What We’re Reading: Big Picture Thinking

  • Author: Andrew Carpenter
  • Date: March 22, 2018

There have been a number of developments in transportation with technology, design, and experimentation that will influence mobility management in new ways, all of which present massive subjects to tackle for any one mobility management team. Therefore, it is vital to consider these subjects in tandem with other local stakeholders such as planners, health professionals, and elected officials. In order to serve the public of any particular area and make it better for everybody to travel around.

Google Maps has released a feature in which people with disabilities – particularly those using mobility devices, such as wheelchairs – can search for transit directions that specify accessible routes. This has long been a sticking point for people’s ability to get around using this technology, and it’s great that it’s finally being addressed. Bonus points in that it can highlight how glaringly inaccessible so many places still are.

More generally, a group of transportation and design experts has developed SharedStreets, a mapping tool that they hope will serve as a standardized template upon which public officials and regular residents can build tools to make mobility planning more democratic and easier to access.

Mapping can also feed into understanding our land-use patterns and how they can inform mobility management efforts. Since the design of our environments affect how people move around, it’s important to understand these factors and engage feed them with any planning or programming attempts. This is the case not only for future technology, but also for options that currently exist.

Combining mapping and land-use can drive our understandings of how people use certain mobility options. A recent Transportation Research Board report digs into the factors that influence people’s decisions to use ridehailing services like Uber and Lyft. Having these insights into transportation behaviors is a vital aspect in developing mobility management programs for a certain area.

Land use and transportation system design should become especially relevant in the wake of the first pedestrian death related to a self-driving car. Though there are important questions to ask about what went wrong on the technological side this should also highlight the fact that pedestrians are almost always put in dangerous situations when we design around cars. Instead, using autonomous technology to focus the conversation, mobility managers can lead their communities in prioritizing the movement of people instead of cars. It’s limiting to think of mobility in terms of cars, and automation can unlock a whole lot more than a self-driving taxi.

We have found a number of pieces lately about how mobility managers should make sure to involve the people they hope to serve in their planning and design processes from the beginning. Mobility Lab has done a great job to distill some concepts into quick points, and why it works, such as engaging community members before making detailed plans, giving them an opportunity to provide their own ideas in a solution directed at them.

It’s also important for mobility managers to be open to unorthodox ideas, and to design programs in a way that embraces the unexpected. Coming quick on the heels of dockless bikeshare’s emergence, companies are taking advantage of pilot programs in cities like Washington, D.C. to experiment with electric scootershare. They’re still very new, so their potential for success remains to be seen, but they show the value of experimenting to fill the gaps in mobility networks.


Image Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Flickr, CC BY 2.0


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Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Sage Kashner (kashner@ctaa.org).

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