TIME Money

These Cities Have the Highest Rents in the Country

Liverpool FC Training At Fenway Park
General view of Fenway Park during a training session at Fenway Park on July 22, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. Andrew Powell—Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Rent in Boston is a real green monster

In addition to the price of a beer at Fenway Park, Bostonians—and esteemed guests of Fenway alike—now have something else to complain about: Boston has the highest rents in the country.

Here at FindTheBest, we’re on a mission to collect, structure, and connect the world’s data. Taking the most recent Five-Year American Community Survey (ACS) data released by the U.S. Census Bureau in late 2013, we set ourselves the task of determining which U.S. cities have the highest rents. Defining a high rent conservatively to be a contract rent (i.e., excluding utilities) of more than $1,500 per month, we identified where rents are more likely to take a big bite out of your paycheck.

These major U.S. cities—all with more than 500,000 residents—have the greatest proportions of high rents in the country. You can tap anywhere on the table to explore a given city in more detail.

The West Coast has been supplanted in at least one regard. Although four of the five richest cities in America—and six of the top ten here—are on the West Coast, Boston has the most expensive rents. Moreover, it’s also the only East Coast city in which more than 30 percent of rents are over $1,500 (48.8 percent).

A list of the top ten cities for highest rents reads like a rap sheet of the usual suspects, with perennially expensive West Coast metropolises San Francisco, San Diego and Seattle interspersed with East Coast behemoths like Washington D.C. and New York City.

In general, cities with greater population densities tend to have higher rents, as seen in the scatter plot below. The precise reality, however, is more complicated.

Among the ten cities where rents are highest (again defined as the percentage of contract rents over $1,500), New York is both the most densely populated city (27,308 people/sq. mi) and the one with the highest proportion of renter-occupied dwellings (68.3 percent). Yet it’s not even in the top five for greatest proportion of rents over $1,500. Boston, on the other hand, has a 66.8 percent rental rate—the second highest on the list—along with the third-highest figure for population density (13,007 people/sq. mile). So cities with higher densities and renter occupancies tend to have higher rents, but it’s not gospel truth.

While Boston may be the most expensive place to rent based on our working definition, there’s a fair bit of nuance to the list. Denver and Baltimore, for example, have a relatively low percentage of rents over $1,500 (8.1 and 6.3 percent, respectively). In the next tier down ($1,001-$1,500), however, these two cities have percentages high enough to launch them into the top ten within that next tier (19.6 and 19.5 percent, respectively).

In fact, by adding the two rental buckets together (“$1,001-$1,500 + “$1,500+”), San Jose has the highest percentage of rents over the $1,000 mark (80.7 percent compared with Boston’s 80.5 percent). And $1,000 or more per month is nothing to scoff at.

With a mean of 12.7 percent and a median of 5.3 percent (the middle point in the data set), the percentages of rents over $1,500 are skewed upward toward Boston, San Jose, and San Francisco (the top three in that category).

Using $1,500 as a proxy for cities with the most expensive rents allows uncapped extremes to factor into the comparison. While considering the next-highest tier of rents ($1,001-$1,500) changes the picture somewhat, one thing is for sure: Boston wins out when it comes to extreme rents. And in Beantown, neither the beer nor the price of admission at a Red Sox game is cheap enough to get over that.

This article was written for TIME by Ryan Chiles of FindTheBest.

More from FindTheBest:

10 Dangerous Cities Where Violent Crime Is Going Down

Here Are the Senate’s Biggest Winners and Losers

Best Cars on the Market for Under $20,000

TIME Companies

Facebook Shuttle Drivers Vote to Join a Union

FRANCE-LOGO-FACEBOOK
The Facebook logo is seen on a tablet screen on Dec. 4, 2012, in Paris Lionel Bonaventure—AFP/Getty Images

The drivers want higher wages and better shifts

Facebook’s shuttle-bus drivers voted to unionize on Wednesday in an effort to secure higher wages and better shifts.

The drivers voted to join the Teamsters union by a margin of 43 to 28, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Leaders of the union’s Northern California chapter — Teamsters Local 853 — said that the drivers want better pay and changes to the current shift system, which has them working two three-hour shifts in the morning and evening with a six-hour gap in between.

Facebook’s shuttles, operated by a company called Loop Transportation, ferry the tech giant’s employees from San Francisco and other areas to its headquarters in Menlo Park.

Loop issued a statement accepting their drivers’ wishes. “Even though we don’t feel that our drivers’ interests are best served by union representation, our drivers have spoken and we will now begin the negotiation process,” the statement said.

Facebook reportedly declined to comment.

