Would You Pay $400/Month for All of Your Transportation Needs
The Downtown Project is an ambitious project going up in Las Vegas’ old downtown area. Helmed by Tony Hsieh and the Zappos corporation–for whom the area will serve as their new corporate campus–the area is being designed to embody the ideal urban conditions to produce a global innovation capital to rival Silicon Valley. They are carefully condensing housing to be 100 people per acre–perfect for serendipitous encounters that spark innovation. They are providing a large startup fund to attract the best minds from around the globe. And now they are adding a transportation scheme that may point to how we get around in the future.
For about $400 a month, Project 100 will provide on demand transportation, matching subscribers with several different transportation alternatives depending on their needs in the moment. From Project 100’s website:
Project 100 is the code name for a complete transportation system designed to let you get rid of your car and be more connected to your neighborhood. It includes on-demand cars with drivers, shared cars you can drive yourself, bikesharing, shuttle buses and more. The experience is simple: open an app so we know where you are and tell us what zone you want to travel to. With that information we’ll give you a set of options, for example, 1 – Be picked up by a driver in a Tesla in 3 minutes, 2 – Drive yourself in a low range electric vehicle that’s 0.2 miles away, 3 – Grab a bike that’s 0.1 miles away or 4 – Hop on the party bus that will be near you in 4 minutes.
Similar to the architectural idea of using transforming spaces to provide space when you need it and not when you don’t, Project 100 wants to match your transportation need with transportation conveyance to optimize efficiency. For example, if you need to cruise on the highway, use one of their Tesla 100s; if you need to go a mile, use a bikeshare bike; if you need to barhop, use a shuttle; and so on.
One of those transportation alternatives they allude to are “low range electric vehicles” such as the Polaris GEM (pictured below)–a tiny EV that handles quick trips to the grocery store more efficiently than the Tesla.
The project has some technical challenges. They need to create an infrastructure for charging the EVs; they will provide a hub for vehicle storage and charging, but the nature of the system would make leaving the cars anywhere the ideal. There is also the substantial technology necessary to distribute vehicles so everyone in the system has what they need 100% of the time. The project wants people to get rid of their cars, and in order to do so they need a system that rivals–or perhaps bests–the convenience of traditional car ownership.
All these challenges included, we applaud The Downtown Project and Project 100. It’s an earnest effort at curbing the inefficiencies inherent in America’s current transportation landscape, where large SUVs are routinely used to pick up a half-dozen cupcakes because that’s the one vehicle its owner has immediate access to.
The limited range of the Downtown Project provides a nice laboratory to work out the inevitable kinks–as well as a forward-thinking, forgiving constituency. And $400 for all your transportation needs (insurance, fuel, etc are included), while more money than biking around the city, is pretty comparable in terms of cost to car ownership, and the system has a number of benefits car ownership does not.