Collaboration Matters: How Mobility Providers and Governments Can Achieve Better Outcomes

Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

2018 was an interesting year to say the least in the world of shared and micro mobility. With the first Bird scooters hitting the boardwalk in Santa Monica, California, to dockless e-bikes and everything in between, to witness this transformation in personal and shared mobilty was a phenomenon in and of itself.

The rapid pace and sustained effort to “launch” in target cities and geographical markets did not leave much time to analyze, strategize, or reflect on the impact that such schemes would have on the complex urban fabric. The ethos to “move fast and break things” was taken to a whole new level, reaching an apex in 2018.

While this transformation indeed pushes the envelope and disrupts existing markets and behaviors, it is time now to take stock in where we are currently at.

Up until recently, many major mobility providers either did not communicate directly with cities and public transport agencies, or did so in a minimalist approach. With the advent of the Los Angeles MDS data specification in late 2018, cities began to adopt this open source standard and establish an open communication channel on the location and distribution of mobility assets (primarily scooters).

However, there has been major pushback to the MDS specification on the part of certain large scale TNCs, with the support of legal advocacy groups in California claiming a violation of consumer privacy and personally identifiable information (PII). While anonymized data shared with cities is a valid concern and needs to protect the integrity of consumer data, this cannot be seen as a non starter.

Furthermore, legislation is being considered in California to preempt local control and requirements for data to be provided to cities. Until recently cities have taken a more proactive approach to issuing permits for mobility providers by requiring data to be shared in a common format that could be used for oversight, regulation, and public safety.

With the recent formation (last week) of the Open Mobility Foundation, cities have taken a further step towards developing a network of like minded agencies that can collectively set further standardization and outcomes for existing and new market entrants.

The challenge now is to bridge the gap, take lessons learned, and coordinate data specifications, standardization, and legislation in an open, transparent fashion so both the public and private sectors can work towards shared outcomes and goals. Specifically, collaboration can be achieved through the following methods:

  • Establish a level playing field so mobility providers know how to operationalize their investments
  • Adopt a common data specification framework (MDS, or others) that can be easily used by cities and providers to establish better communication channels
  • Develop and utilize policy frameworks and guidelines to articulate the best placement and utilization of shared mobility assets
  • Coordinate performance measures with desired end state outcomes to incentivize operators to deliver better results to cities
  • Streamline municipal permitting and approval of new market entrants, based upon fair, competitive, and equitable business practices
  • Promote common Public MaaS platforms orchestarted by cities and public transport agencies to best coordinate shared mobilty providers and ensure last mile connectivity

We can, and must do better in the shared mobility ecosystem than what was seen in 2018. While it was a start, a sustainable approach to integrating the best of new innovations will only benefit all stakeholders involved (consumers, investors, governments, operators, etc). Now is the time to demand for better outcomes, otherwise this will be a missed opportunity to significantly transform our cities and reduce single car ownership dependency.

Scott Shepard is Chief Business Officer with Iomob

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CCO & CPO @Asistobe | ex-@Free2Move | Urbanism & Mobility Expert | Author & Educator | Thought Leader & Speaker | Entrepreneur & Advisor | #ScottCities1st

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Scott Shepard

Scott Shepard

CCO & CPO @Asistobe | ex-@Free2Move | Urbanism & Mobility Expert | Author & Educator | Thought Leader & Speaker | Entrepreneur & Advisor | #ScottCities1st

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