Anxiously Ambivalent Lover

Reading The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel A. van der Kolk

The established study on attachment theory distribution shows 9% of children in typical middle class families developed anxious-ambivalent attachment, while the majority 62% were the normal secure type. I’m alarmed my parents might have made me a dysfunctional outlier. I was a little reassured by this slightly whimsical Washington Post article about dating and how the author is an anxious type. The article references Attached which states for adults, 20% are anxious while 50% are secure. Makes me feel a little better! One out of five adults are anxious, no wonder the drug companies make so much money.

It would be interesting to see a study that compares attachment types to income and residence. Maybe more anxious types live in the city and while the rest of the country feels calm and collected, we’re here bumping heads. This German study didn’t really see a big attachment difference in distribution of single people (who generally live in cities). The more damning observation was simply the inability to maintain relationships:

The anxiously-ambivalent attached individuals are unable to distance themselves from disappointing and conflictual relationships just as they are incapable of detaching themselves from overwhelming inner stress.

Ouch! Such is true when high emotions are involved, but the research says the emotions are involuntary, they are bound to happen because your parents didn’t coo you enough as a baby. It seems kind of ridiculous that simple actions could have a profound effect throughout my life.

But that is just talking about basic brain wiring, it’s what you fall back on. So talking with friends, learning from past experiences, one can build up a set of strategies of dealing with these fallouts and recognizing them as real but not true. I don’t have to stay glued to a former mate just because my brain-body is yearning so.

Another aspect of anxious-ambivalent I found annoying was the penchant to be super communicative and overshare, while actually being bored. I always have a need to perform, to wow, and afterwards still leaves me feeling hollow.

Individuals with a secure attachment style show positive beliefs about themselves (e.g., self-worth, social competence, sense of control) and about their partner or others (e.g., trustworthy, dependable, and altruistic). On the other hand, individuals with an anxious/ambivalent attachment style can be characterized by negative beliefs about themselves but positive views of the partner or others as well as an obsessive preoccupation with their partner. Individuals with an avoidant attachment style have a positive view of themselves and a negative view of their partner and others. They show a fear of intimacy and a lack of acceptance of the partner as well as distrust of others.

I can only imagine my last avoidant type would have taken any of my faults and used them to justify ghosting. Of course I have ghosted as well, an equally anxious type who I allowed to abuse my goodwill and wallet and never delivered much in return.

The Next Runner Up

I’m curious how I will bridge this knowledge with the next person to enter my life. On one hand I want to immediately spill this information in order to be transparent, but doing so is exactly fulfilling the destiny of an anxious-ambivalent to burden the partner with conflict before you’ve even gone on a second date. Of course encountering fellow anxious or avoidants are easy to spot.

The best way to see it is that people are social creatures with a complex background that affect how they appear and act. So it’s probably weird to start talking about innate compatibility when it’s clear someone who wants to be in your presence is interested.

For me, it’ll be good information to address my inner voice and the distortions created when I think there are problems. It also gives me pause to needing to “perform” in front of others. Authentic presence is performance itself.

Burning Down My City

A Google Maps panorama at the Third Precinct by Tim McGuire

I tweeted earlier during coronavirus about how the “100-year pandemic” is something that long-term planning is indeed suppose to address. Like the 100-year flood in land use, the decisions we made yesterday are setting the stage as to how well we can cope today and tomorrow. All those zoning rules and planning commission decisions in the past 50 years on unit square footage, amenities, and setbacks, all coalesced into two months of heaven or hell for people living in apartment buildings.

For the Minneapolis riots, my first thought was of course there is going to be a huge turnout because the majority of young people work in the now-decimated service economy. Unlike the Big Coastal Cities which attract talented minds and companies, which then turn the heat on real estate across the city, the Twin Cities is by and large still a working class community with dispersed business centers. Swaths of the urban core are just single-family residential marked by streetcar-era retail buildings.

There is still confusion over who is to blame for the weekend of May 30 when Minnesotans summarily lit ablaze buildings along Lake Street. The official state government narrative was “out of towners” a very typical Midwestern strategy. News media defaulted to “protesters,” “rioters,” and “looters.” It doesn’t matter to me, as an urbanist, for the city belongs to everyone and is the manifestation of everyone’s dreams. These people are the People.

In James Howard Kunstler‘s view, public spaces should be inspired centers of civic life and the physical manifestation of the common good. Instead, he argues, what we have in America is a nation of places not worth caring about.

James Howard Kunstler on TED.com
Lake and Minnehaha, a suburban commercial node in Minneapolis.

Lake Street at Minnehaha Avenue is essentially a suburban big box commercial center. The urban grid of Minneapolis unravels into swaths of asphalt next to Hiawatha Ave, a name that doesn’t describe its reality as a massive freeway and concrete wall separating South Minneapolis. The rest of Lake Street stretching east toward the Mississippi is unremarkable. Single-story streetcar and postwar structures that are bland and forgettable.

Are these buildings worth fighting for, worth defending? The panorama of MPD trying to defend the 1985 dingbat-like police station that was suppose to invite the public to walk up to it, is absurd. The Target that was broken into and lit ablaze, was simply a box, as was dozens of other structures along Lake Street.

In a riot, is any structure sacred? People living in the upper stories of streetcar-era retail structures had to write signs pleading not to burn their buildings. A multi-story residential building under construction was decimated in fire. The loss of future housing for hundreds of people gone. Certainly in a riot, the language of the unheard, there are no rules, because the structures are meaningless to the unheard. The pawn shops and liquor stores were there to exploit an underclass. The restaurants and cafes simply opportunistic gentrifiers in a poor neighborhood. This is not to say businesses are not valuable, they are simply not valuable to those lighting the fire.

For planners, we must see that the ground work was laid decades ago. Lake Street was always auto-oriented since the streetcar days, sure, but it was allowed to persist that way. Each new structure added with meaningless design and poor access. A pedestrian environment that unravels constantly. Each curb cut, another slap in the face of people hauling groceries down the street. So much that not only would people want to burn down their neighborhood, but those charged to defend property would not want to stop them.

Living With My COVID Neighbor

Late on Friday my building management emailed us to say that a resident reported they tested positive for COVID-19.

I was shocked.

Then I was like, wait, I have been living the past month as if someone in my building of 300 souls already had it. For weeks when I ventured out to do laundry or fetch mail I don my surgical mask and creep around door handles and railings as if they were coated in coronavirus.

Why suddenly with confirmed news does it seem so much scarier.

The psychology of threats is that we prefer to see relatives than absolutes. The relative threat of coronavirus before confirmation today was knowing that everyone was taking precautions and that we as a community would safeguard each other by doing so. The numbers of confirmed cases were just news. My ward has reported the second lowest cases in the city, less than 1% of the ward’s population!

But now all of that is truly fiction and all I see is one big absolute, the threat is verified to be here and now. I feel compelled to take some kind of action, as many who experience gun violence first hand become the bearers for legislation action.

The reality is the DC government has already given us action. We socially distance, we sanitize surfaces, we wash our hands, we think twice before touching anything. We’ve been prepared from the start to do the things that we would do if coronavirus was already around us.

Without this preparation or heightened awareness weeks earlier, we’d likely already have an outbreak of community transmission here in these brick walls by now. We all have to interact with door pulls and elevator buttons.

For a week now I have been hearing a telltale dry cough echoing into my window. I don’t think it’s on my floor, but even so, I have to act like it is. My next door Italian neighbor had flu and dry cough for at least two weeks (as far as they knew). I interacted with them once even, and could hear them coughing next to my wall. Their symptoms have cleared and they are in good spirits, I didn’t get sick from that.

There is uncertainty over aerosolized coronavirus in public settings. No doubt the confirmed case neighbor will be filling their unit with virus for a few days. Most of it will fall to the ground after a few hours. Even though coronavirus can be aerosolized, it’s not certain if we will have SARS like building outbreaks. We have yet to see these stories in New York City where everybody lives in tight apartment spaces, but time still has yet to pass given the virus incubation period. There certainly would have been such a story out of Wuhan if it had happened, so far we’ve only seen outbreak stories occur in sustained close quarters (ie: churches, choir rehearsals, bus coaches, etc).

With all these unknowns, the day to day for me will be pretty normal. I will still don a mask, carry sanitizer, and use napkins on door handles in my hallways. I might choose to do laundry earlier in the day. But I’ll probably be more vigilant about washing hands AND face when I come back into my unit, just to avoid any “crumbs.”

While those scary SARS outbreak stories are in the back of my head, I feel at this point, we have a working understanding of how to live with and near corona.

Taking United Premium Plus to Paris

Economy vittles, Premium feels

In the last few hours of my flight’s departure from Dulles to Charles De Gaulle, I noticed United offered the Premium Plus upgrade at a mere $229. Originally the price was quoted at more than $2k, with Polaris closer to $6k. These were astronomically silly numbers given the relatively short 7-8 hour flight. But not having flown internationally in many years, I decided the price was worth a try.

The seats were the old school domestic leatherette business class seats which are slightly wider (meaning you could wedge a pillow to the left and right) and enough legroom to stretch the legs entirely. At 5’7, I’m always in-between feeling like there is enough and not enough room. For me the issue really was seat comfort when sitting for too long, and these offer more padding along the entire back so you can constantly adjust or twist for comfort.

United fully separates this tiny purple-colored section in the middle of the aircraft above the 777 wings. It’s very small, only 4 rows in a 2 x 4 x 2 configuration. Surprisingly hardly anyone else took the upgrade, with my entire back row being empty. I later even took the upgrade back home and still had an empty seat. My back row had full decline, with a full wall behind me. The only issues were sometimes I could hear people banging on the wall or there was a floor storage locker behind me.

