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經濟學人:車費的變動 尋找出租車供需平衡解決方法(上)

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Free exchange

自由交換
A fare shake
車費的變動
Jacking up prices may not be the only way to balance supply and demand for taxis
提高價格可能并不是滿足出租車供需平衡的唯一方法
IT IS a familiar ritual for many: after a late night out you reach for your smartphone to hail an Uber home, only to find—disaster—that the fare will be three times the normal rate. Like many things beloved by economists, “surge pricing” of the sort that occasionally afflicts Uber-users is both efficient and deeply unpopular. From a consumer's perspective, surge pricing is annoying at best and downright offensive when applied during emergencies. Extreme fare surges often lead to outpourings of public criticism: when a snowstorm paralysed New York in 2013, celebrities, including Salman Rushdie, took to social media to rail against triple-digit fares for relatively short rides. Some city governments have banned the practice altogether: Delhi's did so in April.
對與很多人來說,深夜外出后拿出智能手機叫一輛優步的車回家似乎是一種常見的儀式了。然而打的費卻比平時高出了三倍。像很多經濟學家鐘愛的定律一樣,這種時不時困饒著優步用戶的“動態定價策略”雖有效卻極不受歡迎。從消費者的角度看,動態定價策略最多是惱人而已,但在緊急狀況下采用該策略時卻是極其討厭的。急劇上漲的車費會引起公眾的不滿:2013年的暴風雨使得紐約整個城市癱瘓,包括薩爾曼·拉什迪在內的名人在社交媒體上斥責收取三位數短程車費的行為。一些市政府取締了這種做法:德里(印度城市)在四月就這樣做了。

Uber is sticking with surge pricing for now, but Jeff Schneider, one of its machine-learning experts, recently suggested that the company is interested in developing systems that rely on technology, rather than price, to allocate cars. Even if such a technological fix proves elusive, however, local governments do not need to regulate or ban surge pricing to reduce its sting.

Uber現在堅持使用動態定價策略,但是最近公司的機構研究專家之一杰夫·施耐德表示,該公司對開發依賴于技術而非價格來統籌車輛的系統很有興趣。雖然這一技術目前難以實現,但是一旦實現,當地政府再也無需調控或者取締動態價格機制以此削弱其影響。
Surge (or dynamic) pricing relies on frequent price adjustments to match supply and demand. Such systems are sometimes used to set motorway tolls (which rise and fall with demand in an effort to keep traffic flowing), or to adjust the price of energy in electricity markets. A lower-tech version is common after natural disasters, when shopkeepers raise the price of necessities like bottled water and batteries as supplies run low. People understandably detest such practices. It offends the sensibilities of non-economists that the same journey should cost different amounts from one day or hour to the next—and more, invariably, when the need is most desperate.
峰時(動態)定價依賴于頻繁的價格調整以使供需平衡。這一機制有時會被用于設置高速公路通行費(為保證交通順暢,通行費因需求而上漲、下調),或者用于調整電力市場上能源價格。自然災害之后,因為供給不足,店主提高生活必需品(如瓶裝水和電池等)的價格這種低技術含量的版本屢見不鮮。可以理解,人們厭惡這種做法。這樣的機制傷害了非經濟學家的感情,每天或者每小時相同路程的花費卻不同,而且當需求最緊急時也是一成不變。
Yet surge fares also demonstrate the elegance with which prices moderate a marketplace. When demand in an area spikes and the waiting time for a car rises, surge pricing kicks in; users requesting cars are informed that the fare will be a multiple of the normal rate. As the multiple rises, the market goes to work. Higher fares ration available cars by willingness to pay: to richer users, in some cases, but also to those less able to wait out the surge period or with fewer good alternatives. Charging extra to those without good alternatives sounds like gouging, yet without surge pricing such riders would be less likely to get a ride at all, since there would be no incentive for all the other people requesting cars to drop out.
但是峰時價格也顯示出它帶來的好處,價格策略緩和了市場。當需求在某個地區急劇上漲,以及等待時長增加,動態定價策略就發揮作用了;需要用車的客戶會被告知費用是平時的幾倍。當多個因素同時出現時,市場開始起作用。高費用會將車輛分配給那些愿意支付的客戶即那些更有錢的客戶;但是在某些情況下,對那些無法在高峰期等待或是沒有好選擇的用戶也是同樣適用的。對那些沒有好選擇的用戶采取額外收費聽起來像是亂要價,但是沒有動態價格策略這些用戶不太可能搭得到車,因為對于其他有需求坐車的人來說沒有任何理由不坐車。至少在局部地區動態價格策略增加了供給。

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