New Transportation Options on Table at Upcoming Innovation in Mobility Summit

Innovation in Mobility postcard

I attended the Shared-Use Mobility Summit in San Francisco last year and came away from it with a strong sense that the conversations happening there should continue.

At the time, no one knew that this inaugural event would spur such interest. Hundreds of people would be turned away due to the overwhelming response.

The next logical step will happen June 10-11, when the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT), Mobility Lab, TransitCenter and UCBerkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center host the Innovation in Mobility Public Policy Summit in Washington D.C.

The two-day event (see the tentative schedule here) will bring influential transportation professionals together to discuss successful approaches to ridesharing, bikesharing, technology developments, and other related issues in hopes of affecting policy decisions. As innovative transportation approaches have mushroomed, a variety of policy, regulatory, and funding issues have arisen.

For example, one crucial and timely item on the table:

Arizona officials are considering whether to recognize companies like Uber, Sidecar, and Lyft as “rideshare” operators. (California, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Seattle have explicitly ruled that they are not ridesharing companies.) Regulating all companies or agencies that use an online ridematching system could  severely hamper traditional carpool and vanpool agencies and companies.

There are also concerns that defining such companies as “ridesharing” might become more widespread and jeopardize federal funding crucial to support of public and private ridesharing programs all across the country.

ACT has noted that companies like Uber, Sidecar, and Lyft

“while valuable, are not ridesharing, and that calling them ridesharing is dangerous … ridesharing is defined as individuals sharing rides with a common origination and destination and where costs may be shared … define services such as Uber and Lyft as ‘transportation network companies’ (as they are defined in California), and specifically exempt ridesharing from the legislation.”

In Arlington County, where my team at Arlington Transportation Partners works to weave public transportation into the fabric of the workforce’s lives, traditional ridesharing – carpooling and vanpooling – is necessary to achieve the county government’s goals of less traffic, less air pollution, and a better lifestyle. Often, commuters coming into the county don’t have extensive transit systems where they begin their commutes. Pooling provides these individuals with a great option.

Along with options, people want flexibility. They may rideshare to work, take bikeshare at lunch, and hop on a commuter bus to get home. These many services – working to form an option-rich system – provide people the flexibility they are asking for and coming to expect.

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I anticipate a lot from this summit, and not just about the ridesharing questions I pose here. Solutions to tech and open data, inter-regional cooperation, and business opportunities will be some of the outcomes of the Summit that we will hope to articulate to policymakers both federally and throughout the country.

There is also a need to discuss how new and innovative transportation modes can work with transit. Bikesharing, for example, can help alleviate the first- and last-mile challenge as well as assist markets that have plenty more room for riders on their transit services. UC Berkeley’s TSRC studies show how some of these services can actually increase the use of traditional transit in smaller markets.

I look forward to discovering how all of the new transportation options can better shape our communities and make us less dependent on driving alone.

Register today – you won’t be disappointed!

Photo by M.V. Jantzen

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