Lee Munnich, Jr.: Transportation Policy and Telework
Lee Munnich, Jr. discusses his career in public policy, usage-based infrastructure taxes and how forced remote work due to COVID-19 is changing transportation and productivity.
Lee Munnich Jr., Senior Fellow (retired), Humphrey School of Public Affairs at University of Minnesota
- Lee’s background leading to public policy
- Moving from a gas tax to a mileage tax
- The future of autonomous vehicles
- Congestion pricing to alleviate gridlock
- Why no one does zipper merging
- eWorkPlace and traffic congestion
- How COVID has affected the traffic infrastructure
- Forced remote work due to coronavirus
- Ways to measure remote work productivity
- People are more productive at home
- The travel time budget
- Humans are social animals
- Electric scooters: the jury’s still out
- “Telework’s Moment of True Arrival is Bound to Make Ripples in Minnesota,” Star Tribune
- Mileage-based User Fee Alliance
IVAN STEGIC: Hey Everyone! You’re listening to The TEN7 Podcast, where we get together every fortnight, and sometimes more often, to talk about technology, business, and the humans in it. I’m your host Ivan Stegic. My guest today is Lee Munnich, Jr., who is a Senior Fellow and also directed the State and Local Policy Program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota for 25 years. His expertise are in transportation planning, urban and regional planning, economic development, local governments, and infrastructure finance amongst many other things. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Georgetown University and has done post graduate work in economics and computer science at the University of Minnesota.
I was introduced to Lee after our producer Jonathan shared an opinion piece from the Star Tribune with me. The title of the piece is “Teleworks Moment of True Arrival is Bound to Make Ripples in Minnesota”, and we’ll link to that from the webpage of this episode. I thought that Lee would be an interesting guest to have, given our recent episodes about working from home during the pandemic, and since we’ve been doing it for so many years. The article in question talks about how the pandemic is affecting our working environment and the ripple effect it is having, and also might have, on society.
Lee, welcome to the show. It’s a great pleasure to have you on the podcast.
LEE MUNNICH, JR.: Thank you.
IVAN: I’m glad we could get our technical difficulties all sorted out.
LEE: [laughing] We had them, yes. Working from home is not always as simple as you might hope.
IVAN: That’s right. Well, how are you doing? How is your family? I hope everything is going well for you.
LEE: We’re doing well. My wife and I live in a condo near the river in Minneapolis, and we’ve been staying at home. Of course, we had our curfew here because of the incident last week, but we’re doing fine. Thank you.
IVAN: Good. Yes, the curfew is on still tonight.
IVAN: Yes, boy that’s a serious situation, and our hearts go out to everyone that’s affected and living in Minneapolis, it’s kind of the epicenter of it all right now.
LEE: It is.
IVAN: Well, in the intro I went through an impressive list of credentials that you have. You concerned yourself with the greater good in public policy for your whole life and your training’s been in economics and in computer science. I wanted to ask you how you got started thinking about these things so broadly.
LEE: Well, I’ve always been interested in emerging policy issues, and how industries work too. I was a fan of movies, and I always was interested in how the movie industry evolved. As I work in different roles, I studied economic development and became interested in how industries worked as a whole.
So, we’ve studied industry clusters in Minnesota and why certain types of businesses are here, and why certain types of workers are here. As well as more recently when I joined the Humphrey School, got more involved in transportation policy and how that ties in with economic development.
So, I’ve had a career where I’ve done research and worked on public policy issues in a number of different organizations, and as you mentioned 25 years at the Humphrey School. It’s taken me into a number of different policy areas, economic development, transportation policy, gotten involved in fiscal policy and financing. Most of that has been focused at the state and local level. I was on the City Council for a couple years back in the 1970s as well. So, I’ve had an opportunity to work with constituents and dealing with how they see these issues.
