April 2021 Tech Updates
- Author: Kevin Chambers
- Date: April 29, 2021
This month’s tech updates include news of still more AV consolidation, EV growth (and growing pains), rural MaaS in Japan,…
By integrating a variety of mobility services into one digital application, users can plan, book, and pay for their transportation needs in one centralized location.
This type of concept, known as “Mobility-as-a-Service” (MaaS), allows riders to have real-time, on-demand access to mobility options in a one-stop setting.
Through the use of smartphone technology and collaborative partnerships between public transit providers and private companies, MaaS serves as a way for riders to easily access alternative transportation services—particularly for first- and last-mile trips that could otherwise increase traffic congestion and carbon emissions.
Pittsburgh’s Move PGH initiative, launched in July, is the largest and most comprehensive MaaS platform introduced in the United States. The two-year program, designed to streamline access to a host of mobility services across the city, was the result of a partnership between public, private, and nonprofit services to create a multi-modal mobility service for the city’s residents.
Move PGH Program Director Lolly Walsh said the initiative was first conceived in 2019, in large part due to public interest over bringing electric scooters to Pittsburgh as a means of increasing available mobility services. It took two years, however, for Move PGH to officially launch because e-scooters were illegal on public property in Pittsburgh until earlier this year, when state lawmakers finally allowed the city to launch the pilot for low-speed scooters.
The initiative came about after electric scooter company Spin collaborated with the City of Pittsburgh, the Port Authority of Allegheny County, and four other mobility providers—local bike-share provider Healthy Ride, car-sharing company Zipcar, navigation app Waze, and electric moped company Scoobi—to integrate all of the available transportation services in the city within the Transit app. Transit helps users plan their public transportation trips and access other available mobility services.
“We looked for companies to work with that could simplify mobility services so all of these different modes of transportation weren’t siloed,” Walsh said. “We wanted to ensure that all people—not just the 20 percent of our city residents who don’t own cars—had access to a variety of transportation options across the city, especially those living in neighborhoods with limited transit access.”
By making a variety of transportation services available through the Transit app, residents will be able to access real-time trip planning for Port Authority buses and light rail, pay for public transit, and find and pay for nearby mobility options—whether that’s mopeds, scooters, bikes, or by-the-hour vehicle rentals. And since approximately 40 percent of automobile trips in Pittsburgh are less than two miles, proponents hope that streamlined access to a host of alternative transportation options will provide city residents with greater mobility while reducing greenhouse gas emissions for many of these last-mile connections.
“Move PGH places Pittsburgh on the leading edge of cities taking charge of their mobility future,” Transit spokesman Stephen Miller said. “We hope it can serve as a model for other cities that want to make it easier for people to get around without their own cars.”
The goal of Move PGH is to provide Pittsburgh residents with easy access to mobility services in both digital and physical settings. The city is also in the process of rolling out a total of 50 mobility hubs throughout the city to help residents better access and use non-vehicular transportation options, such as bikes and scooters. This includes parking for bikes, scooters, and mopeds, as well as charging stations for the Spin scooters. Over the last month and a half alone, Walsh said the city has installed 115 parking stations across Pittsburgh to help eliminate the clutter of scooters being parked or left on the city’s sidewalks.
Early results show that the Move PGH initiative, which is still being rolled out, is already providing residents with useful transportation options. According to Spin, Pittsburgh users have already taken more than 100,000 trips on e-scooters across the city.
“We are eager to provide a blueprint for other mobility-driven initiatives across the U.S., particularly when it comes to the equity and sustainability components of the program,” Spin spokeswoman Maria Buczkowski said.
The Move PGH initiative also includes a Universal Basic Mobility pilot program that will provide 50 low-income Pittsburgh residents with one-year subscriptions to all of Move PGH’s transportation services. The pilot, which will be undertaken with researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, will help track how residents rely upon the city’s transportation offerings as they navigate changing seasons and potential life-changes.
As Move PGH continues to work on fully integrating all of its transportation options on the Transit app, Walsh said she hopes that this type of approach will help Pittsburgh—as well as other cities—make mobility services more accessible for their residents.
“I’d love for this to serve as an asset so residents everywhere can count on finding the services they need to get around,” Walsh said.
Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Sage Kashner (firstname.lastname@example.org).