Momentum: Issue #29

September 30, 2019


At ITS America’s recent Urban Mobility executive forum, public sector leaders and private sector executives convened to discuss how their sectors could work together – from the planning process to deployment – in order to create a safer, greener and smarter environment that connects more people to the transportation network and provides all users more options. This conversation centered around how cities can use technology to increase safety, reduce congestion and improve the efficiency of the system, while providing new models for pricing infrastructure and providing enhanced services. Key topics of discussion included the changing travel dynamics in cities, effective partnerships between public and private stakeholders, the relationship between city governments and data, and how to prioritize access and equity.

Some key takeaways :

·  Today’s transportation and street planners are dealing with multiple mobility modes while competing for the same street and curb space. As cities are creating new jobs and housing, the number of commuters coming to and from these cities continues to expand. While many of these urban commuters use transit, the number of private alternatives to public transit continues to expand. On top of commuting traffic, commercial deliveries to consumers have increased sharply, with cities such as New York reporting that 45% of residents receive a home package delivery at least once a week. These trends overlap with the increased popularity of on-demand delivery services, which are also competing for city street and curb space. These developments, while beneficial for residents, result in increasing congestion. Public sector speakers shared their experiences with plans to mitigate this congestion, from congestion pricing projects in New York City and San Francisco to embrace of micromobility options in cities such as DC.

·  Many of the solutions proposed to battle urban congestion involve partnerships between the public and private sectors . Even traditional transit systems in some cities are partnering with rideshare companies to address first-last mile issues facing commuters. Panelists pointed to the heightened speed and efficiency at which private companies can develop new mobility innovations and push them to the marketplace relative to the typically extended process of review and implementation required in the public sphere. In Las Vegas for example, private sector ride-sharing companies were able to provide $15 paratransit trips, while that same ride would have cost the state $36.

·  Support for these partnerships among panelists was not unanimous, however, with critics pointing to private sector companies that began doing business in cities without considering their potential detrimental impact on public systems and resources. While agencies develop plans and visions for their city’s future, technology companies can try to find ways around those plans and codes to fit their business in the city. They described vastly different timelines between city planners and technology companies, and how some companies overpromise and then struggle with the complexity of the cities., Ultimately, panelists suggested numerous best practices for cities to overcome these challenges, including partnering with technology companies that will work cooperatively to reach policy goals – such as congestion reduction and equity investments – city leaders set at the operational level. With this alignment of broad policy goals, panelists suggested that cities could appropriately leverage the marketplace to deliver outcomes municipalities might not have been able to accomplish on their own.

·  Another important focus centered around cities’ use of traffic data. Public sector panelists noted traffic data allows city planners to reduce congestion and emissions as well as increase safety. They use data to prioritize resources based on where people are moving, allowing insights into what the city may look like in the future in order to plan accordingly. Panelists discussed using traffic data in real-time to predict accident-prone areas and warn drivers to travel with increased caution in particularly dangerous areas.

While there was general consensus on the benefits of traffic data to city planners, some panelists warned of associated tradeoffs. As private sector speakers spoke of the types of data their companies voluntarily shared with city officials, there was debate on whether cities could require private companies to provide potentially proprietary data. Some panelists argued that government has no inherent right to the data, while others suggested that cooperation and data sharing between cities and technology companies would help both groups, as city planners could use the data to reduce congestion, allowing the private companies to conduct business more efficiently.  Furthermore, participants expressed concern about the privacy of both individual and company data when handed over to government agencies, and there was some disagreement on whether data could be truly anonymized. Debate continues on aspects of data policy, but panelists agreed that data is an essential tool for reimagining a 21st century transportation network.

While modes of mobility continue to multiply, a large part of the forum conversation centered on ensuring that no group should be left behind. Equity was at the forefront of each panel discussion and was framed by a desire to ensure that people transportation options aren’t limited based on where they live or whether they have a disability. In cities across the country, low-income areas have challenges such as reduced access to transportation, increased danger to pedestrians, lack of a pipeline for planning and capacity, and lower funding priorities. Even when low-income communities have transit routes that service commercial areas, the frequency may be much lower and the length of the commute much longer relative to higher-income transit routes. Beyond geographical or income-level related reasons, people with disabilities have more difficulty accessing transit that can accommodate their travel requirements.. Panelists shared a series of best practices to help with these disparities, including instituting universal mobility in Delaware and Uber’s efforts to prevent ride-acceptance discrimination based on location or race.

These insights are a strong foundation in continuing to modernize mobility in urban ITS America is proud to convene these conversations and will continue to lead as we develop the blueprint for a transportation system that is safer, greener and smarter.


Name:  Sara Davidson
Title:  Technical Lead, Smart Systems 
Company:  ITS America 

Short Job Description: I conductresearch and analysis related to connected and automated vehicles, smart city technology, Mobility on Demand (MOD), ITS workforce development/training, cybersecurity, emerging ITS trends and other technology.

What is your favorite part of working at ITS America? Multifaceted exposure to a rapidly evolving, technology enriched field

What does the future of #ITS look like to you? An increasingly integrated and optimized, data-powered system that can better mitigate current transportation risks/shortcomings (collisions, gaps in service, etc.) – a system that enables safer, greener, and smarter mobility.

Favorite place to travel: South Korea

Most Unusual Job you have ever had before ITSA: I worked in a humanoid robotics lab in South Korea.

If you weren’t working in the Transportation industry you would: I would work in education, health/medicine, or environmental science/conservation.