Ben Coxworth, “Asphalt additive could continuously keep roads ice-free,” New Atlas, February 17, 2023, https://newatlas.com/materials/asphalt-salt-additive-ice-roads/
Fig. 1. Post-collapse scene at the Fern Hollow Bridge, photograph by National Transportation Safety Board, January 29, 2022, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
Y’all know I deeply distrust what’s going on with Pittsburgh roadwork.
Perhaps the most eye-opening example was work done on Pennsylvania Route 51 between the U.S. Route 19 (leading to Banksville Road and Interstate 376) ramp and Pittsburgh’s West End. This was a major project. They dug up and replaced the road bed. It’s huge. For a length of highway, this is a massive amount of concrete, which then gets topped with asphalt.
In the inbound direction (toward West End), this took several months. I wasn’t really keeping track, but it was probably seven or eight months. So when they got to doing the outbound direction (toward Route 19), I expected the work to take a similar length of time. After all, conditions seem unlikely to be substantially different from one side of the road to the other. (The project did not seem to involve much retaining wall work.)
But no, they finished the outbound direction in a mere two months. That discrepancy is, for me, dissonance. And that dissonance appears in project after project, roadwork that drags on interminably, as if the workers are convinced that this job is the last job they’ll ever get and so they’re milking it for every penny. Even when they appear to have finished a project, they’re back at it within a month. It never ends.
And there’s no shortage of work to be done. In Pittsburgh, they were only able to allocate money for 39 miles of street repairs in 2022. I can’t help but wonder how much more could be done if the roadwork was taken seriously, the jobs were treated as things to actually be accomplished rather than as “make work” projects, and the money used more efficiently.
It’s completely ludicrous to me that road workers and contractors should be milking these contracts for every last damned penny, taking anything like as long to complete as they do. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t take that long to do this shit. It doesn’t. It can’t.
So when I see news of an additive for asphalt that would eliminate the need to salt roads in Pittsburgh, eliminate the freezing that widens cracks into potholes, and eliminate the rust damage to cars from salt, you can absolutely know that I am absolutely convinced that this innovation will not be coming to Pittsburgh. It won’t.
And we won’t even hear a peep about it from local officials. They’ll be singing la-de-dah with their fingers in their ears, “Can’t hear anything!”
Michael DiVittorio, “Traffic crossover to occur along southbound Interstate 79 through November,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 17, 2023, https://triblive.com/local/traffic-crossover-to-occur-along-southbound-interstate-79-for-a-penndot-project-starting-saturday-through-november/
Fig. 1. Yeah, this is me. The sign says, “If you’re whining about a labor shortage, STOP ignoring my job applications!” And the QR-code leads here. Photograph by author, January 16, 2023.
The companies are lying scum and mainstream media are generally not investigating their claims but instead resorting to “he said, she said” coverage:
Uber and Lyft both denied the accusation that upfront pay is designed to offer the lowest fare to drivers. Both companies also said that driver earnings are high at around $35 per hour of engaged time. Note that engaged time means the time a driver is driving to pick up or drop off a passenger and doesn’t include the time spent driving around and waiting for a gig. Many drivers say this means engaged time is not reflective of a true hourly wage.
I have rarely if ever seen anything like $35 per hour driving for Lyft or Uber, whether on “engaged time” or not. By the definition of “engaged” as including pick up and drop off time, I am “engaged” by far most of the time I’m out there. I can only surmise that the $35 includes the apparent 60 percent-plus discrepancy between what they charge passengers (according to passengers) and what they pay me. And the amounts the companies claim to pay are in any case misleading as they fail to account for the considerable operating costs that drivers bear.
Meanwhile, the companies have cut driver pay so far—I think by 40 percent—that they have eviscerated what little margin there was and Pittsburgh drivers launched a two-day strike.
That strike seems to have had no effect as Uber seems to have cut pay even further to match what I saw with Lyft while seeking to exploit a $1200 guarantee for 50 rides (Lyft still hasn’t made good on their promise and owes me something like $650).
Fig. 2. Graph of estimated daily average net income (in blue, using Internal Revenue Service mileage allowance) by month since January 2022, against estimated daily operating costs (in red, using Internal Revenue Service mileage allowance), what the federal minimum wage would be for a six-and-a-half hour day had it kept pace with productivity (in green), the (outdated) federal poverty line (in light orange), and the Pennsylvania minimum wage (in orange), created by author, February 10, 2023, revamped February 18, updated daily.
Driving for these companies is not something I do voluntarily. I do it only because I have been unable to find a real job, which I define as conforming to Article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), in 22 years. In addition to paying so abysmally that I have no means to survive, these companies are abusive. I am seeing no alternative to suicide because this simply cannot continue.
Rebecca Bellan, “Lyft is charging riders wait time fees — but drivers aren’t reaping the rewards,” TechCrunch, February 17, 2023, https://techcrunch.com/2023/02/17/lyft-is-charging-riders-wait-time-fees-but-drivers-arent-reaping-the-rewards/
Levi Sumagaysay, “Uber, Lyft, DoorDash trade group asks for delay of worker-classification rule after Marty Walsh resignation,” MarketWatch, February 17, 2023, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/uber-lyft-doordash-trade-group-asks-for-delay-of-worker-classification-rule-after-marty-walsh-resignation-a96b124a
- Julia Felton, “Pittsburgh plans to repave 39 miles of streets; work starts Monday,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 15, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-to-begin-street-paving-monday-plans-to-repave-39-miles-of-streets/↩
- Ben Coxworth, “Asphalt additive could continuously keep roads ice-free,” New Atlas, February 17, 2023, https://newatlas.com/materials/asphalt-salt-additive-ice-roads/↩
- Rebecca Bellan, “Lyft is charging riders wait time fees — but drivers aren’t reaping the rewards,” TechCrunch, February 17, 2023, https://techcrunch.com/2023/02/17/lyft-is-charging-riders-wait-time-fees-but-drivers-arent-reaping-the-rewards/↩
- Marcie Cipriani, “Local rideshare drivers stop accepting rides for 48 hours to protest work conditions,” WTAE, February 10, 2023, https://www.wtae.com/article/pittsburgh-rideshare-drivers-lyft-uber-work-conditions/42830261; Liz Kilmer, “Uber, Lyft drivers announce strike across Pittsburgh region,” WPXI, February 10, 2023, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/uber-lyft-drivers-announce-strike-across-pittsburgh-region/T7SE5T7GHJB7VOD4LG3J4VF34A/↩
- Dean Baker, “Correction: The $23 an Hour Minimum Wage,” Center for Economic Policy and Research, March 16, 2022, https://cepr.net/the-26-an-hour-minimum-wage/↩
- Areeba Haider and Justin Schweitzer, “The Poverty Line Matters, But It Isn’t Capturing Everyone It Should,” Center for American Progress, March 5, 2020, https://www.americanprogress.org/article/poverty-line-matters-isnt-capturing-everyone/↩
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, “Federal poverty level (FPL),” n.d., https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/federal-poverty-level-fpl/↩
- U.S. Department of Labor, “State Minimum Wage Laws,” January 1, 2023, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/minimum-wage/state↩
- David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/↩
- David Benfell, “A life worth living,” Not Housebroken, February 14, 2023, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/12/27/a-life-worth-living/↩