In September, I attended the APTA Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. Following the defeat of Nashville’s transit referendum in May, the local transit agency is pressing ahead by investing in its bus fleet and changing its name to “WeGo”—a brand that speaks to transit’s role in building community.
A highlight of the conference was a session covering transit ballot measures and how they can succeed. The panelists represented a successful ballot measure (Los Angeles), failed ballot measure (Nashville), and upcoming ballot measure (Las Vegas). The panelist from Nashville shared that many voters were willing to pay for transit but were concerned about how the plan would be implemented after the city experienced an abrupt change in leadership two months before the vote.
Organizers from Los Angeles attributed their success in passing Measure M, a 2016 referendum, to several factors. These included a public input process following the release of the draft expenditure plan; a communications strategy that spoke directly to residents’ needs and concerns; and fun events involving the mayor of Los Angeles, a transit flash mob, and M&Ms (get it?). The panelist from Las Vegas said that voters there have shown a willingness to pay more for transportation infrastructure but want to know how “disruptive” mobility technologies like autonomous vehicles will affect future travel.
Another engaging session discussed TNCs and transit. The session featured panelists from Uber and Lyft, transit agencies CTA and WMATA, and the City and County of San Francisco. Panelists generally agreed that TNCs and transit agencies should consider one another partners rather than competitors. Uber and Lyft view transit as a complementary service that allows people to live without a car. Transit agencies see a role for TNCs in serving low-density areas, providing first/last mile connections, and offering certain on-demand services. When asked about the concern that TNCs are eroding transit ridership, an official from WMATA said that transit agencies should respond by increasing service quality. Partnerships already exist between TNCs and transit. Uber is currently integrating mobile transit ticketing into its app and Lyft is partnering with Monrovia, California, to provide shared rides to and from transit stops.
The last session I attended focused on measuring transit’s value, a topic EDR Group has researched extensively. Darnell Grisby from APTA presented a new tool called the “Multimodal Urban Mobility Index” that EDR Group is helping develop. The MUM Index will allow analysts to measure overall mobility levels in their study region across multiple travel modes. At EDR Group, we’re closely tracking the changes taking place in urban mobility and will continue sharing what we learn!