The top three challenges facing agencies, government and private partners trying to implement Mobility on Demand right now are difficulties forming agreements, lack of open data, and public policy around defining “rides.”
Mobility on Demand is a concept that uses emerging mobility services, integrated transit networks and connected travelers for a more traveler-centric “system of systems” approach. Travelers can access mobility whenever needed through a digital platform, choosing from whatever combination of modes meets their needs best- be it shortest travel time, lowest cost, fewest transfers, or limited walking.
“The challenge right now is not technology,” said Sebastian Vaitus, Director of Product Management and Development at TripSpark Technologies. “There’s nothing out there that technology couldn’t really support today. To drive MOD forward, we want to partner with transit agencies and other industry vendors to be part of the discussion and understand all of the interfaces that other companies are making available.”
The number of partnerships between transit agencies and private mobility solutions vendors has increased from three in 2010 to 42 in 2017 according to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
Susan Shaheen, a UC Berkeley professor-in-residence who attended this summer’s workshop on Mobility on Demand, Automation, and Equity held by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Transportation Research Board to discuss the first round of MOD Sandbox projects wrote that “a number of [participating] public agencies noted challenges in working with private vendors, particularly related to contracting and data agreements. In some cases, partners were unable to agree to terms.”
2.) Lack of Open Data
In early pilot projects, the FTA has discovered that “challenges exist around privacy, proprietary protections, and accuracy.” Data is needed to understand the impacts of MOD and to make operational changes.
Shaheen wrote that some agencies and partners were able to compromise by tailoring their data sharing to include less frequent reporting, more aggregate data reporting and higher levels of geo-spatial data in order to protect consumer and propriety vendor information.
Despite these successes, some agencies said they could not report key data metrics to the FTA because their partners were “unwilling to share sufficient data.”
Both sides are being very cautious, and there will need to be a continued push for vendors to be more open.
3.) Policy and the Definition of “Rides”
There is a shift in the way rides are being recognized by the FTA. Transit agencies have received funding based on their ridership, and revenue miles and hours. Previously, rides that were passed to integration with Uber or Lyft were not recognized. This was having a detrimental effect on agencies because though they were providing better service, these numbers were being taken away from ridership, resulting in less funding the following year.
Because MOD is dependent on all service vendors working together through a centralized platform, there will not be a single ‘gateway’ vendor, following the current business model. Companies will need to relinquish control of their data, a move that can feel counter-productive with today’s “data is king” mentality.
The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) and its members believe that mobility is a basic human right. From work and education to life-sustaining health care and human services programs to shopping and visiting with family and friends, mobility directly impacts quality of life.