Some of us have been trained all our lives to try to read tea leaves. When one is out in a sail boat it is important to smell the wind and weather both for safety and fun. The canary in the coal mine can save lives. Looking over your shoulder on city streets at night can save your life.
Also as a professional investor I am always looking for signals that may indicate changes in the world that might have a bearing on what one should think about what is going on out there.
Since about the first of March we have noticed a significant reduction of traffic in midtown Manhattan. Uber trips that routinely took 25 minutes now regularly take 12. The mid-town Manhattan bridge traffic that backs up everything around the east side at 59th Street has been surprisingly less congested. And, more evidence has been piling up. It is not constantly less traffic but the overall impression over about a month is that there has been noticeably less auto traffic. This view is buttressed by a number of friends and at least a dozen taxi and Uber drivers.
WHY and HOW?
To my knowledge there have been no special holidays, new traffic regulations or other significant changes in the economic climate in NYC. Several people have wondered out loud whether it might be related to concerns about conditions in the White House and DC. While that may be conceivable, it seems highly unlikely at this point.
Then yesterday an Uber driver made an interesting observation. He said he has been unusually busy particularly with picking up people above 125th street where they had parked inexpensively after driving into the city. He thinks that the ability to get ‘a taxi or uber’ in out of the way locations, where taxis have always been sparse, has so improved and the costs are so low that more people are simply no longer driving into mid-town.
If that should ultimately prove to be the case, it would be quite a wonderful development for the city and all of us that move around in mid-town as part of our daily lives.
NYC should love that development and encourage more like it.
Uber, though they deserve no one’s help or sympathy because they are so arrogant, would gain ever more support for being an important change agent in transportation needs of urban living everywhere.
Feedback with any relevant observations would be very interesting. Fewer canaries in the coal mine either tell miners there is no risk OR that disaster may be just ahead because if the canaries are already dead, why?
And, if anyone can talk to a person at Uber, it would be interesting to know what they think and what their computers must already know.
Perhaps people are avoiding the environs of Trump Tower??