[WSJ]

TIME Companies

Amazon Vows to Run Its Cloud Entirely on Renewable Energy

Operations At An Amazon.com Inc. Fulfillment Centre And An Argos Distribution Warehouse On Cyber Monday
An employee walks over a logo on the floor of Amazon's fulfillment centers in Rugeley, U.K., on Dec. 2, 2013 Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

It's a major commitment for the world's biggest cloud-computing company

Amazon on Wednesday vowed to run its cloud-computing division completely on renewable energy, following in the footsteps of tech giants Apple, Google and Facebook in making a comprehensive environmental pledge regarding its data services.

The company said that its web-services segment would aim to achieve 100% renewable-energy usage in its global infrastructure footprint, but didn’t set a deadline for achieving that goal. Amazon is the largest cloud-computing company in the world, and its web-services segment has been offering IT infrastructure to businesses since 2006. Netflix, Spotify and Pinterest all use the Amazon cloud, among other top websites.

Amazon Web Services already uses 15% clean energy, according to a Greenpeace study released in April. That’s less than Google, Facebook and Microsoft, though Amazon has disputed the accuracy of Greenpeace’s report.

It may take years for Amazon to implement its clean-energy policy, as it will be costly to move the large amounts of energy consumed by the company’s cloud to renewables. Facebook, for instance, said that only 25% of its power would come from renewable sources by 2015.

Amazon Web Services’s U.S. West (Oregon) region was carbon neutral as early as 2011, and three other Amazon regions are carbon neutral today as well.

TIME Media

Spotify Streams Will Soon Be Included on the Billboard Charts

SWEDEN-MUSIC-COMPANY-SPOTIFY
This photo illustration shows the Swedish music streaming service Spotify on March 7, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden. Jonathan Nackstrand—AFP/Getty Images

1,500 streams will count as a sale

Streams from music streaming services like Spotify will soon be included on the charts that rank music album sales.

Billboard and Nielsen SoundScan will begin including streams in the rankings of the Billboard 200, the album charts that are the weekly benchmark for success in the music industry, The New York Times reported Wednesday. The new ranking formula will equate 1,500 streams from an album on services like Spotify, Beats Music and Rhapsody as a sale. Online downloads of ten or more individual tracks by consumers will also be counted as an album sale.

The inclusion of more digital services will likely help move acts that appeal to younger audiences further up the charts. Legacy acts whose audiences mostly buy CDs, however, could be negatively affected.

The music charts are increasingly being influenced by online music services. Last year, Billboard announced that it would begin including music streams in its Hot 100 ranking of the most popular singles.

[New York Times]

TIME Companies

Yahoo Will Be Firefox’s Default Search Engine Until 2019

A screen displays the logo of the open-s
A screen displays the logo of the open-source web browser Firefox on July 31, 2009, in London. Leon Neal—AFP/Getty Images

"Most significant partnership for Yahoo in five years"

Yahoo and Mozilla have announced a strategic five-year partnership making Yahoo the default search engine for the Firefox browser, according to a Wednesday statement on Mozilla’s blog.

The agreement, called “the most significant partnership for Yahoo in five years,” will introduce an enhanced search experience featuring a “clean, modern and immersive design” for U.S. Firefox users starting next month. The partnership will also open up the door to explore other product integrations between the Internet company and the Internet browser.

“We’re so proud that [Mozilla has] chosen us as their long-term partner in search, and I can’t wait to see what innovations we build together,” said Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in the statement. “At Yahoo, we believe deeply in search – it’s an area of investment, opportunity and growth for us.”

 

TIME Research

Study Suggests Banking Industry Breeds Dishonesty

Bank industry culture “seems to make [employees] more dishonest,” a study author says

Bank employees are more likely to exhibit dishonesty when discussing their jobs, a new study found.

Researchers out of Switzerland tested employees from several industries during a coin-toss game that offered money if their coins matched researcher’s. According to Reuters, there was “a considerable incentive to cheat” given the maximum pay-off of $200. One hundred and twenty-eight employees from one bank were tested and were found to be generally as honest as everyone else when asked questions about their personal lives prior to flipping the coin, the Associated Press reports. But when they were asked about work before the toss, they were more inclined toward giving false answers, the study determined.

The author of the study says bankers are not any more dishonest than other people, but that the culture of the industry “seems to make them more dishonest.”

The American Bankers Association rebuffed the study’s findings to the AP.

“While this study looks at one bank, America’s 6,000 banks set a very high bar when it comes to the honesty and integrity of their employees. Banks take the fiduciary responsibility they have for their customers very seriously,” the Association said.

[AP]

TIME privacy

What Is Uber Really Doing With Your Data?