So, I turned 75 yesterday. [laughing]
IVAN: Happy Birthday! [laughing]
LEE: Thank you very much. We had a big family celebration on Zoom on Sunday, and that was fun. My kids in Louisville and San Francisco, and Big Lake, Minneapolis were all there with grandkids. So, that was fun. We were planning a picnic at Minnehaha Park, but that went by the wayside when we had to stay at home and nobody could travel.
IVAN: Did they all sing “Happy Birthday” to you?
LEE: They did. Although, if you’re familiar with how Zoom works, it sounds like a drunken group singing. I also sing in a church choir again. We get together for rehearsals, but you can’t all do it at the same time because of the time length. You can’t synchronize. So, there are ways that you can record each individually and combine it into a group. Anyway, they did sing Happy Birthday.
IVAN: Well, congratulations. Three quarters of a century, that’s quite a feat.
LEE: Well, it’s good to be here and healthy.
IVAN: You mentioned you had been on the City Council. Which Ward did you represent?
LEE: I represented the Seventh Ward. I think where you live, in fact. Kenwood, Bryn Mawr.
IVAN: That’s great.
LEE: Included Linden Hills, at that time the Wedge. Loring Park, in fact, I was on the council in the seventies when the Loring Park Development District was just starting so I dealt with a lot of the issues in the startup of the Loring Park Development District dealing with community issues. Neighborhood groups were just getting started, so I was working with a lot of different neighborhood groups on policy issues, so that was a good experience.
IVAN: And you also founded the Mileage-Based User Fee Alliance. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
LEE: We got involved in this issue of mileage-based user fees. Minnesota started thinking about this. There was a legislator, Bernie Lieder, who was Chair of the Transportation Committee, and he was a former Transportation Engineer with MNDOT before he did that, and he became concerned that the gas tax was going to be a less effective tool for funding transportation. In the past it was a good user fee, because all vehicles used gas, and it was fairly inexpensive to collect the gas tax. But as cars become more efficient, and some vehicles don’t even use gasoline anymore, in the case of electric vehicles which is a good thing, it’s depleting the revenue source.
Minnesota has been looking at, and through the Humphrey School I got involved in research related to looking at the potential for a mileage based fee which would be charged based on the number of miles that you travel. And so, Minnesota did that, but also the state of Oregon started in the early 2000s. Interestingly enough, Oregon was the first one to have a gas tax in 1921, first state, and they now are the first ones to lead on mileage-based fees. And their legislature has implemented this in a preliminary way.
There’s some people that are paying mileage-based fees and getting reimbursed for their gas usage. But then a number of other states also became interested, and a group of us realized we needed some way of explaining this to the public, to other organizations. And there wasn’t any particular group where this issue was kind of their primary focus. So, we formed this group called Mileage-Based User Fee Alliance, which is a nonprofit organization. We have our office in Washington, D.C., and I’m one of the founding members of that. It’s 10 years old this year, and one of the things that’s happened since that time is a federal program was created to fund pilot projects in various states. So, now there are a number of states that are doing these pilot projects.
And I just learned, in fact, that in the new transportation bill that’s just emerging, the House has a reauthorization proposal that’s coming forward. They include a provision in there that would double the funds to fund these future pilot projects and implement a national pilot project. It’s complicated because there are issues that you have to deal with in terms of how you collect it, how you charge. You want to make sure that it’s fair for urban and rural people. You don’t want to create a disincentive for people to switch to electric vehicles, but they should be paying part of their way, a user fee.
So, there’s a lot of complicated issues, and that’s why the state projects are sometimes referred to as laboratory of democracy, where states started and when they work out the bugs then you move to a federal program. Interestingly enough, there’s bipartisan support for this pilot program.
IVAN: You don’t hear that very often.
LEE: No, you don’t. So, there are leaders in both, and they are saying basically, the gas tax in the future isn’t going to be sufficient. The other thing that is important, the gas tax is user-based, and there’s a fairly strong feeling that the transportation system should be paid for by the users of the system. I think that’s going to be even more significant in the future here, now that we have these huge deficits at the federal level. State and local governments are already suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 virus. So they are going to be strapped for funding, so tapping into the general fund and competing with education, healthcare and other items that are funded through the income tax and sales tax is a good idea.
