn of the 20th century, a new form of transportation was starting to emerge: the automobile. It didn’t happen overnight, but the automobile eventually became a much more preferred method of transportation.

There’s another example: television. Remember in the early days of TV, there were just a few channels? If you had a TV (and you watched it), you probably saw the same program that everyone else who had a TV was seeing. Again, I don’t know, but I imagine that some folks were pretty peeved by this monopoly. Although, slowly but surely, there came to be more and more choice of TV channels. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where we’re unlikely to ever see the most watched television program eclipsed because there’s so much choice.  Though, some would argue that there still are monopolies in television.

And now what’s starting to breach the monopolies of TV? The internet and online media. There was a slide deck that was passed around courtesy of Business Insider earlier last week that shows the future of digital. There were lots of graphs and lots of data. One of the graphs showed that the percentage of live TV watching has dropped 25% in just the last 4 years. Conversely, recorded TV watching is up over 50%! And a new category has emerged: streaming TV. Whereas there was no streaming TV watching in 2008, it now makes up 7% of primetime viewing in the US.

So, even with all of this choice in television, there is still room for newness and growth.

Tying this back into my argument about the internet behemoths: maybe we can’t see it now, but based on history, I would bet that there’s going to be something that comes along (eventually) and unseats these internet behemoths. Of course, that’s not a reason not to regulate them, but it is something to keep in mind when you see articles like the one in last week’s Economist.

Has the Automobile Peaked: The Economist Thinks So…

This morning I was thumbing through my copy of The Economist to find an intriguing headline: “Seeing the back of the car.” The “briefing” at the top of the page said, “The future of driving.”

After reading through the article, it’s seems to me that the author makes a convincing point (with data!) that the automobile has reached its peak.. It’s pretty hard to argue with some of the evidence, too. I’ve included one of the more enlightening graphs below. In it, you can see that the percentage of people getting their license (as compared across years) is definitely declining. While we can’t necessarily say that this means the end of the car. It would certainly be a contributing factor, though, if this were to occur. The Economist isn’t the only place where this argument’s being made either.

Much has been made of the generations transitioning into the work world and their lack of affinity for buying houses and cars. There are some reasonable explanations for this, too. If we think about the era that they’ve grown up, owning cars and houses weren’t the “be-all, end-all” like it was for previous generations. There’s a strong preference for spending money on other things.

One of my more popular posts here at Genuine Thriving was something I wrote near the beginning of my time writing here called, “Advancing America’s Public Transportation System: High-Speed Rail in the USA.” In my weekly glance at the posts that get the most hits, it’s often near the top. There are a number of possible explanations, but I think it has to do with a greater affinity for public transportation (than there used to be). As someone who has spent time in a number of different cities and countries with varying qualities of public transportation, it seems to me that a successful public transit is one of the cornerstones to a thriving local economy.

Note: If you’d like more evidence that public transit is vital to a city’s economy, check out Richard Florida’s work, who’s a Professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.