Written by Susan Shaheen
This article was originally published on July 10, 2017
In early 2017, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) andIn early 2017, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Transportation Research Board (TRB) co-hosted a workshop featuring key US transportation stakeholders and leaders who discussed the Smart City Challenge competition and the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox initiative. The Smart City Challenge was a USDOT program designed to solicit cutting-edge ideas for smart transportation systems that use data and technology to increase network efficiency. Meanwhile, FTA’s MOD Sandbox initiative was developed to garner a better understanding of the emerging smartphone-based technologies in transportation.
The workshop covered both programs in detail, outlining lessons learned and strategies to help transportation systems accommodate demographic shifts and technological innovation moving forward. Here are five key takeaways from the workshop:
– Safety, affordability, reliability, and a system’s availability to serve all socio-demographic groups are key performance measures for Smart Cities and MOD.
– US demographics are changing rapidly along with technological trends. In particular, there is a large opportunity to serve older adults, children, and people with disabilities.
– There is a need to examine how MOD can work effectively in rural communities–not just dense urban areas. To date, there are not many successful MOD solutions in rural areas, and MOD viability in low-density areas should be a focal point of future programs and research.
– Courier network services, or flexible goods delivery (e.g., Postmates, UberEats, etc.), are on the rise. Business models that traditionally accomplish either goods movement or personal transportation could evolve to be used interchangeably for both delivering goods and enhancing personal mobility, thereby increasing system efficiency.
– Improving data sharing, data accessibility, and integration will remain paramount to the success of MOD and Smart Cities.
This workshop examined the convergence of multimodality and on-demand mobility in the context of burgeoning smart transportation systems. With the growth of location-based smartphone apps and other transportation technologies, MOD is evolving both within and beyond urban areas. A point emphasized repeatedly throughout the workshop is that it is critical that services be designed in a way that provides access to as many socio-demographic groups as possible, as well as individuals with disabilities and other often overlooked segments of the population.