Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mobility Management: Thinking Mulberry Street (NYC)

Last week I read a terrific synopsis of what mobility management aims for. Rich Weaver of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) was interviewed in the September issue of the National Center on Senior Transportation (NCST) newsletter and he gave concise summaries of the goals for mobility management and livability. (NCST is a technical assistance center administered by Easter Seals Inc., in partnership with the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.) He described mobility management as promoting the partnership among "mobility providers," such as transit, vanpools, and other shared-ride services.

Mobility management is a concept that cuts across large and small communities. It looks beyond traditional fixed-route service and works to improve the operation of other transportation resources. Mobility management involves creating partnerships with transportation providers in a community or region to enhance travel options and then developing the means to effectively communicate those options to the public, including seniors.

Think Little Italy

To me, at least today, I am thinking of mobility management as akin to an association for a business district. The two restaurants on the street may be competitors in some sense, but if people don't know where they are, that the disctrict is a destination, or the special atmosphere and activities of the business district, then all the businesses suffer. So, too vanpools might be considered competition for fixed-route service, but not if each has its role in a family of transportation choices. (Or, as my niece was doing recently, taking the Metro someplace in the evening and then, on the way home, getting off at a station with taxis for the last mile.) As an example, if the streets are not pedestrian friendly, then no matter how much transit or other shared modes are environmentally friendly or economically enhancing, then people will not use them.

Mobility Management as a Connecting Concept

What does this have to do with the title of this post? How does mobility management connect to poverty, the environment and their ties to connectivity?

I am seeing reports right and left about changes needed to improve the environment and changes needed to address poverty. Authors of both types of publications are seeing the connection between transit and zero-emission modes (walking and biking) and the environment and equitable economic development. Also starting to happen and I would also like to see more is a more multi-modal approach that incorporates shared private transportation, such as vanpools, carpools and slugging, as well as taxis and flex car services. A few publications are even addressing how parking policies affect transportation choices.

Mobility management means partnering across modes and types of public interests. Just like the different types of businesses I am picturing from Little Italy, which banded together to create a brand that now attracts busloads of tourists and a few locals (okay once the tourists come, it's not cool anymore and New Yorkers, like high school kids, have moved on), fans of transit and alternative modes must band together to promote themselves as a family of services that provide environmentally friendly and economically-enhancing transportation options.

With all the Little Italy talk I am not nostalgic for Luna's, the old whole-in-the-wall restaurant that had zero atmosphere and amazing food. Plus, I feel proud to have successfully inserted a photo.

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