Episode 4: Eran Ben-Elia, professor of parking

At a high-tech lab in Israel, he may have just discovered the answer to every commuter's biggest problems: traffic and parking.

The guest: Dr. Eran Ben-Elia is a geography professor at Ben-Gurion University. But he's atypical: you'd think that he studies maps, could be quizzed on the capitals of obscure countries and would be a shoo-in for Jeopardy! champion. But the geography that Ben-Elia studies is a little more grounded – literally. He has devoted the bulk of his research to the most niche of topics – traffic and parking issues.

The gist: Inspired by behavioral economist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, a fellow Israeli, Ben-Elia wants to figure out why people make certain decisions when they're in a car. When you approach your destination, do you cruise around the area looking for on-street parking, or do you skip that and head straight to a parking garage – even though it might be a little further away. Are you a risk taker or do you prefer a sure thing? At his high-tech lab in Israel, he's now working on a new project that could impact all commuters – he may have discovered the perfect route to work.

Further reading:

"Our Friend from Israel" is hosted by Benyamin Cohen. Our podcast theme music is by Haim Mazar, a Hollywood film composer who grew up in Israel. Follow our podcast on Facebook for behind-the-scenes access to the show.

Host Benyamin Cohen (left) interviews a guest for the "Our Friend from Israel" podcast. Host Benyamin Cohen (left) interviews Dr. Eran Ben-Elia on the campus of Ben-Gurion University. (Photo: From The Grapevine)

Transcript

Benyamin: On this episode of Our Friend from Israel ... For people who commute to work, especially if you're going to a downtown area parking can be the bane of your existence. Finding a spot when you're in a rush, well, don't hold your breath. Urban planners have been contemplating this problem for decades and so has another group of people, behavioral economists, people who study why we make the decisions that we do.

Benyamin: When you arrive downtown do you circle around the block several times hoping to find a spot or do you prefer not to take a risk and instead head straight to a parking garage even though it may be further away? These are the questions being contemplated by Doctor Eran Ben-Elia a geography profession and Ben-Gurion University in Israel.

Eran: Everything that's happening to human society, so what we call the human or social geography, is a really vast field. Basically our cities are huge living labs and this is very interesting. It also has a lot of problems like traffic, for example, or crime, or things like that. So everybody that's played Sim City knows that it's very, very difficult to manage a city. There's so many conflicting forces that are trying to destabilize the city.

Benyamin: Dr. Ben-Elia has turned his laboratory into an arcade. He believes that video games are unique ways to test his theories. Visitors to his lab strap on virtual reality glasses, sit down in front of a steering wheel and are instantly transported to a city street. He watches as they make parking and traffic decisions in critical environments.

Benyamin: On today's episode we visit Ben-Elia's lab to find out more about his research and to find out the answer to that existential question, is there such a thing as a perfect parking space?

Benyamin: Welcome to Our Friend from Israel, a podcast brought to you by fromthegrapevine.com. I'm your host Benyamin Cohen and each week we'll have a conversation with an intriguing Israeli. They'll come from all walks of life, actors, artists, athletes, archeologists, and other news makers. On today's episode Dr. Eran Ben-Elia.

Eran: It all started when I was a really little kid. I would draw maps on pieces of paper of road networks that didn't have any sense, but they were just maps, just kind of like what I did when I was a little kid.

Benyamin: So some people were playing with paper airplanes and you were drawing maps.

Eran: I was drawing maps, yeah. I was the family expert on navigation. When I was small my dad was doing a PhD in Berkeley in California and I grew up there for a couple years. When we were traveling we had all these AAA maps and I was the navigation expert, so they never got lost with me.

Benyamin: What was it about maps, was it just because everything orderly?

Eran: I have no idea. I just liked maps and it kind of stuck. I did a master in Urban Planning. From there I just went back to things I liked, which was in transportation. What happened was funny thing, the Nobel Prize in economics went to a psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, which-

Benyamin: Is an Israeli psychologist.

Eran: He's an Israeli psychologist. At the time I was thinking of returning to studies because the thing is I get bored really, really easily. I need problems that have some interest to work on. Firm work was kind of routine, so you did one visibility study, another visibility study. It was all the same. I wanted to move forward. The when he got this Nobel Prize I started reading their works on decisions under uncertainty, risk, et cetera. I said, "Whoa, this is really good for what we're doing," because eventually the whole thing about transportation is we're trying to understand how people behave under uncertainty. Once you leave your home and you want to go where you go, say to your work and you're commuting, you're under uncertainty because you never know when you really will arrive. You have maybe a clue from previous experience. You might get information from some kind of system, smarter or less smarter. You might be under some navigation device, but it's still under uncertainty. This is where my PhD went to.