The Hamptons Lure Uber Top Drivers Amid NYC Slow Summer Weekends
Th Uber Technologies Inc. car service application (app) is demonstrated for a photograph on an Apple Inc. iPhone in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

"I was tracking you"

Uber has had a rocky few days. On Monday, it was revealed that the ride-sharing app’s senior vice president, Emil Michael proposed the idea of investigating critical journalists’ personal lives in order to dig up dirt on them. On Tuesday, the company published a blog post clarifying its privacy policy. And Uber is investigating its top New York executive for tracking a reporter without her permission, TIME learned Wednesday.

What is Uber really up to, and what are its employees allowed to do?

What Uber does with your data

Uber has a company tool called “God View” that reveals the location of Uber vehicles and customers who request a car, two former Uber employees told Buzzfeed. Corporate employees have access to the tool, though drivers do not. But a wide number of Uber employees can apparently view customers’ locations. (Uber did not confirm or deny the tool’s existence to TIME, but it’s worth noting that “God View” is a widely used term in the gaming world.)

Still, several previous incidents appear to confirm the existence of Uber’s so-called God View.

Venture capitalist Peter Sims said in a September blog post that Uber had once projected his private location data on a screen at a well-attended Chicago launch party:

One night, a couple of years ago, I was in an Uber SUV in NYC, headed to Penn Station to catch the train to Washington DC when I got a text message from a tech socialite of sorts (I’ll spare her name because Gawker has already parodied her enough), but she’s someone I hardly know, asking me if I was in an Uber car at 33th and 5th (or, something like that). I replied that I was indeed, thinking that she must be in an adjacent car. Looking around, she continued to text with updates of my car’s whereabouts, so much so that I asked the driver if others could see my Uber location profile? “No,” he replied, “that’s not possible.”

At that point, it all just started to feel weird, until finally she revealed that she was in Chicago at the launch of Uber Chicago, and that the party featured a screen that showed where in NYC certain “known people” (whatever that means) were currently riding in Uber cabs. After learning this, I expressed my outrage to her that the company would use my information and identity to promote its services without my permission. She told me to calm down, and that it was all a “cool” event and as if I should be honored to have been one of the chosen.

And this month, a Buzzfeed reporter arrived for an interview at Uber’s New York headquarters only to find the company’s top manager in the city, Josh Mohrer, was waiting for her. According to Buzzfeed, Mohrer said, “There you are,” while gesturing at his iPhone. “I was tracking you.” Mohrer didn’t ask for permission to track Johana, Buzzfeed reports.

Of course, Uber also uses customer data for the humdrum daily task of connecting riders with drivers as well as resolving disputes and reaching out to customers.

What Uber says it can do with your data

Uber says it only uses your data for “legitimate business purposes” and that its team audits who has access to its data on an ongoing basis. “Our data privacy policy applies to all employees: access to and use of data is permitted only for legitimate business purposes,” a spokesperson told TIME. “Data security specialists monitor and audit that access on an ongoing basis. Violations of this policy do result in disciplinary action, including the possibility of termination and legal action.”

And in its privacy policy, Uber says that it can use your personal information or usage information—that includes your location, email, credit card, name or IP address—”for internal business purposes” as well as to facilitate its service for pickups and communicating with customers.

Uber clarified in a blog post Tuesday that “legitimate business purposes” include facilitating payments for drivers, monitoring for fraudulent activity and troubleshooting user bugs.

Another important point: Uber says it can hold on to your data even if you delete your account. The company claims it keeps your credit card information, geo-location and trip history “to comply with our legal and regulatory obligations” and “resolve disputes.” Users have to provide a written request in order to completely delete an Uber profile along with all their data.

MORE: A Historical Argument Against Uber: Taxi Regulations Are There for a Reason

So did Uber do anything wrong?

Strictly by its own standards, it appears that Uber may not have violated its own rules when Josh Mohrer tracked Buzzfeed’s reporter. There’s no indication Mohrer shared the information outside Uber—which would disqualify it from being “internal”—but it’s hard argue that he tracked the reporter for a “business purpose.” (Maybe it saved Mohrer time? Or he was showing off the feature? It’s hard to say.)

At the Uber Chicago launch party where Peter Sims’ location was reportedly tracked, the data was shared with people outside the company, as non-employees were at the event. That’s hard to justify by Uber’s rules. However, Uber’s privacy policy was updated in 2013, and the Chicago launch party occurred “a couple of years ago,” by Sims’ telling. So it’s unclear whether the move violated Uber’s privacy rules at that time.

Should you delete your Uber account?