The math was interesting in that waiting for the last minute to upgrade saved about $100 if you upgraded on both legs. The typical Economy ticket for summer is $775 and the Premium is $1375. There isn’t much difference in amenities other than booze was free and you are given the same meals and drinks as Economy. All entertainment was free. WiFi was useless. Purchasing food and alcohol isn’t that much money to begin with. Pillow and blanket were already on the seats but they are free for Economy too. I did get a free grab bag filled with some lotions and a face mask on the leg to Paris.

Still, the $450 price difference is a big chunk. It’s half splurge and half practicality. Practical reasons, you are almost guaranteed overhead space, you get off the plane faster, you are served and helped faster, and your comfort and space is sufficiently increased especially if you have to stay awake to work on a laptop. The splurge is that for a less than 10 hour flight, if you just want to zonk out, you would be generally fine in economy. I found it ironic when some of my Premium Plus seat mates skipped the meals. It’s like you paid all this money just to sleep (which by the way, isn’t going to resolve your jet lag).

I was really shocked how many people took the last minute $600 upgrades to Polaris. The section was nearly full. Sure you get to sleep flat and have fancier dishware, but it’s just about 7 hours, and in fact many people ended oversleeping and had to be woken up as we were getting off the plane. Also don’t diss the economy food, we had a breakfast charcuterie plate on par with Parisian cafes.

Final notes, I would not be worried about things to do on the plane or bringing too much. My books went unopened and was just extra dead weight. My “spa” toiletry bag was unnecessary (the meal came with a hand towel so I borrowed it for the rest of the flight). Wifi was useless so I barely touched my iPad. I ended up watching tons of shows and parts of movies and napping in-between. Most helpful thing I did bring was a massage ball for my back and a beanie neck pillow to avoid straining.

Scaling Up with Expo for React Native Mobile Apps

Expo is a great delivery system for getting React Native mobile apps off the ground and into the hands of users. If I were to do it all over again, here is what I would have loved to know ahead of time!

Words!

Standalone App = A native app file built by Expo for iOS (ipa) or Android (apk) that is ready to upload to the respective app stores.

App Store = Either Apple’s App Store or Google Play for Android

Publish = Ah this does not mean publishing to the app stores. This means an over-the-air update. This term is accurate for Expo because your app becomes immediately available to use for users in the Expo App Client itself.

OTA = Over The Air, meaning a live update of your app content and functionality via the internets. Like serving a webpage.

Build = Means a process by which Expo uploads your code to its servers (publish) and then runs a build process in the Cloud that gives you a link to download the final product.

Your Expo Account = Your App Ecosystem

An Expo Account is *the* account that stores and serves your app. It is not a user account! Publishing your apps under this account essentially locks it to the username, and trying to switch to a different account later can cause problems. For example I identified that switching your account and republishing the same app to the same release channel will cause all the previously saved AsyncStorage user data (iOS UserDefaults) to be inaccessible.

Also if you do get into a bind of transitioning off to a new Expo account, you will end up having to annoyingly maintain apps on an old Expo login and duplicate efforts to publish your app. This is because Accounts essentially own the ecosystem which is explained later.

SecureStore vs AsyncStorage

The solution to the above problem is to use SecureStore to persist values in the user’s phone keychain. This even persists data after the user has deleted their app. SecureStore does have character limits though and I wouldn’t trust it to deal with large amounts of object data, so it should only be important key-value pairs. AsyncStorage is still important for persisting app session state, but essentially it should be treated as if the data could be wiped tomorrow.

Use Release Channels

Do it now or feel the pain later. The hierarchy of Expo is this:

  • Expo Account
    • Expo App
      • Release Channel
        • iOS/Android App

As noted above, if you ever have to switch accounts, you will end up maintaining this entire ecosystem TWICE. Your “production” release channel is different between each account!

I recommend creating new release channels for each standalone app version update too. This is because Expo often comes out with new and awesome SDK version upgrades which require a new build. The new SDK version might have code changes or features that either are not compatible or do not exist in the previous versions. A new build is also required when adding new app permissions, loading screen stuff, or tablet support.

And I won’t get into it, but you’ll see how even more complicated things get if you decide to splinter iOS and Android into separate release channels.

Just Let Expo Update the App

Expo provides an option to disable Over-the-Air updates (OTA) and provides a nice API to administer Updates yourself. This seems easy at first but can get you in trouble later.

  • Expo has had issues whereby the notification of a new Update could continue to flag even after the user has updated, creating an endless reload loop.
  • Finding a way to lock the user down to an updated version has lots of pitfalls. What if the very code to determine if the user needs to download the Update is itself broken? You have bricked their app!
  • Publish rollbacks do not resolve the above problem because you have already told Expo not to automatically update the app. It has essentially updated itself into oblivion!
  • App.json settings can not be rolled back to automatic updates because it is already integrated into the build that is live in the App Store.
  • Expo always shows its own error pages, overriding your componentDidCatch. So you couldn’t even provide an escape route or user prompt for a bricked app.

Don’t worry about it! Are updates really that big? If you’re pushing minor updates now and then the download time is minimal. And if you’re doing massive code changes, you’re better off just re-building the app for store publishing. Plus your app is basically an Expo wrapper to begin with, so you’re not really saving that much time for the convenience.

App Store Updates are Still Important

Firstly, app store updates are also meaningless. Assuming you didn’t generally tweak the app.json, you could push out app store versions 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3 and they could all read a single “production” release channel. A single publish would push to all users regardless of version. In Expo, the app.json “version” is your arbitrary versioning scheme, only “sdkVersion” is critical. Meaning it’s marketing fluff for users, much like how Google Play uses versionName vs versionCode.

I already noted some use cases by which an app store update is required. However, the magic really comes when we talk about OTA updates that fail. If an OTA update fails, meaning Expo can’t get the newest hottest thing you published, it will automatically fallback to its “bundled” state. This means Expo will serve from cache the app at the time you built it.

When disabling OTA updates and having bundled assets, you basically mimic typical native app development where each version update is a snapshot build. With OTA updates enabled, you still want an emergency cushion if Expo can’t serve the newest stuff. Under the hood, Expo will continue to try and update the user and they should see new stuff on the next app open.

Takeaways

Expo and React Native have definitely solved the problem of fast development and relative ease of delivery. However long-term maintenance and deployment of live code is still an issue. There is for example no UI by which one can easily track release channels or which users are seeing them, you really have to memorize them and provide good analytics reporting. The Expo website is a pretty basic listing of your apps and recent builds.

Overall if your team is investing in React Native over native, this is the platform to go with but do maintain robust internal tracking of your releases.

Expo build command throws errors

When working with different SDKs of Expo, switching the existing repo will cause watchman and various caches to be out of sync. Running the various clearing commands doesn’t seem to resolve it.

The build process is best done when you run a cache cleared instance with expo start -c and then in a separate window, run the build command you need.

Sending Angular $http POST Data to PHP

In the case of sending form data in Angular, $http POST data information is serialized as “application/json” which is not interpretable by PHP.

You have to transform the request (the form data object) into a format that it understands. The easiest way is to configure the $httpProvider.

/* Because PHP sucks */
myApp.config(['$httpProvider', '$httpParamSerializerProvider', function($http, $httpParamSerializerProvider) {
    var paramSerializer = $httpParamSerializerProvider.$get();
    $http.defaults.headers.post['Content-Type'] = 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded;charset=utf-8';
    $http.defaults.transformRequest = function(data) {
        return paramSerializer(data);
    };
}]);

 

TransitScreen Redesign Featured On City Lab

So delighted to see TransitScreen was featured on CityLab!  Our redesign was a year long effort between Isometric Studio in New York and our management team.  As UI Designer, I had to lead the implementation process after delivery and return to them for refinements.

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2016/12/a-smarter-way-to-visualize-zillions-of-travel-options/511322/

I’ve been busy!

Me pointing at our Smartwalk feature for TransitScreen in Minneapolis.

Hey fam, I’ve been rather busy at TransitScreen lately. Sorry this blog has been rather neglected. Since the last post, I’ve had to become an Angular 1 ninja overnight and a Karma unit testing fiend. In addition it’s rather amazing what you get out of user testing!

I hope to get back and share some of my thoughts on asynchronous land and user interface design.

Have a wonderful Holidays!

Micro-Units: What’s a Proper Living Space

Micro-units were all the rage in DC this year. About a dozen projects are in the works.

There is nothing too new about this marketing label for what are essentially studios or efficiencies, but I was surprised at the unit floor configurations proposed.  The typical rule of a micro unit is to be below 400 square feet.  In loft speak, this was basically giving you an open room where kitchen appliances would be stacked along the wall with a small bathroom alcove.

But why the elongated unit proportion?  The golden rule for rooms are a comfortable 4:3 rectangle with the entrance on the shorter wall.  This gives orientation into a space, and that seems to be exaggerated much as today’s micro units are best called hallways.   “Activated hallways” perhaps.

Yesterday’s Studio

I currently live in a 1920s version of an efficiency building and my studio is basically a 400 square foot rectangle.  In cities like New York, this is actually the zoning mandated minimum for a residential unit.   My main living area is 23 feet by 12 feet, about 275 square feet, while the remaining rectangle is divided between bathroom, walk-in closet and kitchen.

It already feels pretty narrow but there was intention behind this.  It’s meant to allow easy subdivision between one side and the other, for example a sleeping area and a living room area.  Too open a space and one feels uneasy about the expanse. Although my Midwestern sensibilities say 12 feet already approaches claustrophobic.

