From Zipcar to running Chicago and Washington D.C.’s Departments of Transportation, to VC fund Fontinalis and CityFi, Gabe Klein is one of the zero-BS good guys working to keep cities moving and people happy. Klein joins Alex & Bryan to talk about the broken-window theory, transit deserts, data privacy and more. And stay tuned for a fact-check on the demise of streetcars, what highways got wrong, and a possible resurgence of pedestrian zones.

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Episode Transcript

Alex Roy

On this episode of the No Parking Podcast we’re going to talk to Gabe Klein, who used to be the head of Chicago DOT and I guess the Washington DC Department of Transportation? But most importantly he’s one of the only people on Twitter who actually ran a city level DOT who’s not an idiot. I really like this guy. Bryan, since you don’t believe in social media.

Bryan Salesky

It’s not that I don’t believe in it, I just choose not to participate in it. I have enough things to do each day.

Alex Roy

You know I don’t trust anyone who leads a company of a certain size who likes or tweets more than once or twice a day. I think it’s suspect.

Bryan Salesky

I agree.

Alex Roy

I knew you would. Alright so we got a chance to catch up with Gabe at the Ford City of Tomorrow this summer. He’s a really great guy, let’s just dive right in. Here we go.

Bryan Salesky

The descriptors are almost too-

Gabe Klein

Crazy?

Alex Roy

Well, Gabe, you were at one time the head of Chicago DOT. Is that correct?

Gabe Klein

That’s right.

Alex Roy

You have no patience for BS.

Gabe Klein

Oh no. Well, you can’t there. And I worked for Rahm Emanuel so.

Alex Roy

Yeah. Now, you are at Fontinalis Partners, is that correct?

Gabe Klein

I’m at Fontinalis Partners as a venture partner on their second fund and now their third fund, but I also have a firm called Cityfi that advises cities around the world, but also companies on how to work with cities. I also ran the DC Department of Transportation. But behind the scenes, like if you’re going to work in Chicago, DC, New York, places like that, you’re going to run a transportation department. It’s a combination. I think to get people on board with your program, you have to be a nice person, at least somewhat nice. But behind the scenes, man, you got to get things done.

Alex Roy

Bryan, is that true?

Bryan Salesky

Probably. I’m not sure I know entirely, Alex. Tell us about transportation issues in Chicago. What’d you do to solve some of the big issues when you got into office?

Gabe Klein

Yeah, well, it was a very old school agency I would say. I don’t say that in a bad way, but it was about filling the potholes and getting things done. But the irony was there were a lot of potholes and a lot of deferred maintenance and paving that needed to be done.

Bryan Salesky

This was basics. You just needed to get the infrastructure repaired again.

Gabe Klein

Well, so in both roles I realized like I have all these crazy ideas and things that I want to do to make people’s lives better. But if you can’t do the basics, if you can’t fill the potholes and make the road safe and paint the lines on the road and make the signals run, then forget all your great ideas.

Bryan Salesky

It’s like the broken window theory that they employed in New York City, right? It’s the little things that add up. If there’s graffiti on the subway system, if there’s trash on the side of the road, then you know what? Someone’s not going to look for the trash can when they go to throw out their cup or whatever, right?

Gabe Klein

Yeah.

Bryan Salesky

That’s the issue.

Gabe Klein

Well, back when I was at at Zipcar, we had the same issue. If you don’t fix the dings on the car and you leave them dirty, people destroy your cars.

Alex Roy

That’s what happened to AutoLib’ in Paris.

Gabe Klein

Yes.

Alex Roy

You see those things? There would be like a row of them parked and there’d be like a homeless guy living in one. The next one was used as like a cigar lounge. It was disgusting. My standards are pretty flexible and low.

Gabe Klein

You might have used that cigar lounge.

Bryan Salesky

But the lesson is details matter, right?

Gabe Klein

Yeah.

Bryan Salesky

What would an autonomous vehicle struggle with in Chicago do you think? What’s unique to Chicago versus other cities?