Benyamin: It's more behavioral economics.

Eran: Behavioral economics. Then I continued, more or less, with a post-Doc in the Netherlands. We did really interesting research there about how to change drivers' behavior, not by giving them penalties like tolls or congestion charges. But actually in the Netherlands they were trying to reward drivers who were willing to get off the peak hour, just move from the peak hour, either earlier or later. So that was very interesting research.

Benyamin: To charge less tolls.

Eran: Not to charge less toll, just to get less congestion during peak hour by incentivizing those drivers that don't have to be on the peak hour not to be there.

Benyamin: They were incentivized by?

Eran: By money. So they would-

Benyamin: They would get money or-

Eran: They would get money if they followed good behavior. This was actually quite revolutionary because until then everybody was saying, "Toll, toll, toll."

Benyamin: Right. Interesting. We'll get to that late. I know you're working on a study right now about how to choose the route, which way to go to work, so we'll get to that a little bit later. You're a professor of geography. When I think of geography I don't necessarily think about parking in traffic and things like that.

Eran: Right. Geography in universities is quite different from what most people experience geography, mostly in high school. In high school it's kind of encyclopedic knowledge, so people just memorize facts.

Benyamin: Like the capital of a city or something-

Eran: Exactly.

Benyamin: ... capital of a country.

Eran: They don't understand it, actually we are living what geographers call space, which is basically the surface of planet Earth. For us as geographers, the surface where we live is actually a very, very interesting place because everything that happens in society ... I'm putting aside physical geography that looks at natural landscapes, so geography is very different at university than-

Benyamin: Spacial.

Eran: Spacial, yeah, yeah.

Eran: So we actually could call it spacial sciences basically.

Benyamin: Would that translate to things like office design or things like that?

Eran: Well that's more architecture I would say. There are, of course, areas, for example urban planning has a lot of influence from geography, but it also has a lot of influence from architecture and design so this is where actually this kind of field would fit. We're not looking specifically at inner spaces. Inner spaces are less of our interest.

Benyamin: It's more outer spaces.

Eran: It's outer spaces, yeah. Not outer, outer space, although I have a colleague that is doing some geography of Mars.

Benyamin: Oh wow.

Eran: Because you could use the same technologies. So what we do outside of our homes.

Benyamin: One thing I know you're studying a lot is parking and parking issues. I had the opportunity to spend some time in your laboratory. The first things you showed us was a parking simulator where you're given different opportunities to park and you're trying to see when people choose to park, or if it's street parking, or if they choose to go to a parking lot. Can you explain that a little bit?

Eran: Yeah, sure. The issue with parking is actually everybody thinks it's something really simple and it's kind of like a bit banal and not very interesting. It's been actually the less explored area of transportation research and was sort of put to the back list given to the engineers, okay just build these parking lots and make sure there's enough spaces. But it never works like that. Actually a lot of drivers find it the frustrating part of their journey because you're already almost at your destination. Usually when you start parking you're making like 500 meters away from your destination. You're almost there.

Benyamin: You're so close.

Eran: You're so close, and then you're stuck, you can't find parking. You're going around and around in circles or you have to go to a parking lot, which is some place very expensive.

Benyamin: Our Friend from Israel is a production of fromthegrapevine.com. If you're enjoying this podcast about parking and traffic issues you may also be interested in a story we published on From the Grapevine about a team of Israeli inventors who created a car that can actually fold up while you're driving so you can weave through traffic and when you arrive at your destination it can fit into a parking space the size of a motorcycle. Here, take a listen to what one of the inventors had to say.

Inventor: To bring something like that as a solution for transportation in cities when so many people around the world are stuck in traffic jams basically it's going to be something that I think can really change the experience of drivers.

Benyamin: Check out the story of the incredible shrinking car on fromthegrapevine.com.

Benyamin: Now back to today's interview with Doctor Eran Ben-Elia.

Eran: The issue of trying to regulate or make parking more efficient is really important. It's important for cities because it's both revenue and it's both keeping people coming into to the cities. It has a lot of implications. What we're trying to do is actually there hasn't been a lot of study about understanding motivations for parking. So there have been surveys, but surveys have a bit of an issue of credibility because we don't know if people answer what they answer really reflects their decisions and dilemmas in reality. So we're trying to understand using what we call serious games, so these are games that are not for the sake of entertainment. We're trying to understand their motivations in the decisions to park and see whether we can find from their understand their choices and from there try to make the system a little bit more efficient. One of the ways is basically trying to get prices right in a way where you have more demand, prices should go up a little, and where there is less demand prices should go down. But also to understand how people will react to these changes in prices.

