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Transportation and Mobility: It is a Brave New World!

This is the sixth and final blog in a series of technology alerts that have been shared with the NADTC mailing list. Make sure you check out the first five blog posts: “How Do I Get Started with Technology” , “What are the Keys to Making Technology Implementation Successful?”, “Navigating Funding Opportunities for Technology Planning and Deployment“, “An Embarrassment of Riches: Multiple Funding Sources and Technology Projects”, and “Leveraging Technology and Sharing Resources


There is no doubt that many of you reading this final technology blog have heard about the rapidly-changing transportation landscape.  The term “public transportation” has a different meaning than it used to, and we no longer think about traveling on individual modes – we think about the trip as a whole.  The transportation ecosystem now includes the following:

  • Traditional public transit and paratransit/demand-response transit (DRT);
  • Transportation network companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft;
  • Micro-transit, such as Bridj and Chariot;
  • Shared-ride services, such as Via and Localift;
  • Peer-to-peer carsharing/car rental, such as Turo and BlaBlaCar;
  • Taxis;
  • Carsharing, such as Zipcar and car2go;
  • Bikesharing, such as Capitol Bikeshare (in Washington, DC) and Hubway (in Boston, MA);
  • Car rental, such as Hertz and Avis; and
  • Autonomous (self-driving) vehicles, such as Olli and nuTonomy robo-taxis.

All of these services have one thing in common: technology.  Technology is used to operate and/or access these services.  For the services that are accessed via a smartphone or computer application, there can be a concern about the service being accessible to persons with disabilities or lower income individuals.  Another concern to persons with disabilities is the fact that some of these services are not required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Another impact on mobility are the numerous partnerships being formed between transit agencies and TNCs or micro-transit services.  Almost every week in 2016, a new partnership was being formed – primarily for the purpose of either maintaining service that is underperforming and costly for traditional public transit to provide, or assisting with paratransit or demand-response service.  Unfortunately, since many of these partnerships are pilot projects, we do not yet know how successful these relationships will be.

Three examples of these partnerships are as follows:

  • The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is conducting a year-long “On-Demand Paratransit Pilot Program.” In this pilot program, customers of The Ride (which is the MBTA’s paratransit service) can participate with ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft [1].  A comparison of The Ride and Uber/Lyft pilot is shown in Table 1.  The MBTA describes the benefits of this pilot program as reduced fares; lower wait times; same-day booking; faster trips; no need to share rides; access to wheelchair accessible vehicles; and options for customers without access to smartphones.

Table 1.  Comparison of The Ride and MBTA’s Pilot Uber/Lyft Program[1]

Service The Ride Pilot Program
Fare $3.15 or $5.25 for premium trips As low as $2.00
Booking Timeframe Minimum on day in advance On demand: Instant request to dispatch
Day of Wait time 30 minutes window As low as five minutes in core service areas
Trip reservations By phone Via mobile phone app or phone call-in option (Lyft only)
  • The Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA) (in Livermore, CA) recently introduced two innovative programs: (1) partnering with TNCs, such as Uber and Lyft, to reach commuters in neighborhoods that big buses cannot serve; and (2) exploring driverless shuttles to solve first and last mile issues to connect people to stations.[2]
  • The Kansas City Area Transit Authority (KCATA) partners with Bridj to bring workers to various locations in Kansas City, including the downtown, and to various locations from downtown and the River Market area. “’RideKC: Bridj is allowing us to provide a nimble transit service with a rich technology backbone,’ said Robbie Makinen, President and CEO of KCATA. ‘The ability to target this new transit option is a powerful tool providing vital information during this pilot phase.’”[3]

There is one more technology-enabled innovative service to add to this rapidly changing landscape – Mobility as a Service (MaaS).

According to the MaaS Alliance, “Mobility as a Service (MaaS) puts users, both travellers and goods, at the core of transport services, offering them tailor-made mobility solutions based on their individual needs. This means that, for the first time, easy access to the most appropriate transport mode or service will be included in a bundle of flexible travel service options for end users.”[4]  Figure 1 illustrates the MaaS ecosystem including the technology components.

There are four objectives of MaaS, as follows[5]:

  • Seamless and efficient flow of information, goods and people both locally and through long distances;
  • Globally scalable door-to-door mobility services without owning a car;
  • A better level of service than the private car; and
  • An open ecosystem for information and services in intelligent transportation.

An example of MaaS is Whim, the MaaS system currently operating in Helsinki, Finland.  Whim offers four possible mobility “packages.”  An example of MaaS in the US could be a personal mobility package for $200/month that includes the following:

  • Transportation from A to B according to service level agreement (SLA)
  • Access to all transportation services
  • Access to transport related services (city logistics, home deliveries etc.)
  • Roaming in other cities and counties

MaaS is the subject of an NADTC white paper, which can be found in the NADTC resource library..  More details about this mobility innovation can be found in the white paper.

Mobility As A Service Framework

Figure 1. MaaS Ecosystem

With the transportation and technology landscape rapidly changing due to all of these developments, there are many more mobility options available to travelers.  However, this new landscape presents some challenges forolder adults, persons with disabilities and low-income individuals.  This brave new world requires that we ensure access to all options.  Fortunately, several new service providers are beginning to meet these challenges.[6]

At this stage, it is not clear yet how the “new mobility” will affect travel behavior.  However, we know that the millennial and centennial generations are not purchasing automobiles, and use several of the technology-enabled mobility options described in this blog.  Going forward, it is important that we measure not only the use and performance of these services, but also assess the transit-TNC/micro-transit partnerships and evaluate the accessibility of these services.







[6]  “How To Order Uber Online: Use Uber Without A Smartphone?”


About the Author:

Carol Schweiger, President of Schweiger Consulting, has over 37 years of experience and is nationally and internationally recognized in transportation technology consulting. Her wide-ranging and in-depth expertise is in several specialty areas including systems engineering, technology strategies for public agencies, public transit technology, and traveler information strategies and systems. Ms. Schweiger has provided over 50 transportation agencies with technology technical assistance, including developing and applying structured processes to procure and implement technology systems; providing detailed procurement and implementation assistance; evaluating technology deployments; conducting research and delivering training.

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Carol SchweigerTaru Recent comment authors
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Great Blog Carol! Reminds me of the conversation we had at the ITS world Congress in Melbourne.
Uber and Lyft are doing great in augmenting the reach of PT. However, we also need to consider that they are not making any profits, their prices are deliberately lower to gain the market. Wonder how things will change with the governments when they start raising their fares?

Taru Jain, Monash University

Carol Schweiger
Carol Schweiger

Thanks very much, Taru! I completely agree – we need to be prepared for another transportation landscape change when Uber and Lyft raise their fares and potentially go out of business.