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Gabe Klein has invested his life and career in all facets of urban mobility, both as an entrepreneur and within the halls of city government. Now a consultant and advocate for positive urban change, Gabe co-created Cityfi, in 2016, to help cities adapt to new technologies, sustainability issues and growth using public-private partnerships and market-based ideas.
Growing up in the 1970s during the energy crisis, Gabe remembers the rationing of fuel and how it inspired his father to get into the bicycle business. He worked for his family’s company until he went to college and saw first-hand the opportunity to rethink the way people get around in urban areas. Hired by ZipCar in 2002, just as it was getting started, Gabe helped to grow that early mobility company dramatically during its formative years. He served as the director of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (2008-10), and as commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation (2011-13), where he helped create two of the first bike share programs in the U.S., and worked on issues such as bus rapid transit, infrastructure projects and cycling and pedestrian plans, to name a few. He even started an electric-powered, organic food truck chain called On The Fly.
Gabe is also the co-author, with David Vega Barachowitz, of Start-Up City: Inspiring Private and Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun (2015).
A huge fan of challenging the status quo, Gabe says one of his mottos is “if somebody is not calling you crazy, then you’re not working hard enough.”
Insights and Inspirations
- Our biggest problems can be solved through an exchange of ideas between the public and private sectors.
- Reallocation of urban space away from cars is critical for urban mobility. The majority of urban trips are less than one to three miles, and there’s a big market there.
- We need more rebels, people pushing the envelope, even when we don’t agree with them.
Information and Links
- You can buy Gabe’s book at Island Press or on Amazon.
- Watch Gabe’s TEDx talk: Cars Almost Killed Our Cities, But Here’s How We Can Bring Them Back.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: [00:00:14] Hi there. Thanks so much for joining me today for the latest episode of Impact Real Estate Investing.
[00:00:21] Today’s guest is Gabe Klein. Gabe has invested his life and career in all facets of urban mobility, both as an entrepreneur and within halls of city government. That’s made for a very interesting point of view, from Zipcar to bike sharing to transportation commissioner to book and now to Cityfi, Gabe has left a mark on mobility in this country.
[00:00:50] So, listen in and be sure to go to EvePicker.com to find out more about Gabe on the show notes page for this episode. And be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you can access information about impact real estate investing and get the latest news about the exciting projects on my crowdfunding platform, Small Change.
Eve: [00:01:18] Hello, Gabe. Thanks so much for joining me today.
Gabe Klein: [00:01:20] Thanks for having me, Eve.
Eve: [00:01:22] So, you’ve done so much, I really don’t know where to begin. Zipcar. Bike sharing. Transportation commissioner. A book called ‘Startup City.’ And my personal favorite, On The Fly, your own electric-powered, organic, food truck chain.
Gabe: [00:01:37] That’s correct.
Eve: [00:01:39] And, of course, now you wrap that all up in your company called Cityfi. I’m wondering how you got there and why transportation issues matter so much to you.
Gabe: [00:01:50] Yeah. Well, you know, I grew up in the 1970s, actually, as a kid, and 80s, but I grew up during the energy crisis, and I remember the rationing of fuel and it inspired my dad to get into the bicycle business. And so from the age of, like, five years old, six years old, I was always around bicycles. We had skateboards and we had mopeds in the stores. And we used these things at home, too. And my dad actually commuted by bike, many days. And so I grew up looking at these quote unquote alternative modes of transportation, actually as normal ways of getting around. And, by the way, we lived in a rural area. So, we would commute all the way from our rural home into the local town on these busy roads. And so, as I got older and I was, so, you know, in the bicycle business, even post-college, I realized that in urban areas there was this huge opportunity to rethink the way people got around. And I had moved to Washington, D.C., in the mid 90s, and, you know, our major arterials were speedways. People were doing 65, 70 miles an hour …
Eve: [00:03:04] Oh, yeah.