Micro units take at most 350 sf space and smashes it down to say 10 feet, leaving one to configure 35 feet into a home abode.    In a way, it’s taking most millennial’s suburban bedroom and just doubling it. As a result most architects end up having to shove all the required sub rooms such as bathroom and closet toward one end of the unit, and having an open kitchen if not combined concept with the living/sleeping area.   A sliver of a hallway connects everything to the entrance.

These dimensions tend to evolve out of pre-fabrication, where units are building blocks to be stacked and configured. In the case of nArchitects for My Micro NY, it feels pretty standard, just alright, about the feeling of a minimalist hotel room with room for storage.

When I moved in to my place, I had this visceral reaction as if I was in the trenches of the Somme.  The living area was basically my mother’s living room, and the kitchen walkway just enough room to open the fridge door completely.  A single thankfully large bay-like window on one end gave just enough light and air to keep my spidey senses aback.

Is This Too Small?

The NY Times asks “How Small is Too Small” and points out a failed 2008 micro-unit building in SF’s FiDi.  But that was almost a decade ago in a weak real estate and job market, and today we are assured that building would be full on day 1.  Housing activists tend to dislike micro units, citing they’re too small to support families, they keep the tech workers here, and that they invite the tenement fears of early industrial cities.

After a year living in essentially an early 20th century micro unit, I’ve fallen in love with my studio.  My ability to keep clutter free has dramatically improved, and maintenance of the space is at a minimum.  I even find it’s easier to “plug in” at night as I’ve efficiently parsed out the space to specific functions like sleeping, reading, TV watching, and eating.  In a way I find I am using a small amount of space more efficiently and enjoying the square feet.   Maybe this sounds rather dystopian, but in a world of limited resources, I still feel good.

Yes I would love a larger space and likely find infinite ways to have my very own personal drawing room, Downton Abbey library, and butcher block island, but for now, this works just fine.

Ok, This is Too Small

For me, anything below 300 square feet is suspect unless it’s just a dorm (sleeping area with sink).  I just can’t love this design proposal for 230 square feet to accommodate a typical New York infill lot.  The use of vertical space over horizontal produces this uneasy canyon feeling.  The relative comfort of the renderings predicate people have built-in organization and are Dwell magazine minimalists.

Also people most likely cloth themselves with a replicator instead of the massive closets I know almost every person has.

Also, fear of heights.

Love Thy Neighbor

A living space is a biological need for security and merely a transitionary period to the outside world.  We do spend at minimum 10 hours outside the home.    A space should allow one’s senses to cool off, recharge, and rejuvenate.  Ultimately the apartment is a retreat that let’s one appreciate their neighborhood.

For my century-old building, this still works and I think we’ve gotten the dimensions right with some variation to go depending on the right architect.  Just don’t squish it any more.

We Need a Second Transbay Tube

Gazing longingly back at San Francisco from West Oakland Station. The pinch point of death.

Gazing longingly back at San Francisco from West Oakland Station. The pinch point of death.

In the past year a renewed push to build a second Transbay Tube across the San Francisco Bay floor has heated up.   BART has been plagued with it’s own maintenance problems and to some reports, is steadily worsening with a half-funded backlog through the next decade.  But plenty of transit systems have backlogs, so why is there emphasis on new infrastructure in a time of waning tax money.  I see several factors driving this:

  • Community “consensus” is cited as reason at all levels which seems to be defined as simply people are using BART and agree that more capacity is needed.
  • Bay Area population is exploding at something like a million people each decade.  For perspective, that’s like 90,000 people a month.
  • Not only has BART been barely able to keep up with crush loads, but Bay Area highways are essentially at maximum capacity.  Especially for a highly dense and urbanized area, there is no more room to expand them.
  • The Bay is also geographically not really capable of expansion or bypassing.  There are clearly defined corridors of travel.  Only increasing capacity within existing paths makes sense.

SPUR has been spearheading the effort to get it on the agenda.  Their white paper has a lovely breakdown of all the transportation solutions and contingencies the second tube will serve.

BART Reported Average Weekday Exits from 2001 to 2016 (November). Trendline goes up at a clip of 10k riders a year.

BART Reported Average Weekday Exits from 2001 to 2016 (November). Trendline goes up at a clip of 10k riders a year.

Make BART Great Again (for People)

I think it’s more important to ultimately see what is the rider’s perspective.  Bay Area residents (yes both property owners and renters) already taxed out of their minds and might want something but vote a different way when it comes to it.

So it’s telling to see that 70% of voters approved Measure RR which was the most unsexy $3.5 billion transportation funding proposition I’ve ever seen.  Via the Chron:

Measure RR, unlike most transportation tax measures, lacked marquee projects like a new extension, a new station or a second Transbay Tube. Instead, it featured a collection of decidedly unsexy projects, including replacing 90 miles of original rail, waterproofing San Francisco subway stations, rebuilding the electrical equipment that delivers power to the tracks and trains, and replacing the original train control system.

Most riders and even BART maintenance crew alike are not even sure how rail technology affects them.  The only promise is that replacement of these fundamental systems will ensure BART is reliable.  On-time reliability is perhaps always the most important concern.  As reliability dipped toward the low 90% for BART, riders definitely took notice.

Stop Bleeding at the Edges

As we move towards a Two Tube Future, BART needs to absolutely stop looking at expansion, and focus on the system’s current strengths.   Maybe some residents want BART to go to San Jose, but as a frequent rider, I almost never saw people riding beyond 6 or so stations.  In fact Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor already goes all the way to Diridon Station, so why were such precious dollars wasted when the BART maintenance backlog was about to mount into public outcry.

Spoiler alert, the South Bay extension project is already delayed.  Warm Springs was suppose to open in 2014. There was talk of opening it this year (“achingly close”).  Now nobody knows when!

The Second Transbay Tube is projected to be $12 billion in today’s dollars.   The extension to San Jose will likely reach if not exceed that number.  The public would be wise to keep any future major expansion projects in line of sight of the power makers overlooking the Bay than hidden at the system edges.

Will the U.S. Adopt Scooters

Scoot army via Scoot Networks

Scoot army via Scoot Networks

While Americans are still entrenched in this idea of make the car great again with autonomous systems, there’s another urban transport mode people have overlooked, the scooter.   The scooter or motor bike is ubiquitous in Asia because of historically narrow and uneven roads.  Match that with limited parking and hilly terrain and you have a good argument for scooters as practical mobility.

Bikeshare of Scooters

My first exposure to scootershare as urbantech was with Scoot Networks in San Francisco.  Launched in October 2012, they offer on-demand electric scooters at designated parking areas throughout the City.   Your phone app unlocks the bike key and off you go.   TechCrunch called it “Zipcar for Scooters” but it’s more like bikeshare for scooters since you can take it to your destination and park it for the next person.

There’s no need to have a special driver’s license but you will have to attend mandatory driver training.  This makes sense since few Americans are familiar with these bikes.  It was a breeze to use these in the hilly terrain of San Francisco, jetting up steep streets with ease. These were particularly useful for traversing north-south corridors which are brain-numbingly slow on Muni or rideshare.  The Scoots stow a helmet and have surprisingly nimble maneuvering.

Scoot launched with Chinese manufactured bikes as the bulk of their fleet (I suspect they are made by Luyuan).  They were smart to go with a Vespa inspired model and a red color scheme (instead of the originally proposed black).  Munich-based Govecs provides the recent Scoot “cargo” fleet.  These German Go T1.4s are very BMW in design.  They recently announced a partnership with GenZe for the next generation of Scoots.

Tesla of Scooters

On the other side of the Pacific, Gogoro launched in 2014 in Taipei.   As the “Tesla of electric bikes,” Gogoro designs, manufactures, and sells sleek electric bikes that run exclusively on their own battery swapping network.  Instead of gas stations, you go to recharging kiosks where you swap batteries like exchanging water jugs.  You can charge at home too.

Gogoro’s bikes may look like traditional Vespas but the details are futuristic, with smoothed molded panels and a Star Trek-like command center.  Following Tesla’s model, they own the vehicle production and the recharging network, so it makes it easy to innovative and scale up fast.  Gogoro bikes have become practical transport on a regional level.

Will the U.S. Scoot

It’s unclear whether residents of an equally dense U.S. city will prefer sharing or owning electric bikes.  Gogoro’s plug and play battery eliminates a lot of the logistical issues Scoot users face.  For charging, scoot relies on users bringing low-energy bikes to charging garages throughout San Francisco, and leaving it there to slowly recharge.  For travel, users have to be aware of the current battery level of the Scoot which equates to available travel distance.

On the flip side, curiously Gogoro has does not include 3G in its bikes, so you can’t rent out your bike in an easy way.   Tesla software has always been intimately reliant on internet connection.  Elon imagines a world where people will leverage their idle Model 3s as on-demand self-driving Ubers in his latest master plan.  But I imagine Gogoro’s founder is following Elon’s plan of building an expensive product to gain money to build a less expensive product and so forth.  Sharing bikes would definitely eat into sales. The starting price in Taipei is US $4,000 which is twice an entry-level Vespa at any local moto shop.

Scoot’s pricing is very affordable.  Without a $20/monthly plan, it’s usually $4 for one trip. It’s about what you would expect between the choice of a bikeshare (time) and transit (cost and maybe time too).   But in San Francisco, everything is cheaper and faster than a car.   Uber is always surging and often gets stuck in the same traffic.   In other sprawl cities, an electric bike fits a narrower portion of residents, and weather of course plays a role.  So it will be interesting to see where Scoot expands.

