Talking about change in the public transit industry is like shooting fish in a barrel – so much is happening it’s almost unfair. There are new safety regulations (SGR, PTC, Hours of Service, to name a few), multiple discussions and pilot programs with autonomous vehicles, funding initiatives, new ideas on fare payment (Be-In/Be-Out), or even some agencies throughout the world playing with the idea of free transit. But, with all that is happening, what is the biggest change agencies and the transit space should keep top-of-mind?
Perhaps the biggest change circling the public transit community is the definition of mobility. In the old definition, modes of transportation (walking, biking, public transit, personal vehicles) were mutually exclusive from each other. Now, the industry has realized this structure doesn’t work. Mobility should be inclusive – an amalgamation of the transportation spectrum – and focus on the individual’s ability to get to their destination easily.
As a public transit technology company, we see this as an important change to better public transit and the industry’s ability to move people. To get the best value from this change, there needs to be a coordinated effort to tackle the challenges of mobility. Luckily, the Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities were created (initiated by Robin Chase). There are 10 principles outlining how we can fully adopt the new definition of transit mobility.
All of the 10 principles are important. That said, because our focus is on public transit and technology, here are the three principles we think are the most important to the development of that community.
Prioritize People Over Vehicles
The old American Dream supported the suburbia lifestyle – get married, buy a car, have some kids, and move to the suburbs. City life was not seen as the ideal of that dream. Everyone wanted the big house with the big backyard and a white picket fence. Even though people wanted to live away from the city, most people still worked in major centers, causing everyone to drive – giving way to the birth of the single occupant vehicle. It’s not unrealistic to argue that it is this dream that paved the way for more roads and more parking lots. The unbridled need to get away from city-living, prioritized roadways and suburban areas over a densely populated urban area. Since then, attitudes towards urban life have changed. Many people now want to live, work, and play in the same place. With increased urbanization and fewer people choosing to own their vehicles or even get a driver’s license, how we think about mobility in urban spaces needs to change.
In this new approach, it’s about people transportation. From a public transit perspective, this means working with TNCs, Bike Share, Car Share or any other transportation service to make sure people can get from point A to B in the most efficient and convenient way possible. Even Uber has shifted from trying to monopolize the ridesharing business, to killing the personal car. The focus is now on the needs of the individual on a per use basis. What type of vehicle or mode of transportation do you need to meet a friend for coffee, get groceries, or go to your local butcher shop?
Integration and Seamless Connectivity
Multimodal no longer means rail, bus, and paratransit for a public transit agency. Instead, to be truly multimodal, you need to offer the gamut of solutions – walking, biking, carsharing, ridesharing, public transit, or any new mode of transportation birthed in our quickened technological pace. So, if you have multiple systems, operations, payment structures, apps, trip planners, etc. for every single one of these modes, it is very unlikely riders are going to choose you as the option. Riders want the freedom to go where they want, when they want. Currently, in the minds of riders, the most comfortable and reliable way to accomplish this is by owning a vehicle.
If we can create a single platform connecting all modes of transportation, then people will have the flexibility they crave. So, through a multimodal intelligent transportation system, the ability to connect all of these different modes and service options will change riders’ minds on ease of use. The easier we can make trip planning, payment, passenger communication, infotainment, gamification, or anything else related to the passenger experience, the quicker we can convert and convince people to ditch their single occupant vehicle. We need one platform to rule them all.
Shared and Efficient Use of Vehicles, Lanes, Curbs, and Land
Prioritizing people also means restructuring how our cities are built. It’s important to focus on creating walkable areas and properly developing new (or gentrifying) city areas, to make sure amenities are easily accessible. If there isn’t a feasible solution, then there needs to be an easy way for people to get to these amenities through better mobility – bikeshare, carshare, TNCs, or public transit.
Additionally, making better use of roadways, curb space, and other infrastructure means we need to think of this infrastructure as supporting all modes of mobility. We should be looking at all of the mobility needs in an area and creating policies and systems to manage the supply and demand of this infrastructure. All of this means that we need to analyze routes and high-traffic areas, set policies for optimal land and infrastructure use, and create technology that supports this activity seamlessly. We need to share our information or have a designated system(s) to manage this end-to-end experience.
Are You Ahead of the Mobility Curve?
These principles are a vital and valuable resource to transition our cities to be more effective and change the understanding of what it means to be mobile. We’ve recently joined on as signatories of the Shared Mobility Principles, and we are excited to be a part of the change to this new mobility paradigm.
As Director, Industry Solutions and Alliances, Jeff has a strong, proven ability in the management of large teams and complex technical implementations with emphasis on project efficiency and profitability. Jeff is particularly interested in thin client and cloud-based computing systems, and focuses his time on the successful deployment of software solutions for businesses.