Gabe: [00:03:04] … completely out of control. And yet, we had all these people moving back to our cities. So, I met Robin Chase, and that was around 2002, and she hired me as an executive at Zipcar, and I helped build that business, and it was really instrumental in me understanding the relationship between public and private sector, and how important the public sector was in empowering small businesses like ours, and tying them in to the existing infrastructure in the city, in the space, in, you know, in terms of giving us parking spaces, in terms of tying us into the transit system. And it was really the key to our success, I think. And so, ever since then, I’ve been really focused on, you know, how do we do good, make money and enhance the lives of people in our urban areas.
Eve: [00:03:59] From those early beginnings, because things have changed a lot since Zipcar, right? Zipcar has waned a little bit because other things have popped up instead. What is the mobility landscape look like to you in the U.S. today by comparison?
Gabe: [00:04:13] Yeah, well, look, I think businesses always need to evolve, right? I mean, look at Amazon. It started out as a bookstore out of a garage, right? So, I think that there’s been a lot of evolution related to the technology that we have in our hands. The GPS technology that allows us to geolocate where things are. Solar and electrification. Obviously, the backbone of it all, the enhanced cell phone networks. And that’s what’s really powered the transformation in mobility. At the same time, what we find is we have all these new modes, and they’re really exciting, and it’s actually gotten a lot of people on bikes, which I love.
Eve: [00:04:50] Yes.
Gabe: [00:04:50] Right? But on the other hand, things are pretty pedestrian. And what I mean by that is, like, there’s a basic way that we’ve been getting around for a couple 100,000 years. You know, we’ve been walking, we’ve been riding the horse. Then we start riding bikes, taking streetcars. And fundamentally, you have a sort of geometry problem, and you have, sort of, movement of people and the geometry of how you move them, and it’s really about volumetrics. And so, in a dense urban area, you can only move so many people so quickly. And so it becomes about bigger things. It’s about, like, what creates a healthy city, what creates a safe city, creates an equitable city, or town, by the way, it doesn’t have to be a big city. And so, you know, my time in government was really instrumental in seeing that the levers that we had that could really change the quality of life for people. And now we’re talking about things like universal basic mobility. We’re having conversations in the public square about, you know, because mobility and transportation are so closely tied to land use and real estate, and because so much of people’s income goes to those two things, that if you can create a system where people don’t have to use a very complex transport system, and you don’t have to make a capital investment in the transportation, they can afford to live in a place …
Eve: [00:06:16] Yeh.
Gabe: [00:06:16] … that they want to live and they can do it in a way that they have a higher quality of life, and more access to jobs. And so, that’s …
Eve: [00:06:22] Solving the mobility issue actually makes housing more affordable.
Gabe: [00:06:29] Well, look, if you shed one car like, let’s say you’re a two-car family, you shed a car, that’s 150,000 dollars more real estate you can afford.
Eve: [00:06:36] Yes.
Gabe: [00:06:37] Right?
Eve: [00:06:37] If you’re a worker who needs to get to a job every day and there is, you can walk to pick up your groceries, and there’s a train or bus near you that gets to work, you can shed both the cars.
Gabe: [00:06:50] Right. Right. I mean, look, people say like D.C., San Francisco, Boston, these are the most expensive places to live. However, you know, in D.C., car payments are less than 10 percent of people’s income, right? And you look at a lot of other, like Sunbelt cities, it’s 20, 25, 30 percent. In a low-income neighborhood, over 50 percent. My household? We’ve gotten to, because we have an apartment downstairs, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven people. And there’s one car, …
Eve: [00:07:17] Yeh.
Gabe: [00:07:17] … you know. And so, actually, our cost of living is relatively low.
Eve: [00:07:23] Yes. Yeah. So, you know, interestingly, I mean, I think about this. So, while technology has been advancing some mobility solutions, we’re really kind of still stuck in how to model the physical landscape, right?
Gabe: [00:07:38] Oh, absolutely. And that’s what I was getting at when I was saying, like some of the problems are very pedestrian. I was trying to be funny, but it’s like, it’s really about the reallocation of space, right? It’s like, you can only move so many people if you allocate all the lanes to cars that carry one or two people, what we call single-occupancy vehicles. And so, there’s a big movement, like, if this technology and these new modes are going to be successful, like scooters, for instance, and shared bicycles, you’ve got to give space to them or people won’t feel safe. And if they don’t feel safe, even for a small portion of the trip, let’s say they’re driving, or riding, excuse me, from home to work, and it’s a five mile trip and there’s two blocks that feel terribly unsafe. That mom may not make that trip, the entire five mile trip, because of those two blocks. And so, it’s really about creating a safe system for people.