In Minneapolis, I once worked with a young father who Vespa’d from the city to an adjacent inner ring suburb.  His direct path was mostly residential and tree-lined, the travel time equated a car, and he saved on gas.  For typical U.S. cities with lower densities, these short-medium distances (< 10 miles) may prove in-demand for electric bikes.

On Ride-Sharing Becoming Permanent Transportation

It’s clear that ride-sharing’s reputation has been rather tarnished by public policy backlashes this year, but this hasn’t diminished its popularity.

In my view, I see Uber and Lyft as technology companies in the same vein as freeways, railroads, steamships, and jumbo jets that heralded new eras of transportation.

But hold on you say, it’s just an app that tells someone to pick you up. The car already exists. The app is just an on-demand ride board. You need a cell phone. It’s VC smoke and mirrors! It all seems like a fad until we look at history.

Old Man River

Before railroads, people floated a wooden barge down a river or drove horses down dirt roads. Then someone invented a steam engine and a better steel track. Before cars, people walked, biked or galloped on a horse. Then a series of inventors fiddled with putting an engine in a carriage. Before freeways, people drove hours on whatever road led to the city center. Then engineers envisioned massive segregated speeding roadways.

Pan Am Clipper over San Francisco in 1942. Read more about Clipper planes

Pan Am Clipper over San Francisco in 1942. Read more about Clipper planes

Prior to the advent of these transportation eras, it must have seemed bizarre to ask if people thought of a faster more ingenious way to get around. For example, trying to explain riding in a flying aluminum shell powered by windmills taking you half-way across the world in less than day.

But what seem like overnight revolutions are actually incremental enhancements or combinations of existing ideas, not very unlike a little app that connects drivers and riders together.

Users Drive Demand

These tech companies are not the ultimate pioneers though, we are. We think of transportation as being “created” by someone but in reality the adoption of any tool or vehicle into a main mode of human transportation requires users. Uber’s explosion and disruption results from millions using the service en masse, filling travel gaps and trip demands most planners would not know existed.

Take a curious analogy of transportation technology that has experienced great waxes and wanes in popularity, the bicycle. It was invented to replace horses in Europe, quickly dismissed as a toy, became a ubiquitous transportation mode in the United States, and then was left behind in urban renewal.

Bicyclists on the Golden Gate Bridge before opening in 1932. Via SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY

Bicyclists on the Golden Gate Bridge before opening in 1932. Via SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY

The Bicycle isn’t an app so why does it receive so much opposition. It too is seen as a passing fad and disruptive to existing modes of transport. NIMBYs fill City Council meetings in opposition to bike lanes. Supporters push back on helmet and licensing regulations. Sound familiar?

People Need to Get Around

Our public policy discourse treats Uber and Lyft like segueway tour companies to the annoyance of some locals. But the discussion forgets that real people of all types and ages use the service. If we can talk about transportation in this context, I think we’ll have more meaningful.

People need to get around and are searching for better ways of doing so.

It’s not rocket science that we need fast, convenient and reliable alternative transportation. On-demand bus service has been a difficult effort by transit agencies for a long time now. Uber not only meets all these metrics but makes it easy, accessible and most of all palatable to the masses. What lessons can we learn from empowering local citizens to serve each other.

Transportation is trending to radically change due to the internet.

The internet has always promised a merger of the real and digital world. In Steve Case’s “internet of everything” we will see even more instantaneous interaction across distances. Doesn’t matter if it’s self-driving cars or remote locking bike share, policy makers need to anticipate this forthcoming era, not simply react. Lead officials and staff on roundtables and educational outings. Forging partnerships and understandings will underwrite good policy decisions.

Ride-sharing is introducing potential users to transit.

As someone who use to be very car-oriented, detaching oneself from their personal vehicle is sadly a precarious feat. It is a huge step to put ones mobility into the hands of a stranger, and plan out your movements well in advance. It encourages people to mull about urban spaces, not being tied to their car, and potentially look at other options. This gets suburbs off their car diet.

Let’s Move

In the words of Marc Andreessen, “software is eating the world,” and we are looking at technology networks heavily influencing or even merging with transportation networks. Ride sharing apps are getting people around, games like Pokemon are getting people outside, let’s leverage these for the public good.

Reflections of the Mission District in the Mid-2010s

Panorama of SF from Twin Peaks (My Photo)

Panorama of SF from Twin Peaks

In honor of Jane Jacob’s 100th birthday, I thought I’d share what I learned from San Francisco’s neighborhoods and what made them great places to be. Lost in the tech gentrification controversy is the fact that the City is indeed an extremely desirable place to live, so much that people sacrifice hard to have a slice of it.

In three years of regularly walking down the Noe Valley slopes or jumping on rickety Muni buses, I saw a textured and varied environment that provided great “delight,” as the Romans say, both architecturally and culturally. Here’s how I personally experienced the “bowl” of neighborhoods in and near the Mission, that helped me understand why millennials are so enticed.

24th Street

Descending from the 1960s terraces of Diamond Heights is Noe Valley. To most Americans, it feels dense with the city’s highest concentration of row houses. Most of these Victorians and Edwardians are restored and immaculately maintained. It’s a sea of white peaks and turrets that looks like a storybook illustration.

24th Street is the Main Street here. This is strollerville now, dominated by families who made it and were able to secure their slice of the former working-class area. It’s very clean and static, with bagel shops meeting high-end clothing stores. The demographic is thoroughly white, and the conversations and eyes on the street reflect a highly upper middle class attitude.

Noe Valley is the epitome of tight urban living but its geographic isolation as a valley high above the sea level insulates it from all the grittiness of typical dense neighborhoods. There’s no major roads that cut through and the steep hills even dissuade nearby locals. And on top of that are expansive views of the Bay.

The street activity drops off at Dolores where the wide palmed boulevard, fortress like gilded architecture, and insane elevation changes prohibit much casual street life. It’s utterly beautiful but this southern part of Dolores is a visual and physical “wall” due to speeding cars, parking soft-stories, and awkwardly graded intersection crossings.

Valencia

Ritual Roasters Coffee

Ritual Roasters Coffee

Moving east, the grade falls precipitously and the first prominent avenue is Valencia. A fairly low-density commercial corridor, it doesn’t feature any of the Gothic architecture as the real Valencia, but it offers an honest collection of retail and food to call it a complete livable street. Generally, one can buy groceries, peruse clothing, sip coffee, fix a bicycle, get a book, eat a gyro wrap, and grab a drink without needing a tech salary or a car! You can even buy cheap furniture at the community thrift store.

The sidewalks are streetscaped in some areas and the street has bike lanes, so Valencia basically represents that transitionary and youthful urban village. Diverse socioeconomic backgrounds can be on this street and not feel out of place. There’s even a children’s park. Valencia is also a true pedestrian shopping street and many weekends I would walk the entire length of it while the California sun beamed down.

Southern Mission District

24th Street via torbakhopper

24th Street via torbakhopper

There’s many flavors of the Mission but the one that most people associate it with is the Latino part of it. It’s a Little Mexico of taquerias, grocers, and salons, the staples of any immigrant community. 24th Street here is alive, people bustle about to attend to their errands and greet familiar faces. There are few strollers here, these are locals who own and operate — Hispanic immigrants and their descendants. Tourists are seldom seen.

The doubly subdivided blocks and repetitive streets lends this area an active street life all days of the week. The cafes are always busy, my favorite being Taqueria Guadalajara for its salsa bar. There are also Haight-like hippie bookstores and hipster coffeeshops which seem to throw me back into a Midwestern college town.

Perhaps because of the affordability in this area, there is also a regular presence of transients, especially near the BART Station plazas and SF General Hospital. In contrast, this is very rare in Noe.

Mid-Mission District

North of 24th Street in the streets named for states and local pioneers, I call the mid Mission. It’s a tired looking area, there’s less retail, the row houses are of plain working-class design, and remnants of the former industrial railroad peak through. All the streets have controlled stop signs so it’s very quiet save for freeway-like Van Ness and Potrero.

Conversely, Mission Street maintains a broadway feel, with its former streetcar era department store buildings and mostly mainstream chain retail. Between the knick-knack stores are trendy upstart cafes and restaurants avoiding the high rents of the popular retail streets. The constant drum of four lanes of traffic give the street a smoggy Downtown feel.

Northern Mission/16th Street

Musicians in front of Community Thrift Store

Musicians in front of Community Thrift Store

As one moves north toward 16th Street, things change quickly. Around the Muni yards, industrial lots have been converted to upscale condos and lofts. Small boutique food and retail peaks its head around here. This area shares a lot of vibe with Potrero Hill but without the elegance. It reminds me of typical ’90s loft conversion neighborhoods where the street level was deactivated, avoided and barricaded.

On the other hand, Valencia to Mission Streets get grittier and frenetic both visually on the sidewalk and in the storefronts. More security bars on windows and more (delicious) hole-in-the-wall cafes and front patio bars. People on the sidewalk tend to congregate and stop more here. It’s an Uptown of a past era.

16th Street itself is peculiar. Most of it is a fast-moving crosstown road formerly serving industrial sites. But there is a marching line of gastropubs and clubs from Mission west to Market. The area feels young, hip, gritty in a very familiar way to American inner cities. The glorious namesake Mission San Francisco de Asís seems out of place.
Further north to Duboce and the horrid freeway, I feel is still coming into its own identity. This area has mostly 3-story apartment buildings which likely once served as working-class residences for the former industrial SOMA. Retail is a smattering between new and old school.

