Findings from 2016 research by the National Academies and the Shared Use Mobility Center + Recommendations for cities, agencies, partners

The Shared Use Mobility Center performed National Academies (Science, Medicine, Engineering) Transit Cooperative Research Program project J-11/22 (published as TCRP Research Report 188) explores opportunities and challenges for public transportation as they relate to technology-enabled mobility services, including suggesting ways that transit professionals can learn from, build upon, and interface with new shared mobility modes.   The report provides a snapshot of a rapidly widening mobility ecosystem at an early moment in its evolution along with a number of recommendations for balancing the benefits of innovation with public agencies’ responsibility to the common good.

Key Findings

  • More sharing across modes, greater likelihood to use transit, lower car ownership and reduced transportation spending. Supersharers (people who routinely use several shared modes, such as bikesharing, carsharing, and ridesourcing) report the greatest transportation savings and own half as many cars as people who use transit alone.
  • Shared modes largely complement public transit, enhancing urban mobility. On some routes and at certain times of day, however, shared modes may compete with transit.
  • Ridesourcing services are most frequently used for social trips between 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m., times when transit runs infrequently or is unavailable.
  • Bikesharing plays a peak-hour role in augmenting transit systems, while carsharing is mostly used off peakThe car-based shared modes likely substitute more for taxi or automobile trips than for transit trips. Transit is most competitive when it travels in its own right of way and provides
    frequent service.
  • Because shared modes are expected to continue growing in significance, public entities are encouraged to identify opportunities to engage with them to ensure that benefits are widely and equitably shared. Transit agencies can improve urban mobility for the entire spectrum of users through collaboration and public-private partnerships, including greater integration of service, information, and payment methods.
  • Public-sector agencies and private mobility operators are eager to collaborate to improve paratransit using emerging approaches and technology. Although regulatory and institutional hurdles complicate partnerships in this area, technology & business models from the shared mobility industry can help lower costs, increase service availability, and improve rider experience.
  • Emerging business models include new forms of public-private partnership for provision of mobility and related information services. Public entities, including transit
    agencies and local transportation departments, already are engaging with private operators and using new technologies from the shared mobility world. Public agencies can look
    to many examples for insight. Key areas of collaboration include cross-modal trip planning, reservations, and payment application (app) integration; microtransit/dynamic demand response; private access to public rights-of-way; and service links and hand-offs.

The findings suggest that increasing access to shared-use mobility (SUM) has the potential to improve the transportation picture for people with the fewest options—improving connections to transit and access to the region as a whole. Lack of information remains a significant barrier, but lack of access to technology is decreasing over time.

TCRP Research Report 188 concludes by presenting actions that transit agencies, transportation departments, and other local and regional agencies can take to promote useful cooperation between public and private mobility providers. It also suggests regulatory enhancements, institutional realignments, and forms of public-private engagement that would allow innovation to flourish while providing mobility as safely, broadly, and equitably as possible.  This research points to actions that public transit agencies and other public-sector entities can take to build on the mobility innovations of technology-enabled shared-use modes. It identifies opportunities for cooperation and suggests regulatory enhancements, institutional realignments, and forms of public-private engagement that would allow innovation to flourish while providing mobility as safely, broadly, and equitably as possible. The conclusions presented in this chapter highlight the following opportunities identified by the research, which are explained in further detail, below.

  • Change performance metrics to make efficient mobility the goal;
  • Extend fare integration and mobile payment beyond smoothing farebox interactions to goals such as subsidy administration, mode-shift, and gathering ridership data;
  • Keep information open and widely available for the broadest benefit;
  • Lay the groundwork for strong public-private partnerships and targeted investments in the mobility system, including public transit and shared modes;
  • Maintain accessibility and equity as central mandates for urban and regional mobility, especially with an evolving mix of public and private participants; and
  • Transform public transportation agencies into mobility agencies.

Change Performance Metrics

  • Take a big picture approach to make efficient mobility the goal. Current metrics that focus solely on operational measures such as route ridership, unlinked trips, passenger revenue-miles, or road capacity and congestion are not sufficient for gauging performance in the expanding
    mobility ecosystem.
  • Improve metrics to take into account the entire mobility picture. This broader view would include
    • increases in linked multimodal trips and
    • reductions in solo car trips
    • vehicle miles traveled
    • transportation-related climate impacts.