Gabe Klein

Well, definitely, first of all, it’s a big city, right? It’s very complex. You’ve got the… We call them the Indian corridors. They’re like the angled streets that you have that were the old Indian trails. You have these five and six way intersections that are extremely complex to navigate in a regular car or as a pedestrian. So I would imagine AV incredibly complex. The weather can be very intense. Like it’s winter from October to May.

Alex Roy

[crosstalk]

Gabe Klein

Lake effects, snow. I mean, what’s not to be complicated… Oh, and then you have like multilevel roads as well, like Wacker Drive, which I don’t know, that might not be too hard. But it’s a challenging environment in a regular car, put it that way. And then, oh, the lane striping has been notoriously bad because we had no budget.

Bryan Salesky

So you know what the good news is that a lot of the techniques we use now don’t actually rely on knowing or detecting visually the lane markings. We don’t count on those even being there.

Gabe Klein

Well, that’s smart.

Bryan Salesky

So a little bit of pressure taken off our city friends.

Gabe Klein

Oh good.

Bryan Salesky

But no you’re right. What’s surprising to us when we go from one city to the next is some of the intersections that have formed and been added to over time, they’re gnarly. You got to have… It’s challenging for a human to really have like complete situational awareness in these really like we have multiple… Not just like simple four ways, right? Where you’ve got merged lanes and various ramps going in and out. Folks are trying to deal with congestion, but they’re making the intersections more and more complex. It makes it harder for pedestrians to get through. And so-

Gabe Klein

We’ve actually overbuilt the infrastructure in some places. We’ve overcomplicated it.

Bryan Salesky

In Chicago or in general?

Gabe Klein

I would say in general, like you go to Europe, right? You go to the Netherlands, there’s traffic circles everywhere. There’s very few stoplights, particularly when you get outside of the city center. The trams have signal prioritization. It’s just smoother and simpler and more frictionless.

Bryan Salesky

Here it’s like every block there’s a stop sign or a stoplight. People are really concerned with like, “How fast can I get to my destination?” The reality is it’s not about how fast, it’s like how… Can you get there in an organized way.

Bryan Salesky

So you think there’s like a false sense of security and thinking that all of those control systems, stop signs and signals and so on. Do you think that’s a false sense of security a little bit.

Gabe Klein

Yeah. I mean, the truth is, in my opinion, and this is in my opinion, I’m not an engineer, but stop signs generally are safer than signals. I mean, I’ve seen people cruise through signals at 60 miles an hour, red Lights.

Bryan Salesky

We see it on a regular basis. I mean, we’ve got a sizable fleet on the roads across many cities now and it’s not infrequent. When we talk to our test drivers, every day someone pretty much has a story about running a signal. It’s incredible.

Gabe Klein

Oh, yeah. People get T-bone and people die. I mean, we’re losing over 40,000 people a year in automobile crashes. I saw an article in CNN the other day, the number two cause of death for young people, 10 to 19 is suicide, which is a staggering number, right?

Bryan Salesky

The number one is—.

Gabe Klein

They didn’t even talk about number one. Number one is traffic death.

Bryan Salesky

People are numb to it. That’s the thing, right?

Gabe Klein

Exactly.

Bryan Salesky

We’re trying to raise awareness about the fact that at the end of the day a lot of people are dying due to roadway fatalities and a lot of it’s due to human error, in attentiveness. We like to say that driving is the distraction at this point. That’s the promise that I think autonomous vehicles-

Gabe Klein

That’s true.

Alex Roy

… Yeah, exactly. Phones as well.

Bryan Salesky

But a lot of that is poor infrastructure design, like road design and it contributes to this distraction and confusion.

Bryan Salesky

This is why we’re excited to have you on the show because autonomous vehicles go some of the way to helping address some of these things, right? Because it can see all around and it doesn’t get distracted and so on. But there’s a lot more to it than that. There’s infrastructure that needs to change. What are some of the things on the city side that you think should be a priority?

Alex Roy

Who’s doing it really badly?