Eve: [00:08:28] I know that the public sector is thinking about this. Is the private sector thinking about this? Who’s more advanced in their thinking? Are they talking to each other?
Gabe: [00:08:40] Well, that’s actually why I wrote ‘Startup City.’ When I went into the public sector, I had never worked, I mean, and I came in running the agency, I had never worked in government in my life. And so I had a very different perspective. And I’m really fixated and focused on this exchange of ideas between public and private. Because, to be honest, to solve the climate crisis, our affordability crisis, all the major problems of our time, we’re not going to do it without the two sides working together. Now, government has a very strong arm in terms of regulation and setting the tone, which I think they are going to need to flex. But the more we can work with the private sector, understand the private sector’s, you know, business models, their motivations, their, the outcomes that they’re looking for, and we can inform the regulatory environment and policy, then we can come together and make change a lot more quickly. And to be honest, in the situation we find ourselves in, particularly with climate, we need to move a lot faster.
Eve: [00:09:38] So, do you think that the public sector can somehow be infused with the urgency and energy of a startup?
Gabe: [00:09:47] Well, that’s what I did. I’d like to think I did. I mean, I ran these two agencies as if they were well-funded startups. And, you know, there were some people that thought I was crazy.
Eve: [00:09:59] Ha.
Gabe: [00:09:59] And, you know, one of my mottos is, like, if you’re, if somebody is not calling you crazy, then you’re not working hard enough. You know, like, if somebody doesn’t think that your ideas are a little crazy, then you’re not challenging the status quo enough. And I think the government can work on behalf of taxpayers, move a lot faster, and also, to be honest, be fiscally responsible, and in some cases, share in profits, or losses, with the private sector, which is what we did with some of our bike share programs. I think the private sector needs to be much more open to working for the greater good, taking a long term view versus the short term view. And looking at the long-term sustainability of their business, and sustainability of the planet, and the urban environment that they’re operating in. And if we can get the two thinking alike, and I work with a lot of companies and governments, it is just amazing what they can do and the speed that they can do it in. A lot of it comes down to … tried and true old school relationships, and understanding and trust. And that’s what we try to build.
Eve: [00:11:02] Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So, Then how should equity play into transportation solutions?
Gabe: [00:11:11] Yeah. I mean, there’s so much to talk about here.
Eve: [00:11:14] Yes.
Gabe: [00:11:14] But it’s actually, at the end of the day, and I hate to say something like this as an entrepreneur, but transportation doesn’t make any money. I mean, like how many transportation systems, you know, that consistently make money. Like Pepsi does, right? Almost none. Uber lost almost eight billion dollars last year. There are a couple of transit systems that are profitable because so many people use them, like Hong Kong and Singapore. There are some private sector companies that make money some times, like some of the airlines. But fundamentally, it is not a big moneymaking business. And so, we need to think about the outcomes that we want for our people, We need to think about creating equitable outcomes around all the elements that make up quality of life, or the happiness index, for instance, and then figure out how do we fund transportation to make that work. So, Uber today might be funded by venture capitalists, and long term it may be partially funded by the government …
Eve: [00:12:08] Yes.
Gabe: [00:12:09] … for certain types of trips. For low-income people, late at night, hourly workers, when the bus isn’t running, to make it home, you know? So, I think the business models are going to change and shift. We saw this around the turn of the last century where there were so many streetcar systems built by developers, funded by developers, so that people could reach their new streetcar suburbs. And then over time, as the automobile came up and you had such a fractured marketplace, you had the consolidation of them, and then you eventually had the collapse of them, and then they became public sector entities, and then they were killed by the car companies. I mean, it’s a little bit of an oversimplification, but that’s sort of how it went down.
Eve: [00:12:47] Yeh. Pretty correct.
