What We’re Reading: Looking Forward

Author: Andrew Carpenter

Published: December 14, 2017

Inside A South Lake Union Trolley at 10:39 AM 9 November 2017

Over the course of this year, new and updated research has shown us numerous new ideas and trends within the realm of mobility. And now, as the year comes to close, it’s important to think about the application of this information into our work and how it can improve our practices, and prepare for further change.

Seattle, Washington, has been in the headlines many times throughout the year as one of the few bus systems in the country to see a growth in ridership. As a result, the region is home to many promising practices such as Sound Transit’s decision to lower fares for young riders even outside of the school year. During the school year students receive free transit passes, and in years past, these passes were deactivated during the summer, causing a huge drop in youth ridership during those months. Due to the decrease in fares that can be as low as $.50 for bus rides during all times of the year, youth ridership has grown 35 percent for bus trips, and 42 percent for light rail lines. This policy change shows how shaping mobility options based on the individuals they serve can increase overall use and positive outcomes for the community.

Increasing data shows the dangers of focusing on the throughput of cars. Statistics from Ohio show that higher traffic speeds lead to more crashes and more fatalities. After increasing the speed limit to 70 miles per hour along 1000 miles of roads, fatal crashes on those roads increased nine percent since 2013, and injurious crashes climbed by 23 percent. Data like this is especially useful to compare to safety on transit, where passengers are ten times safer than being in a car.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the city launched a full-fledged bus rapid transit (BRT) line with resounding success. A growing number of communities are beginning to embrace transit beyond the traditional bus stuck in mixed traffic, and even giving up car space to enable mobility-enhancing services like BRT.

 

Thinking big

Concrete examples like the ones above can lead into more abstract topics, which are ideal to help mobility managers consider their customers’ needs from various perspectives and plan for the future.

From a broad perspective, a recent Governing article  gives an overview of how public agencies can maximize the benefits of data and employ the abundance of information to improve services in a resident-centered way. The growth of data resources has created a plethora of opportunities for agencies to optimize their services through smart strategies. This serves as a short introduction to guide planning toward more effectively harnessing new technology.

In the fast-growing and changing world of autonomous vehicles (AVs), there are a wide range of opinions and insights about what their eventual adoption will mean for all communities. The Rand Corporation – a wide-ranging think tank – recently posted an interesting perspective on the best way to deploy AVs in the future. They suggest that waiting for them to be perfectly safe will be costlier in terms of human lives than releasing them to public streets when they are simply safer than human drivers.

Another topic that mobility managers have to navigate is the cost of transit for passengers. Fast Company explores if transit should be free, and goes beyond the yes-or-no question of free transit to explore the current incentives that shape people’s mobility options, and how communities can rethink these structures to best serve residents’ mobility needs.

As happens with many articles we uncover, they tend to focus on urban areas, but NCMM firmly believes that these are concepts that rural communities can adopt to their unique circumstances as well, possibly to even greater effect considering their smaller size. To help bridge this gap, the Small Urban and Rural Transit Center (SURTC) has released their 2017 rural transit fact book which “provides information on transit service availability and cost to help the transit industry in the U.S. to provide efficient and effective service to meet rural mobility needs.”

 

Image Credit: Joe A. Kunzler, Flickr, CC

We’d love to hear from you!

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