9 undeniable reasons to care about your options in future mobility
Updated: May 19, 2020
As humans, we naturally don't know what we don't know. When it comes to "mobility", many people have no idea why they should care about mobility solutions and therefore they care even less about what their options will look like in the future. Unless they are the personality type of the early adopter who follows all of the latest tech, or they have been lucky enough to be directly introduced to the benefits, many people have no idea what their cities are doing in setting up their future mobility options. Here are reasons why you should probably care what your city and community have planned to be available for you in the future:
1. Ever been hit? 🚷🚳
Have you been one of the millions of pedestrians or bikers hit by a vehicle; something that sadly happens every single day. Yes, no joke. Everyday there are millions of Americans hit by vehicles. In 2019 we had the deadliest year since the 1990 where, on average there were 17 pedestrians and 2 cyclists killed every day. These stats are monitored closely by our government agencies who track roadway safety metrics trying to move us closer to zero deaths on our roads. Future mobility solutions, specifically the automated mobility options like robot-taxis Waymo or GM/Cruise OR self driving shuttles like those from Easymile, May Mobility or Local Motors, offer exceptional promise to help improve these deadly stats and therefore make our roads safer for us. According to NHTSA's latest guidance document (ADS 2.0), the major factor in 94 percent of all fatal crashes is human error. So these Automated Driving Systems have the potential to significantly reduce highway fatalities by addressing the root cause of these tragic crashes.
2. We all get older 👵
Yep, I said it. We all get older, and that my friends, unfortunately comes with our bodies aging and our mobility suffering (ugh). Helping aging parents or grandparents is such an interesting life stage for me to enter. Watching the people close to me, who previously got around without much of an issue, begin to ask "to get picked up at the door" or to "take the elevator" instead of the stairs, has really started to open my eyes to just how fragile our bodies are. Unless you are a vampire and therefore don't have to worry about an aging body, please take my advice and take care of yourself so you can can move around as long as possible (repeat after me: "my body is a temple, my body is a temple"). BUT, inevitably, if we are lucky enough to make it to that point, we'll all be asking for shorter walks and more options to help those first and last miles in the future. Some of the newer first mile/last mile solutions like: autonomous shuttles, EBikes and e-scooters; offer some fantastic benefits in improving access for our aging bodies over those shorter distances.
3. How's your eyesight? 👀 🦼
The specific day in my professional life that I officially locked in my passion for cities & mobility was when I sat in a public workshop related to autonomous vehicle regulations. The workshop was in Sacramento, California. The CA DMV was working through the drafting of laws related to autonomous vehicle licensing. The session was opened up for public comment, and a couple of women each made their way up to the microphone separately. One woman was blind, the other was in a wheelchair. Looking back on that day, I now wish I'd had the nerve to go up to each of them after the session to get their contact information. I'd love to have kept up with both of them throughout the rest of my mobility career. Both of these women talked about their daily transportation experiences in detail and asked the DMV to bring AV-related tech to them as quickly as it's ready. They shared with the audience a play-by-play of their personal daily experiences in getting around, and they used the example of that day's process to get to the workshop, which of course moved me to tears. I had no idea. For me to get to the workshop, I simply rented a car, parked right there at the courthouse and just walked in. They shared the issues with trying to get to transit stations, get around in the stations, getting from the station down the street, trying to find the courthouse, and then planning their way of how they get back home. Reminder, one was blind, one was in a wheel chair. Call me naive but I honestly had no idea before that day just how a disability could drastically change one's access to transportation and mobility. According to a 2018 CDC report, one in 4 U.S. adults – 61 million Americans – have a disability that impacts major life activities. The most common disability type, mobility, affects 1 in 7 adults. With age, disability becomes more common, affecting about 2 in 5 adults age 65 and older. If you'd like to take an eye-opening (pun intended) "field trip" someday, I highly recommend trying to go anywhere, with a disabled person, alone. Going back to #2 above, if you are blessed enough to live without a disability, keep in mind that our bodies are fragile and anything can happen to you too.
4. Shoot, cars are expensive 💵
I love car tech. I love seeing the latest in technology found in the latest models and checking out the sneak peaks to next gen innovations that are coming to cars. But all of these gadgets and latest technology, brings significant costs to the purchase prices. So..while I love looking at it, I actually HATE having to pay for it it. According to a 2019 study by AAA, the average annual cost of vehicle ownership is $9,282, or $773.50 a month. That's the highest cost since AAA started tracking in 1950. That's also a significant portion of the average American's budget. Given this increasing trend, traditional car ownership models are being challenged especially seen with the rise of on-demand ride hailing options like Uber, Lyft or other carshare rental options like Hour Car, Car2Go or Gig Carshare. Where could you put that $700 per month if you could just rent a ride when you needed it? 💰
5. Traffic 🤬 nuff said
6. I like wine🍷
Ok, that's maybe a little candid, but it's true. I like to go out to dinner, go out for drinks with my husband and our friends, and wine is generally my drink of choice. We are responsible about it and always have a plan if we are drinking away from home. Our options are: for my husband and I to drive ourselves so one of the two of us has to avoid drinking, to pay for a ride there and back on-demand (Uber or Lyft), to take public transportation, or to just drink within walking/stumbling distance. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same responsibility given the statistics with 30 people dying in alcohol-related vehicle accidents on American roads every day, or about one every 48 minutes. Super scary people. Seriously scary. So - it's no wonder the federal government is looking for a way to make those numbers decline for us. Some of the advanced driving solutions like the Driver Alcohol Detection Systems for Safety program, funded by federal government, proposes a bill which would mandate passive detection systems, and the vehicle would not even allow the car to drive if the driver's BAC is .08 or higher. Legislators are pushing for this technology to be required in vehicles by 2024. Thinking a little farther into the future, autonomous robo-taxis from companies like Waymo or GM/Cruise will offer people another flexible solution to getting home safely after a few drinks. But, for now, a friendly reminder to please cheers 🥂 safely ya'll.