So, you need a user-based system, so I think that this mileage-based fee is going to be more common in the future. But transitioning to it is going to be complicated, and for a long period of time we’ll probably have two systems. We’ll have the gas tax and we’ll have the mileage-based fee and we’ll have to work out ways of making sure we don’t double tax people or compensating them if they pay for gas. It’s somewhat complicated, but there are places that have done it.
New Zealand, for example, has implemented this with trucks that use diesel, and they’re also looking at doing it with electric vehicles as well. And then they have a way of balancing for those to make sure that people are paying comparable rates based on their usage. And there will be maybe environmental incentives that would be built into it as well. It’s a fascinating issue, and I think this has been an interesting area. It’s going to probably take some time, but I think we’ll ultimately see moving more to a mileage-based system.
IVAN: I think I agree with you. It makes sense that as more and more vehicles stop using gas, that we would have to come up with another way of paying for the infrastructure, and with electric vehicles you have to look at miles. I wonder how that’ll affect autonomous vehicles, because that’s a separate idea as well, isn’t it? Autonomous vehicles probably run by a company. You probably have to have people that are using them pay some sort of usage fee. I mean, that’s another ball of wax.
LEE: That’s interesting you bring that up, because the pilot that Minnesota is actually doing now, it’s being run by MNDOT, and the Humphrey School is working with MNDOT on this project along with a consulting firm. What MNDOT has recognized is that there are three major trends that are converging. One is autonomous vehicles, a second is shared mobility, which is people sharing vehicles, and we do have car sharing companies in Minnesota that people use. We also have bike sharing, we have scooters and we have a number of other ways. And so, this kind of shared mobility is seen as an increasing trend, along with autonomous vehicles, and then the convergence of those along with the potential for mileage-based fees.
So what they’re looking at is in the future, we believe that a lot fewer people will actually be owning their cars, particularly when we have autonomous vehicles, there won’t be a reason to own your car, if you could simply call one up. So, there will be fleets of cars. The car sharing companies that currently exist already have the technology in their cars for keeping track of miles. So what MNDOT is looking at is, could we just get the mileage information, preserving the privacy of the individuals who use it, get the mileage information from the company and submit that information to the revenue department and charge them based on the miles.
MNDOT is cooperating with a couple of car sharing companies, not to actually charge a fee, but to see how this would work technically. So, it could very well be that at least for fleets of vehicles, of course there are other fleets. There are truck fleets, other private fleets that this could work with, where you already have the technology in the vehicle. The problem is if you have to go back and retrofit vehicles with technology to collect mileage that could end up costing too much, and you defeat the purpose of collecting the revenue. So, we’re looking to the future in that all vehicles will have this technology and we’ll have more of these shared mobility vehicles.
One of the University of Minnesota researchers did a forward looking, and he suggested that by 2030 half of the vehicles would be autonomous vehicles, and by 2040 over 90%. And at some point people might not be allowed to even drive their own vehicles, [laughing]. And one of the driving forces for autonomous vehicles is that they’re much safer than having people driving them, no matter what technology you put in the vehicle. There’s these multiple trends that are going on of new technologies that are moving forward, and I think the technology for collecting revenue is moving along with that. But just how that’s going to occur, or how fast it’s going to occur, there are obviously a lot of cultural changes.
There could be a lot of benefits from autonomous vehicles where you don’t have to worry about having a parking space. If you live in a house, you’ve got a garage, you could use it for something else, you could simply call up a vehicle. Now, there’ll be other challenges when that occurs, it’s coming. I think we’ll be seeing autonomous vehicles in limited applications for a while and eventually will probably be more common, and car ownership I think will start to shift too. People might buy an autonomous vehicle, but it’s kind of a big investment just for one person or one family. So, you might have neighborhood vehicles, or I don’t know, there could be a variety of ways.
