Insights from the National Shared Mobility Summit
March 8, 2019
This week, professionals in transit, micromobility, carsharing, and ride-hailing gathered together in Chicago for the Fifth Annual Shared Mobility Summit hosted by the Shared Use Mobility Center (SUMC). Preceding the Summit, SUMC (in conjunction with the Federal Transit Administration) hosted a daylong workshop on the newly funded Mobility on Demand (MOD) On-Ramp Program.
MOD On-Ramp Program
The FTA’s one-year On-Ramp Program provides access to technical assistance for MOD projects as well as peer exchange and support for outreach and research. At the workshop, recipients of the On-Ramp grants provided presentations about their projects:
- Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Austin, TX) – Electric autonomous shuttles in mixed traffic.
- Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (Baltimore, MD) – Microtransit to connect low-income residents in the city to job opportunities in the suburbs.
- Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation (Indianapolis, IN) – Mobility hubs to enhance current transit network.
- Tompkins County (Ithaca region, NY) – MaaS for SOV reduction.
- Memphis Area Transit Authority (Memphis, TN) – First-last mile in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
- Bay Area Rapid Transit District (San Francisco Bay Area, CA) – On-demand ride-hailing for persons who use a wheelchair.
Each of these pilot projects integrates elements of MOD and technology to help solve transportation problems in urban areas. The lessons learned will help shape future projects and provide valuable lessons learned and best practices for the next iteration of initiatives.
Later sessions covered lessons learned in MOD pilot program partnerships and strategies for community engagement. Panelists from TransForm, the City of Detroit, the Atlanta Beltline, and the Seattle Department of Transportation stressed the need to engage early and often. Giving members of the community agency and a voice in new projects not only helps to mitigate pushback later on, but also helps provide safe, efficient service by taking context into account.
SUMC Summit 2019
At the Summit itself, panel sessions demonstrated the increasing role played by partnerships between the public and private sectors to deliver transportation services and emerging the successes and challenges behind these partnerships. Many speakers recognized the power behind public agencies to enable these partnerships to succeed.
The growing emphasis on public-private partnerships to deliver transportation services highlights the importance of developing procurement, planning, and implementation processes that advance both private and public sector goals. Peer exchange, best practices, and knowledge transfer can help agencies avoid pitfalls when exploring new partnership opportunities. The SUMC conference facilitates this through workshops, panels, and listening sessions throughout the Summit.
Three U.S. municipalities (Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and King County, Washington) were represented in a session titled “Local Government Strategies in Shared Mobility.” For this session, speakers pointed to pilots in which their transit agencies partner with private companies to deliver transportation services, such as Detroit’s “Night Shift” program offering Lyft services to citizens working late night shifts when public transit services aren’t available. Lessons learned include the advantages brought by programs linking public transit customers to private services which can be especially effective in low-density areas.
A session titled “Shared Mobility as a Resilience Strategy” pointed to the significance of public-private partnerships in helping communities deliver transportation services despite planned and unplanned disruptive conditions. Margo Dawes from the Seattle Department of Transportation provided a case study of Seattle’s efforts to mitigate an increase in vehicle miles traveled with the closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The city (along with King County and Sound Transit) offered the “Rideshare to Transit” pilot, a discount on Lyft and Uber services to incentivize commuters to take those services to transit stops. The idea was to prevent commuters from using ridehailing services for their entire trips, and rather to use them as “first-mile/last-mile” connections to transit. The agency is still collecting data on the program, but preliminary results indicate that about half of trips were taken in the intended directions thus helping to mitigate additional VMT during the Viaduct closure.
Recognition of public transportation as the backbone of mobility
Despite the emphasis on the private sector’s increasing role in delivering transportation services, speakers throughout the conference referred to public transit as “the backbone” of mobility. While there was recognition that the innovations provided by the private sector are important tools for transit agencies, LA Metro’s Joshua Shank indicated that innovation shouldn’t be considered a primary goal for agencies to attain, but rather a means to help agencies achieve their service delivery goals. Citing LA’s efforts to implement congestion pricing, impose fees on transportation network companies, and to rebalance street space by creating more bus lanes, Schank stated, “at the end of the day, public policy change is happening in the public sector.”
In the “Shared Mobility Innovations and Future Trends” session, moderator Vince Valdes of the FTA asked panelists to define public transportation: “Is it a commodity? A business? A social program?” Panelists recognized that effective transit is dependent on well-defined policy goals, and Remix’s Tiffany Chu indicated that agencies should first consider whether their primary goal is to provide equitable service or rather to focus on delivering high frequency routes, and to then use data to design services around those goals.
Panelists spoke to the need for public transit agencies to focus on mobility broadly instead of transportation specifically. For instance, Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Roger Millar called for transportation professionals to move away from siloed thinking and to begin incorporating considerations of implications to the environment and housing. PolicyLink’s Anita Cozart pointed to recent efforts in the Twin Cities to ensure that zoning allows for more multifamily housing as a step in the right direction toward reducing rent burdens, though such policies must be accompanied by investments in transit.
Best practices for transportation agencies and their partners
Throughout several panels and breakout sessions, there were repeated discussions of lessons learned that can form “best practices” for agencies and partners to emulate in future projects.
Early on, Terra Curtis from Nelson Nygaard impressed upon the importance of framing the right problem statements to build effective and productive partnerships between transit agencies and private partners like transportation network companies. Subsequent speakers from LA Metro’s Office of Extra Ordinary Innovation (OEI) and TriMet echoed that point, discussing the progression from problem statement development, to planning and procurement, to launch and operation to performance measurement and iteration. Learning from pilots and circling back to refine the problem and potential solutions provides the opportunity for improved service and programming and utilizing the full benefits of piloting ideas before full implementation. OEI’s Rani Narula-Woods emphasized the benefits of unsolicited proposals to help agencies identify and solve problems by connecting with the private sector and the general public and allowing them to propose solutions to self-identified problems.
Later, participants discussed key topics in small breakout groups covering topics such as performance measurement strategies, target setting, and reporting. Discussions focused on identifying best practices from peer agencies as well as the roles of federal, regional, and local agencies in setting standards and providing incentives. Both public agency employees and members of the private sector noted the importance of clearly communicating performance measures and targets in the contracting and planning phase with private partners.
When discussing lessons learned in MOD pilot program partnerships and strategies for community engagement. Panelists from TransForm, the City of Detroit, the Atlanta Beltline, and the Seattle Department of Transportation stressed the need to engage early and often. Giving members of the community agency and a voice in new projects not only helps to mitigate pushback later on, but also helps provide safe, efficient service by taking context into account.