7. Our Parking and Curbs will be managed 😳
Raise your hand if you enjoy searching for a park space? 🙋♀️ Better yet, raise your hand if you like searching for a parking space in a busy downtown area? How about if we add more congestion to the curbside areas? When I first started in my transportation career, I came into the parking industry. I managed an international parking business (yes, that's a thing). Prior to that point, I had no idea that parking is a highly profitable industry and even more important, it's growing. Today it's more than a $9 billion dollar U.S. industry! According to a recent analysis by Frost & Sullivan, the $100 billion worldwide parking industry is expected to attract institutional and strategic investments to the tune of $200 million to $250 million over the next three to five years, mostly to spur innovation and smarter parking. A big reason for this infusion of capital is to remedy the inefficiencies in the ways that we park. Adjacent and very much related, curbs are also becoming much more in-demand with deliveries, on-demand rides and micromobility solutions (EBikes, scooters, etc). Curbs are also hot right now as new start-ups are flocking to help manage this precious land space for cities. Companies like Sidewalk Labs, Populus and Coord have raised millions for their curb and data management tools for cities. What's this mean for us? The current and future mobility solutions will be set-up in a way that the cities will be able to manage it all. They will also be able to capitalize on their precious land use - hopefully to help with the funding the new mobility solutions. Think demand based pricing for curbside usage. No more free curbside parking, even for your bicycle 🚲 ?
8. Tree-hugging, earth-loving 🌎
Many impacts of COVID-19 are yet to be determined, but one thing is quite clear (literally). The air. The impacts of transportation on pollution is undeniable. Greener transportation solutions have been a work in progress for a long-time, but they are now are getting more of a nudge as we see the real environmental benefits of people staying home, going green. Electric vehicles and now micromobility solutions like EBikes and e-scooters becoming a hot new requirement in keeping our air clean. Post COVID, cities like Paris are looking at redefining their urban designs to allow for more bicycling. In a May 10th Washington Post article, Deputy Mayor of Paris, Jean-Louis Missaka states “There’s a positive aspect of this horror. Never has the city been less polluted. Parisians have much appreciated it, and I think there will be strong changes in the behavior of people, in terms of movement.” French officials aim to create more than 400 miles of cycling lanes throughout the greater Paris metropolitan area. The same Washington Post article also explains the the post COVID changes in the city of Seattle where they are going as far as closing 20 miles of streets to most cars to allow for more space to walk and bike. No one knows the final impacts we'll see from COVID-19, but we certainly can't argue with the benefits of the cleaner air that the stay-at-home orders have shown us.
9. Cabin life.. beach life...rural life... is awesome ☀️
I really enjoy the variety and proximity offered with city life. But I'm torn, because kicking back and relaxing outside of the city is therapeutic for the soul. Apparently I'm not alone in this sentiment. Personally, I love going to the lake (it's closer than an ocean for me). Sitting on the pontoon at the family cabin is quite possibly my favorite place on earth. I love being on/in the water, but at times, it also feels like I'm in the middle of nowhere. Maybe that's because it is? The cabin is in rural Minnesota where transportation options limited to only your own vehicles (likely a car, truck, or tractor options). Pick your geography, and I am not an anomaly. According to a 2018 Washington Post Article, 80% live in urban areas but roughly 27% say that rural would be their ideal community. Another 12% would opt for small towns. In case math isn't your thing, that means that almost half of all city dwellers appear to be more than interested in giving up the city life if they could. With the recent COVID impacts to remote working, I'll be curious to see what happens to this long-time macro trend of urbanization. Announcements are coming out from tech companies like Twitter who have closed all offices, allowing employees to permanently work from home. As seen in the May 15th article from the Verge, California's bay area and Silicon Valley's tech hot spot are getting a lot of attention on this possible urban mass exodus trend. High costs of living combined with tech companies' new work from home policies are opening up options for workers. If more people start to have the option to do remote working and live where they actually want to live, they will inevitably also want to bring innovative options in transportation versus the current. Thus far, cities like those in the bay area have taken a lot of the innovation and funding toward bringing mobility innovations. Autonomous shuttles, on-demand ride hailing and even electric vehicles will also provide some excellent benefits to rural living as more people decide to soak it up.