May Mobility’s autonomous shuttle service in Columbus, Ohio, will open to the general public beginning Dec. 10th, offering free rides and a glimpse into the future of transportation.
The current management of transportation in American cities is, to put it mildly, balkanized. Powers to regulate, tax, and allocate budgets for modes like transit, automobiles, and taxis are divided across numerous transit authorities, state agencies, and city departments. The predictable result: organizational friction and confusion about who is ultimately responsible for achieving policy goals such as equity, safety, and the reduction of pollution and congestion.
This situation is not sustainable, especially in an era when new mobility services like ride-hail and scooters have made the pursuit of regional mobility goals more challenging—and more important—than ever before. It’s time to consider a dramatic step: consolidation of all mobility oversight into a single regional authority.
Mobility companies that deploy scooters and dockless bikes in the District are pushing back against new regulations for the vehicles that city transportation officials declared last week.
Half of the companies say the rules, which are poised to come into effect in January, overly restrict growth for their D.C. fleets. Another half say they have concerns about the 10 mph speed limit for electric scooters in the regulations. Currently, six companies operate either scooters or dockless bikes in D.C.: Bird, Lyft, Lime, Spin, Skip, and Jump, an arm of Uber.
Operators could maintain up to 600 dockless vehicles each on city streets as a starting point next year. With regulators’ approval, they could also expand their fleets by 25 percent every three months. As of now, 400 vehicles per operator (whether scooters or bikes, or both) are permitted, under a pilot program that the District has been running since September 2017.
But in a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser dated Nov. 11, California-based scooter-share operator Bird said the proposed cap on dockless vehicles “eliminates any chance of this program being equitable, of solving issues related to transportation deserts in the city, and ultimately of getting more cars off the road.” Bird also asked Bowser to “consider intervening in” the District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) implementation of the policies to ensure “fair and practical conditions” for scooters based on “convenience and accessibility.”
The city wants to boost for-hire vehicle occupancy rates, while also improving low-income residents’ access to transportation and reducing traffic congestion.
WASHINGTON — Only 40 percent of the taxis and ride-hailing vehicles in the District of Columbia are occupied at any given time, ever since services like Uber and Lyft gained popularity, according to City Hall.
Car subscriptions and Google’s self-driving taxi service—under development in Mountain View, California—are likely to transform the transportation ecosystem even further in coming years. So, district officials say they want to start now to help fill the seats of the vehicles on the road, while also helping provide better transportation options for low-income residents.
Columbus, Ohio, winner of the Department of Transportation’s Smart Cities Challenge in 2016, is using part of the $50 million it received to pilot a self-driving shuttle program. The driverless vehicles took to thelate last week.
The vehicles are operated by May Mobility, a Michigan-based startup. No passengers are currently allowed on the shuttles, as the route is still being mapped and tested; however, riders will be invited to ride starting in December, according to program materials.
“We’re proud to have the first self-driving shuttle in Ohio being tested on the streets of Columbus,” Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a statement. “This pilot will shape future uses of this emerging technology in Columbus and the nation. Residents win when we add more mobility options to our transportation ecosystem — making it easier to get to work, school or local attractions.”