New Mobility Managers: An Introduction – Part 1

Author: Amber Simmons

Published: January 9, 2020

Amber Simmons, Regional Transportation Educator for Move Together NY (a program of Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County) has produced an introduction of mobility management for the Mobility Lines blog. Building on years of mobility management experience, New Mobility Managers: An Introduction, provides an initiation of mobility management for new practitioners in the field. This is Part 1 of a two-part blog.

The Real Mobility Manager Job Description

Your job description should read something like this: “Here are the keys to nothing, you are responsible for bringing people together from various socio-economic backgrounds to provide miracle transportation solutions, with no money, little political support, and no additional vehicles”.  You will spend years bringing to fruition one or two programs that while not glamorous, will mean the world to vulnerable populations.  You will be frustrated, loose funding, face staff turnover and spend more countless hours re-selling and educating programs to stakeholders.  Since many Mobility Managers come from very diverse backgrounds, it seems like a little guidance for this journey is in order. Whatever your background, it’s helpful to have some general best practices and workflow guide to help guide you along this journey.  Albeit brief, I hope this serves as a, “diving into mobility management with both eyes open” guide.

Mobility Management - Defined by Need

There are many definitions of mobility management that are all good and attempt to clearly define, the undefinable.  That’s because mobility management is a skills set, not a job.  What you do and how you do it is defined by the needs of the community you are representing.

My definition has been a cobbled together version of many others:

Mobility Management is about bringing people together.  Bringing together the people who need transportation, with the people who provide transportation and the people who can pay for transportation to address community transportation needs.

It’s making the most of existing resources, creating new services when needed and looking at the issues through the lens of the rider.

But what does the job look like? Here are some points to consider:

  • It’s about being involved with the transportation providers and human service agencies throughout your community. (Whether a city, county or region)
  • It’s about listening to the needs of the community and identifying gaps in transportation services.
  • It’s about facilitation: bringing together people to help solve the community transportation needs
  • It’s about innovation: looking for creative ways and partnerships to address the needs
  • It’s about funding: Seeking funds to promote the ideas that solve community transportation needs
  • It’s about education: educating the public about available services, educating community organizations about what’s available and how mobility management can help address their transportation needs.
  • It’s about partnerships: a Mobility Manager facilitates partnerships between entities. These partnerships are about meeting needs with existing funding, or applying for funding, but most of the time, there’s no funding.
  • It’s about doing more with the same funds. Government or agencies will ask you how much can they ‘save’ with mobility management.  The truth is, funds are always absorbed by something.  Mobility Management is about doing more with the same funds.
  • It’s about networking: A mentor once advised, that a mobility manager who never leaves the office, isn’t doing their job. Mobility Managers need to be out in the community, out learning from each other and out learning about other programs, challenges and opportunities in other communities.

Additional Information

When I was new in this industry, I quickly realized there was very little published anywhere about what mobility management is, let alone how to do it.  Insight came from a little band of peers scattered here and there.  I leaned on my sales background and ability to network, as well as a natural curiosity.

There is more now, but still surprisingly little. Many of the insights here are from lessons learned from others as well as basic networking skills that have been developed over a 20+ year career.

Early insights came from reading documents from United We Ride, regulations from funding for now non-existent JARC, New Freedom grants, CTAA resources, any and all conferences I could find and a few key people who have been leaders in collaborative transportation for many decades.

Next time we’ll dive a little deeper into resources, how to get to know the stakeholders in your community and some of the politics involved.  More information may be found at Move Together NY and its mobility management training . Until next time.

 

Image Credit: "13/365 - Waiting for the bus" by danbruell

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Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Kirby Wilhelm (wilhelm@ctaa.org).