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Introducing The Curbivore - Your Curb-Centric Digest
PLUS - WFH IMPACTS URBAN COMMERCE; LA AUTO SHOW RETURNS
Before we get to this week’s big news, we’re excited to partner with the LA Auto Show, and its mobility industry preview day - AutoMobility LA - for their annual gathering, which returns this November 17th to 27th.
2022 marks the 115th anniversary of the venerable show, where they’ll be displaying EVs, eVTOLs, future vehicles and much more.
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Be sure to check out their EV test track, featuring new vehicles from Kia, VinFast, Volkswagen, Porsche and more.
Introducing The Curbivore - All the Analysis You Need on the Trends Reshaping Curbside Commerce
At Curbivore, you know we’re passionate about the curb, and work to champion its ongoing evolution. What started as a humble annual gathering (more on that in the coming weeks) has grown into an amazing community that convenes regularly at our meetups & happy hours, shares expertise at our “coffee break” webinars and occasionally tweets at us. We’re particularly excited about how receptive the community has been to our weekly newsletter, which is now read by thousands of mobility, delivery, and planning practitioners nationwide.
Today marks the soft relaunching of our news and analysis, as part of something we’re calling The Curbivore. We’ll be covering even more developments in these important industries, and offering deeper analysis of the intersectional trends that affect businesses, cities, and citizens across the globe. You can now peruse our archive of past deep-dives, and sit back and relax as future editions will hit your inbox every Thursday.
Making Sense of Changes to Urban Real Estate
Another week, another set of news articles bemoaning how high cost CBD offices are “dying.” Melodrama aside, the past few days did see the unwelcome developments of Tyson Foods exiting Chicago’s West Loop, and Facebook breaking its lease in NYC’s Midtown. Perhaps more interesting were the moves being made by mobility companies, who have hopefully thought a bit deeper about how commute patterns impact their workforces. On the pro-hybrid side, Uber is requiring employees to come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while continuing to offer flexibility the rest of the week.
Across the country, cargo kingpin Ryder is throwing in the RTO towel, going so far as to sell off its Miami-Dade headquarters, which it had custom built in the very different era known as 2005. Particularly telling is that the buyer of the property plans to completely raze the complex, and replace it with warehouses.
While we’re crossing our fingers that the new highest and best use of urban land isn’t always going to be warehouses, its clear that across the country, the desired use for a given plot is still in flux. In California, the passage of AB 2011 means that tired office parks won’t have to sit empty, and can instead be replaced with new apartment complexes. While that’s a welcome development for renters, it might complicate things for dark stores, ghost kitchens, and mobility startups, many of which have built businesses that depend on accessing underpriced, Class C commercial real estate as their operational hubs.
Fortunately, not everyone is giving up on dense office projects. Some developers think salvation lies in eye-catching architecture; good luck recreating this building’s expressive structural steel from your home office. Others think that the dwindling of urban car dealerships offers an opportunity to rework those large lots into complexes that let “commuters” trade the freeway for a 30 second walk across a paseo.
Some cities will need to work harder than others. By most metrics, the San Francisco, New York City, and D.C. metro areas have been the most affected by the rise of remote work. But while that might mean that FiDi and Midtown are hurting, its added a new-found all-day vibrancy to the nearby neighborhoods that house these would-be office workers.
As neighborhoods like The Mission or Carroll Gardens adapt to an unfamiliar surge of daytime foot traffic, cities will have to rethink how land use accommodates everyone. The obvious need is more housing (as yet more data shows these same cities’ construction shortcomings,) but local businesses will also be looking to capitalize on the trend. With only so many storefronts, expect to see ever more delivery business encroach on these neighborhoods, as restaurants and retailers chase their customers back to their homes. Cities need to create public spaces and smart infrastructure that support these new trends, or folks will find their lunches stuck in the same traffic that used to slow their commutes. The opportunities for both cities and clever companies are enormous, as we can see from this recent NYC small business success story.