Gabe: [00:12:48] Right? And so, I mean, you know, everything’s cyclical. We’re going to see a lot of interesting high-flying startups. We’re going to see a lot of consolidation. We’re gonna see mobility service systems, where you see, like, Spin scooters and Argo autonomous vehicles, and the bus. And you’re gonna see a lot of public-private partnerships where good actors, that want to share in risk and reward with the government, will be given concessions to operate various types of services. And that’s, I think, how it’s going to shake out in the long term.
Eve: [00:13:21] Yeh, also last week, and I’m trying to remember where this was, I read an article about a town, city, that had done the analysis on what it will cost them to upgrade their fare structure. And they decided it was cheaper just to make it free for people who ride the bus. Where was that?
Gabe: [00:13:39] You’re probably thinking of Kansas City?
Eve: [00:13:40] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:13:41] I have, actually, I was out there a few years ago. One of my partners was the chief innovation officer there. And I went out and met with the city manager, years ago, and he wanted to do this and they finally got it done. And the argument was, look, you know, we’re spending five million dollars a year to recover eight to 10 million dollars of farebox, right?
Eve: [00:14:07] Right.
Gabe: [00:14:07] So, you have a net positive of three or four million. You know, what if we just made it free, how many more people would ride? What kind of friction would we reduce? How many cars we take off the road? How much more equity would we create with low-income people that need to take the bus and maybe a dollar or two every trip is a lot. I think that’s really interesting.
Eve: [00:14:29] I think it’s fascinating, but I’m wondering why it took them so long to come to it, to, you know, to decide to do it. It seems obvious.
Gabe: [00:14:36] This is why we need more rebels, right? In government and in the private sector. Like people are very critical of Elon Musk, particularly in my sort of urban, you know, transportation world. And I get it. And I’m critical of him, too. But at the same time, we need people pushing the envelope, even when we don’t agree with that. Even when we think that some of their ideas are crazy. Because sometimes the application of things – like the Boring Company, for instance, you know, tunneling – the ultimate application may not be what they’re selling today, and it could be very, very useful. And let’s face it, the Second Avenue subway that took 100 years to build in New York. We can do better. So, we need to take disparate ideas, different types of people, put them in the mix, be patient, have some tolerance, and try some things.
Eve: [00:15:24] Yes. So, failure could be a good thing, right?
Gabe: [00:15:27] Absolutely. We …
Eve: [00:15:28] People don’t like failure in the United States. We gotta try, right?
Gabe: [00:15:33] Well, we’re either obsessed with failure and think it’s a good thing, it’s a horrible thing. It comes down to, you know, government risk aversion vs. private sector risk acceptance, right? And we have two very different cultures. And so, when you try to bring the two together to work on things, this is actually one of the big issues that keeps them from understanding each other. One is trying to keep their name out of the paper. One is trying to not get noticed. One is trying to do good for the citizens, look out for the greater good, but not make a big splash, typically. And you have the opposite on the private side. And these are generalizations. Sometimes it’s the opposite. But if you get the two to understand how they can benefit each other, and the value that they each bring, and the leverage they can get out of each other, it’s amazing what could happen.
Eve: [00:16:18] Yeah, so, the interesting thing is what you’re talking about, you know, is that’s really the way I developed my real estate portfolio, in partnership with the city of Pittsburgh, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority. And we both fully understood what we were bringing to the table and how we could help each other. That was in real estate. And I thought that was an amazing opportunity for both of us. And the city understood that, and I understood that. So, it’s kind of puzzling why … why this doesn’t extend to other things, I think.
Gabe: [00:16:49] I agree 100 percent. That’s why people like you, me, and many others are important in pushing that envelope. Pittsburgh is a really interesting city, and we’re doing a lot of work in Pittsburgh right now, trying to create a first-of-its-kind, mobility-as-a-service offering, basically, for the city. So, unlike Lyft and Uber, which are creating their own, like, walled gardens, and I don’t fault them for that, but they’re creating their own sort of systems within their app. We’re saying, how about if you bring best in class providers together?
Eve: [00:17:23] Yes.