Gabe Klein

Put me on the spot. Well, so I think this is why there’s tension with cities over all kinds of new technologies, right? Because after the Uber experience, cities are trying to figure out, is this just going to happen to us? Is there something we need to do?We know this could make our cities better, but we’re confused on everything from the timeline to sort of how many companies are going to want to do it and what their business models are and give you robotaxes. I think on the city side, really unpacking with the private sector. What’s really happening? What’s realistic? What do you need is really important. But I think that maintaining the basic infrastructure is a first step. And in the US we spend 2 to 3% of GDP on infrastructure.

Alex Roy

What should it be?

Gabe Klein

It should be probably closer to six to eight. They spend five to 6% in Europe and eight to 9% in China. But in China, I mean also, in Asia they’re also building a lot of new cities that they don’t need. But you go to Europe and you see the quality of the infrastructure and you’re like, “Oh yeah, you could operate all kinds of different things on these streets.” I think we know that. And the state of good repair in the US is piss-poor and let’s be honest, we’re trying to build walls and stuff that we don’t need. It’s like, “Come on.” One of the things that I talk about, I was in palm springs yesterday in front of like 600 people from transit agencies around the country. I’m like, “Look, there’s a difference between investing in our future, making investments that can benefit everybody from Argo AI to the local bus network, to the person on the street to make them safer to just spending money on building extra capacity that we don’t need because by the way, autonomous vehicles are coming.”

Gabe Klein

I think there’s a really constructive dialogue needs to happen between folks like you and government. That’s the type of thing I try to facilitate.

Alex Roy

That’s what Cityfi does.

Gabe Klein

Cityfi. Yeah, me, myself. I mean I advise a lot of startups. But yes Cityfi definitely does that.

Bryan Salesky

Tell us more about Cityfi. What does a successful public/private partnership look like? What’s the framework of success that can be duplicated city to city, street by street?

Gabe Klein

It’s less complex than people think. It can’t be dictated by lawyers and procurement people. It’s got to be built on trust and relationships and understanding of, “Okay. What are you trying to accomplish? What are the outcomes that you need to hit?” Even if it’s like, “We’re trying to hit the stock price and to get there we need to do X, Y and Z. We need to execute over 24 months.” Which companies don’t tell cities about and they should. And if you can align the incentives and the outcomes, right? Often we’re at odds because we think, “Oh we need to preempt at the state level to be successful.” I was just having a conversation about that. Make it easier. It’s not easier. It makes it harder. I go back to the Divvy Bike-share System I did in Chicago, it was a public/private partnership. Now, Lyft bought it. Right? But it was contracted in such a way that Lyft could buy it. It’s basically a profitable system. And so if it’s structured properly where you share profits in that case, 50/50 you share profits if it does well, you share losses with the city, 50/50. It’s real simple stuff.

Alex Roy

I can’t believe what you’re saying because I mean-

Bryan Salesky

Alex is dumbfounded for those of you who can’t see.

Alex Roy

Because generally I distrust everything I hear.

Bryan Salesky

He’s not often silenced like you just did.

Alex Roy

All right. Cityfi, explain. You go city to city and structure deals. Are these regional deals, city level deals? I mean, it seems like everybody or a lot of companies entering etc. are trying to reinvent the wheel every time and make the same mistakes every time.

Bryan Salesky

I think we have to follow the money a little bit here. Before the Cityfi initiative, right? What is the primary method to get money and what are the strings that come attached?

Gabe Klein

You mean when you’re in government?

Bryan Salesky

Yeah. Yeah. Help us understand how they might be handcuffed based on what the fine print is that follows that money.

Gabe Klein

And who the bad actors are too?

Bryan Salesky

Yeah. Yeah

Gabe Klein

Well, look it’s really interesting. I mean, if you take federal money, depending on the flavor of money, there’s certain things that you have to do. But there’s good flavors of money. So like CMAC money, congestion mitigation, air quality money for instance, is very flexible. And if you’re in a city that’s out of attainment, the CO2 levels, greenhouse gas emissions are at a certain level, you can get access to this money. We funded like our bike share programs is, we funded the capital but then we funded the operations for three years as well. There’s some pretty flexible money. There’s grant money and then there’s formula funds. But I think increasingly-

Alex Roy

What are formula funds?

