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What We’re Reading: Building a Foundation

Metropolitan Branch Trail

It’s important to remember that mobility goes beyond the vehicles and providers that move people around. Infrastructure in communities also plays an important but sometimes overlooked role in overall mobility that deserves greater attention.

Nationally, as the House and Senate tax bills dominate current political talks, it is important for NCMM readers to understand the potential implications this legislation could have for their systems. As it stands, many cuts in incentives will reduce funding for public works spending, and therefore remove significant financing for mobility initiatives. There is talk of new financing available within infrastructure-focused bills in the future, but as CTAA points out, the current proposal is a missed opportunity to invest in transportation.

For those with enough public works funding, it remains critical to move beyond traditional views of infrastructure. For example, consider parkland as infrastructure. It can provide a space for bicyclists and pedestrians to go about their lives safely and actively. Many projects show this approach works, and in tight times it can help roll together funding for multiple community projects.

Even if federal dollars become increasingly scarce, local jurisdictions have succeeded in the past few years in raising voter-approved money to improve infrastructure that provides residents with more mobility options. Austin, Texas, has even managed to double the rate at which it’s building bike infrastructure, largely through building community support for a major funding package.

Many mobility managers are learning the value of community engagement and support, and pursuing opportunities to educate the public about the options they have beyond cars. Friendly Rider Transit, based in Wadena, Minnesota, has discovered that showing transit as a beneficial service for everyone, instead of just the transit-dependent, goes a long way in building interest in transit overall. This pays off in the short-term with more ridership, but also in the long-term as the community becomes more supportive of expanding service to reach more people.

As communities and transit systems get more creative with their approach to improving mobility, some have really started to jump out of the typical governmental comfort zone to experiment with new forms of transportation. Arlington, Texas, which currently only has one bus route, is dumping even that to pursue a system focused entirely on microtransit. Working with VIA, the city hopes to “provide more coverage for less money” through what officials consider a more “right-sized” solution with on-demand trips in minibuses.

Another hot topic in the mobility industry has been autonomous vehicles (AVs). While there is still plenty of uncertainty over when they will be adopted en masse, and how they will affect anything from walkability to urban sprawl, there are more basic questions that manufacturers should address now instead of later. On top of that list is the question of if these vehicles will be widely accessible to people with disabilities. Considering images of AVs rarely, if ever, include people with disabilities, there are a number of suggestions for the various companies involved in developing driverless technology to keep in mind now. It also makes sense to do, since establishing accessibility from the start saves on resources that would be wasted on retrofitting services to serve a major part of the U.S. population. IBM is one such company that has already started addressing this issue, and hopefully will lead more to do so.

 

Image Credit: Geoff Alexander, Flickr, CC

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Andrew Carpenter

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This post was written by on November 30, 2017 11:47 am

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