If you’ve lost all trust in Uber and think that other ride-share apps like Lyft (or plain old taxis) are better, than yes, perhaps. But there isn’t any evidence that Uber is inappropriately using customer data on a widespread scale. And if you do delete your account, remember: unless you write in, Uber will still have your data.

TIME ebola

Nearly Half of Liberia’s Workforce Is Out of a Job Since Ebola Crisis Began

Liberia is the hardest hit nation in the Ebola outbreak

Nearly half of Liberia’s working population at the beginning of the Ebola crisis is no longer doing so, according to a new report released Wednesday.

The West African nation has been the hardest hit in the regional outbreak, accounting for more than 7,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. To measure the economic impact of that devastation, the World Bank, Liberian Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services and the Gallup Organization conducted phone surveys and found that not only is a massive part of the country’s work force out of job, but food insecurity is worsening.

Wage workers and the self-employed have taken the biggest hit, the report finds. Prior to the epidemic, more than 30% of working household breadwinners were self-employed, but now that rate is just above 10%. Many people lost jobs because their business or government offices closed.

Agricultural workers were significantly burdened at the start of the outbreak, too, since transportation routes were interrupted and people avoided large gathering spaces like markets, but the report shows Liberians are beginning to return to work as the harvest approaches.

Read the full report here.

MONEY Retirement

The Surprising Reason Employers Want You to Save for Retirement

man fails to make a putt
PM Images—Getty Images

Companies have stepped up their game with better options and features. Still, savings lag.

Employers have come a long way in terms of helping workers save for retirement. They have beefed up financial education efforts, embraced automatic savings features, and moved toward relatively safe one-decision investment options like target-date mutual funds. Yet our retirement savings crisis persists and may be taking a toll on the economy.

Three in four large or mid-sized employers with a 401(k) plan say that insufficient personal savings is a top concern for their workforce, according to a report from Towers Watson. Four in five say poor savings will become an even bigger issue for their employees in the next three years, the report concludes.

Personal money problems are a big and growing distraction at the office. The Society for Human Resources Management found that 83% of HR professionals report that workers’ money issues are having a negative impact on productivity, showing up in absenteeism rates, stress, and diminished ability to focus.

This fallout is one reason more employers are stepping up their game and making it easier to save smart. Today, 25% of 401(k) plans have an automatic enrollment feature, up from 17% five years ago, Fidelity found. And about a third of annual employee contribution hikes come from auto increase. Meanwhile, Fidelity clients with all their savings in a target-date mutual fund have soared to 35% of plan participants from just 3% a decade ago.

Yet companies know they must do more. Only 12% in the Towers report said their employees know how much they need for a secure retirement; only 20% said employees are comfortable making investment decisions. In addition, 53% of employers are concerned that older workers will have to delay retirement. That presents its own set of workplace challenges as employers are left with fewer slots to reward and retain their best younger workers.

Further innovation in investment options may help. The big missing piece today is a plan choice that converts into simple and cost-efficient guaranteed lifetime income. For a lot of reasons, annuities and other potential solutions have been slow to catch on inside of defined-contribution plans. But the push is on.

Another approach may be educational efforts that reach employees where they want to be found. The vast majority of employers continue to lean on traditional and passive methods of education, including sending out confusing account statements and newsletters, holding boring group meetings, and hosting webcasts. Less than 10% of employers incorporate mobile technology or have tried games designed to motivate employees to save.

These approaches have proved especially useful among young workers, who as a group have begun to save far earlier than previous generations. Still, some important lessons are not getting through. About half of all employers offer tax-free growth through a Roth savings option in their plan, yet only 11% of workers take advantage of the feature, Towers found. This is where better financial education could help.

 

 

TIME Business

A Historical Argument Against Uber: Taxi Regulations Are There for a Reason

Taxi Rank
Yellow cabs waiting in line at LaGuardia Airport, New York City, in March of 1974 Michael Brennan—Getty Images

The author of a cultural history of the NYC taxi — a former cabbie himself — explains why he believes oversight is necessary

New York taxis used to have a reputation for smelly cars, ripped seats and eccentric drivers. Today, New York cabs are nearly all clean and well-maintained. Drivers don’t usually say much unprompted. The cabs feel safe. In other words, they’re boring. And maybe that’s a good thing, because they’re vying against a polished new competitor.

Uber, the ride-sharing app, has grown explosively in the five years since its inception, challenging established taxi services, expanding its annual revenue to a projected $10 billion by the end of next year and attracting drivers away from its competitors. Uber drivers get 80% of a fare, and the company only takes a 20% cut. Uber’s cars are mostly slick, clean and easy to hail via the company’s app.