Extend Fare Integration and Mobile Payment

  • Integrate fare payment systems to simplify the subsidy of linked rides. An example of such integration is the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Agency’s pilot to partially subsidize transit-linked ridesourcing trips, or King County Metro Transit’s emergency ride home program. In-app payments could draw from a pool of voucher money established through an agreement between the company and the transit agency that is reconciled on the back end.
  • Make use of new technologies’ rich data-gathering capabilities. As part of fare integration, transit agencies can partner with aggregators and other mobility providers to more accurately measure transit usage and cross-mode linked trips, since both are measures of trips that aren’t taking place in personal autos. Increases in linked trips, both within and across modes, could be a performance goal.
  • Use Title VI equity analyses relating to fare medium changes to understand how to broadly distribute the benefits of integrated payment and information.

Make Information Widely Available

  • Build in accessibility from the ground up whenever information or payment solutions are pursued. Accessibility can be part of every payment or information system RFP.
  • Continue to develop common standards for payment, storage of customer information, and privacy.
  • Ideally, public authorities should actually own and maintain cross-modal data in an integrated system.
  • Ensure data reciprocity from the private sector, which benefits greatly from open public data. A “walled garden” model will not work for ridesourcing companies and other private operators if they expect to take part in a wider mobility ecosystem. Public transit operators, planners, and researchers need these data to understand how people are moving and where
    intervention may be needed.
  • Support the development and adoption of shared mobility information standards. The general bikeshare feed specification is already available, but something similar is needed for carshare, ridesourcing, microtransit, and other new modes.
  • Use open data and APIs, continue improvement of feeds, and encourage private sector innovation. Making contracting more flexible for transit agencies will help ensure they are not locked into a single vendor’s proprietary software and hardware.

Cultivate Public-Private Partnerships and Targeted Investment

  • Explore opportunities and challenges for public transportation as they relate to technology-enabled mobility services. As part of this effort, suggest ways that transit can learn from, build upon, and interface with these new modes.
  • Hold information-sharing sessions to introduce regional stakeholders to one another and to private industry representatives. Especially when previously unknown business models are entering a region for the first time, much of the groundwork has to do with establishing relationships and trust among players and making sure everyone’s goals are on the table.
  • Link objectives to local conditions. Seek to understand the true state of the shared mobility landscape before making permanent policy adjustments or entering into long-term agreements.
  • Map local mobility assets, deficits, and other local needs. Make sure that new or updated services, policies, and investments are directed to where they will have the greatest impact.
  • Support the establishment of an information clearinghouse. Such a clearinghouse could effectively capture, digest, and disseminate practices regarding public-private partnerships for provision of mobility and related information services, and could also continue to identify areas of need for future research.
  • Use requests for information to gauge private operators’ capacities and needs before issuing requests for qualifications or proposals. Obtaining accurate information early in the process of pursuing public-private ventures will ensure that each party knows what the other needs, can supply, and is prepared to do.

Maintain Accessibility and Equity as Priorities

  • Address inequities in access to information. Because information is the currency of the new mobility system, the capacity to readily use tools for information, schedules, booking, and payment must be ensured for those who face barriers related to cost, technology, technical knowledge, or disability.
  • Consider unbanked individuals. People without bank accounts need accommodations related to cost and payment options, especially as fare media and payments increasingly migrate to mobile platforms. In Chicago, Philadelphia, and several other cities, mobility and transit pass programs targeted to lower income residents have successfully used retail outlets to maintain the ability to use cash. These programs have found that lower payment increments and more short-term options can improve access and more widely spread the benefits of transportation investments.
  • Evaluate the use of new modes to increase transit access in outlying communities. Microtransit and one-way carsharing can increase transit access, and agencies can conduct targeted outreach to educate residents about first- and last-mile solutions. The suburbanization of poverty has resulted in longer commutes, poorer job access, and greater reliance on car ownership for many of the people who can least afford the associated costs.

Emphasize Mobility

  • Address mobility beyond direct provision of transportation services. By spreading awareness and training people how to use the full menu of mobility options to reduce the need for personal vehicles, transportation agencies can further enhance mobility management.
  • Align goals across agencies. Coordinate transit and transportation operations—along with planning and regulation of bikesharing, carsharing, ridesourcing, shuttles, parking, and curb access—and attempt to align work across all of these regulatory areas with overarching mobility goals. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and several agencies in Seattle are transforming themselves into mobility managers, with responsibilities that go beyond a public utility model of transit provision or a streets department.
  • Create a network of mobility managers at different levels (e.g., regions, municipalities, transit agencies, and large employers). This network can communicate and coordinate mobility needs across departmental, jurisdictional, and public/private lines.
  • Create cross-agency working groups to regularly bring together multiple entities to develop policies that promote shared goals. Bringing together transit agencies, DOTs, streets departments, business affairs divisions, consumer watchdogs, land-use divisions, planners, and public safety agencies can help these agencies avoid working at cross-purposes in pursuit of similar goals.