Benyamin: A lot of it has to do with uncertainty versus certainty. I know personally I rarely park on the street even if there's maybe a spot because first of all, you don't know if there's going to be a spot. You don't know if my car's going to fit in the spot and it's going to be hard to get my car out of the spot. I'm one of these people who will always just go straight to the parking deck. The price doesn't necessarily matter to me. I just need certainty that it's going to take me ... I know if I go to the parking deck it's going to take me 30 minutes from house to work. I like that certainty and I don't care if it's an extra few minutes walk, or if it's cheaper, or more expensive.

Eran: Right. We actually see this kind of phenomenon. Basically the decision where to park it's a risky or uncertain decision, as you said. There are people that prefer certainty, they're what we call risk averse people. They don't want to mess about if they will be late or if they won't be on time for where they have to be so they go straight to the parking lot. We see these types of people in the study but a lot of people are not like that. They do want to find parking on the street and they tend to cruise for parking. Cruising causes a lot of problems because it causes congestion, and air pollution, and things like that.

Benyamin: People are just driving around in circles.

Eran: People are just driving around and usually this is in inner city streets. It disrupts people's lives if it's residential. If it's a commercial area it just makes it very unpleasant. So we want to see how we can just reduce this kind of cruising. What will convince those cruisers to avoid cruising and do what you are doing basically.

Benyamin: How do you incentivize them to do that?

Eran: One of the problems is the difference in prices. We see when the prices are a little too low on the street it makes people want to cruise because they say, "Oh I'll probably find parking somehow." So we have to look at different kinds of setups of what's the occupation rate versus the turnover rate, so these are the two factors that are really important because these are what place the chance that you mind find the parking space while you're cruising. You actually see if the turnover rate is sufficiently high, even if the occupancy is quite high and you think there is no parking spaces, but enough people are just changes places you do have a chance as a cruiser to find a space. On the other hand, if the turnover rate is quite low, like what you see for example in night parking, so people come back home to the neighborhood at night, parking is full and there's no way-

Benyamin: It's stagnant.

Eran: It's stagnant, exactly. These are situations where basically you have very little things to do except basically supply more parking lots for residents.

Benyamin: Couldn't you just raise the price of street parking?

Eran: You could, but do you want to experiment in real life and disrupt people's lives in the process? The most phenomenal example was SF Park.

Benyamin: This is in San Francisco.

Eran: In San Francisco. SF Park was really a living lab experiment, what we call a natural experiment, but really it took a lot of time, more than a year and a half. It cost I think $18 million from federal grants. They got a lot of federal grants for this. In the end, the result is that people don't really understand the system because they got this kind of system where some blocks are expensive, some blocks are cheaper, but they're not in a consistent way where neither the city can really manage the result. Also their drivers don't really comprehend. So why does the price change when I just cross intersection? I'm on the same street in the same sort of area, what's changed? So-

Benyamin: It's too complicated-

Eran: It's too complicated.

Benyamin: ... for the average person.

Eran: Doing it in real life is really complicated, but in the lab we can just take the necessary elements of the decision and try to see different policies and see how people will react. Then this will give policy makers in cities and government they will have much more information to try to do these expensive natural experiments, but with what we say are actually the ingredients for success. That's why games are really important because the recreate some kind of experience which people can relate to and they get consequences of their decisions.

Benyamin: When you games, just to clarify, you're referring to you've gamified parking and traffic. You've created video game simulators where people are sitting in front of a computer screen. They may be wearing virtual reality glasses. You put them behind the wheel of a car on a video screen. So they can actually drive around and simulate a real life.

Eran: Right.

Benyamin: That's what you means by games.

Eran: Yes.

Benyamin: When we return Doctor Ben-Elia tells us about an ingenious new plan he has that will ease rush hour traffic.

Eran: Because we don't have a control group that says this day nobody's going to use Ways and tomorrow everybody's going to use Ways, and we're going to compare and see is it better or worse.

Benyamin: If you're enjoying this podcast you'll also want to check out our recent interview with Doctor Avi Loeb, the chair of Harvard's Astronomy Department. Doctor Loeb is actively searching for alien life.