Gabe Klein

Formula funds are like when I ran DC DOT, every year we got like $123 million through federal highways for roads, bridges, maintenance, all that type of stuff. Then you have to look at the rules and figure out how do I flex that for what we really need. Sometimes you can use federal highways money for transit projects, for instance, like to improve roads so that bus rapid transit can operate. The MPO is really important and a lot of people are-

Alex Roy

What’s that?

Gabe Klein

… MPO, what the… Metropolitan Planning Organization. There are these regional organizations, there’s hundreds of them around the US. All the money filters through them and some of the money is this formula funding and some of it is money that you can just apply for. Nobody else is applying. There’s $20 million there and you say, “Can I have that for this project?” And they’ll be like, “Yes.”

Gabe Klein

Cities sometimes are not aggressively enough going after this money. And then of course there’s funds that you generate yourself. I had an enterprise fund in DC and so the more I can increase parking rates and parking revenues, if I could generate revenue from bike-share, I could put that money into other projects.

Gabe Klein

We generate 18 million more dollars on parking by putting in pay by phone and we use that to fund things like bike-share and bike lanes and other things.

Alex Roy

What cities have you gone to that had already begun to deploy some of these strategies successfully? Which cities are really, really lacking? I mean go international, I’m curious.

Gabe Klein

I mean Singapore is a really interesting case study because it’s a country and it’s a state, and it’s a city. They have a lot of flexibility and they’re whole posture is very pro-public/private partnership. Their transit system makes money. I mean, how many transit systems make profit right?

Alex Roy

But isn’t that a function of the history and government and small population of a country that they can actually implement these policies?

Bryan Salesky

Consumer habits?

Gabe Klein

Well, yeah. Here’s the thing, right? I think we have to ask ourselves in this country, I know you want me to say something controversial.

Alex Roy

I’m curious, what is the correlation… In a highly fractured democratic society, the United States, is it possible to come up with a framework you can carry city to city that’s consistent, or is it going to be a new lesson set every time?

Gabe Klein

No, there’s absolutely a framework and we actually follow a formulae where we establish like, “What are your values?” Right? “What are your north stars?” Because the problem is… So if you think about this waterfall that we work through with cities, we start with values and then we go to vision and we go to mission and then we get down eventually to strategy and tactics and resources.

Gabe Klein

The problem is cities often start at tactics and resources, and companies do too. The problem is then you end up with something that either the public doesn’t like or doesn’t mesh with the strategic plans that you’ve put out there. So investing-

Alex Roy

Like in Phoenix, with people parachuting in and testing without talking.

Gabe Klein

It could be. I mean, look there are definitely places where they have a whole bunch of separate pilots that are not woven into a strategy. And often in the sunbelt you see more of that because there’s less regulation and so there’s more experimentation. The positive is you get to try a lot of stuff. But in places like Phoenix and Las Vegas and others, you have these sort of mesh of projects that don’t necessarily mesh that well.

Alex Roy

The cities that are at the forefront of this, where are they?

Gabe Klein

In the US I would say Washington DC is actually doing great job. I’m a little biased because I live there and I obviously keep close tabs on it, but I think they allow a lot of controlled experimentation. Where they set up a framework and they say, “Okay. You want to deploy scooters or autonomous vehicles. Here’s the metrics that we want to measure. Here’s the before and after.

Gabe Klein

They’re not perfect by any means, but they’re open like they think yes before no. A lot of cities start with no and you got to convince them. Jeff, who’s a friend of mine who runs DDOT and worked for me when I ran it. He’s a lot like me. He’s like, “Okay. My first answer is yes. And how do we get there?”

Gabe Klein

That’s a whole different place to start. Other cities, LA, I think is doing great stuff. I mean Measure M and R and the $100 billion dollars they’re putting into transit.