HOT INDUSTRY NEWS & GOSSIP
EV trucking’s future is looking bright! GM’s electric truck brand Brightdrop has been on a roll. First, they announced a new specialty vehicle designed for grocery fulfillment. Then they scored a 175,000 strong order from Hertz, for its workhorse Zevo vans (the same model you’ve perhaps seen with Fedex branding.) Meanwhile, UPS-backed Arrival has started rolling out its electric vans, while robotic trucks get their own safety inspection program, and operators learn the nuances of running a fully electrified fleet.
Robotic developments: Chicago and Starship launch a PDD pilot, under the city’s novel “emerging business permit” system. Competitor Serve serves up a major partnership, with Pizza Hut Canada. The Uber-spinout also launched an on-bot OOO advertising program, reminding us a bit of the mobility-adjacent ads you see on a Swiftmile or Firefly type of unit. Concurrently, Ars Technica gives a great overview of the state of the entire industry.
Hello halo? Nevada’s permissive driverless auto regulations have borne an interesting new business: Halo carsharing. Instead of relying on lidar and liability, the T-Mobile Ventures backed company is powered by teleoperations, meaning that a driver with a joystick can pilot those cars from miles away (not unlike how some PDDs are currently driven.) Halo is using this to solve some of carsharing’s trickiest problems: affordably delivering cars to customers, rebalancing the fleet, and moving on-street vehicles out of the way for things like street cleaning or expiring meters. (Back in my carshare startup days, you can’t believe how much time we spent on those last two…) If Halo can nail this for carsharing, its hard not to see this taking off for all the uses cases autonomy boosters have been crowing about for years; why spend $15,000 on self driving hardware, when you can pay someone in Mexico less than 9 bucks a day to drive for you?
Grubpuff? Gohub? Grubhub and Gopuff team up to offer delivery of booze, groceries and household goods. The partnership starts in LA, NYC and Boston, but should eventually roll out nationwide. Gopuff also launched Goodnow, its private label health brand. (Getting semantic saturation from all these “G”s…)
Market wobbles: Cutbacks hit the micromobility industry, as Zoomo lays off 16% of staff and Spin cuts 10%. Batteries take a beating too, with one of the Salton Sea’s lithium explorers losing a $15 million grant. On the positive side, logistics software startup MVMNT raises $20M, including funding from A16Z.
Choo choo news: American transit operators are clawing back passengers with a spate of new line openings. In DC, WMATA previewed its Silver Line extension to the airport. LA’s regional connector inches towards a late Q1 opening, while the K Line debuts on Saturday. And 60 miles east, the Inland Empire’s Arrow suburban rail system should open by EOM. (If *Redlands* can get trains every 30 minutes, maybe its time to fix the commuter rail systems that serve the likes of Orange County, Prince George’s County, Snohomish County, and the like.)
Eat, drink, and be urban: New data shows diners in the South and Midwest gravitate towards chain restaurants. Meanwhile, in coastal regions like San Luis Obispo and Barnstable Town - mom and pop restaurants dominate. Yet more data shows how an active nighttime economy makes for robust streets, cities, and municipal budgets.
Literal curb news: UML and CurbIQ map LA’s streets and sidewalks. Smart loading zones head to the City of Brotherly Love. (Philly is also seeing life-saving results from its traffic cameras.) Docked bikeshare proves resilient when transit systems struggle. Manhattan converts parking spots to EV chargers (but maybe those spaces would be better as parklets or streateries?) An even better development is this push to turn former newsstands into hubs for the city’s 65,000+ delivery workers.
Three cheers for street vendors! The passage of SB 972 means California street vendors are feeling safer, now that the retail food code has been brought out of the dark ages. One Koreatown vendor shares her experiences, in this heartwarming podcast episode.
Links, links, links: Local businesses thrive after bike lane installed. Liquid Death (remember them from Curbivore ‘22?) raises $70 million. California legalizes booze by mail. Driverless Lyfts hit ATX. Meet Oakland’s new transportation director. LADOT hits quota for traffic calming infrastructure in about an hour; maybe people want pleasant, walkable streets? NYC hires McKinsey for a *study* on how to solve trash collection, something that literally every other city on this planet has figured out… Happy first birthday to LA’s zero emission delivery zones. New Census data lets you argue about if your metro area is rich or poor.
Stay tuned next week for some big news!
- Jonah Bliss & The Curbivore Crew
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