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First-Of-Its-Kind Consortium to Tackle Big City Micromobility Needs

Similar to many cities around the globe, inhabitants in Pittsburgh, U.S, are highly dependent on private cars for getting to their daily jobs, grocery shopping, driving kids to school and so on. In fact, 56 percent of commuters in Pittsburgh currently drive alone. [1]

To curb this trend, Pittsburgh was – just like many other cities – about to embrace dockless electric bikes and electric scooters as their knight in shining armour last year. However, they instead took one step back and organized a different kind of transportation summit dubbed Mobiliti, where city officials, transit technologists and everyday Pittsburgh inhabitants met. Each of the inhabitants brought some type of pressing mobility issue unmet by current bus, light rail and bikeshare offerings. According to the city’s director of transportation, Karina Ricks, this summit was an eye-opener in the sense that what they initially thought of as a promising solution will not be the answer for everyone.

Instead, they introduced the Pittsburgh Micromobility Collective, a self-organized, private consortium including dockless bike and scooter startup Spin, car-sharing service Zipcar, Ford Mobility, Waze carpool, scooter parking solution Swiftmile and lastly the Transit app. The idea is similar to what we know as “mobility-as-a-service” (MaaS), but with the unique twist that multiple companies develop an integrated system together, tailored to meet both spatial and temporal needs of their customers without competing for rides. In return, the city is keeping other mobility competitors out of the play for the time being, according to Ricks.

The plan is to introduce “mobility hubs” clustered near transit stops in selected parts of Pittsburgh where travellers might find both bike-share stations, Zipcar vehicles, Waze carpool pickup spots as well as parked and charged e-bikes and scooters from Spin. Route planning and ticketing systems for customers will be handled by the Transit app, and Ford Mobility will provide data analytics back to the city. Early pilot projects could roll out as soon as 2020.

 

Personal comments

We currently see a lot of MaaS initiatives being started around the globe, aiming for one-app solutions that conveniently let customers plan and pay for trips including various modes of transport. But just as important, there should be a plan for when and where different alternatives are offered depending on the needs of the users. However, it will be interesting to see whether the Pittsburgh initiative will manage to play that game. After all, the mobility providers are competitors who constantly tries to nab more riders from the others by offering new, more convenient services. Will they be able to “share” customers in the long run for the sake of sustainability?

 

Written by Hampus Alfredsson, RISE Viktoria.

 

Sources

1. 2019-10-11. A Micromobility Experiment in Pittsburgh Aims to Get People Out of Their Cars.