If university and health care should be free, why not transportation? First, a mobility wallet is needed, then a bit of a drive.


Mobility What?

Over the past 5 years, I have tried to make anyone who would listen, especially in the field of mobility and real estate, think about the importance of a ‘mobility portfolio’. Back before the 2017 pandemic, I was working in West Palm Beach on the downtown mobility plan with the city mayor, deputy city manager, transportation manager, and a host of great consultants. As we met with the planning department, local developers, the Downtown Development Authority and others, it became evident that there was a need to produce and simplify the offers of mobility in the city, public transport services. from county (Palm Trans) to cities. Circulator Trolley, self-service bicycle system and so on. The city’s first planned micro-unit development was also being planned (it didn’t materialize), which sparked the conversation: “Why are we going to build parking spaces the same size as the units themselves? We then realized that changing zoning was (and is) difficult, but writing new zoning specifically for micro-units was very practical and might require an alternative to building a parking lot. But what would it be?

Like a phone game, I now realize that there are many variations of what a ‘mobility wallet’ means and what it can do for our communities. In the original context, we envisioned creating an environment where, instead of a developer funding multi-million dollars in a new parking lot, we would seduce (carrots) and in some cases (sticks) force them to alternately fund a mobility portfolio for each household in their apartment building, with $ 150 to $ 200 + in free mobility services, including unlimited transit, bike sharing and a number of trips on the Brightline train, a carpooling and carpooling provider. In initial conversations with vendors, they said they would be willing to wholesale and / or discount to a developer, employer, city, or middleman. Additionally, the developers we spoke to said that if they could save the upfront capital expense of building a parking lot and take a percentage of the interest on that saved capital to fund the continued free mobility of residents, they would do it because it would give them a big competitive advantage. However, the two barriers they would face would be: 1) Would the financiers allow it? 2) What if a resident really wants or needs parking?

Why hasn’t this happened before now?

Until the start of the COVID pandemic, cities believed their municipal land was heavily used. In the case of West Palm Beach, around 83% of the lots were used in 2018 during the day, but that number fell to teens at night. Therefore, if the city was willing to lease parking spaces from private developers for the use of residents at a rate of $ 150 to $ 200, then they could. We also found that banks weren’t going to stop lending to developers in West Palm Beach if the city changed its requirements or passed new zoning laws. In a nutshell, the whole program was not only achievable, it was also potentially a huge cost saving for all parties and in my mind there were at least three new businesses to be created.

In our subsequent technical search for a tech vendor there was a gap and for a minute I thought about starting a business to try and fill it. Instead (as an entrepreneurial victim of bad timing before), I started evangelizing the concept and talking about mobility portfolios to policymakers and tech companies everywhere I went. Years later, it seems the time has finally come.

Why? Because at the local and now federal level with new leadership, there has been a strong recognition that access to transportation is the key to upward economic mobility. Cities from Los Angeles and Pittsburgh to Washington DC and Miami are brainstorming strategies to improve the way we clean the air, make our streets safer, and give everyone access to quality jobs, good schools and public spaces fun. When it comes to improving access to transportation, cities are offering free public transit after the pandemic to bring back passengers, and some, like Kansas City, are free for everyone, all the time. Washington DC is seriously considering $ 100 in free metro service for EVERY resident in the city (Yes!). Pittsburgh is piloting “Universal Basic Mobility” in addition to the philanthropy-funded Move PGH program to which I and our team at Cityfi are proud to contribute along with NUMO, Spin and others. If you can’t afford to live above a transit stop, you shouldn’t be denied access. So we need all of the first and last mile options provided by programs like Move PGH to expand the value of transit to make the system work. for everyone. Free public transit is a start, but access to both private and public transportation options is necessary to give true access to mobility in America, and that sometimes means a car in 2021, too.

Without a centralized system that includes trip management, planning, multimodal booking and APIs to other systems … from human resources and building management to mobility providers, it is difficult to climb an alternatives to parking program for developers, or a basic subsidized or universal shared mobility program for an employer or an entire neighborhood or city. The key to delivering all of this on a real scale is a mobility portfolio that enables automatic weekly or monthly deposits, discounts for multimodal journeys, rewards programs for positive individual and societal impacts, and individual and organizational filling of individual and societal impacts. program funds or ad hoc debits. .

Would a person want this? Use an app?

In an ideal world, the individual chooses what to spend the funding on. However, some modes can be incentivized either by unlimited access or by bonus trips awarded to users. This should be directly related to climate benefits (limiting greenhouse gas emissions) and individual health, which in turn can reduce health costs for participants and their employers. The individual can also save dollars which can be invested in areas such as housing, savings and food, and we can measure their happiness monthly, daily or after each trip. In addition, the providers who achieve the highest scores should also have more opportunities to grow with the program and be subsidized to serve a larger part of the community more often.

The age-old question arises … would someone use an app that aggregates options + a mobility portfolio? So let me put it simply.

If $ 2400- $ 3600 is deposited into an app on my phone, whether it’s from my city, my building owners, my employer (or ideally a combination), you can bet I’ll use it.

I will open this app and try the options that are given to me. We have a lot of individual parts, but they need to be put together. We can also potentially send an API to other consumer apps and let people choose which interface they want.

Is there a business here too?

As stated above, yes, and that’s another reason why now is the perfect time. From a business perspective, there are a lot of aggregated mobility apps out there, but there has to be a really good differentiator to individual native apps or, frankly, Google Maps, for users to be able to switch. We also want a lot of open competition against walled gardens and facilitate the growth of the right players and the best quality services. We know that the concept of Mobility-as-a-Service has seen serious challenges, and we also know that historically in the United States, mobility services have struggled to make a profit, whether private or public. . This is partly due to poor land use planning and the corresponding US dependence on private automobiles, and partly due to high capital costs and / or heavy investments in the market. That won’t change until we get a critical mass of people out of cars and transit, bikes, scooters and their own feet.

Incentives, nudges and other behavioral economics tools can be funded by the private sector to reward people with free rides, services including mobility for example (and even cash). The world of advertising and promotion is changing and companies like Miles and others are showing that direct rewards can be lucrative and positively addicting for good behavior, just like in turn the Washington DC bag tax. dramatically reduces overnight usage and has now been adopted in hundreds of jurisdictions. around the world. We need carrots and sticks in transportation, waste and many other areas that have disproportionate societal results.

Let’s do it already:

The time has come to truly reduce the barriers to multimodal access; stop encouraging, funding and creating subsidies for parking and single people that stimulate unnecessary driving; and provide access and encourage good societal and individual outcomes. An open mobility portfolio system + connectivity to other administrations, work and housing – administrative and back-office HR systems are what we need. This formula mixed with a certain will of the public and private sectors to change the power will result in a win-win for people, planet and profit.


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