Improving Urban Mobility by L. Dennis Burns, CAPP

Information and communication technologies combined with smartphone applications and location data from global positioning systems are making feasible transportation services that have long been imagined but never realized on a large scale. These innovations include carsharing, bikesharing, microtransit services, and most notably, transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft. businessman with smartphone in the city

These services are being embraced by millions of travelers who are using their smartphones to arrange for trips by car, shuttle, and public transit, as well as for short-term rental of cars and bicycles. The new services epitomize today’s sharing economy and allow an increasing number of people to enjoy the mobility benefits of an automobile without owning one, and may encourage others to leave their personal vehicles at home for the day, reduce the number of vehicles in their household, or even forgo having one at all.

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) recently released Special Report 319: Between Public and Private Mobility: Examining the Rise of Technology-Enabled Transportation Services. This report was developed by a special task force of transportation experts from industry and academia and identified a range of research needs.

In a separate but related publication, Xerox’s Innovator’s Brief for the Transportation Industry recently presented “A Three-Point Plan to Improve Urban Mobility.”  This brief highlights the fact that cities are going to get a lot more crowded. Today, 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. The United Nations estimate that an additional 2.5 billion people could be based in cities by 2050. As our world becomes more urbanized, the issues of traffic congestion, parking, and access management are amplified. Xerox’s brief focuses on three key points that can empower cities to be more sustainable and improve the quality of life for residents and tourists:

  • Improve the efficiency of existing mobility infrastructure. Adding more infrastructure is simply not an option in many urban environments. Using technology, we can move people, vehicles, and goods more efficiently through the existing infrastructure.
  • Increase the capacity of the existing mobility infrastructure.  The goal here is to move more people, vehicles, and goods through the existing infrastructure.
  • Change the behaviors of urban travelers. This is about influencing the choices travelers make toward options that reduce congestion.  Agencies that implement dynamic pricing can reduce traffic congestion in all electronic toll collection and/or on-street parking situations, using pricing as a mechanism to influence driver choices. Smart parking programs help increase space availability and reduce pollution by helping drivers get to a parking spot at their desired price point sooner.  Incorporating telecommuting into the office culture helps to keep people and vehicles off the roads during the day.  Providing accessible multimodal options such as ridesharing, carsharing, public transportation, etc., via mobility apps creates opportunities to make different choices that can result in less personal vehicle usage, and therefore less congestion.

Both of these publications reinforce the integration of parking and mobility management strategies into a more comprehensive and connected platform of transportation choices. I encourage you to explore these resources and add more parking voices to the conversation.