I spent a large portion of today in the chambers of the San Antonio city council, listening to updates on SAPD's effort to combat human trafficking and to discuss the future of ride sharing services like Lyft and Uber in my hometown - two topics that don't seem to have much in common except they both deal with humans and some sort of traffic.
I was there, as you can imagine, as a proponent for ride sharing, to testify as a busy, tech-savvy professional that these services offer a level of efficiency and accommodation that busy, tech-savvy professionals, such as myself, value and look for in our communities. And, for the most part, the success of these innovative businesses might be the economic compost by which San Antonio cultivates a civic and business environment that can sustain a thriving community of technology professionals and Internet startups.
I had spent several hours the night before collecting my thoughts and writing a speech that would fit snugly inside the three minute window citizens would be granted to espouse the sanctimonious qualities of their transportation alliance. Unfortunately, due to a list of 67 citizens signed up to speak, our testimony time was reduced to one minute.
I quickly went to work giving my exposition an editorial hatchet job, trimming away, with strokes of a black gel ink pen, all but the most necessary of facts and insight, hoping to keep enough of my intended testimony to keep my 60 second statement relevant and, well, polysyllabic.
A minute goes by really quickly when you're trying to convey an impassioned plea for choice, safety, innovation and capitalism. So since I was not able to deliver my full message at the city council meeting, I'm posting it here for anybody who is interested.
Good morning. My name is Joseph Palumbo. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
As a native San Antonian, I always thought the cost of living in such a unique and friendly city was that I had to forfeit the cosmopolitan amenities of a larger metropolis.
This includes a growing number of Internet-enabled luxury and convenience services that are popping up in cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and New York, cities known for their ambitious, innovative startup communities. These services are tailored to the needs and preferences of busy, tech-savvy professionals who value simplicity, efficiency and transparency.
I saw Lyft’s arrival as a high water mark for the social and business stature of the Alamo City, one that would help build a civic and entrepreneurial environment that would attract these new and innovative businesses and allow them to thrive here.
Which also means attracting an army of educated, progressive thinking futurists who care as much about their quality of life and health of their community as they do about their annual income and 401ks.
But rather than waste my time talking about geeks, I think the most compelling testimony I can provide has to do with the least technical person I know, my mother.
My mother has Parkinson’s disease, which means she suffers from chronic pain and mobility issues. She able to maintain a full time job, a good one, but as you can imagine she’s pretty tired at the end of the day.
Last Friday, my niece got married at the Scottish Rite Temple on Avenue E.
Do to some logistical challenges and normal wedding day chaos I wasn’t able to pick up my mom from her office to bring her to the venue. My mother, a capable driver, was concerned she wouldn’t be able to walk the distance from where she had to park to the wedding. It was First Friday, so parking was unpredictable.
The best option was to get her a ride.
My mother called a taxi service. The person she spoke to said someone would call her back. Twenty minutes later, no call. My mother called the same number and was informed that no driver was available for her location at 281 and Thousand Oaks.
Let me repeat that, no one was available to give her a ride in one of the most populated parts of the city. (Sounds to me like there’s plenty of business to go around)
My mother called me to apologize that she didn’t feel confident with her ability to navigate downtown on foot and would have to skip an important family event.
Using my iPhone, I received confirmation that a car was in route to pick up my mother within 30 seconds of launching the Uber app. I used Apply Pay to authorize my credit card to pay for the ride, and it provided me all of the driver’s information.
I called Tommie, the driver, to explain that he was picking up my mother to bring her to my location down town. I explained to him that my mother has Parkinson’s and sometimes has difficulty moving and even talking. I told him if anything happens or if he had questions or concerns, give me a call.
He was more than gracious and assured me that he would take good care of my mom. Even though I think it goes without saying, at no point did I worry for my mom’s safety.
While mingling with other guests, I watched a car icon float over a virtual map of San Antonio, and I walked out to meet my mother with an umbrella right as the car drove up.
As a San Antonian who loves his city, as a Racker who is dedicated to making San Antonio a relevant outpost on the technical landscape, and as a son who loves his mother, this is the level of service I’m willing to pay for, this is the perfectly engineer experience I want available to my family and this level of transparency and accommodation needs to be an option for anybody in the city.