Transit’s Surprising Advantage is Sitting Right in Your Pocket

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab. Edited for this site.]

Metra Commuters

With public-transit use riding a 58-year high of 10.8 billion trips last year, it only makes sense to ask: why? Technology may be partially responsible for public transit’s record ridership, but probably not in the way you think.

As smartphones and other electronic devices have skyrocketed in popularity, more people are becoming dependent on them (much to the chagrin of some psychologists). These technology-dependent commuters want to to remain engaged with their devices at all times, and more of them are choosing public transit for the ease at which they can do so while riding the bus or train.

A new study by DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development finds that the most avid users of mobile devices may be boosting Chicago’s transit ridership numbers, and there is reason to believe this trend is occurring in other metropolitan areas. Apple, Google, and Amazon aren’t just changing the way we work, communicate, and socialize, but are also influencing our transportation choices as well.

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Uber’s Plan for Self-Driving Cars Will Make its Taxi Disruption Look Quaint by Comparison

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab. Reprinted by GovTech.]

Uber's CEO Travis KalanickUber has fundamentally changed the taxi industry. But its biggest disruption may be yet to come.

The ride-hailing company has invested in autonomous-vehicle research, and its CEO Travis Kalanick (pictured above) has indicated that consumers can expect a driverless Uber fleet by 2030. Uber expects its service to be so inexpensive and ubiquitous as to make car ownership obsolete. Such ambitious plans could make its disruption of the taxi industry look quaint in comparison.

Uber operates in about 60 countries and 300 cities worldwide. Consumers and Wall Street adore the “gig economy” company, which is worth more than $50 billion, and got to that mark in nearly half the time as Facebook.

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D.C. Entrepreneurs Still Focused on Transportation

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]

Contestants Networking
SameGrain’s Anne Balduzzi networks with Split’s Dan Winston

Washington D.C.-based shared-ride company Split was one of two transportation startups who participated in the Tech.Co Startup Competition last month, showing that Washington remains a prolific incubator of transportation-related startups, and that entrepreneurs believe there are additional transportation problems that need solving.

Split, which has been operational since May of this year, is an app-enabled shared-ride service. The startup scored second place in the Tech.Co competition, suggesting the company’s concept resonated with the audience.

Split has been compared to Uber and Lyft, but unlike those services, Split is a true ride-sharing platform. Like Uber, customers of Split use an app to hail a ride from one of the company’s fleet of drivers who operate their own vehicles. Unlike Uber, however, Split matches each customer’s route with other customers, allowing the driver to pick up an additional passenger or two for a given trip along a same route. Customers are asked to walk a block or two at most to facilitate this shared ride.

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How Much Should Uber be Regulated?

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]

Uber Screen

Sharing-economy companies like Uber, Lyft, and AirBnB continue to disrupt industries as they create services that are incredibly appealing to consumers.

Whatever your opinion on these companies, the decision regarding if, and how much, they should be regulated is important. It will help determine the speed of technological innovation in the U.S. and the direction our economy takes.

At one end of the spectrum are states and cities that remain suspicious of these for-profit companies, and continue to crack down on them. Uber and AirBnB, the argument goes, skirt existing regulations, operate with an unfair advantage, and run the risk of ultimately endangering consumers.

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Behind the Scenes of a Transportation Tech Start-Up

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]


It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to compete with the likes of Google, but that’s what a little start-up named Conveyal is doing.

The firm creates digital tools to help transport authorities better communicate the wide array of available mobility options. Its new product is similar in functionality to Google Maps and the many consumer-based trip planners in existence. What differentiates Conveyal’s product is that it provides users with a multimodal view of commuting options in the Washington D.C. region, emphasizing those that are healthy and sustainable.

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A Social Media Playbook for Changing Commuting Behaviors

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]


Can social media be used to change a person’s commuting behavior or the way we design cities and transportation systems?

There’s growing research to show how behaviors are influenced by networks, and specifically how social media can cause behavior changes that benefit society (such as decreasing energy consumption). The same principles, done correctly, could no doubt help change commuting behaviors.

Here is a formula to create a social-media strategy that creates trust, engages people, harnesses their energy, establishes a community, and creates change (accompanied by an infographic about social media from Ad Age below). Read the rest of this entry »

Technology “Hacks” Solve Real-World Cycling Problems

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]16826825412_238a756a88_k (1)

The bicycle was created in the 1800s, but technology is keeping it relevant with “hacks” – or solutions – designed to get more people to use bike helmets, count ridership better, and reduce the obstacles keeping people from biking.

These and other innovations were on display at the latest Transportation Techies event: Bike Hack Night III.

Ola Göransson, an innovations expert at Washington’s Embassy of Sweden, demonstrated the Invisible Bike Helmet, an airbag for bicyclists. Not yet available for purchase in the United States, the helmet was developed by two industrial design students in Sweden to address the complaint by some cyclists that existing helmets are unattractive and mess up their hair.

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