IVAN: Community vehicles.
LEE: Community vehicles, and people say, “well, what happened to transit?” Well, if you think about some of these suburban areas where people park and ride, you could have vehicles going around taking people to the transit station, so it might actually encourage more people to use transit systems.
IVAN: So, presumably using autonomous vehicles, the more and more we have of them on the road, the more we could plan the rides ahead of time, which could potentially mean that we would have less congestion. Is that a reasonable assumption that you could reduce congestion with autonomous vehicles somehow?
LEE: It would. Although, one of the things I worry about is an autonomous vehicle has to get, after it’s dropped off to the person it has to get to the next place. And so, will there be incentives not to have autonomous vehicles just driving around the roads? This is another area that I’ve actually done quite a bit of work in that sort of led to this work to some degree was congestion pricing. Economists for years have said the reason we have congestion on roads is the roads aren’t priced properly.
So, it’s not just a matter of paying for the roads, but in an urban area where you have a lot of economic activity, you can have too many people using the road at the same time. And if there isn’t some way of limiting people from using the roads during those peak periods, each additional car adds to the congestion for everyone else. You get to a point where the system slows down and you have the gridlock situation.
//So, economists have said if you added a fee and charged a higher fee during more congestive periods, some of those people would not drive during the congested period. And they found that where this has been done, in places like Singapore and Stockholm and London. And New York is actually in the process of doing this, although they’ve been obviously seriously distracted because of the COVID virus, and congestion is not a problem where everybody is staying at home, so they’re not worrying about it as much. But they’re looking at if you charge a fee during the peak period, if you get maybe 10% of the vehicles off the road, you can get a 33% reduction in congestion, because of this cuing effect where each additional one slows all the other vehicles down.
So, it could be everyone is better off, and the people either move to a different timeframe, some of them might use transit instead. Some of them may not even need to be traveling during that period of time, but it would be a way of doing that. We’ve studied this, and the work that we did at the Humphrey School in the late nineties, early 2000s, led directly to the MnPASS lanes that we have in Minnesota, which are on I-94, 35W, 35.
And MNDOT and the Metro council are now looking at using these lanes in the future. The way those work is, if you’re a car pooler, drive with two or more people in it, you can drive for free. Buses can use those lanes.
But if you’re driving alone you can pay a fee, and that fee varies by time of day. If you’re traveling during a very congested time you’d be paying a few dollars for the trip, otherwise you might be paying 50 cents or something of that nature. And the technology works, and people are using these, and they don’t necessarily use them every day, but they use them when they need them, and it’s helped with congestion. It’s also been a benefit to the bus system, because the buses can use those lanes and cut down the time on their trip.
IVAN: One thing that really makes me mad on the roads is the zipper merge. Why doesn’t anyone use it? I love doing zipper merge. [laughing] I just zip on down at the front, and it’s always empty, no matter how many signs you put up on the freeways, no matter how much of a public service announcement you do on the radio or TV, no one uses it. What is up with that?
LEE: I’ve been a proponent of the zipper merge as well. I have a zipper merge sticker that I had on my car, I still have it, but when I switched cars it doesn’t stay on anymore, and people have asked where you can get them, and MNDOT isn’t making them anymore, but it's due to the zipper merge. It’s been shown that if you take turns going into lanes rather than merging right away, and my wife and I always have arguments about this because her philosophy is, if it says to merge you should do it right away. And it actually works more efficiently if both lanes of traffic go up to the point where the merge should take place, and you take turns merging.
But in Minnesota the people I think they feel guilty if they go down the lane too far and then merge, and sometimes if you do that, if you wait too long, sometimes other cars get angry, and they don’t want to let you in. The traffic engineers who have done research on this have shown that you can move more efficiently, and in work zones they encourage this as well. But getting this, it’s a kind of cultural thing, in getting people to do it. My kids had a Jeopardy game for my birthday party on Zoom, and one of the answers was zipper for zipper merge, because they kid me about that zipper merge.