Gabe: [00:17:24] From all different walks of life. And then let, aggregate the services in one app, transit app …
Eve: [00:17:29] Right.
Gabe: [00:17:29] … and let people use them, and create a physical installation, right? Near real estate. So, create a physical mobility hub, and there’ll be like 50 of them. So, you get some of that enhancement around real estate like you get from a TOD metro stop, but then also have to be virtual, too. And give the city some level of access to data and some level of control …
Eve: [00:17:55] Right.
Gabe: [00:17:55] … versus being 100 percent private.
Eve: [00:17:58] I actually interviewed Karina Ricks on these little mobility stations. It’s a very exciting program. And, you know, you just led me right into my next question, which was how do you think data can help to formulate better solutions?
Gabe: [00:18:17] Oh yeah. Data is really important. And it’s really evolving and changing. And there’s all kinds of arguments, you know, within our little nerdy world about privacy and, you know, very important topics, but at the end of the day, this idea that data that’s generated by citizens belongs to somebody, is sort of misguided, right? I mean, at the end of the day, it really belongs to the citizen that’s generating that data. And you could argue in some sense that it belongs to nobody. But the data is now being shared a little more widely with cities. So, that cities can plan more effectively for the future. So, that they have a sense of what’s happening on their street. And we’re really moving from an analog system of operational control of how the city signal system works, for instance. We started moving to GPS about 10 years ago, where we started to gather a lot of data from GPS trackers on our buses and our taxis, like in places like Chicago. We could start to estimate for our constituency what congestion was looking like in real time. But now it’s becoming more about operating, than just planning for the future. So, it’s like, how you operate day to day, a very complex system where Waze might have better data than the city does? And so, it’s really interesting how it’s playing out. And the Open Mobility Foundation, which we worked with LA DOT and other consultants on helping to set up, is a really interesting place for a lot of these ideas to germinate, and a lot of the cities to work together and figure out with the private sector, by the way, how to share data, effectively, how to be very respectful and careful about privacy, and how to look at both planning, as well as day to day operating, utilizing these very rich data sets.
Eve: [00:20:12] Can you give me an example of a solution that was crafted from data that you think is fabulous?
Gabe: [00:20:18] Sure, sure. Well, look, scooters have been very controversial, right? Some people love them. some people just despise them. And that goes for politicians as well. So, you know, you go to a place like D.C. or L.A. and you have, you know, very smart, bold leadership. And they see the potential with an electric scooter to displace fossil fuel-powered car trips. So, they want to go big. But they know that you have elderly people that need access to the sidewalks, and disabled people, and children. So, if you don’t have some level of control, then what happens is it doesn’t work. And it ends up, you know, flaming out.
Eve: [00:21:00] We’re rubbing up against the physical landscape again, right?
Gabe: [00:21:03] Exactly.
Eve: [00:21:04] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:21:05] But often people who have not worked in government don’t understand it. They understand it theoretically, they understand the data side, but they don’t actually understand how this plays out politically in a city. And so in a place like L.A., we have council members saying, hey, I don’t want any of these in Brentwood. Right? The ability to geofence, and to then know if, like, not just to say we’re gonna geofence scooters out of this council member’s ward, but we’re actually going to be able to know and validate if the scooter company was able to get people to adhere to that. That’s very important. You know, that’s how L.A. went to 30,000 plus scooters, because the council members …
Eve: [00:21:49] Wow.
Gabe: [00:21:49] … and the people felt comfortable that LA DOT actually had the tools to manage a program that large. In Dallas, where it was a total free for all, they had no data, and they told people to just do whatever they wanted, it was a disaster.
Eve: [00:22:05] Oh, interesting.
Gabe: [00:22:05] And so I think it what … yeah. So, what we’ve learned is that, and the private sector has learned right along with the public sector, is like, oh, we need a common data standard. We need to share data. We need to be more transparent. Or the public and the politicians will rise up and boot us out of here. And so, it’s very much, actually, the folks that are running the DOTs that are trying to help a lot of these new companies be successful.
Eve: [00:22:31] Wow. Is there a current trend in transportation that holds the most hope for you?