Castro

Dolores Park in 2013 before the major renovation

Dolores Park in 2013 before the major renovation

The northern part of Mission, from Dolores west to Castro Street is very solidly identified with the Castro more than the Mission. Dolores Park may be a crown jewel of the Mission District, but it’s also a magnet for the LGBT community.
The sidewalk cleans up quickly as it moves west. Every inch of real estate is utilized or perfected. The exuberance of activity on 16th Street leads back to a controlled, stately street life similar to Noe. There’s obviously more tourism here but also the retail and cafes are far more polished and marketed.

Known as Eureka Valley, this geographic area of the Castro has a very steep incline from Dolores Heights (the mountain that divides Noe Valley to the south). So activity is ultra-concentrated onto 18th and toward Market Street. Castro as a neighborhood is clearly evaporated of its former working-class underpinnings. However unlike family-oriented Noe, grocery stores are replaced by specialty stores, and the clothing shops seem rather fad than practical.

What Castro may lack as a complete street, it makes up for as a vibrant stage for visitors to entertain themselves. The number of gay bars and clubs in addition to the City’s recent streetscaping with LED lights and commemorative placards, creates a modern Uptown district.

So Is it Happy Hour?

As I reflect on my time in the Mission, I can see where the area affords not just the urban “diversity” millennials seek, but complexity and choice in housing, food and lifestyle. You can get a taste of city life without needing to be Downtown.

The friction and flow of the well-heeled west side and poorer ethnic east side allow millennials to exploit opportunities between both communities. For example grabbing a nice apartment in Noe while eating cheaply (and well) in the Mission. To me, Valencia is the heart of where this drama is playing out with its mix of very expensive exclusive restaurants competing for real estate with modest community business and family-oriented functions.

And of course connectivity. You don’t need a car, one is connected by foot and transit to so many options within a 1 mile radius anywhere you live. If you work or play Downtown, you’re connected instantaneously by BART. If you work a little closer in SOMA or Mid-Market, you can just bike. In this manner, I see the tech controversy as a symptom, not a cause of the Mission’s popularity.

Overall the Mission will continue to remain an ever popular place to live as more storefronts are brought back to life and Muni gets its act together.

Trading Four Wheels For Two, A Follow-Up

First thing I saw upon landing in DCA and Ubering into the city, was a guy riding a bikeshare against the Washington Monument.

First thing I saw upon landing in DCA and Ubering into the city, was a guy riding a bikeshare against the Washington Monument.

In 2008, Minnesota Public Radio interviewed me about bicycling when the idea of being a full-time bicyclist was just starting to gain traction. At the time, bike lanes were only in the planning stage, and bicyclists comprised a hardcore group of locals who lurked in the angsty MPLSBikeLove forum.

I was always curious about how people interpreted the article, whether it had any resonance or impact. Now, Minneapolis is America’s most bike-friendly city and the only world-listed bike city. MPR still has the post up, so I imagine it has some SEO relevance at least. I hope telling my story about this article highlights relevant issues on millennials and urban life.

When T-Paw was Around

It’s been 8 years and my life during that article seems like a distant memory but it’s a time I will never forget. We were riding the economic bubble to it’s greatest heights. Cranes filled the sky and real estate values soared. Minneapolis took this opportunity to pour the investment back into an ambitious bicycling master plan.

Light Rail was in doubt because of a South St. Paul hockey dad turned 5-second Republican Presidential hopeful, former Governor Tim Pawlenty (“T-Paw”). He vetoed the Green Line funding the same month of the article, though it was restored later. Cities could only do their part for sustainable transportation with such a polarized state government, and that meant bicycling.

Fat Kid

I’m very plump in the article, probably 230 lbs. I was working very hard because jobs were scarce and I was given a fantastic opportunity by a real estate firm to do planning analysis on new residential development. My Bachelors degree in Urban Studies clearly did not go far. Bicycling was the only thing that kept my health and sanity somewhat in check.

It was a two mile commute from Prospect Park to Downtown Northeast everyday that took about 20 minutes because roads on University were created for cars, not people. Kids today would be blown away by what kind of hellish carscape Stadium Village was prior to TCF Bank Stadium.

Bike Dumb

In the article I’m very oblivious to my bicycle which was a cheap $300 Raleigh Hybrid from local chain-store Erik’s Bike Shop in Dinkytown. It was criminally slow with cheap parts. I’m confident no bike shop today would ever sell such a poor bicycle, even for light recreational purposes. I wish the seller had steered me to something better, but more on that later.

Fast forward about a year from this article, I put the bike through the wringer including an entire winter where I, in a puffy green parka, traversed snowy icy roads. I learned to be even more “hardened” and also to carry myself in a way I would want others to see. I watched videos of Copenhagen’s magical flow where people stopped at red lights on a dime. I wanted the same and wanted to communicate that through my actions.

Then the hammer hit, the economy disastrously collapsed. I lost my job.

Bike Smart

I decided planning graduate school was my calling instead of the deeply embedded wars my generation was fighting. My bike somehow made it to fall of 2009 as I put off any maintenance on it. Then I walked into The Hub Bike Shop in East Bank and everything changed.

The Hub is an employee owned collective which focused on making bicycling a real form of transportation for people. They hosted classes on bike etiquette and even focused on developing women riders. They sold Giant Bicycles from Taiwan, who was one of the few manufacturers really closing in on this emerging need for modern American bicycling. I believe Giant saw how their $2,000 carbon road bikes were taken seriously by lycranauts, and realized the same could be of normal citizens.

I purchased a Giant Rapid hybrid. It was a sleek, sexy, with higher end Shimano shifters. Yes it cost $700 after tax, but it was light years ahead of the Raleigh. It was a real bike for a real commuter. With a slim rack, semi-racing stance, and rapid-fire shifting assembly, I could keep pace with other cyclists, make it on-time to my destinations, and haul some groceries.

In short, the bike made it easier to bike, but I biked more because it was so easy.

I learned how to fix my own bike too. I took apart the rear cogs often and washed off the miles of accumulated gunk. I strung wires when they broke and replaced tubes when they popped. In the long haul I probably spent up-front $1200 including lights and locks, and $500 a year on maintenance (1 tune up, adjustments, and parts).

Biking Bandwagon

Nice Ride bike-sharing was introduced in 2010 and as a snooty self-described Urban Planner Candidate, I snubbed it initially. How could people on these low-geared upright bikes manage to get anywhere on time and haul dinner. It was at best a tourism gag and for suburbanites to get a safe feel of the gritty city. The Bixi utility bikes evoked nightmares of my Raleigh, trying to bust it through fast-moving traffic.

But I was wrong. I saw how the bikes allowed groups of people to traverse nearby destinations that were unthinkable by walking or even car. For people living in inner neighborhoods, they could get Downtown reasonably. Combined with the city’s emerging bike lane system, Nice Rides actually seemed easier than my hybrid road bike. I was constantly paranoid my bike would be stolen (as is a common problem) and was ever more worried when I had to leave a bike overnight in an unknown area. Nice Ride you use once and done, even if it’s a few minutes slower.

Walking is Cool

After graduate school, I took a 3 year chance at San Francisco and lost quite a bit of weight (phew). There, I learned more about what transportation really is about. In Minneapolis, I spurned the chaos of buses and vehicles crowding my way, why shouldn’t everyone ride a (fancy) bike. But I realized at the end of the day, humans just need to get around.

San Francisco’s bike rush hour was a choatic nightmare. Nobody obeyed red lights, even at the busiest intersections. People did not orderly line up on the bike lane, they constantly and dangerously bumped shoulders. “Downtown” Market Street is only a 2 mile trip at most, but it felt like a 20 mile marathon. High-speed passing on Valencia was compounded by ride-sharing blocking the lane. I actually ended up preferring to take transit and walk. Actually, there was a lot of walking. The synergy of the two was relaxing and energizing. I didn’t want to bother with a bicycle in San Francisco, the city was just too beautiful to pass by.

I bought an older Giant OCR, the predecessor to the Rapid for just $300. But I rarely used it, in fact I mostly lent it out.

The District of Bicycling

My Felt Fixie (set to Single Speed) in front of the Washington Monument

My Felt Fixie (set to Single Speed) in front of the Washington Monument

Today in DC, I actually don’t have a personal bicycle, yet. (Update: I bought one off Craigslist from a cool dude!) My company TransitScreen provides memberships to Capital Bikeshare to promote sustainable choices by our employees. I’ve taken so many convenient trips between stations that it hasn’t been an urgent matter to obtain my own bike.

Since this article, my feelings on being a full-time bicyclist or bike warrior have waned to an idea that we all have to get around in our own ways, and should have options toward that. But we also have to be mindful of the impact our mobility affects fellow citizens and the planet.

I usually walk 20 minutes to work on spacious Massachusetts Avenue. I regularly carry my groceries about 4 blocks from a Safeway. I often take Metro to go to Union Station. I like bikeshare for cross-town movement. I prefer local carshare startup Split to take me north of Columbia Heights. Zipcar vans help me move furniture. Buses are great after a long day from Farragut to Dupont.

It seems I’ve traded my four wheels for one, my role as a member of society.

Why They Still Are “Willing to Relocate to San Francisco”

For techies who have lived in or moved from San Francisco, this recent meme struck a nerve.

William Blake’s most famous poem “The Tyger”

Why is it in 2016, we must be willing to relocate to San Francisco?

This meme results from the most repeated request by recruiters and tech startups, even startups that haven’t even located to the city itself. The comical reaction is, you can have a fantastic job, but only if you relocate. Of course it doesn’t actually mean relocate to San Francisco proper, rather to companies located in the SF Bay Area. Most of the tech companies are actually centered in the South Bay which for the typical American is like commuting to the far ends of suburbia.