IVAN: Well they shouldn’t kid you, it’s a serious thing. I’m always looking to do zipper merge. Honestly, I haven’t had to do that in the last couple months, mostly because I’ve been at home and haven’t been using the roads very much.
LEE: Well, even if you were on the roads without as much traffic, you probably wouldn’t have to do it anyway.
IVAN: Probably wouldn’t have to do it anyway, yeah. I was surprised, I think in the first two weeks of quarantine, of lockdown, I had an appointment I needed to go to, so I ventured out and I used 35W to get to my appointment, and I was shocked at how empty the freeway was. I think this whole lockdown and quarantine and having everyone working from home has really affected the amount of use of our traffic infrastructure.
I know the article I mentioned earlier said that there would be ripples in Minnesota as a result of this, and I’m sure ripples all over the nation in each of our respective states, but I would contend that perhaps they’re waves not ripples. I guess I would want to hear from you. How has work from home affected the transportation system and other things around that are related?
LEE: Actually related to our congestion pricing work, we got involved in the issue of telework. Minnesota won a federal grant to implement congestion pricing on 35W in 2008, and the federal government at that time was encouraging states to implement congestion pricing projects, and so they gave them funding for that. But they combined the funding with funding for transit.
On 35W when they did this project, which I think opened in 2010, they made a number of transit improvements at the same time. That doesn’t usually happen. So, most of the funds went to Metro Transit to make transit improvements on 35W, and they used some for park and rides, and they improved the express service and did a number of other changes, along with adding the MnPASS Lane on 35W. In using technology, they introduced a new type of a lane on 35W where they took the inside shoulder lane and converted that into a MnPASS lane, so that’s been in existence now for 10 years.
But as part of that federal grant, Minnesota included in their proposal, the federal government said you could also include telework. So they included telework as another strategy. And MNDOT has been interested in this for some time, because one of the ways you can reduce congestion and reduce the cost of funding the road system is if people work from home.
And that could happen in a number of different ways. It could be that you could work for a couple hours in the morning and then go in midday and meet with your colleagues, time shift so that not everybody’s traveling at the same time. So, what the Humphrey School did with this is we created a program called EWorkPlacemn. And it gives you a lot of information about working at home.
So what we did in this project is we worked with the Met Council and traffic management groups in the Twin Cities area and with employers to explore whether the telework might occur, and particularly in this 35W corridor. What we found, and this is not just our research, but others is that, most people would like to work at home if their job allowed them to do it. There are also indications that people who work at home quite frequently could be more productive. Plus, they save the time of the trip, or being in congestion. If you have a half hour trip to and from work you could save an hour a day, which could go to your work or your leisure time, that sort of thing. So, we knew all that, but what we found is that employers were reluctant to do it.
There’s still this culture within many companies that the employees have to be there in order to do the work. But a lot more work can be done online and so the eWorkPlace program ended about a year and a half ago, although we maintained the website. But there’s now been interest by some legislators and MNDOT in maybe restarting that eWorkPlace program.
Now comes along the coronavirus, and suddenly many of us are being forced to work from home. If we’re in one of those jobs where you can work at home, obviously there are a lot of jobs like restaurants and hotels and other construction, things that you can’t work at home, but there’s an awful lot of jobs where you can work at home or at least do part of the work at home.
So, for example, at the University of Minnesota we’ve had a woman that’s been working with faculty to try to do distance learning, and we’ve had a couple of faculty members that have done it, but it’s been hard to get faculty to change their practices from teaching in the classroom to teaching online.
All of a sudden the whole University of Minnesota is online. So, there’s no options, and the University had implemented Zoom about a year ago, and so, a lot of us were using Zoom for meetings and occasionally, all of a sudden everybody’s using Zoom and classes are being done on Zoom. And so, we’ve been forced into doing this and people are realizing that there’s still something about being able to teach students in a classroom that I think is important, but an awful lot of teaching can occur online. And of course there have been a lot of people who have gotten online degrees, people who have been in more remote locations that have been able to make use of it.