Avi Loeb: My young daughter who is 12 years old asked me to bring the alien home if we ever find it.

Benyamin: Like E.T.

Avi Loeb: My wife on the other hand said if they ever offer me a ride on the space craft I should make sure that they leave the car keys with her and that they don't ruin the lawn in the backyard when they lift off.

Benyamin: Check out that episode with Doctor Avi Loeb at fromthegrapevine.com.

Benyamin: Right now we're standing outside Ben-Gurion University on a very busy street here in Israel and there's lots of traffic. The reason is because everybody's likely using an app like Ways and Ways is telling everybody to go down the same street because that street is the quickest way from Point A to Point B. What happens now is all the cars are going down the same street and what should be the quickest route from Point A to Point B now becomes full of traffic.

Benyamin: So you have an app like Ways, which was actually invented here in Israel and has its headquarters not too far away from Doctor Ben-Elia's lab. Doctor Ben-Elia is researching a way where an app like Ways could send half the people on one route and half the drivers down another route. This would make all the roads around town have less traffic.

Benyamin: Another thing you showed us in your lab was traffic issues. Basically you created a situation. I had I think it was like 10 computers set up and we had 1 person in front of each computer screen. Basically we were all driving to work and we had two routes to choose, Route A and Route B. You wanted to see which routes people chose. We were also informed which routes were quicker, and that changed depending on traffic patterns. Sometimes Route A was quicker and sometimes Route B was quicker. Can you explain that experiment a little bit?

Eran: Yeah sure. One of the problems we have with traffic in general is that when we get to a certain level of congestion for a typical journey from one point to another point in theory we have what we called the User Equilibrium, which means that all routes have the same travel time because no driver has any incentive to shift from them. The problem has become more severe in recent years because a lot of people are receiving information from different apps like Google Maps or Ways, which actually inform them which are the shortest routes. Because a lot of people are using them there is a high penetration rate it's actually happening in reality. We have this in models and now we see this in reality. This is not necessarily good for society because what it means is basically that we are all paying a high price for our commute or for our drive.

Eran: Actually most networks can find a more optimal solution where on average all drivers would probably have less time driving or shorter commute, but in order to do that somebody has to sacrifice once in a while to take a longer route. We don't have this ability naturally because we do not communicate as drivers. We are like each one with our own car and we make our own decisions.

Eran: We know from behavioral economics that we can create condition where cooperation emerges. If we provide the proper information and maybe some incentives we can bring drivers to what we call a tit for tat situation where they follow some sort of regime where once in a few turns somebody decides to take a longer route because he knows that on average everyone gains. This is a system that is kind of fair.

Eran: It used to be in the past that theory said okay what we call a system optimum is unrealistic because nobody will take a longer route. This is only if you have a very short horizon. If you look at the very long horizon, if we're looking at a dynamic situation then actually we can see that people are willing to do what we call this taking turns. One day I take Route A, you take Route B and the other day we switch. As long as I have a system that governs this more or less fairly and people learn to trust that it is fair then why not? It could work and maybe we could have kind of like a fairer Ways system in the future, which might be installed in automatic vehicles where if I don't drive I don't really care which route the car is taking as long as I know that I will be at a certain time at my destination.

Benyamin: All right, to the problem is Ways, for example, Ways right now tells everybody to take Route A because Route A is the shortest.

Eran: Right.

Benyamin: But that defeats the purpose because you have 100 people taking Route A. Route A gets very congested or Route A takes you through a small neighborhood and the people don't like that. What you're suggesting is Ways needs to have some more artificial intelligence to say I'm going to send half the people this morning on Route A and I'm going to send half the people this morning on Route B.

Eran: Exactly. The problem with Ways is it's a black box. Nobody really knows how it works. It's a private company. It has its own vested interest to make money. A lot of people have become very, very dependent on it. We don't really know what's going on in terms of the traffic because we don't have a control group that says this day nobody's going to use Ways and tomorrow everybody's going to use Ways and we're going to compare and see is it better or worse. What comes out from over time seems that it's not really trying to help the system. It's just doing its job by giving everybody their shortest route at a certain point of time. This is not necessarily what would actually be better for society as a whole.

Benyamin: Earlier you talked about implementing incentives for people to take certain routes.