Alex Roy

For people who don’t know what Measure M and R

Gabe Klein

Yeah. Well, the easiest way to explain it is, it’s a shit load of money that’s… Was passed by referendum and they have about $100 billion dollars to build out transit throughout the LA region. You see the success with the line from Santa Monica into the city and they’re building a whole bunch of lines right now. It’s hard and it’s tough and people don’t see the benefit right now, but they will.

Alex Roy

Have you been following this controversy over the mobility data standard?

Gabe Klein

Oh yeah. Closely.

Alex Roy

Do you want to talk… Do you have anything you want to say about that?

Gabe Klein

Well, yeah. I’ve learned more about data privacy and protocols this last year than I really wanted to. I’m certainly not an expert, but-

Alex Roy

If you’re not an expert, who is?

Gabe Klein

Well, I mean there are people, like Andrew McLaughlin. I mean there are people out there that have spent their career on this stuff regardless of industry. But what I would say is just like everything else that I’ve done in my career, whether it’s been the private sector or public sector.

Gabe Klein

When you delve into the details you realize it’s really about like core philosophy and I feel what we’re figuring out is like there are people that are more libertarian in their views and there are people that are more liberal, progressive. And there are people that are more conservative. And the libertarian sort of feel like, “Hey, hands off my data. We lay claim to this 20 years ago in Silicon Valley. The cities do not have a right to it and if you try to get it, we’re going to preempt you at the state level.”

Alex Roy

Again, I could try to explain MDS, but would, would you care to give like 30 seconds for those who don’t know what MDS is?

Gabe Klein

Basically, it’s an API. It’s application program interface that allows, let’s say a scooter company to send data to the city saying, this is where our trip started. This is where our trip ended. And every 100 feet or so, this is the approximate route that they took. And it gets transferred every 24 hours. It gets batched.

Gabe Klein

Then in the future the city can say, “Hey, by the way, we’ve had a robbery over here, a road closure or a fire, you might want to send a message to your customer to bypass this area.” Forest fires for instance, you know Waze was sending people into forest fires.

Gabe Klein

We know that the government needs to give Waze information as well. It’s not just a one way street. So the idea is to create a two-way interface for safety so that we have planning information. During emergencies you can respond, as well as the political realities of some council members saying, “We don’t want scooters in our ward.” So you need a geo-fence this.

Alex Roy

That was a very interesting description and completely accurate. But I’ve also heard it described as, “If we don’t…” Coming from a city official. “If we don’t get data from these companies entering, then we have no idea how to reapportion a lot money or resources for routes that they are not servicing.” And may choose not to service. Because they need to I guess resolve transit deserts that private startups are not. They don’t want to resolve necessarily. I mean, so there’s a social justice… Well, isn’t social justice if it’s built into a broader plan to improve the economy of the city.

Gabe Klein

Well look, so there’s a continuum, right? City buys and operates scooter system or bike-share system all the way to, we give a permit and just let the private company to do their business on our streets. There’s nothing wrong with either of them, but I think realistically we’re going to end up somewhere more in the middle, which is more of a concession type arrangement. We had that at Zipcar with Washington DC where they gave us 83 spaces on the street. Same with metro, but in exchange we had to have cars in all eight wards. We were getting extremely high profile, amazing spaces in ward one, which is where all the millennials and stuff live. But we had to get spaces in ward eight which is a very poor neighborhood. They forced us to do that. What we learned though was that there were a shit load of people in ward eight that needed transportation and some of those cars became the busiest in our fleet and the most profitable.

The relationship, the public private partnership where the city says, yes you can operate, but a concession type arrangement like you have all over Europe and Asia with transit is probably realistically where we’re going. So instead of 10 scooter companies, you might have two or three.

Bryan Salesky

I want to dive into the concept of a transit desert a little bit. For a minute it’s a good term. I don’t know that I’ve heard that term exact. How do they get created, Gabe? Help us understand the history of how this happens?

Gabe Klein

Well, that’s such an awesome question. And people don’t ask that enough. When I give my presentations for cities, even if I feel like I’m boring, some people, I go back to the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s and I show pictures of what their cities used to look like and I show people walking and biking and taking the street cars and crossing wherever the hell they want and not crossing in crosswalks. And they’re like, “Wow.” Because the average age in the room is usually 45, 50 they’ve never ridden on a streetcar. They’ve never seen that. Their frame of reference is like, “I drive my car every day from my garage to the office.”

