Home Company Car Ridesharing “Shared mobility” becoming more common in transportation practice

“Shared mobility” becoming more common in transportation practice

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Shared mobility. The term still sounds kind of weirdeven though the first carsharing program began way back in 1948 in Zurich and bikesharing began in 1965 in Amsterdam.

And now, with so much technology to spur so many new players into this space, here we are several years into a Chicago-based conference, the National Shared Mobility Summit, that has turned into one of the can’t-miss events for transportation experts.

It is organized by the Shared-Use Mobility Center, whose executive director is Sharon Feigon. Here are some questions I had for her leading into the big event, which started yesterday and runs through tomorrow. (Mobility Lab is a media sponsor and I’m moderating a panel as well.) She definitely makes “shared mobility” sound a lot less weird and a lot more sensible.

Mobility Lab: SUMC has already accomplished so much. But what would you say should happen within the next 4 or 5 years to make all your team’s work a truly worthwhile effort?

Sharon Feigon: The SUMC is dedicated to providing mobility for all. We hope that in 4 to 5 years, we will have made visible progress in that goal.

While equity and accessibility are talked about, there is so much more that we can do to make sure that those who can benefit most from increasing the frequency and reach of transit and shared mobility get service they need.

The promise of mobility on demand is not mode specific, it’s the outcomes that count. And we hope that more and more transit agencies and city governments can break down their silos and become convenes and brokers of mobility so that the private and public providers work much better together.

For the immediate future, we are both looking to discover and highlight some of the emerging trends through our new Start-up Spotlight feature at the conference, and to encourage the integration of modes through mobility hubs and apps to move us closer to mobility as a service.

In relation to SUMC’s recent report, very briefly sum up what different-sized cities should generally be planning in terms of making their transit work well in unison with other services like Uber and Lyft?

Above all, transit agencies should be making sure that any kinds of partnerships they consider with TNCs [transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft] are explicitly connected to the goals of the transit agency and to improving the service they deliver. 

The biggest cities, those that already have frequent, high capacity transit, should continue to keep transit at the center of their transportation picture, especially in the most constrained corridors. As far as TNCs, the best thing big cities can do is try to keep them out of the way of transit – building and enforcing transit-only lanes on the one hand, and making sure there are places for TNCs and taxis to pick up passengers and not block buses and other traffic. Outside of the core and outside of rush hour, they should look at whether partnerships with TNCs make sense for lowering the cost of providing late night, call-n-ride, or some paratransit services. In return, the cities should be getting high-quality data about TNC usage.

Medium-sized cities or those with a lot of low-density, auto-dominated land area that’s hard to serve well with transit should look at first/last mile partnerships with TNCs that can help attract new riders and make it easier for people to connect to public transit for trips that start or end away from high-frequency routes.

In smaller cities, agencies may be most interested in partnering with TNCs to provide alternatives to underused or unproductive routes and help expand their base of regular users. They should focus on concentrating transit resources on key high-frequency routes while also attracting new transit riders through explicit linkages to filling service gaps in time or geography, such as late nights, weekends, and in unserved areas.

You honoring the Mobility On Demand Sandbox grantees to kick off the conference. What would you say are one or two projects they are doing that is really new and exciting for the future of mobility?

Each Sandbox project has its unique attributes, so it’s difficult to pick any particular projects as the best ones to highlight.

The project by VTrans in Vermont has a unique use case of aiming to be a state-wide trip-planning app that will allow for the discovery of flexible transit services, such as dial-a-ride and route deviations, to open up trip opportunities to people across its rural areas. They’re doing this by building on an existing open-source platform created by another transit agency, TriMet [in Portland, Ore.], and adapting the GTFS standard to incorporate flexible services.

Eventually, they’re hoping that by using an open-source platform and releasing their transportation data, they’ll be able to spur improvements and innovation in the trip-planning and transit industries, leading to better real-time information, analysis, and integration of  services.

Each project has identified a unique use case for its partnership with various mobility providers and app-makers to improve mobility for diverse groups of people, whether they’re low-income populations, college students, people with disabilities, or commuters in congested park-and-ride lots.

We’re excited to learn where these partnerships can be successful, why, and how we can improve on these pilots, strategically or operationally, to improve mobility for all and make these services sustainable over the long term.

Mobility Lab focuses on transportation demand management – this idea of educating people about their transportation options that they may not know exist. What, in your mind, might be most important for making sure shared mobility and TDM are working together towards the same goals?

We have certainly looked to places like Seattle as encouraging for TDM as a viable way to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips.

Shared-mobility options, such as operating fleet vehicles as carsharing vehicles that are open to on-site employees, shows that TDM and shared mobility are a natural fit. Making sure that TDM policy includes innovative shared modes, which are then advertised by transportation management associations, gives the users more options.

On a larger scale, first/last mile shared modes encourage transit trips to work.

For the more than 600 or so people visiting Chicago for this conference, is there anything you say Chicago is proving to be a national leader on for shared-mobility initiatives and that attendees should try to learn more about while they’re here?

We hope to highlight some of Chicago’s fantastic transit and shared-mobility leadership to our attendees by sending them to use some of the modes.

Chicago is already a leader in bikesharing, and we hope that our attendees will take advantage of their free Divvy ride.

Anyone who uses their Chicago Transit Authority Ventra ticket will notice great signage and real-time arrival information on the bus stops and outside and inside the stations.

We are moving towards further payment integration, which was shown to work with carsharing in the past, and is already seeing new life in the Transit app.

And attendees will hear directly from plenary speakers Dorval Carter, who is president of the Chicago Transit Authority and Rebekah Scheinfeld, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation.

Photo by SUMC Chicago/Flickr.

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