Study: Emerging Tech Could Grow Public Transit

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A new report from Indianapolis-based Energy Systems Network suggests emerging technologies could help boost public transit. The nonprofit says more than 76 percent of Americans drive alone to work every day and only 5 percent use public transit. The report, Emerging Mobility Technologies and Trends, indicates that technologies such as electric vehicles, route optimization, on-demand transportation services and "first/last mile" solutions can help reverse those statistics.

Matt Peak, director of mobility for ESN and author of the report, tells Inside INdiana Business new technologies and trends are creating the potential for a new paradigm to compete with private automobile usage.

"This paradigm has really been driven by new technologies from GPS localization to data usage and maps to also traveler trends, so the embrace of what's called micro-mobility: scooters and bicycle sharing and whatnot," said Peak. "When we look at these technologies and trends and we put them in the context of how people actually travel and also in the context of what public transit can offer, we see the potential for a new system to emerge and we've dubbed that 'Mobility-as-a-System.'"

Peak says people have become more familiar over the last few years with Mobility-as-a-Service, which includes services such as Uber, Lyft and scooter and bicycle sharing. However, Mobility-as-a-System starts to come together when you add those services with private automobiles, public transit, car sharing, and micro-transit.

"These different modes and technologies are very much complimentary and if we organize them in society in a structured way, then we have the potential to get Mobility-as-a-System whereby people can travel from point A to point B as conveniently as they do in their private car, if not more so, and at a lower cost."

Peak says when cities are thinking about transportation, it would be helpful to keep in mind the context upon which people travel, such as where are people going, how often to they go there, etc. He says the report found that 60 percent of trips are five miles or less, 25 percent are between five and 15 miles and only 15 percent are longer than 15 miles. 

"So if cities are thinking about Mobility-as-a-System and putting together a true option to personal automobile usage, they can basically look at the different technologies and trends and modes that serve each of those three categories of distances to ensure that they have offerings in each of those categories and to ensure that the different populations around the city have access to those modes."

Peak says ESN plans to use the data and lessons learned from the report to create public-private partnerships and tee up pilot projects to demonstrate portions of Mobility-as-a-System. He says they are also reaching out to communities to help build a broader ecosystem around the notion of new technologies and tends that can create alternatives for travel.

You can view the full report below:

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