Bryan Salesky

Exactly.

Gabe Klein

The transit desert got created when we had urban renewal, we drove the highways through the cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit. It’s so funny, right? Like you look at the population density in the city, you look at the date that they closed the streetcar system and you look at the date that they built, I-7 through Detroit, and the population immediately just falls off a cliff after that.

Gabe Klein

It stark, right? So that’s what we did. And then we put black folks on one side of the highway, white folks over here. Or in the case of-

Alex Roy

Robert Moses?

Gabe Klein

Robert Moses. Yeah. Well, in Chicago I had two highways there, so it was white people here, Latinos over here, Asians over here, black folks over here, all divided by the highways. Then the bus would only run to certain places, right? Because you can only afford to run it in so many places.

Bryan Salesky

Then that’s the key, right? Is that public transportation has to make some really hard choices because especially in the US they’re all running either near or way into bankruptcy, right? They have to make hard choices and depending on the leadership and whole bunch of political things, it depends on where those things operate.

Bryan Salesky

Those who don’t then have access to public transportation, they’re now hugely economically disadvantaged. Right?

Gabe Klein

Yeah.

Bryan Salesky

That’s where these deserts start to form. But you’re saying the beginning of all of this was when we plowed the highway system through these cities, they very much become physical barriers and they started to carve up the city.

Gabe Klein

Well, the original vision for the highway system was to link states and cities. Then they’re like, “Well this is such a great economic program. A jobs program.” I mean, keep in mind World War II had ended, right. All these folks have come back, they need to make something. They couldn’t make bullets and weapons anymore. They were making cars, they were making tract houses, they were building roads. It was a jobs program. It was $25 billion jobs program. But then they said, “Well shit, we can’t let this stop.” And let’s face it, we got some issues in our cities. Let’s do some social re-engineering.”

Bryan Salesky

How does this get fixed? I mean, the highways aren’t going to go anywhere anytime soon. Is it building better thoroughfares to reconnect these people. Is it simple matter of… Not simple, but is it a matter of getting new transportation systems in these areas that have been left behind?

Gabe Klein

I’m just going to give you sort of my utopian vision, is that in a city like DC where I live, that we reallocate a tremendous amount of space on major corridors to high quality, high capacity transit. It could be bus, it could be autonomous bus, it could be street car. Then you can go back and look at the streetcar networks in most of the cities and that’s where you put your high capacity lines. It hasn’t changed because the land use doesn’t change that much. Then we use services like yours to people to those high capacity routes. Now you’re operating a service, but I’m saying your technology, right?

Bryan Salesky

That’s a huge advantage. If we’re thoughtful about it, we collaborate and we listened to what the city leaders need. There is a huge opportunity to solve the last mile problem. And also to reconnect these deserts with the fabric of the city. Because in theory if we do this right, autonomous vehicle transportation will be much more affordable than what it is today.

Gabe Klein

Well, right? If we do this right, then we will bring walking and biking back to be actually the premier option. Because my fantasy in DC, and this is a little controversial, is that we would probably close one to two out of every three streets to through traffic like they’re doing with the superblocks in Barcelona at the neighborhood level.

Gabe Klein

Because we have this idea like you got to be picked up at your door, you can’t walk two blocks then we have all kinds of other problems as a result.

Bryan Salesky

It doesn’t have to necessarily be like this Woonerf, I’m I saying that word right?

Gabe Klein

Woonerf.

Bryan Salesky

Where it’s this expansive… Think of it as a really wide road with no painted lines and basically it’s shared conduit, pedestrians, bikes, scooters.

Gabe Klein

Low speed shared.

Bryan Salesky

AVs.

Gabe Klein

It can be AVs.

Bryan Salesky

It could be anything. But in my mind it could be used for anything and we don’t necessarily need to run autonomous vehicles through those thoroughfares. Just get people close and then give them the option to be able to get to get to the door quickly.