Gabe: [00:22:38] When you say trend, do you mean a mode per se or do you mean …
Eve: [00:22:41] I mean a mode or, you know … even like, I’ll give you something that I’ve been reading a lot recently. And one thing that I read that I thought was fascinating was a couple of cities and states taking a look at their very wide roads and very heavily trafficked roads and actually deciding to give them a road diet. I think this is an example in New York State of one of the most heavily trafficked roads, and rather than widening it, they decided to narrow it, which I think is really an interesting trend. Because it opens up space in an unexpected way and it controls traffic in a very different and unexpected way, as well. So, I don’t really know what the outcome will be, but I’ve noticed, I suppose, experiments like that, more and more.
Gabe: [00:23:34] Right, uhm, no, I would say the number one thing I’m excited about is the reallocation of space that we’re finally starting to see on our streets. The closing of Market Street in San Francisco. You know, I put a bike lane down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, and, you know, there’s a real movement towards serious reallocations of space, as was as the idea of actually implementing congestion pricing in cities. So, I think that’s a very positive movement. And then, obviously, on the private side, the venture capital investment and efforts in active mobility, you know, and bike share and scooter share, I think these are very positive movements. You know, not to say that all the companies will be successful, but the realization that the majority of urban trips are less than one to three miles and that there’s a big market there, and that cities also want to get people out of cars. So, I think, you know, these are the things that that give me quite a bit of hope.
Eve: [00:24:35] Yeah. And then there’s some fallout that I just personally find very interesting. I had a conversation with someone last week who said, you know, in the next five years, we’re going to be figuring out how to repurpose parking garages. And I thought that was like, that’s really fascinating.
Gabe: [00:24:50] Well, yes. And the important thing is to build them in such a way that they can be repurposed. Flat, right? That the ramps are on the exterior. That you run the ductwork for the electrical and HVAC when you build the garage. So, the smarter people are about what the potential is, the more they can build into their developments, and I have a lot of funny stories about conversations I’ve had with folks over the years that were building buildings and, you know, feeling like I should have been paid for my 15 minute conversation that saved them millions of dollars. Because, I mean, I’m sort of kidding. But, you know, shared parking facilities, not building parking facilities and convincing cities to move more towards parking maximum, shared parking zoning and ordinances, creating mobility wallets to give people access to mobility instead of incenting people to use parking. There’s so many interesting things that we can do and a lot of it comes down to carrots and sticks, both for developers, for cities and for individuals.
Eve: [00:25:53] Right. I’d love to know a little bit more about the sort of you tackled through Cityfi.
Gabe: [00:25:57] Yeah.
Eve: [00:25:57] It’s a great name.
Gabe: [00:26:00] Thank you. So, we do a lot of different types of work. I’ll say that about half our work is public sector, mostly cities. And then about half is private sector. And we do some foundation work as well. We’ve been working with the Knight Foundation on autonomous vehicle piloting and outreach, which has been fascinating work. But we do a lot of public-private partnership work. We do a lot of urban planning, around everything from strategic plans for cities, shared mobility plans, curbside management, which is becoming a huge issue with the change in how people move around. And a big opportunity as well. And then, you know, we do a lot with the private sector on go-to-market strategy, and positioning them to be triple bottom line companies that the government will want to do business with. Which means sometimes like a wholesale revamp, not just of how they market themselves, but how they conduct their business, and making sure that sustainability and health and equity and positive outcomes for society are not just talking points in their marketing, but key pillars, north stars of their strategy. And when we’re successful there, I mean, it’s very rewarding. Very … it feels really good to have that kind of impact.
Eve: [00:27:14] So, I think right now, socially responsible real estate is still a minority fraction of what is going on in this country. I’m wondering what you think it will take to kind of move it to the only way to do real estate development, or think about building in cities.