So, it’s not a new thing, but telework has taken off a lot more, and we’re learning how to do it, and employers are more accepting of it. So, how much after this is over, whenever we’re not sheltering at home in the future, I think there’s going to be a permanent shift to some degree. I think people will be going back to workplaces again, but maybe not as much, and maybe there might be some impact on congestion as well as overall travel when this occurs. We’ll see.
IVAN: You’ve said before that employers now have to think differently, to plan their work differently, and you said that a lot of them are finding that allowing employees to work from home can be very productive. Has there been any studies that show this? I know that it’s early on here, but I wonder if employers are actually going to be okay with people working from home when they don’t have to have them work from home.
LEE: We did some surveys. This latest situation is so new that it’s probably going to take some time before we have a lot of evidence to be able to show this, and these were pilot projects. Hennepin county was, for example, involved in this. They have a lot of employees, and they were interested in working from home. Best Buy at one point had a fairly significant work at home program, although they backed off on it somewhat. But they have found that at least in these programs, you don’t just all of a sudden send people home and say, “you’re working at home.” There needs to be a plan. You have to have other ways of measuring work. The way a lot of times we do it is we look and see if people are in the office. But what are they doing? Are they productive?
IVAN: Are they working? Are they productive?
LEE: They’ve actually found that productivity has increased, and what employers have to do is they have to have good measures of work product that whatever your job is you presumably have to produce a certain number of products or services during the day.
So, keeping track of all of that, and with the technology and the tools and the software that’s available, there’s a lot more tools so that you can keep track of that work at home. There’s some assumption that people are just going to loaf around and not work. But people actually, I think, want to work. [laughing] Work is part of what we do, and so, if you’re told you’re going to work at home you’re not going to necessarily just go home and sit there and collect a paycheck. You’re going to do the job. And you’ll interact with your employees in different ways through Zoom meetings, but you’ll have products and you’ll have things that get done.
And with the gig economy, we’re seeing a lot of people in the software business have been working at home for a long period of time. If they’ve got the right technology there they can do that. Studies have shown that when people start working at home they actually can be more productive. Plus, as I say, you save that travel time.
IVAN: You do.
LEE: You can go from one Zoom meeting to another. [laughing] If you’re dealing with clients you schedule your appointment, but the technology’s got to work. We had a little problem getting that set up here today, but once you’ve got it arranged, a lot of the tools are fairly easy to use, and if you’re doing it over and over again, you get very good at using those online tools.
IVAN: Sure. Yeah. And you also are nicer to the environment. More people are at home, less people are out burning gas, using the infrastructure, less greenhouse emissions going into the air, so even that’s a benefit as well.
LEE: And maybe they’re doing a different type of travel. There have been studies that have shown that people tend to travel the same amount going back to Roman times.That people when they walked they would spend a certain amount of time every day, they called it the travel time budget, and travel is something people like to do. I’ve been out walking every day, social distancing, but, I don’t want to just sit at home all the time, so I go out walking. That’s a good form of travel. It’s healthy and it’s good for the environment.
The one thing is humans are very social animals, so we need to be able to socialize with others whether it’s in a work environment, and that’s one of the hard things for a lot of people in this, they can’t go and sit in the coffee shop or go to a bar and have a happy hour. But, our condo has been doing happy hours every Friday on Zoom.
IVAN: Drink with your friends online. [laughing]
LEE: Drink with your friends, and we talk, and we have conversations. We had a pretty serious discussion at our last one about the events of this last week with the death of George Floyd, and we all as Minnesotans, Minneapolitans, we all feel sort of a sense of frustration and shame I think that this could happen today. So, we did a Zoom meeting where we put everybody on mute and said, “okay, one at a time each one of you tell us what you’ve been thinking about.” And it was really good, because like I said, we are social beings.