Gabe Klein

Totally. Here’s the sad thing about it and I get frustrated with this as an ex-DOT official is like we could do it right now. We don’t need to wait till autonomous vehicles come. You can say, “Okay. We’re going to do…” So I did this article on Forbes in December.

Alex Roy

As a contributor.

Gabe Klein

As a contributor. Yes, on slow lanes. So slow lanes, the idea is on our typical four lane cross-section, two lanes bi-directionally that we take the curbside lane, make it a little bit smaller. So psychologically people are like, “Oh, maybe I should go slower here.” Then you lower the speed to 15 miles per hour.

Gabe Klein

And you do slow AVs and you do bikes, and you do scooters. Honestly, I don’t care if you want to run in it, just you got to go 15 miles an hour, sort of like a fietsroutes in the Netherlands, a bike priority street. And we do that on our four lane roads and on our local streets as well. 15 miles per hour.

Bryan Salesky

The future of cities, the future of transportation. This is not going to be just one or two new modes. We’re talking about fundamental re-engineering of the system in order to solve some of the issues we talked about with these. Whether it be a transit desert or whether it be neighborhoods that somehow have been left behind or whatever the case may be.

Bryan Salesky

There’s a ton of opportunity to engineer and it doesn’t require $25 billion programs in order to implement.

Gabe Klein

No, it’s reallocation of space.

Alex Roy

Now, that you guys believe in V2X and like deep embedded stuff in this.

Bryan Salesky

I believe in a huge way. But the point is there’s no silver bullet. So too often we promote any one of these things as this. That is what’s going to solve this huge category of problem it’s-

Alex Roy

I’m glad to hear you say, because I don’t believe… I mean, I think any system that depends on a thing embedded in the street that work, especially if it requires power, is dead to me.

Bryan Salesky

But let’s talk about some of the applications there, right? So for example, if as an autonomous vehicle, we share the route we intend to take with the “smart infrastructure” the traffic lights can get timed in a way that we can manage our speed in a smart way. The city is able to manage then the traffic flow in a smarter way.

Alex Roy

Well-

Bryan Salesky

There’s a brokering that can happen between the infrastructure and the agents that are using that infrastructure.

Alex Roy

Does that mean I should have a startup that does dynamic traffic markets, arbitraging competing fleets?

Gabe Klein

Maybe.

Alex Roy

Because I’m leaving Argo then.

Gabe Klein

Well, look, here’s the thing. I think Brian, we all believe what you just said. I think what Alex is saying is like the friction to actually deploy all of it and organize it is sort of beyond… We’ve been trying to beat X now for 20 years, but when sensors get down to a dollar and you can just slap it on a curb, then maybe it’s… And it auto configures that-

Bryan Salesky

I’m with you. I’m not buying or selling the actual solution. But from a perceptual standpoint, this is where we do need to go to. Because I get asked the question all the time, well how are autonomous vehicles going to help congestion? Well, the short answer is they’re not unless they’re plugged into a fabric that is like smart infrastructure.

Alex Roy

Do you see why I like him Gabe.

Gabe Klein

Yes.

Alex Roy

He’s the only honest-

Gabe Klein

He’s honest.

Alex Roy

… guy in AV industry.

Gabe Klein

We can start with V2V because if the vehicles can really talk to each other and operate inches apart. I mean that’s a huge improvement.

Bryan Salesky

Exactly. But was there anything else you wanted to say about Cityfi because while we’re-

Alex Roy

No. No.

Bryan Salesky

… We want to make sure you had a chance to.

Gabe Klein

Look, we take a triple bottom line approach. We say too working with cities and companies. So a lot of times we sort play Switzerland and we try to help broker honest deals. But we’re not like a deal maker. I mean we do advisory services, we do strategic plans.

Gabe Klein

We did the West Hollywood strategic plan, we advise Seleta Reynolds and Marcel on MDS and other things.

Gabe Klein

They’re doing a phenomenal job here in LA. But yeah, that’s what we do and it’s fun.