You might live here in SOMA, but your startup or company is not very likely to be anywhere remotely near the City.

You might live here in SOMA, but your startup or company is not very likely to be anywhere remotely near the City.

Why is it in 2016, when the internet promised telecommuting and decentralized work that the tech industry is fervently concentrating America’s intellectual capital into a suburban peninsula on the Pacific prone to devastating earthquakes.

This live-work geographic disparity is not new to planning, but it represents much of the frustration Bay Area planners face. We have pioneered instant global communication for every human on Earth and yet the talent who create, maintain, and innovative this technology are required to be in a precise location, in a building, usually seated, from morning until early evening. We call this area Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Palo Alto.

Most planners expect people to decide where they live based on their work. This is a basic tenet of sector and concentric zone theories.

The talent don’t have much choice of where to live, they are confined to options a narrow shoreline on the east side of a peninsula land-locked by mountains on the west and a shallow bay on the east. They can venture south into endless cul-de-sacs shaped from former marshlands, called San Jose. East across the bay to the limited rugged terrain along Diablo Range. But most choose to live north along a high-capacity transportation line called Caltrain that connects to a regional transportation system called BART. Private transit (company shuttles) provide the rest.

They move north because the peninsula is capped by a sprawlingly dense urban habitat called San Francisco. Defying the steep geography left by former sea levels and tectonic activity, we have carved rectilinear blocks into the hillsides and reclaimed the beaches.

We know the peninsula head is most desirable to live in because it offers breathtaking views of the Marin headlands and the Pacific Ocean. But most importantly it has concentrated architecture, housing and commerce into a human-scaled environment that produces variety and vibrancy — favored by Jane Jacobs.

Google campus. It's a nice place... for suburbia.

Google campus. It’s a nice place… for suburbia.

We know the southern shoreline of the peninsula is desirable for tech companies because it historically birthed computing innovations in sprawling low-cost campuses. But most importantly it has concentrated intellectual institutions and venture capital into a self-propagating complex of physical and social networks, which David M. Levinson coined as “plexus.”

Planners contend with this desire and interchange between San Francisco and South Bay for the foreseeable future. Strangely, towns within an 1 hour of both fray at the edges, unable to capture this desire for many reasons such as demographics and transportation. Bay Area regional planning has come to an impasse over these issues.

And so they continue to ask if you are still willing to relocate to San Francisco. As a techie I have a laugh and then look on in contemplation.

Author’s Note: I would still move back to San Francisco.

Transit Tech Startups Part 1: Intercity Travel

Caltrain is the traditional intercity transport method.

Caltrain is the traditional intercity transport method.

Shaun Abrahamson of Urban.us detailed a list of “Pop-up Mass Transit” startups operating now.  From a VC perspective, he’s concerned about how game theory will make or break their mobility promises.  Can shuttle startup A beat out carshare startup B on price and retain users when the true cost of providing these services becomes reality.

I couldn’t help but think maybe transit-like startups should be concerned about their actual role in transportation and urban planning.  What niche do they serve in the transit ecosystem, not necessarily that one can get from point A to B.   A city is inherently multi-modal, with different ways of getting places and the messy synergy between these paths.

Transportation startup’s should aim to merge into the existing transit fabric, not simply create an overlay or new “platform.”   Lyft boldly pushed it’s “Friend’s with Transit” stats out there to show that between 20-33% of all rides start or begin at a transit station in DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and New York.   If a third of your business is generated by other transit, that’s not just economics, it’s good urban planning.

Here’s Part 1 of my take on Shaun’s list:

Intercity Travel

Greyhound was the original startup in this category, providing low cost bus service between cities especially as Amtrak dismantled itself through the ’80s-’90s.  Megabus jumped in before iPhones were even a thing and now we have plenty of similar “coach” services especially in Midwest and Northeast corridors.   Tech startups of course want to give you the power to provide or at least discover these services instead of running the buses themselves.

  • Skedaddle (https://www.letskedaddle.com/) is taking the age-old Craigslist (shady) rideshare age and putting it on steroids.   Instead of just “hey please get into my car cuz I wanna split gas cost kthxbai” they’re encouraging fun trips to festivals and Tiesto, although it’s role as commuter A to B is the majority of routes.  It gamifies the process by only offering the ride when a minimum number of people sign up (like Kickstarter), and increasing the per head price as the number of users sign up (like Ticketmaster).  It appears to me that most offered rides were existing trips that would have happened anyway, so hopefully Skedaddle may improve the efficiency of vehicle usage, especially for leisure trips which accounts for a quarter of our driving.
  • Buster (https://www.buster.com/) matches groups to rides instead of individuals.  I imagine they approach coach companies and say, “Give us an idea of where you’d be willing to serve, how many people you can serve (vehicles), your rates and we’ll plug you into Buster.”   I asked it to take 15 people from Penn Station to Woodstock, New York, and it gave me a bunch of options from school buses to limos.  From an efficiency point of view, it better utilizes existing fleets that only have occasional use.  For example the local church’s Sunday school bus sit idle most of the week.  And for planners, we’d prefer one vehicle than 15 people splitting up into many vehicles and needing to park them everywhere on a single weekend.
  • Rallybus (https://rallybus.net/) combines Buster (hiring local providers) and Skedaddle (crowd sourcing events).  It differs in looking at long-distance intercity travel by having a provider offer multiple “rally” pick-up spots along pre-selected routes to a particular destination.  The website is rather confusing, but appears to be focused on special events.  I selected a Fallout Boy concert in New York and I’m presented a map of routes from various cities around New York getting to the event in March.  I picked a marker in Philadelphia for $55 and it indicated it needed 25 more people to actually confirm this ride. Fortunately another ride to a Dixie Chicks concert from Dupont Circle had the minimum.  It’s like Buster but instead of customized trips, it’s offering pre-planned trips based on potential special-event demand (sounds like an airline!).  To me, Rallybus exemplifies trip efficiency by both placing minimums on what the trip is, and how many people are going.   It knows people are going to a concert or conference already so it wants to encourage them to group ride.

The true difference between these tech startups and a typical coach service is that the coach services are focused on capturing riders in specific transportation corridors.   Rallybus and Buster require complex itineraries, compared to BestBus or Wanderu. These itinerary costs are also a little opaque and it’s hard to quickly search a route or the routes are customized.  So they succeed in very unique travel situations while Skedaddle lets one discover and compare costs more quickly.  Contrary to that, apps that are essentially rideshare boards have a hard road ahead because coach services are already fairly low cost, guaranteed rides with more amenities than someone’s car.  And even luxury car drivers will be hard to compete with the highly booked Royal Sprinter.

Intercity travelers must inherently spend more time to plan and consequently more time to compare, that is something startups will need to address.

More in Planning: The Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development studies Intercity Bus Travel.

Geography of Nowhere Remains Relevant for the New Urban Age

A human-scaled side street in DC's Columbia Height's neighborhood. Kunstler loves DC.

A human-scaled side street in DC’s Columbia Height’s neighborhood. Kunstler loves DC.

James Howard Kunstler’s Geography of Nowhere was published in 1993 but it’s view of our current urban landscape remains just as relevant today.  Kunstler is a journalist turned urbanist critic, much like Jane Jacob’s, and along with his damning treatise on our car addiction regards him as a popular pundit than expert in the urban planning community.   He’s often on university reading lists but perhaps his observations are not so highly regarded by high brow scholars (he has choice words for bad planning).  Kunstler’s TED2004 Talk on “The ghastly tragedy of the suburbs” has 1.4 million views, so perhaps one day we’ll regard him to Jacob’s pedestal.

Kunstler explores all the quintessential historic iterations of American bedroom “communities” using examples in his native New England from the early 1900s to today.  From Olmsted’s Downton Abbey-like Riverside, Illinois to the nowhere suburban K-mart parking lots of outskirt Anytown USA (hence becoming Nowhere USA).   His example of Woodstock, New York’s co-opting by wealthy outsiders struck me as the modern story of the 2010s.    From an actual town that self-sustained itself through farming and crafts, it is now a hollow reflection of that, propped up by the typical food and boutique service economy.  It’s new role as pseudo-historic well-to-do suburb makes it feel like the Atlantic City boardwalk of an earlier chapter.

A socioeconomic critique of shopping mall’s and their shaky public-private domain predicted exactly something the Black Lives Matter movement exploited recently at the Mall of America.  He harkened to Vietnam and questioned what would happen if towns lacked actual places of public assembly.  Sometimes a democracy needs to express itself, and if that voice is eager it will go wherever that may be.

Kunstler also might not like millennials of today and would see gentrification as the Manhattan executives of his age.  Americans love to move around, it is perhaps built into our genome from Manifest Destiny.  But problematically, we seem to abandon places we deem boring and “nowhere” instead of sitting put and actually improving them into places we care about.   So if young people flock to San Francisco for it’s Pan-Pacific revival and high-density, high-style architecture of a long-gone era, how soon will San Francisco also become like Nowhere USA with Apple stores, Trader Joe’s, and Crate and Barrel (Site Note: I love all of these stores).

My Instagram of a perfect (and intentionally designed) vista at Dolores Park. This shit doesn't happen anymore.

My Instagram of a perfect (and intentionally designed) vista at Dolores Park. This shit doesn’t happen anymore.

So now what Kunstler? How do we get out of where we are.  Even in 1993, the condition of physical America was drab and deteriorating from infrastructure to housing.   He does point out zoning as a major cause and obstacle to restructuring the urban landscape.   From there, he explores neo-traditional architecture such as Duany Plater-Zyberk and celebrates Seaside, Florida.  Though perhaps his true longing are the Gilded Age planned towns and cities of the early 1900s where Irish servant girls ran the house while you took a train to your factory. The book’s main critique is that we’ve lost our vernacular language of how to plan for communities. Unfortunately we can’t revive urban planning as a design practice given the current regulatory, political, and even intellectual structure of Design with a capital D.

