The Path Forward: Designing Resilient Mobility Eco-Systems

June 29, 2022

The Path Forward: Designing Resilient Mobility Eco-Systems

By Peter Grande

It’s 2022 and while we are not commuting like George Jetson, the world, and mobility, has drastically changed, especially since the dawn of the smart phone and the integration of transportation apps. New players are entering the rapidly growing and evolving mobility marketplace in record numbers and industry programs are looking for new ways to do things. With this, comes unexpected new challenges and the need for collaborative and inclusive mobility business models are required. The common themes are community-built mobility eco-systems, local collaboration, and real-time data analysis. Will this be embraced by local governments and transit authorities? And will these sustainable models, that can scale, stay relevant for extended periods of time?

Why infrastructures in the past have failed? 

Firstly, past infrastructures are based on outdated models that no longer reflect the needs and dynamic changes of population demographics. Putting it bluntly, we are living longer and our quality of lives has for the most part improved. And an aging population has vastly different mobility requirements and needs.

Additionally, rapid urbanization has moved most available resources into the big city centers, leaving rural North America behind. 

And, finally, the ‘status quo’ siloed approach that does not include all stakeholders means efficiencies are not properly identified and are under-utilized. Programs fail to meet the expectations of the people they aim to serve as the models are propitiatory and are often imposed on stakeholders rather than collaborative.

Mobility is fluid and ever-changing, yet it must be adaptable to its environment with every ebb and flow. When mobility is constrained, it becomes stagnant, unable to serve those who need it the most and, in turn, is destined to fail. 

Building a successful mobility eco-system is like building the dam to serve the community – when done right, the water becomes a source of energy and hydration. It even becomes resource for recreational activities. But to so do, one must find the right path. Planned mobility programs must take the wins with the loses from previous attempts and leverage the learnings from both equally. This is an iterative process with a lot of possible new takeaways, which is why data and collaboration are so important. Without a fully encompassing model, status quo is the fallback option and the system ends up stuck in an endless loop. 

Resilient Mobility Eco-Systems (RMEs)

Unlike a mouse on wheel with no end in sight, resilient mobility eco-systems look at the question of transit – all mobility – as a whole, designed to give and take with the needs of today’s realities – an aging population and disabilities on the rise. Governments need to plan now for tomorrow’s success or face the inevitable – a failed infrastructure costing millions of dollars and time to repair or replace. 

When designing a community-led transportation eco-system, it is easy to lose focus and get sidetracked on the problems that communities face. To date, various pilot projects in Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and micro-mobility efforts haven’t been perfect. They often tend to repeat certain fundamental problems including high costs and limited community engagement and participation. To prevent that from happening, it’s critical that the following checklist be used for companies working on creating mobility eco-systems. Think of this as an equation, with five equally important components, skip one and the RME is destined to fail.

  • Data utilization 
  • Adaptability 
  • User feedback 
  • Value creation 
  • Open collaboration

Building an adaptable foundation that is based on a HUMAN-CENTERED DESIGN with stakeholder input + program participation and support + centralization and evaluation of current data = Resiliency + Community buy-in.  

The key is to move from ‘siloed’ thinking to ‘us’ thinking and engagement from all end-users is the path forward. For cities, a resilient mobility eco-system is a powerful draw for business and individuals to become a part of their community. 

Myth versus Fact

  • Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) have been successful – Myth 
  • Micro-transit has been successful to date – Myth 
  • Urbanization is rapidly increasing – Fact 
  • Rural North America is where the greatest need lies – Fact 
  • Data and information are scattered and yet to be centralized – Fact 
  • Demand response services are relaxing fixed route/conventional services – Fact 

Who benefits from RMEs?

In a nutshell, everyone including end-users and stakeholders: 

  • Cities
  • Employers 
  • Non-profit organizations 
  • Healthcare providers 
  • Transit agencies 
  • Transportation resources (taxi, private shuttle, owner operators/citizens drivers, for-hire vehicles) 
  • Government representatives (seniors, veterans, transportation, social inclusion/equity)
  • Funding organizations
  • Community advocates 
  • Local businesses – Chambers of Commerce 
  • Tourism boards 
  • Senior ridership 
  • Disabled ridership 

Resilient Mobility Eco-Systems in Action

Check out MUVE’s case study on their work with the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), which is a great example of stakeholders coming together to solve a mobility problem. MUVE, the STM and other private transportation partners, with funding from Québec’s Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation and Investissement Québec, worked together to offer mobility solutions to a community in a west-end suburb of Montréal had several geographical and socio-economic areas where it is not possible to offer regular public transit services, resulting in underserved regions. Read the case study.

Moving Forward: The Next Steps 

The drive to resilient mobility eco-systems is now, however will not happen without stakeholder collaboration and engagement. Will governments take the first steps in solving the mobility crisis facing North America? Maybe. It all depends on a bipartisan agenda. Can communities wait? Can an aging population wait? The answer is no. No one can wait any longer. The drive forward will come as a call-to-action from each group that can benefit from RMEs and want to work together with one universal vision – for everyone.  

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