Are the Shared Mobility Firms Enhancing Public Transportation? – Part 1

The APTA (American Public Transportation Association) released a research report in March, 2016 entitled “Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit.” Interestingly, the report examines the relationship of public transportation to transit sharing modes, including bikesharing, carsharing, and ride-sourcing services, like Uber and Lyft. This research shows that the more people use shared modes, the more likely they are to use public transit, own fewer cars, and spend less on transportation overall.

This means more resources will need to be invested in public transit – and the agencies that operate them. The public bus system, for example, will be transformed in ways that we never thought were possible. Currently, there are 12-15 passenger self-driving transit buses in operation in different parts of the world. Who would have ever thought such a thing would exist? There is also a high level of encouragement for cities and central business districts to begin to utilize these vehicles as circulators, at a minimum.

The new shared mobility companies, such as Uber and Lyft, have become wildly successful and extremely commonplace in nearly every major city in the world. Even earlier this month, General Motors (GM) and Lyft announced a program to provide nearly “free” vehicles to new drivers to encourage the use of GM vehicles and the Lyft technology platform. This action, by itself, is transformational as it relates to the shared mobility industry that is growing exponentially on an annual basis. Just when it seemed Uber was going to be the VHS of tape drives, along comes Lyft with a new idea that will surely propel them in a significant way in their industry.

The creation of a robust network of mobility options will help reduce car ownership and increase the use of public transit, all of which will continue to function as the backbone of an integrated multi-modal transportation system.

We have development clients that are now building apartment projects in cities with insignificant public transit options but nevertheless are providing parking at one space per dwelling unit regardless of the number of bedrooms. There are other cities, such as Washington, DC, where parking is provided at a rate of 0.3 spaces per apartment unit, regardless of the number of bedrooms. There are major cities on the West coast, like Seattle and sometimes San Francisco, which are not requiring any parking at all for new high-rise residential development. Imagine that!

The objective of the APTA research analysis was to examine the issues of ridesharing opportunities, coupled with public transit systems, to determine if the mobility services can suggest ways that public transit can learn from, build upon, and interface with these new modes. The study drew from several sources, including in-depth interviews with transportation officials, a survey of shared mobility users, and an analysis of transit and ride sourcing capacity and demand. My own personal interviews with users of the apps of all ages indicates that more and more frequently, there are new users from ages 16 to 70 that are using Uber and Lyft for various times of the day and day of the week – and this trend is only going to continue to grow.

The APTA Study includes research that was participated in by Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

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