Gabe: [00:27:30] It’ll be a combination of the regulatory environment changing. You know, we’re gonna get away from single-use anything. We’re going to get away from fossil fuel-powered anything. And so, you know, as these are put into a regulatory form, these policies, that will change the way people build. We need more affordable housing. We need more workforce housing. I do think that government leads. I know we have challenges with the finance folks who will say, yeah, I’m not going to finance that if you don’t build two spaces per unit. And this is where government is so important, because obviously if a local government says, look, we’re going to parking maximums for minimums, it’s not like finance companies will say, oh, we’re not going to build in New York City, we’re not going to build in Nashville. They will. And that’s why government’s got to lead. I think, also, the other side of this coin is that once people see what they want, they will buy it. And then once you hit a tipping point …
Eve: [00:28:32] Right.
Gabe: [00:28:34] …. the market sort of takes over and …
Eve: [00:28:36] Kind of like iPhone, right?
Gabe: [00:28:39] Yeh. I mean, look, government used to lead. Government incented Tesla to build electric cars and loaned them a billion dollars, and all of that, right?
Eve: [00:28:47] Right.
Gabe: [00:28:48] But now the reason people are buying Teslas is they’re saving money and they’re really high quality cars. And so people are self-selecting into micro-units or developments without parking that are cheaper, but also maybe closer to the things that they want to experience. And the market is begging for this. We are so … like I was talking to Chris Leinberger the other day and he said we have 40 years of pent up demand for urban, livable, walkable. And so at some point, the next generation of developers are going to come out and say, well, why the hell are we building that?
Eve: [00:29:23] Right. You know, I think that zoning is a really important piece in this. And I was involved in the zoning code rewrite, and it is huge. You know, and every municipality has a different zoning code. When I think about this, it’s overwhelming how you kind of move towards countrywide acceptance and regulatory changes to really make this happen for everyone. It’s a big, big job.
Gabe: [00:29:51] That’s interesting. Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see when when we get a new president, hopefully in November, you know, the tack that they take towards transportation, and, you know, hopefully getting away from the sort of modal silos that we have DOT and thinking much more across HUD and DOT and DOE, which, you know, was attempted last time, but it was never funded. And I would love to see that really happen. I mean, you could almost see collapsing these agencies into one, and … with different divisions internally based around land use type, you know, urban, suburban, exurban, rural, versus the bimodal stuff and then addressing the energy, you know, around housing and transportation and production.
Eve: [00:30:42] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, this has been fascinating, but I want to know what’s next for you.
Gabe: [00:30:48] Yeah. Well, you know, I’m really enjoying my work. I mean, we’ll see if the entire economy just grinds to a halt.
Eve: [00:30:56] For at least a month, right?
Gabe: [00:30:57] Yeah. Maybe we’ll all be living in communes soon and just dancing and eating tofu. But in the in the meantime, I going to continue working with cities, working with companies. I also work with Fontinalis Partners out of Detroit, wonderful firm, and we invest in scalable platforms, you know, often software based, but sometimes hardware based also. So, I really enjoy working with startups. And we do that at Cityfi. But also, obviously, at Fontinalis, there’s a lot of work to not just invest in these companies, but then to help make them successful. And in my personal life, I’m revamping a beach house.
Eve: [00:31:37] Oh, lovely.
Gabe: [00:31:38] Trying to get that done by summer.
Eve: [00:31:41] I’m revamping a tiny little rural cottage. It’s fun. Well, thank you very much, Gabe, it’s been really delightful talking to you. And I can’t wait to see what you do next.
Gabe: [00:31:54] Well, thank you and thanks for thinking of me and I’ll be following your work as well.
Eve: [00:31:58] OK.
Eve: [00:32:02] That was Gabe Klein of Cityfi. Gabe believes a few things adamantly. First, that there is enormous power in collaboration between the private and public sector. Second, that data rules. And third, that over the next few years we’ll see a reallocation towards pedestrians first and automobiles second.
Eve: [00:32:32] You can find out more about impact real estate investing and access, the show notes for today’s episode at my website, EvePicker.com. While you’re there, sign up for my newsletter to find out more about how to make money in real estate while building better cities.
[00:32:50] Thank you so much for spending your time with me today. And thank you, Gabe, for sharing your thoughts with me. We’ll talk again soon. But for now, this is Eve Picker signing off to go make some change.
Image of Edinburgh railway station by John D. Norton.