What We’re Reading: Improving the Mobility Experience

  • Author: Alex King
  • Date: April 20, 2018

There are a number of communities pursuing big ideas to get ahead of the changing mobility landscape. It’s worth looking at how different places are leveraging new ideas and knowledge to improve their mobility experience to see how their ideas could be adapted and implemented in other communities.

As cities, their suburbs, and even the rural roads that feed into them begin to crowd beyond capacity, the need for high-capacity transit vehicles (read: buses) to move people more efficiently into economic centers is becoming more apparent. Despite this, bus ridership continues to drop in most large cities across the country – though it’s rising in rural areas. Mobility managers should help their communities come up with ideas to boost ridership that could positively improve everybody’s mobility.

Buffalo, New York, is taking this a step farther by envisioning a “smart corridor” that will use technology to connect vehicles and infrastructure to optimize people’s movement. The city is using the reconstruction of its main street as an opportunity to rethink how people use it, and build a mobility focus into the city’s infrastructure. Mobility managers have an opportunity in these rebuilds to ensure planners consider moving people as they design and build their environment.

On the non-tech end of the spectrum, cities continue to learn the benefits of pedestrian-centric versus car-centric design. Melbourne, Australia, is the latest city to explore the establishment of “superblocks,” which carve out large sections of congested areas and dedicate them to pedestrianization, as opposed to squeezing foot traffic into limited spaces in order to move more cars. City officials point out that pedestrians represent twice the amount of traffic as cars in the proposed area, yet they only have half the time to be able to cross streets and have a meager amount of space in which to move. In addition, plenty of studies have shown that focusing on pedestrianization instead of car movement is better for local businesses and public health. The arguments put forward in these efforts can be useful for mobility managers hoping to build the case for improved pedestrian infrastructure in their own communities.

With the superblock argument in mind, it’s important for transportation officials to effectively communicate the benefits of adding sidewalks and remember the political resistance that accompanies often these changes.

Readers may have seen a growing number of articles around the recent explosion of dockless bikeshare and, in the past few months, scootershare. For those curious about how these systems may function, Tech Crunch digs into the levers that affect their profitability. This can be a useful lens to understand the economics of shared-use transportation and therefore how to explore its potential introduction into new communities.

In contrast, ridehailing services have not shown their business model to be profitable at this point. To expand its services,  and potentially in an effort to improve profitability, Uber is now attempting to branch out into a Mobility as a Service (MaaS) model by buying up other shared-use companies like Jump dockless bikeshare and partnering with car rental apps. Though we do think MaaS represents a strong model for future mobility networks, the nature of these acquisitions does suggest that public agencies may have an argument for running mobility services instead of startups, due to the risk of shuttering services because of a lack of profitability.

We’d love to hear from you!

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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