Eran: For cooperation to emerge sometimes it's not enough for telling people okay we would like you to be good and benevolent. Altruism is not always something that can sustain itself. We do need some kind of incentives. One of the ideas that have been going around in the literature was something like if people are making some damage to other drivers and they are selfish and taking Route A despite the fact I prefer that they take Route B then if they caused excess travel time to other drivers I will give them some sort of penalty for that. I will collect this penalty and I will give this back to those drivers that actually did what the system recommended and behaved in a cooperative way. If I ran this kind of thing for several repetitions I will see that people try to avoid this kind of penalty and will try to be more considerate and conform to what the system tries to tell them. This combination of information and incentives works pretty well.

Benyamin: Does that have anything to do with we're living in a sharing economy nowadays?

Eran: Yeah, so the technically is basically we have the information communication technologies, or what we say ICTs, so this is basically the infrastructure or the architecture that allows us to imagine these kind of things. So the fact that we are able to communicate between ourselves and our cars will be able to communicate with the infrastructure with the roads basically allows her to create scenarios which a few years ago would probably be quite imaginary.

Benyamin: If a city took Route A, let's say Route A was the highway and they added more lanes to the highway, would that solve the problem?

Eran: No. Not in the long run. We've seen this over 40 years. Every time that roads have been expanded in the end they fill up because first traffic diverts to these roads because people that use side roads suddenly understand that there's a better route. Now we have a system like Ways that actually tells them, "Look, there's a great new route you can take now which is much shorter." In the end it just returns to equilibrium and it returns really, really fast. People comprehend very, very fast especially when they are informed about it. So no, that does not solve the problem.

Eran: Eventually when cities get to a certain level of congestion the only way to go is either with mass transit, but mass transit it quite expensive. It takes a very long time to implement. Most cities that have mass transit have started investing in it over 100 years ago like New York or Europe. The ones that came later actually see that the system doesn't work that great like L.A. They tried to put back the mass transit much later and the development already is there. It's very spread out. Even San Francisco, the BART, which everybody says is great and when it shuts down everything is chaotic but it's still not mass transit like we would expect it to be.

Eran: Now we have this opportunity where you actually see the possibility of ride sharing. Again, it's still done mostly by private companies, so what we call the transportation network companies like Uber or Lyft. They do it for a profit, but we might consider a future where it will be done on a more voluntary basis, like coming back to car pool which used to be in the past. Now with technology we can actually try to manage car pool much more efficiently.

Eran: One good example is probably the service that a company called VIA is doing where actually they're using vans to move people. On one hand, you get more capacity so you need less vehicles to serve people and you get routes which are more efficient than Uber that has to drive all over the place causing a lot of extra miles driven just to serve people. These are the opportunities. Going back to autonomous vehicles this kind of technology will be able to be implemented in the self driving cars.

Benyamin: Just to go back to that for a moment, autonomous, driverless cars could solve a lot of traffic issues because if you're just sitting in the backseat the autonomous car can say, "Today I'm taking Route B." The other autonomous car can take Route A and it will be less traffic.

Eran: Yeah that's what we think. For this we're doing this basic research, which is still on very, very simple terms. It's much more difficult to optimize a more complicated network. It's enough that you add a few more routes and a few more origin and destination points, and getting a solution becomes quite more difficult. But yeah that's basically the idea. If there is a system that can allocate routes in a way that people will perceive is fair and they will trust it in the long run then there's no reason why this cannot be programmed into these kind of shared rides. Then we will benefit from two factors, both the routing will be more efficient and the occupancy of the cars will be higher because there will be more people sharing the same vehicles. So we get also the transport mode effect. These are two ways that we could actually try to mitigate congestion in the future much more successfully than we have today.

Benyamin: Right. Driverless cars can also be much more altruistic than human driven cars.

Eran: Yeah, if people will change their attitude and say, okay, I'm not going to buy an autonomous car or I'm not going to treat it as another car that I have. If this will be the effect and it will continue to be like we treat cars today then actually we'll have much more cars in the future because we will have populations that are not driving today.

Benyamin: Like senior citizens or blind people.

Eran: Exactly. So everybody saw this famous Google I guess of the first generation autonomous car where there was a blind man driving the car. These are part of the race. The community suggests that we might have a very safe transportation system because cars that will be able to avoid collisions much more easily than they do today because the algorithm thinks faster and more efficiently than humans. But we might not be moving a lot faster because everything will be very, very clouded.

Benyamin: Right. So you're going to have all these populations of people, whether they're disabled, they're blind, or older people whose keys have been taken away from them will now be rejoining people who are on the road. The key is finding driverless cars, shared driverless cars.

Eran: Yes.