But a big reason Uber has grown so quickly is that it’s not regulated the same way that traditional taxi services are. Uber proponents say it’s about time for monopolistic, overregulated city cab services to be broken up. Riders deserve options, they say, and better pricing, and more nimble technology. Still, the company is no stranger to controversy, most recently over reports of executives abusing the company’s ability to track riders.

And, says one taxi expert, history shows that the larger reason to be concerned about Uber is that those regulations were established for a good reason.

Graham Hodges is the author of Taxi! A Cultural History of the New York City Cabdriver and a professor at Colgate University — and a former cabbie himself, who patrolled New York’s dangerous streets in the early 1970s for a fare. Hodges is suspicious of upstarts like Uber and says that the cab industry needs to be regulated.

Hodges’ argument? Taxis are pretty much a public utility. Like subway and bus systems, the electric grid or the sewage system, taxis provide an invaluable service to cities like New York, and the government should play an important role in regulating them. They shouldn’t be, Hodges argues, fair game for a private corporation like Uber to take over and control, any more than an inner-city bus service should be privatized.

Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty of taxi rules, what do passengers get out of cab regulation? Regular taxi maintenance, says Hodges, which taxi commissions like New York’s require. “You want to know you’re getting in a safe cab that’s been checked recently,” he explains. “They’re taking a pounding every day.” Knowing your fare is fixed to a predictable formula is important, too, says Hodges. (Uber does that, though the company’s surge pricing at peak hours can really up the cost.) And you want to know that your driver has had a background check, which established taxi services usually require, so that you can be less afraid of being attacked with a hammer, abducted or led on a high-speed chase, as has allegedly happened on some Uber trips.

Regulations have been around for a long time, Hodges says: “Taxi regulations developed out of livery and hansom-cab regulations from the 19th century. They’re a necessary part of urban transportation. They’ve been that way since the metropolitization of cities in the 1850s. And those in turn are based on a long-term precedent in Europe and other parts of the world. From hard-earned experience, those regulations ensure fairness and safety.”

In the 1970s, when Hodges drove, those regulations ensured that a driver made a decent living, and could comfortably choose his or her own hours. (“I made $75 the first night I was out,” he says. “I felt fantastic.”) The golden days of cab driving, Hodges continues, were even earlier, in the ’50s and ’60s. Think sometime before seedy New York full of troubled men like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver (1976), and more like the omnipresent, wise-seeming driver of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).

“Back then, drivers stayed on for a long time,” says Hodges. “They were beloved. They were culturally familiar. That’s where you get the classic cabbie and someone who was an encyclopedia of the city. Those are guys who dedicated their lives to the job and owned their taxis. They had a vested interest in a clean, well-managed auto that lasted a long time.”

Today, Uber drivers do enjoy some of those benefits. Though they’re hardly known for an encyclopedic knowledge of the cities they drive, or as cultural touchstones, they own their own cabs and have a lot at stake in driving. What’s more, they get a large cut of each fare and have a lot of freedom. And regulation doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to: even after the Taxi and Limousine Commission started more closely regulating taxi drivers in the 1970s, riders were often in for a surprise. Taxis were rusty tin-bins and drivers were erratic.

In 1976, TIME offered a sardonic view of the New York cab ride:

A taxi ride is the chief means by which New York City tests the mettle of its people. A driver, for example, is chosen for his ability to abuse the passenger in extremely colorful language, the absence of any impulse to help little crippled old ladies into the cab, ignorance of any landmark destination, an uncanny facility for shooting headlong into the most heavily trafficked streets in the city, a foot whose weight on the accelerator is exceeded only by its spine-snapping authority in applying the brakes. Extra marks are awarded the driver who traverses the most potholes in any trip; these are charted for him by the New York City Department of Craters, whose job it is to perforate perfectly good roadways into moonscapes.

The taxi machines are selected with equally rigorous care. Most are not acceptable until they have been driven for 200,000 miles in Morocco. After that, dealer preparation calls for denting the body, littering the passenger compartment with refuse, removing the shock absorbers, sliding the front seat back as far as it will go, and installing a claustrophobic bulletproof shield between driver and passenger—whose single aperture is cunningly contrived to pass only money forward and cigar smoke back. All this is designed to induce in the customer a paralytic yoga position: fists clenched into the white-knuckles mode, knees to the chin, eyes glazed or glued shut, bones a-rattle, teeth a-grit. To a lesser extent, the same conditions prevail in other taxi-ridden U.S. communities.

In the end, Hodges says, cabbies and passengers have always wanted the same things — “We don’t want to have hyper competition, we don’t want reckless driving, we don’t want drivers about whom we don’t know very much,” he says — and, whether or not it always works perfectly, he believes that history has shown that regulation is the best way to get there.

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