THE BLOG

Integrating Shared Mobility: Transit, Bikes and Cars

02/23/2015 08:12 pm ET | Updated Apr 25, 2015

Another day, another excellent conference about the exciting things that are happening in Los Angeles and across the country to improve the way one gets from point A to point B.

Shared mobility, for the daily commute but also for all those hours many of us spend schlepping our kids to soccer practice and music lessons, was the subject of today's Live Ride Share conference at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo. The conference, hosted by Move LA, NRDC, the Shared-Use Mobility Center,
TransitCenter, FAST (Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic), the Urban Land Institute Los Angeles and others, had as its goal lifting up Southern California as the best national example of a region that is striving to solve the first-mile-last-mile connection problem.

Since transit will never take every Angeleno to his or her door, the conference focused on the potential of shared mobility services including bike- and carshare, living without your own car, complete streets and other pedestrian improvements and ensuring affordable access to first-mile-last-mile solutions and technology for people of all ages and incomes. Coming on the heels of the Westside Urban Forum's panel discussion last week on bicycle mobility on LA's Westside, today's conference gave me a full dose of the importance of better integrating expanded public transit with a range of transportation options to get us where we are going.

So what did I hear about and learn that the public and policy makers not in attendance might want to know?

When he said it, the significance of his statement didn't click. But on the way back to the office it did. At a morning panel on getting carshare, bikeshare and rideshare off the ground, LA City Councilman Mike Bonin talked about how he relates shared mobility to the battle for marriage equaility. To paraphrase: Just fifteen years ago who would ever have believed that marriage equality would be the law of the land? But gay rights and marriage equality advocates had the will and the courage to say this is a civil rights issue and this is how everyone should have the right to live. And now it has come to pass.

Similarly, Bonin argued, we have arrived at a place where the public needs to come out about its enthusiasm for bike-, car- and rideshare. It needs to become the norm that someone doesn't own a car because they don't need to.

On the same panel, the still-new LADOT Commissioner Seleta Reynolds reminded the audience that in the absence of data, anecdotes rule. So here are some data that speak to that first-mile-last-mile issue.

On Saturday at 7 a.m. I watched four Metro 720 and 20 buses pass by before one came by the Westbound stop at Western and Wilshire with room in its bike rack for my bike. Metro's bus bike rack program is a great success and triple bike racks are overdue. Is Metro collecting that data and is the agency adequately publicizing it to make the case for more bike facilities on its buses and at its stops and stations?

Another newby in her job, the LA County Bicycle Coalition's Tamika Butler, reminded the audience that making sure "the share is available for all of us is critical." Panel moderator Tim Papandreou of the San Francisco MTA was one of many speakers to emphasize a central theme of the conference, that we need to better integrate our systems so that we don't just end up with a fat wallet full of overlapping transit fare cards, and bike- and carshare memberships. Imagine a day when you will be able to travel the world using a single method of payment for the train, bus, bikeshare and carshare.

Of course, one approach is smartphone technology, but until we get there for all, it seems to raise the question of why Visa and Mastercard and Apple Pay are not accepted on the bus and at the subway turnstile. We are surely at a place where one could simply waive their card to pay the fare, obviating the need for the myriad cards multimodal transportation riders have to carry.

Many of the vendors and presenters at today's conference, from RideScout to Accenture to Lyft, Zipcar, and Car2Go, have a vested interest in seeing improved integration and data sharing -- or as Joseph Kopser, CEO of RideScout, hopes his company will become, a riders license or single point of payment for all of your transit, bike- and carshare needs.

I also liked the idea that we need to find a way to capture in real time what the rider is saving by taking a particular choice of transportation and sharing that savings with the rider just as we do with an employee who gets a daily per diem and spends less than the amount allocated. Think of the business traveler who flies into LAX and wisely chooses to take the FlyAway Bus and Metro rather than a taxi to his or her destination.

Attending today's conference left me feeling that maybe, location-agnostic and transportation-agnostic integration of our shared mobility is within reach. Think about the savings that might have been realized If only these solutions had arrived before LADOT launched its new mobile payment system and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus completed its integration with the LA Metro's TAP card.

The breaks between sessions at conferences like this always serve as a good chance to hear about things I am not yet reading in the paper or on the blogs, and today's coffee break was no exception.

As a postscript to my recent piece on how, if we don't get on it, we may be shooting ourselves in the traffic foot by building a transit-free Century City West at Playa Vista and Silicon Beach, a well-informed transportation deputy mentioned to me that LA is in preliminary discussions with unnamed private companies moving to Playa Vista about some sort of public-private partnership that could build a transit line to the former home of the Spruce Goose. If only!

Another idea that came to me during a discussion with Abbey Beal of the Santa Monica Bike Center is the notion of putting bikeshare stations outside the City of Santa Monica at places like the Culver City Metro stop and in downtown LA along the Big Bus Bus Rapid 10 route. With Santa Monica launching bikeshare a good year ahead of LA Metro, maybe this would be a good interim solution that would help us collect the data we all love so much to demonstrate demand.

Whadayathink?

A lot of hard work goes into organizing conferences like this. Today's organizers deserve kudos for their efforts.

Yours in transit,
Joel