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Creating Inclusive Shared Mobility for Older Adults and People with Disabilities

Thank you to guest blogger, Mitch LaRosa with Shared Mobility Inc. in Buffalo, New York,  for preparing this post. This blog features highlights from their 2018 planning grant project whose goal was to engage in research to examine how shared mobility programs can be more inclusive for older adults, people with disabilities and veterans.

Project Overview

The future of transportation is in shared mobility. Public transit ridership is down while the use of bikesharing, carsharing, and ridehailing, is up dramatically. Shared systems are launching in new cities across the nation every week, creating more active transportation landscapes in the U.S.than ever before. Lost in this time of opportunity and growth, however, has been the needs of older adults and people with disabilities. While these new systems provide great benefits to users and the communities they serve, inclusive design to allow broader access to their services has failed to materialize as a primary focus.

Shared Mobility Inc. (SMI) of Buffalo, New York, has engaged in research to examine inclusivity for older adults, people with disabilities, and veterans in shared-use modes. Shared mobility services have risen prominently in recent years to the forefront of the nation’s transportation alternatives and are now an essential part of local mobility systems. SMI believes that as these programs evolve, operators must put inclusivity for everyone at the forefront.

Project Accomplishments

SMI analyzed inclusive policy within operations models in bikesharing, carsharing, ridehailing, and volunteer transportation.Through focus groups,interviews with users and operators, and an extensive literature review, the SMI research team was able to characterize the landscape of shared mobility options for older adults and people with disabilities.Photo of meeting session attendees watching a PowerPoint presentation.

SMI also examined best practice programs from across the nation and connected with leaders who could speak from their own experience of fostering inclusivity. Conversations took place with practitioners nationwide, spanning from Upstate New York to California’s Central Valley. This research culminated with two research papers: the first, focusing on analysis of present conditions; and the second, proposing innovations for change in the industry. The research pointed to how shared mobility programs can be made more inclusive, particularly through the use of adaptive bikes,wheelchair-accessible carshare vehicles and enhanced operator training.

Lessons, Successes and Limitations

Photo of a woman using a bikeshare bicycle.After six months of research, SMI’s team has gained a deeper understanding of the challenges and barriers in transportation faced by the target population. Common themes expressed were the lack of on-demand accessible options, unfamiliarity with the applications and technology needed to use the programs, no service availability nearby, inability to use electronic payment on a smartphone, and not being comfortable with unfamiliar ridehailing drivers. Overall, they felt that the current shared mobility options were not very inclusive for them. This combination of physical, social, geographic and financial barriers was expressed by older adults and people with disabilities alike. The research has shown that volunteer transportation systems can more easily serve the target population than other modes, as their client engagement, lower costs, and increased client familiarity with the service providers make the services more inclusive. The recommendations put forth seeks to address a different barrier identified by those who have been unable to benefit from shared mobility thus far.

Next Steps

In response to these findings, SMI is seeking to develop and deploy its own volunteer transportation program to provide service for older adults and people with disabilities in Erie County, home to over 160,000 older adults and 85,000 young people with disabilities. The objective is to enable more older adults and people with disabilities to experience the benefits of the transportation future.

For more information contact Mitch LaRosa at 716.474.6823 or



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