We need to talk about these things and figure out what needs to happen. So, that’s a part of it as well. I think we’re all learning something in this period and hopefully when we come out of our health virus and our society virus, that we’ll figure out how to make things better and that maybe people will be better. That’s at least the hope.
IVAN: That’s the hope, absolutely. We want to make the world a better place for our children, for their children. And we need to absolutely take the work that’s been done over the last week or so with response to the death and build on it and not let it become something that just gets forgotten about, because that’s happened so many times. And I don’t think we can, as humanity, allow for that to happen again. We need to build on the work that’s been done.
LEE: I agree completely.
IVAN: Yeah. You mentioned electric scooters a little while ago and I’m not going to keep you any longer here, but I do want to ask you about your thoughts, because the electric scooter companies want us to believe that they are better for the environment, and that if you’re using one of them, you’re not using a car, you’re not using gas that might be going into a bus. And to a certain extent that superficially sounds accurate.
But when you look at it, there’s a number of articles and some studies that have been published that, I think one in the Guardian, that showed that actually the effect on the environment isn’t really that great, I guess because of the need to pickup the scooters and to charge them and to have cars doing that. What are your thoughts on the future of electric scooters and what part of our transportation system that they actually should have? Or should not have?
LEE: Well, I think the book is still out on electric scooters. I think they do serve a useful purpose. For example, if you use transit but you’re not close to where you want to be, you can get off the bus and get on a scooter, and it’ll get you to a location a little faster. What I’ve seen is they seem to be used a lot for recreational purposes. I live near the Stone Arch Bridge and we see a lot of people riding around on scooters. There’s something to be said to supplement walking, to be able to get to one place faster than another. I do worry about the safety, however. People should be wearing helmets, but very few people do wear helmets with scooters, just as they should be wearing on bicycles and motorcycles, which are probably the most dangerous way, and of course, we don’t have a law that requires helmets.
So, with motorcycles, bicycles, and scooters you should be wearing a helmet, and people quite frequently, most of the time don’t on scooters. So, I worry about the safety issue. They do fill a gap to the extent that it gives you another transportation alternative that doesn’t require owning your own car. I think there may be some benefit from it. I haven’t really done research in this particular area. Some way or another I avoid it. They do come under this umbrella of shared mobility, so we’re certainly aware of them and we’re aware of the companies.
I think bike sharing has been very successful in the Twin Cities area and elsewhere. Companies are now starting to offer electric bikes, which allow you to go some places. Unless you’re a confirmed bicyclist, it may be hard to bike everywhere you want with electric bikes. I see electric bikes as maybe filling a gap here.
Like I said, I think the book’s still open on this, and I haven’t done research on what are the overall environmental effects of scooters. Obviously there are costs to how you run such a system and how you move them around. I know that our bike sharing, we got away from the dockless bike sharing in Minnesota in part because of the cost of having to go around and pick up bikes and move them around, and this is part of the problem with scooters too. So, this is kind of a transitional thing. I think we’ll see how it works. We have a company down by the river here that uses Segways to take people on tours. Segways at one point were supposed to be a big solution, and they have kind of a niche now, I guess, for people that want to do walking tours, where the distance is a little bit long so they can use Segway’s for that.
IVAN: I’ve done those.
LEE: Have you?
IVAN: Yes. It’s just gorgeous. It’s such a great way to get around and to see a place quickly.
LEE: Yeah, and they train every one and they give you a helmet.
IVAN: It’s wonderful. Yeah, well, I really appreciate the time you spent with us today. It’s been such a wonder talking to you and learning about the transportation system and your history and your thoughts on the whole thing. So, thank you very much.
LEE: It was a lot of fun.
You’ve been listening to The TEN7 Podcast. Find us online at ten7.com/podcast. And if you have a second, do send us a message. We love hearing from you. Our email address is email@example.com. Until next time, this is Ivan Stegic. Thank you for listening.