From the launch of electric bikesharing systems to the rise of new carpooling concepts and microtransit services like Bridj and Chariot, cities today are facing the biggest disruption to the transportation sector since the automobile replaced the horse-drawn carriage.
While these new forms of shared-use mobility can offer wide-ranging benefits – such as increasing access to transportation, reducing reliance on private autos and cutting congestion and carbon emissions – they also present a challenge for local governments, which must regulate in a quickly changing environment and do their best to ensure the public good is upheld without stifling innovation.
A great deal has changed in the last year, as cities have begun to work more closely with the private sector to develop new solutions. In just the last month, for instance, Florida’s Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority rolled out a plan to subsidize first/last mile Uber trips to its transit stops, while Portland’s TriMet transit system announced that riders will soon be able to hail a Lyft ride or reserve a Car2go vehicle using its new mobile ticketing app.
Despite this progress, however, many cities have still found themselves playing catch-up as new shared modes proliferate, and have struggled to balance divergent goals including:
- Maximizing access
- Preserving safety
- Ensuring support for public transit networks
- Managing traffic
- Allocating parking and other uses of curb space
- Ensuring all communities are served
- Providing clear and consistent guidelines for a quickly evolving industry
While a handful of cities like Seattle and Los Angeles have begun work to develop their own comprehensive mobility plans, the focus on catch-up in most regions has meant few cities have developed a long-term vision for a public-private mobility world. And even fewer have had a chance to reorganize or build new capacity, resulting in confusion over who is best suited to oversee these new modes of transportation.
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