Bryan Salesky

We have a tradition on the No Parking podcast. We ask all of our guests, what’s the craziest thing you’ve seen on the road recently, just as a driver? What have you witnessed? What’s the latest thing that just get your hair standing on end?

Gabe Klein

Well, there’s so many things, but I think, when I see a pothole that’s so big that you can put a chair in it, that bugs me. I was in Singapore doing an autonomous vehicle test and I saw a wild boar just crossed out in front of the car and the car was like, “What is that?” And it just stopped.

Bryan Salesky

This is why we ask the question. See you just added another element to our test plan. Thank you.

Alex Roy

We got to see Gabe living way beyond his reputation for being a tough son-of-a bitch. Thanks so much for coming on the show.

Gabe Klein

Thanks guys. Thanks for having me.

Alex Roy

Well that was a pretty cool episode Bryan. I was really glad you could look up from your phone and actually pay attention for once because we a guest of that level of intellectual gravitas. What did you think?

Bryan Salesky

Thanks Alex, that’s great. You know I think Gabe had a lot of really interesting points to make as always. He’s one of the thought leaders in the space. It was particularly interesting his comment that 1 in 3 streets are going to be closed for pedestrian traffic. That’s the optimal.

Alex Roy

In his dream world that’s optimal. Do you think that’s optimal?

Bryan Salesky

I don’t know. I mean, maybe we should have gone a little deeper in that. Maybe next time we have him on.

Alex Roy
I think what he said was as maybe as many as one in two. That’s a pretty big difference.

Bryan Salesky
I mean, it’s huge. Think about it as cutting the bandwidth in half in third. I mean that’s crazy.

Alex Roy
Have you spent a lot of time in like a European city that had like a major pedestrian zones?

Bryan Salesky
I don’t know that I have spent a lot of time but I certainly have seen it is actually pretty effective, but things are also pretty damn close together in Europe, right?

Alex Roy
You know, I feel like an idiot because I spent summers there as a kid and I am trying to remember like how they deal with deliveries. I guess it’s a pedestrian zone, but certain hours, like off hours, they must allow vehicles. They have to because what if you move into an apartment in such a zone

Bryan Salesky
Yeah, I mean that’s a good point. I mean, look, I think there’s the policymakers here have their work cut out for them to figure out what the optimal solution would be.

Alex Roy
I feel like you’re making fun of my preferred use of the word suboptimal for anything that’s less than perfect.

Bryan Salesky
No, I mean, I think it’s a very…it’s a very clear and concise way to make your point.

Alex Roy
And you know where it came from. Let me, let me tell you, I’m going to tell you anyway. So I was at a, at a concert, at a certain venue, a music venue that I may or may not be part of, that I don’t have permission to plug here. And I was standing next to a man who asked me, what do you think of the band that’s playing right now? And I made a face and he said to me, suboptimal. And I said, well, who are you? And he said, their manager.

Bryan Salesky
That’s good.

Alex Roy
But you know, I, I read a book once I read a book by Charlie Beckwith, who was the founder of the Delta force. You, you know about him?

Bryan Salesky
I’ve heard of him.

Alex Roy
You’re, a fan of military history.

Bryan Salesky
Of course.

Alex Roy
Is it the technology or the organizational stuff?.

Bryan Salesky
All of the above.

Alex Roy
Me too. And he said when he was planning the famous, the infamous disastrous Iranian embassy rescue mission. And he was asked by President Carter for the odds of success. And he said, well, if it’s above 50%, it’s probable. If it’s below, it’s possible. And that stuck with me my whole life as a very suboptimal method of categorizing the likelihood because it’s, you know, difference between 51 to 49 is milliseconds.

Bryan Salesky
Indeed.

Alex Roy
All right, let’s wrap this up. We can’t find you on Twitter. I’m not even gonna ask. You can find me on all platforms at @Alexroy144 but more importantly, please follow the no parking podcasts on twitter @noparkingpod and check us out online at noparkingpodcast.com. If you would like to be a guest on our show or know someone that would like to come down and, you know, be confronted with truth and questions email me alex@noparkingpodcast.com. Thanks so much see you next week.