For now, planners and developers contend with poor tools of “infill” and “redevelopment” to renew their communities. The Robert Moses’ age is over, but master/small-area plans and zoning overlays are quietly changing the urban fabric toward communities “worth dying for” as Kunstler would say.

I think there’s a silver lining when he laments the loss of connectedness. Today we are far more connected than the 90’s ever imagined. These “cyber” connections are manifesting in the real world. Developers don’t have to try hard to figure out why people want to live in dense urban areas (cities) again. Some architects are actually giving a damn about the street such as Jan Gehl and others are creating inspiring ecology-minded structures like Bjarke Ingels. Through social media, we’re seeing the world’s transit rich cities on a daily basis, and so grows our eagerness to bring that infrastructure here. While Kunstler may still grumble about the socioeconomic realities of an entire country drunk on a service economy, there is at least consensus that we will need to move to sustainable place-based industries soon.

Stop Making Developers Build Parking

As I think of New Year’s Eve complaints about Uber surge pricing I am reminded again of another supply and demand quandary, parking.  Just as Uber attempts to encourage more drivers with exorbitant surge fares, so should we be thinking about how parking is not priced to its true cost at the detriment of our urban landscape.

David Shoup’s eponymous “The High Cost of Free Parking” gave us the economic realities of parking. We planners created the very regulatory scheme that resulted in oversupply of parking.  The market responded, accommodated, and continues to follow and nudge against corrective measures such as minimum parking requirements and transit demand management.

On Demand Parking

As it is Uber’s goal is “to make sure you can always push a button and get a ride within minutes,” so has Shoup indicated parking meters need to be priced significant higher during high demand periods to encourage overturn.   While cities tinker with on-street parking availability, the fact that planning regulation continues to blight urban areas with parking is the core problem that should be addressed now.

Architect Seth Goodman has a wonderful blog called graphing parking that offers infographics on the inconsistent regulatory frameworks between local governments.  His data suggests cities have no rational basis in its approach to manage parking.  This regulation continues to punish developers and in turn society, by spending on average $59 per square foot to provide an asphalt platform for personal vehicles.

Let’s say a typical U.S. parking space is 8 feet (city average) by 19 feet (DOT recommended length).   Two spaces average about 300 square feet, the typical microunit apartment.  Shoup says cars are parked 95% of the time.  We are devoting hundreds of millions in square footage to idle “transportation” machines instead of providing minimum shelter to Americans.

Redevelopment of Minneapolis' Stadium Village along the new Green Line. Many buildings were given parking exemptions or reductions.

Redevelopment of Minneapolis’ Stadium Village along the new Green Line. Many buildings were given parking exemptions or reductions.

Unbuild

Fortunately, cities are paving the way to undoing this nightmare.  In 2012, Seattle created complete parking minimum exemption zones for downtown and retail districts.  Last summer, Minneapolis approved relaxing parking requirements on new development.  San Francisco’s Planning Commission recently approved a 60 unit apartment building with no parking.  ReinventingParking has a list of international cities abolishing parking minimums.

In Minneapolis’ case, the Star Tribune reported it, “allows buildings with 50 or fewer units to be built without parking outside of downtown — where there are already no parking minimums — if they are a quarter-mile away from transit with 15-minute frequencies.”

The Federal Highway Administration’s analysis of Transit Demand Management even admits that. “Plentiful and free parking encourages driving.”  With so many oversight levels in agreeance, it’s time for local jurisdictions to give up the parking racket.

How About Free Sunday Transit

sf-downtown-montgomery

Montgomery St in San Francisco, the quintessential modern dense downtown street with archaic street parking from a bygone era.

“Why is public parking free on Sundays but public transit is not?” said @ptraughber on Twitter the other day. I couldn’t help but fume about this very question as it seems a strange injustice to give away (subsidize) public space to vehicles. There are many societal implications here, such as that people who drive deserve a “break”, that we value the leisure time of drivers, and that we’d prefer weekend activities to occur by car.

Free Sunday… Parking

We know in general people do less on weekends as a result of our modern work week.  Free Sunday parking still exists in cities like Chicago, Seattle, and mostly in San Francisco.  I’ve always known it to be a fact in the Twin Cities growing up, and overhearing the same in most major cities.

I was unable to find the origins of it, but it seems common sense, even if not fiscal sense.   Quora offers that it’s merely a byproduct of the fact that parking enforcement don’t typically work on weekends and most businesses are closed. This may be perhaps true in the earlier car era when Sunday was more religiously observed. I always thought it was meant to encourage retail visitors on Sundays, especially for downtowns competing with suburban malls.

Cities are slowly recognizing that free weekend parking doesn’t make sense.  Though this cause has more to do with finding untapped revenue sources than good planning.   New York dumped it in 2005, then Los Angeles in 2008.   Portland later followed charging for parking during weekend prime times it identified as 1pm to 7pm.  San Francisco tried to charge in 2013 but Mayor Lee abandoned it after a year supposedly pushed by churches.   In many cases cities will charge meters near special events and venues since its likely running police enforcement for those activities.

In this technology era, personal cars are being de-emphasized in dense urban areas.  There’s hardly frontage left for street parking with transit-oriented development rules that limit such frontage and require on-site parking facilities.  Demand for meters may be less on Sundays, but it’s still significant funding for strapped local governments.  Local businesses are cool on the topic, any business obviously wants easy access for patrons but is increasingly understanding that dense, pedestrian-friendly and transit-rich areas deliver far more visitors than a few single-driver spots on the street.  Plus, we want parking overturn.

But No Freebies!

It seems strange that it’s difficult to say we’re “giving away” something to the public, when we do so with parking.  The streets are owned by us too, right?  Though I can see where given the soaring capital costs of transit improvements, having no farebox recovery seems financial wizardry.

The concept of specifically Free Sunday Transit doesn’t seem to exist… yet.  Athens, Georgia piloted a month of free Sunday transit this year to promote the new weekend service but it didn’t quite catch on.  Free Christmas, New Year’s or Thanksgiving service is indeed something, but the advocacy for that stems more from getting drunk people home than a public tusen takk.

Ironically most transit systems offer plenty examples of no or limited Sunday/weekend service on certain routes.  There exist a small contingent of free transit agencies mostly offered in small towns and cities under 100,000 in population.  Nearly all university shuttle systems are free for students (TCRP Synthesis 78).

While free metropolitan transit doesn’t seem likely to become mainstream, TCRP concludes it’s a ridership booster:

People may argue about the pros and cons of fare-free transit, but none of the literature reviewed for this project questions the fact that ridership will increase when fare-free policies are implemented. No matter what types of experiments, demonstrations, or permanent programs have been implemented, public transit systems have experienced significant increases in ridership when implementing fare-free policies. (TCRP Synthesis 101 Page 13)

Code Examples: CSS Squares

Back in the 2000s, creative agency websites really liked the grid effect where you would hover over a block in a grid and that block would expand into some content.  Of course then, people would use Flash or some complicated jQuery contraption.  I created my own code example of this for a client once to demonstrate a CSS3 based design working with typical HTML element flow instead of overriding everything with position absolute and calculating block sizes on the fly.   This example also serves to teach how powerful CSS inheritance can be to create series of movements that look like fancy Javascript.

It’s not a perfect example because if a user mouseovers too quickly to the next block, the widths may exceed the row and break to the next line.  A solution could be to give some extra spatial buffer to the .main-content wrapper.   jQuery is still used here to trigger the next child block to be “hidden.” Since the transitions are set the same, one smoothly replaces the other.   At the end of the row, it triggers the previous child.

 

 

Soft Planning or Lipstick on a Pig

I often think of city planning as composed of “hard” and “soft” approaches which shape and define land use and design.  Hard planning consists of real shit like height limits, density, setbacks, and parking.  These physical, sharp, and poignant zoning rules shape the final form of building and land.   The visual effect and experience on users and on history is lasting and profound.

And then there’s soft planning, or as I think of it, lipstick on a pig.

Soft planning are requirements which are aesthetic and reflect subjective tastes.   They’re superficial, brushed on, and act to muddle the physical design.   People are to be delightfully distracted by these frivolities.   These requirements exist in a legal gray area and are often tacked on at the end of a conditional use permit.   Yet many of these will not stand the test of time, and will ultimately change.

Here is my critique of 5 soft planning requirements:

Landscaping

Greenleaf Apartments in Minneapolis, that solitary tree won't last very long. Focus on the boulevard instead.

Greenleaf Apartments in Minneapolis, that solitary tree won’t last very long. Focus on the boulevard instead.

We want our cities to be beautiful lush livable places but tiny islands of trees and bushes adds questionable value.  “Nature” can’t be defined by a minimum number of tree species or flowering plants. It takes a collective city-wide approach that is consistent to establish a true green city.  Pine hedges of the late-20th century sit sad and dilapidated in concrete parks. I’ve seen poor cedar trees in modern plazas where the intense reflection of architectural glass has blistered them. Landscaping becomes an architectural contrivance and a bandaid.  Boutique parks like Portland’s Tanner Springs Park and Patrick Blanc’s vertical gardens might be the better future approach to increasing urban ecology.  Also, cities need to stop forcing solitary trees to be planted when it should be maintaining a true urban oasis of street trees like the fat Public Works of yesteryear.

