This week we read a number of articles that reminded us the importance of looking at mobility from new perspectives. By looking at planning from a variety of community perspectives, it can allow for the creation of a solution that can better address residents’ unique needs.
The rapid growth of dockless bikeshare companies in larger U.S. cities has generated a lot of buzz about their influence on the industry. In particular, these new services have attracted attention for their potential to serve communities more equitably compared to traditional station-based services which have been slow to move beyond affluent areas. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the dockless systems have attracted a more diverse user base, and have improved mobility options for residents in underserved areas of cities like Washington, D.C.
Accessibility has long been a retrofit for many mobility options, the irony of which is not lost on people with mobility issues. To avoid this going forward, mobility managers should push to have accessibility standards included in transportation options from the initial planning phase. Planners and engineers should design around accessibility.
Phoenix’s light rail system demonstrated this by adding a new station that has been designed by and for people with disabilities, and addresses many of the issues that this diverse yet generalized group faces while navigating the built environment.
People with disabilities can also benefit from improved cycling infrastructure. The Guardian found that appropriate bike infrastructure can help disabled people stay mobile. According to the article, cycling is easier than walking for two out of three people with disabilities, and in Cambridge, England, 26 percent of this population commutes by bike. Yet in many communities around the world, the built environment doesn’t provide safe enough facilities to enable this activity. Much like on Phoenix light rail, engineers should consider these mobility needs from the beginning which will then make opportunities far more accessible for people with disabilities.
On a wider scale, planners must also understand how their design decisions affects all users’ behavior. For example, transit advocates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin have counterintuitively started to push against providing free rides on its streetcar for one year before charging fares. Due to the concept of “category change,” shifting a service from free to paid will cause a significant number of people to abandon the service, and likely doom it in the long run.
TransitCenter has released a new tool that measures long-term trends in transit ridership to help agencies in large metropolitan areas better understand the changing face of transportation in their area and compare them to other regions. While an interesting glimpse into long-term trends, this is also a useful advocacy tool to provide a perspective on how policy decisions can potentially affect long-term system usage.
Image Credit: Portland Bureau of Transportation, Flickr, CC