Stacking lots

It is parking lots today, and could be stacking lots tomorrow. The theory sounds nice – stackable cars, you can fold and stack lightweight cars once you arrive. (MIT researchers design stackable cars). However, the part I like more than the stackable car concept is “shared transportation“.

Think about it, cars *are* the problem. If we could just get rid of them in the cities, and insist on public transportation instead, MIT media lab would have spent their research dollars elsewhere. As they say in Hindi – “na rahega baans na bajegi baansuri” (translation: no bamboo, no flute). But you can argue that we need personal vehicles as well. Like say when you are in a rush and cant wait for the next bus, or when you head out on those long drives few weekends an year.

This is where the shared transportation concept seems to fit. Even today, at any given point of time, I bet 70% of the cars stay parked and idle. That number (70%) is a wild guess, and averaged over the whole day. Yes, usage may be higher during the commute hours. But if you were to imagine a public transport heavy city, like say Mumbai, you make people want private wheels only when they have that rushed need in the middle of a workday or during those weekends.

So why not share them? Either in the futuristic way inside the cities as these researchers imagine, or in a simpler car-rental way.

Go to a nearby stacking lot, unfold an electric car like an umbrella. Insert your credit card to start the engine. Ride it to your cross town meeting. Fold it back and stack it back at the lot there. Take the bus or train back once you are done with your meeting. Sounds cool.

When you need it for the weekend, simply go and rent one. Wish the rental cars had personalization software so that I get my music and my seating and driving positions as soon as I seat in. I just need to bring in my family and automotive gadgets and I am all set. Doesn’t this sound doable?

Deciding between a pool or a table-tennis (ping pong) table – I will love to have that problem for my car garage one day. That 4 wheel thing is anyway a dead investment. And too bad it consumes 200 sqft of expensive space as well :)

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10 Responses

  1. pranav, interesting find.
    but this is a huge planning heavy model, which means it will be difficult to duplicate this in city after city. and i bet there will be atleast one kid in the lab who will graduate with a thesis analysing if there are nodes in the system where the cars could stack up and others from where they will disappear. and if there are such nodes then this is out.

    stackblility in parking is the only novelty i see. otherwise an electric car only no?

    intercity car rental model for intracity transit?

    i wonder how the costs would pan out?
    rental+insurance?
    any ideas?

  2. the mit folks might just get beat by this.

    – s.b.

  3. Some body, oh god. flying cars and Indian drivers, can you even imagine the mess!?

    Tarle yes, stacking part is the novelty, and the shared transportation idea as well. The cost equations of intracity rental model – may not be that unfavorable. I will try some numbers in a bit.

  4. silkboard:

    hey, back to your point about lane disciple on how, the faster we drive the more disciplined we are. maybe we can extend the concept to 3d – i.e., the higher we drive, the more disciplined we will be [watch the desi on chandrayaan :-)].

    – s.b.

  5. it just occured to me, think of gas/electric autos and you have a much better model. ofcourse there are some issues but say if all else is equal that is a much better model.

  6. Hey sounds really good. This is one change worth living for.

  7. Calcutta has this concept of shared autos that run on specific routes. they add a seat on either side of the driver. So each auto carries 5 people. People can get off and on along the way. The fare you depends on the distance you travel. i think it is a fantastic way of optimizing scarce resources – roads, public transport investment. Not sure what it does to the auto itself. In 1996 (when I studied in Cal), the cost per km used to be about 40-50p per person.

    I believe that about 60-70% of the autos in Bangalore are LPG powered now. True? What I can see is that inspite of the vehicle population going past the 2.4 million mark, the air quality has not worsened proportionately. Check this site out
    http://www.ndtv.com/pollution/graph.asp?city=Bangalore. The levels are measured on JC Road (can’t get much worse than that!!).

  8. @ some body – that sounds funny!

    @ Tarle, Sri – to think of it, why doesn’t Reva start making 3 wheelers!? Or can the GoI not force Baja to go electric. That’d give you clean transport within the city.

    Sharing these electric autos would be a nice optimized public transport model within the CBD, isn’t it?

    @ Sri – dont think it is 60-70%. Based on what I see, my guess would be 40% or even less.

    Does anyone know what is the new deadline for all autos to go CNG? That date keeps getting moved out, have lost track now.

  9. I think what the GOI or the state govt needs to do is to define what the permissible pollution levels are for each sort of pollutant and then ENFORCE them (repeat last phrase 1000 times). The solution that comes up will depend on the economics – what a consumer is willing to pay (which also depends on what alternatives he or she has), what technology is affordable ( 4 stroke petrol/LPG/electric). Apparently Delhi is a vastly improved city (pollution wise at least) because the courts forced the govt to act.

    They (the regulatory authorities) also need to work with the auto unions and help them understand that it is also in the interests of the drivers’ health that we keep pollution down, what the costs and benefits of LPG are, etc. If the initial investment is the issue, then find ways to help the drivers out. I believe the govt has collected crores of rupees on the cess that was levied for the now dead Bangalore Urban Light Rail System or some such thing. That can be a source of funds for this. Set a deadline and work towards that.

    If there were money to be made by having a transport system using electric 3-wheelers on a shared basis, I am sure we will see it soon. Imagine having a circuit which is (just for an example) – Mayo Hall –> Richmond Road –> Richmond Circle –> Residency Road –> MG Road –> Mayo Hall. I am sure that the one ways make this route viable. In fact I am not sure why BMTC does not operate such a route. Key issues will be – how do we prevent these guys racing each other from stop to stop, obstacles thrown in by the autos themselves, etc.

  10. pranav, sri,

    i have always imagined a day when autos would be integrated with BMTC/BMRC. 70K is prolly too much. but some sort of well trained and regulated system, paying pension and other benefits could win many over.

    puNe had the 6 seater thingie in late 90s. Delhi had the phaT phaTi. wonder what happened to them. i believe hyderabad also has the 6 seater, i forget its local name.

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