Benyamin: Or, co-owned driverless cars. I was talking with a driving expert the other day and he was saying really the future is not owning a car. It's almost like you paying a monthly subscription and saying I have access to the car when I need it, because the truth is 90% of the time my car is parked in the driveway or parked in the parking lot.

Eran: Exactly. Actually owning a car it's really a waste because actually you have a piece of metal that most of the time sits idyll. So actually using this asset much more efficiently makes sense. What you describe we call this mobility as a service or a mass. The idea of mass is actually very interesting because it says for my daily ride to work I don't need a fancy car.

Eran: I might not even need a private car. If I don't want to pay for it I can share a ride and use an Uber like autonomous service. But maybe on a weekend I would really like a fancy BMW or [inaudible 00:30:35] and go into the country with a really fancy car. It's possible. Some of the automotive industries, car makers, are actually thinking about this. You're not buying a BMW, you're buying a BMW like service that will give you various platforms to use depending on your needs and your abilities to pay of course.

Benyamin: So I have to ask, when you drive to work do you consider Route A and Route B?

Eran: Well I actually don't drive to work, I take the train. So yeah you caught, what do you say, the shoemaker shoeless.

Benyamin: Hopefully you've been enjoying our new series Our Friend from Israel. If you have, head on over to iTunes and leave us a review on the Our Friend from Israel page. The more people that see those reviews the more people discover the show.

Benyamin: If there's a particular episode you've enjoyed like the one with Michael Passicov the cancer survivor who plays piano with one hand, or the alien hunter Avi Loeb from Harvard University, any of those episodes, if you've enjoyed those why not tell a friend about them? Send them a link to that episode so that we can have more people like you enjoying Our Friend from Israel.

Benyamin: Now, back to the show.

Benyamin: Is there anything I didn't ask you that I should have asked you?

Eran: Well we have another interesting project which I think is also very interesting. It's actually to do with making transit much better. The idea is really like this, today transit basically says we have a set of lines and a schedule, a timetable, if you like it you can use it, you just pay the ticket or make a subscription and you can use it.

Benyamin: You're talking about trains, and subways, and things?

Eran: Trains, and subways, and also buses.

Benyamin: Right, of course.

Eran: The reality is those that can afford and don't think that the transit service gives them a good enough opportunity they avoid it. In the end, what happens is the transit is losing all the time, unless we make car drivers pay a lot of money through tolls and things like that, which just make people also a little bit more angry. Today we have technology, so everybody has a smart phone, and mobile phone companies know more or less where people are going on a regular basis. There have actually been some interesting papers coming out about the mobility patterns that are occurring in cities. Instead of giving you information about a transit network that might not be the best way to serve you why not look at the other way around. Put the problem on its head and say, "Look, if I can detect mobility patterns maybe I can find correlations in space and time between enough groups of people to tell the bus companies or the planners where ... It's mostly about buses because trains just take a lot of time to put into the infrastructure, but buses can change routes quite quickly because they're just using the same roads the cars are using.

Eran: I can actually tell the bus operators, "Look, here is a large group of people that you're not serving or you're not serving well today. Why not just open a new bus route?" Technology allows us to do that. So we're calling this Smart PT or Smart Public Transport. We're using different kinds of algorithms to try to understand these mobility patterns and try to create a transit system which provides much more coverage in space and time that people will actually say we want to use it.

Eran: Usually in surveys, again, taking surveys for granted, people say, "Well if I had a bus that would take me to work and I wouldn't have to switch or I wouldn't need to wait for half an hour, or things like that I would take it." The problem is usually that people find the transit inconvenient. We can make it more convenient by learning what people actually want, where people want to go, and when.

Benyamin: Wow, that's all very interesting information there. You've certainly given me a lot to think about the next time I take the subway.

Benyamin: I want to thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it. I look forward to chatting again soon.

Eran: Thank you very much Ben. It was a pleasure.

Benyamin: Thank you.

Benyamin: "Our Friend From Israel" is a production of FromTheGrapevine.com. Our show is produced by Paul Kasko. Editorial help from Jaime Bender and Ilana Strauss. Our Head Engineer is Everett Adams. Our theme music is by Haim Mazar, a Hollywood film composer who grew up in Israel.

You can visit our website at FromTheGrapevine.com to find more episodes of the show. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher or your favorite podcast app. Feel free to leave us a review there. When you do, it helps others discover "Our Friend From Israel." I'm your host, Benyamin Cohen, and until next time, we hope you have a great week.

MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE:

Photos and SlideshowsPhotos and Slideshows