New Mobility

Everyone should be able to get where they need to go regardless of whether they drive, affordably and sustainably.

For decades, public transit has been the best solution for affordable sustainable mobility for everyone. Now, more options are available.

E-scooters. Bike share. Ride-hailing services. Autonomous vehicle shuttles. Micromobility services. These are few newer mobility options available to some in our region.

With them comes single apps to track vehicles and buy tickets for any or all modes; vehicles able to share information with each other; traffic signals communicating with vehicles; and many more technological enhancements.

What is New Mobility?

While definitions of New Mobility vary, TRU defines it as:

The technological integration of various forms of current and future publicly usable transportation services that can be either shared, connected, and accessible on demand.

(yes, it’s pretty wonky!)
May Mobility is piloting autonomous employee shuttles in downtown Detroit.

No, it’s not just autonomous cars!

A technology or service is generally considered part of New Mobility if it incorporates one or more of these characteristics:

Technological Integration / Connected – New Mobility strives to be seamless transportation across modes,  with trips pieced together in Mobility as a Service (MaaS). MaaS rejects personally-owned modes of transit, and seeks to provide transportation as a single service, which integrates multiple modes into one, electronic app that can service multiple people. Imagine if one app could let you reserve an electric scooter or a bike share, hail a ride-hailing vehicle, and let your buy your bus ticket, with fully transparency in timing, pricing, options, etc — that is the goal of MaaS.

Shared Services – Publicly accessible services that more than one person can use either at one time or during one day. Vehicles (or e.g., bikes or scooters) are not for only one individual and their individual use.

Accessible on Demand – Riders can access or call for services as needed (compare to a bus, which requires wait times that a user can not control)

The Future is Uncertain.

If developed appropriately, this range of new mobility services have the potential to greatly expand people’s options for getting around and help move people away from always driving.

  • People could save money from not having to be bound to a personal car and the payments, insurance, gas, maintenance, and parking costs.
  • People who are unable to drive could have more freedom to go where they want to, as could people who don’t like driving.
  • Cities could have more vibrant and active streets and public spaces, and could replace parking with more productive and attractive land uses.
  • Public transit – as the most efficient way to move a large number of people – could get the investment and prioritization needed to make it even faster and more convenient. Additional modes developed in ways that compliment high-capacity transit routes.
  • People could be healthier from walking more and breathing less air pollution.

However, that rosy scenario depends very much on HOW new mobility is developed and regulated. A much less rosy scenario is also possible:

Will autonomous cars only serve a wealthy few?
  • Cities could become more congested with autonomous vehicles circling around endlessly waiting for their owner or a new passenger.
  • New mobility could widen the wealth gap, with the richest having personal vehicles drive them everywhere and everyone else stuck in traffic. Costs of expensive technological roadway enhancements could be forced onto the full population while benefiting only a few.
  • People with disabilities could be excluded from new opportunities, with wheelchair-accessible vehicles only a costly afterthought.
  • Public transit could be starved for funding as some people see them as less necessary.
  • More fields and farmlands could be paved over and highways widened as people who can afford their own autonomous vehicles move further out from cities and drive much more.

We must choose the future we want.

While most new mobility innovation is coming from profit-driven private companies who are focused on serving those with means, cities and states control the roadways – they can and must set requirements that serve the public’s best interest.

TRU seeks to shape a future where new mobility provides the greatest benefit for the most people. We are exploring policies that can ensure that positive future:

  • Detroit already requires 70% of e-scooters to start their day outside the urban core in order to make them available for more of the city’s residents and not congest downtown.
  • MoGo Bikeshare accepts cash payments and offers a $5 Access Pass that gives unlimited rides to people on state assistance, making their service available to people with a wide range of income levels.
  • Chicago requires ride-hailing companies to either provide equivalent service for people with disabilities (as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act) or pay into a fund for the city to provide it.
  • San Diego charges a surcharge on e-scooters to help fund bike lanes and other street infrastructure that they utilize.

Check out TRU’s New Mobility Whitepaper (pdf) exploring these challenges and how TRU sees these new tools and services fitting into a positive future for our community.