Colors

The developers of Le Parisien touted high-class materials but all we have is mindless white stucco with a ground-level painted wood facade that didn't last MN's brutal winters.

The developers of Le Parisien touted high-class materials but all we have is mindless white stucco with a ground-level painted wood facade that didn’t last MN’s brutal winters.

Make it a lighter shade of beige, no not too beige, okay let’s go back to brown, but more like sandy tan than wood.   Construction paint suppliers must laugh at the number of white-tan-brown shades they must produce to appease architects who are constrained by planning departments and developers who fear backlash at anything too splashy.  The original builders of American cities used real stone and brick which created the expectation of appropriate color choices today.  Then brutalist concrete architecture created today’s backlash against letting materials show their “natural” color.  Material manufacturers don’t even bother to develop different hues of products because they ultimately know it will be painted over.   Painted aluminum panels, why not.  As a result many downtown developers are opting for beautiful but characterless glass curtains.

Signage

Bob's Java Hut has a fun collection of all sorts of signs, protruding, murals, posters, and side-mounted.

Bob’s Java Hut has a fun collection of all sorts of signs, protruding, murals, posters, and side-mounted.

Granted signage was horrid in the early automobile era and that are left with their vestiges today, the concept of signage and in turn, advertisement, is inherent to a viable city.  People will avoid areas that don’t offer assurances of “something there.”  If we want to promote pedestrian use, we have to speak to pedestrians and that requires perhaps more urban information than is often allowed in square inch limitations.   Cities have to be proactive about the signage environment that will exist, not simply layout punitive rules to doom retail aspirations.    Enabling commercial districts to form collective signage, street banners, and other forms of visual street information is a great way to augment and assuage this typically case-by-case zoning model.

Fenestration

Need more windows? Be careful what you wish for.

Need more windows? Be careful what you wish for.

Fenestration is a fancy word for describing how many windows you have.  The idea in New Urbanism and Jane Jacob’s “eyes on the street” is that you need a minimum amount of transparency from the building to the street.   The irony is humans like privacy and developing on small urban lots gives you less ability to have windows in which you can see out without worry that people can see in.  Even after you have a plethora of bay windows facing the street, if you’re covering one with blinds around the clock, you can actually get fined if it violates this condition.   Architects have smartly bridged the gap by doing glass curtain walls with treatments that “smoke” out the opacity.  With just the right setback and angle, you have a foreboding facade of glass that meets transparency requirements.

Maintenance (Mow Your Lawn)

Terraced plants or "grass"? Photo by Maggie Foucault.

Terraced plants or “grass”? Photo by Maggie Foucault.

Tall grass and weeds are a public nuisance, that will kill you. Ok maybe kill your eyes at the sight of an ugly yard! In today’s landscape movement toward native and drought-tolerant species, there is no reason cities should be punitive in old ideas of green lawns and one-inch grass.   Ordinances like these are still prevalent in urban cities and suburbs alike.  There are some valid reasons, for example dry areas have fire concerns with brush, and insane overgrown landscapes make buildings impassable. Cities need to instead steer residents towards sustainable lawns if they’re not willing to put up with maintenance.  And in general this American ideal of green lawns needs to seriously die.

Ride Sharing and the Future Urban Fabric

SF Chinatown, a place that really shouldn't have cars.

SF Chinatown, a place that really shouldn’t have cars.

I felt this TechCrunch article “Ride Sharing Will Give Us Back Our Cities” jumped the gun for me on issues of land use equity.  Planners have to be skeptical about how technology will change the landscape.  Our own foray into technology, the freeway, created an unforeseen sprawl landscape and car-centric culture.   Currently, the decoupling of home, work, and play is making it difficult to predict successful fixed-route transit.   Ride sharing as a permanent altering of transportation habits and infrastructure?  Let’s think about it.

Our cities, our cars?

The article is a bit confusing, because it advocates that residents give up their cars and then states those residents must adopt car-share.  This quandary reflects the assumptions made:

  • People still need cars, just cars that are not their own.
    • This is a highly loaded topic with geographical and racial implications.  TechCrunch’s audience, white, smart and well-to-do, needs to ditch their spoils, but then who are the ones offering their cars as tribute to the carless?  The cited studies suggest merely mode shift to other people’s cars, not giving up ownership.  It seems to me that we’re merely shifting car usage to another group of people, the rideshare chaffeurs.
  • Concentrating on helping urban residents.
    • Minneapolis I-94 during rush hour, most likely not city drivers.

      Minneapolis I-94 during rush hour, most likely not city drivers.

      Traffic is primarily an intercity (suburban to urban), not intracity problem.  Too many people in large machines wish to move between two somewhat distant locations and are funneled into one corridor.  It is not the same to state that 50,000 residents in the nearby suburb can easily give up their cars. Existing “urban” residents (likely the author means those living in pre-war city blocks) are probably not the ones causing headaches for state transportation planners.
  • Cars as intracity (neighborhood to neighborhood) problem.

    • The hidden assumption is that car-use is inherently an inner city problem, that of a driver going from the Sunset District to SOMA, or Columbia Heights to McPherson Square, or Highland Park to the U of M.  Inefficiencies are abound when city residents literally drive the route of a bus or rail line.  These people can avoid freeways, people in Menlo Park, Manassas, and Maple Grove will not.  We’ve gotten urbanites onboard rideshare, but we still have increasing number of cars on city streets.
  • The urban fabric will change.
    • The article suggests when people travel, they visit pedestrian-friendly places.  About 40 million people each visit Las Vegas and Los Angeles annually, both of which are hardly Jane Jacob’s favorite places.  New York gets 56 million.  Tourism is not a good gauge of transportation-land use policy.  Public Works departments are reinventing roads for the people they serve, not for visitors.
  • Millennials want experiences, not things.
    • This millennial is planning his awesome experience at the Northern Spark art party, but he secretly wishes he had things too.

      This millennial is planning his awesome experience at the Northern Spark art party, but he secretly wishes he had things too.

      I’m a millennial, this is not true, and the surveyors agree. Millennials would love to own their car and own their house.  They just can’t.  Things also enable experiences, like spontaneously driving your car on a road trip and not worrying about when to return it.  Millennials want detachment from responsibility, and car-share is like driving your parent’s car.  Lastly, why is this unique to millennials, shouldn’t everyone in a healthy city want great experiences in life.

City Policy vs Startup Hacking

The article does get it right in declaring the problem at hand:

Considering the inefficient use of the personal automobile, its exorbitant cost, the sheer volume of urban land devoted to serving that inefficient use and the material efficiencies achieved through ride-sharing and ride-hailing services, we just might have a chance to radically redesign our cities. If the 20th century was devoted to building the infrastructure to service the personal automobile, then perhaps the 21st century will be devoted to undoing most of it.

Fulton Street road diet.

Fulton Street road diet.

Public Works officials have already begun road diets for its “inclusive” mode design (see Fresno, CA, Louisville, KY).  It’s design is intentionally to slow vehicle traffic.  With AirBnb having defeated a major city’s ordinance, how will ride-share startups respond to future infrastructure policies (see Los Angeles’ Highland Park).

The article suggest road diets could be an outcome of ridesharing.  Arguably road diets have actually emerged from Vision Zero to eliminate pedestrian-vehicle deaths. How will rideshare companies respond when parking/stopping lanes are removed along money-making corridors, or when travel times are slowed across important thoroughfares which could affect their algorithms.  Local startup Split caters to this point of friction and curates required pick-up and drop-off locations near addresses.

Glen Park's BART streetscape redesign eliminated a coveted stopping lane in favor of an extended pedestrian waiting area.

Glen Park’s BART streetscape redesign eliminated a coveted stopping lane in favor of an extended pedestrian waiting area.

So the article speaks for a car-less future with cars.  It would be like suggest e-cigarettes (vaping) will herald the end of smoking. In actuality the future urban fabric may be fully to eliminate the car itself.   Currently, it would be more important to see rideshare’s effect upon transit, if it’s complementary or in actuality duplicative.  In 2012 TCRP wrote a 72 page report on ridesharing only to conclude:

Evidence that ridesharing complements public transit is limited, according to this examination of the state of the practice. Even though ridesharing has been around for decades as a travel mode and despite the benefits that a number of agencies have experienced a good deal of skepticism about combining ridesharing and public transit still exists.

How to Quickly Backup and Restore MAMP’s phpMyAdmin Databases

It took me some Googling to nail down the question “Where does MAMP’s phpMyAdmin (PMA) store mysql databases in OSX?” so I thought I’d summarize my findings.  The reason mysqldump isn’t as convenient is that MAMP is purposely GUI-focused, so switching brains and trying to navigate Terminal to MAMP’s mysql core is annoying and not intuitive (MAMP stores things all over the place).  Also mysqldump doesn’t easily like dumping all databases.  If we’re GUI, then let’s see if there’s a GUI solution and voila there is.

  • MAMP’s PMA stores its database files (.frm) inside HD/Library/Application Support/appsolute/MAMP PRO/db/mysql
  • Simply navigate to that folder and zip up the entire mysql folder (be wary there is also a separately named mysql folder inside this folder, ugh).
  • Throw that onto your Desktop or backup drive.
  • Let’s say you return to a fresh install of MAMP PRO, navigate back to that folder and copy all the files including ibdata1, ib_logfile1, ib_logfile0 which contains all the permissions and sql structure for phpMyAdmin.
  • Restart MAMP (which restarts mysql) and PMA should be refreshed with all your databases like nothing ever happened.

Similarly now you know how to cherry pick from old Time Machine backups instead of needing to setup the MAMP environment all over again.   Of course different versions of PMA may have changed that db folder structure, so be wary of that.