The concept behind shared mobility — getting from point A to B via collective effort and resources — is not new. However, in the age of smartphones and widespread technology, avenues for sharing have never been more attainable. From elevating accessibility and equity of transportation to reducing city traffic, shared mobility services are having a transformative effect on metropolitan and urban areas.
As we start to imagine what “the new normal” will look like in the aftermath of COVID-19, more sustainable, equitable, and responsible solutions like shared mobility are likely to be at the forefront of change. Understanding the basics of this innovative transportation model will help unlock the potential of shared mobility within communities.
Shared mobility is the shared use of transportation, such as a bicycle or vehicle. Often through unique or innovative models of sharing, users have short-term, as-needed access to a specific vehicle. Carpooling, vanpooling, ridesharing, bike sharing, and carsharing are all common forms of shared mobility. Other shared transportation like private transit and paratransit shuttles are alternative forms of shared mobility.
The rise of smartphones has opened up a new generation of shared mobility options. Between booming food delivery services, more accurate route optimization, and more avenues for connection with fellow travelers, shared mobility is minimizing the need to own a personal vehicle.
Shared mobility casts a wide net: it can be used to describe modes of transit as widespread as public transportation and as individual as mini and microtransit. Whether these modes of transportation exist on a scheduled network or can be hailed with the tap of a smartphone, the common factor is the sharing of collective resources. While there are many mobility solutions, some of the more usual forms include:
Most people have used some form of public transit in their lifetime. This far-reaching form of shared mobility includes buses, ferries, subways, and light and heavy railways. Typically, public transit originates from a transit station, charges a set fare, and operates on a fixed route during set hours. Public transit is the longest-running and most commonly accessed form of mobility sharing.
Micromobility encompasses small, typically single-rider vehicles like bicycles, eBikes, electric scooters, and more. Shared micromobility is most common in bike sharing and scooter sharing programs. In this model, users gain access to the vehicle as-needed for point-to-point mobility. This blossoming part of the sharing economy features unattended kiosks or follows a free-floating model, in which users check in and check out at any location within the vehicle's predefined range. Shared micromobility is popular in urban areas and helps customers with short trips around town — especially now that biking is experiencing a revival.
Carsharing, rideshare, and microtransit provide users with access to transportation by car — all through different avenues:
Commute-based modes of shared mobility include the vanpool — typically a collection of seven to 15 people who shuttle together in a van. Vanpools run under the guidance of a coordinator and sometimes involve the shared responsibility of fares. Vanpools exist as private services, on-demand models, and government-funded programs. Whereas rideshares often revolve around leisure or round-trip outings, vanpools are rooted in consistent commuting habits.
For planners, shared mobility provides a transportation strategy that can improve communities through a variety of ways, including:
Beyond design improvements, shared mobility can foster a sense of community among citizens. When shared mobility campaigns focus on sustainability and equity, users gain a deeper awareness of their place in the collective improvement of their community.
Shared mobility is projected to continue its upward climb in the modern market, in part due to the exponential growth of smartphone use. Forecasts estimate that the shared mobility industry will be worth over $619 billion by the year 2025. Apps continue to catalyze shared mobility by creating connections between:
Moving forward, app-driven shared mobility may play an important part in up-and-coming design initiatives like smart cities. In fact, shared mobility is changing the face of transportation around the world — driving the creation of new businesses and influencing individual transit choices.
With tools like shared mobility software, planners can stay at the forefront of shared mobility innovations. By gaining access to valuable mobility data and insights, powerful collaboration capabilities, and comprehensive planning tools, users can incorporate shared mobility services more seamlessly into the fabric of the city.
For example, Remix has helped small cities like Providence, Rhode Island improve their shared mobility programs with the same level of sophistication and success as bigger cities. In this case, Providence elevated their scooter program by partnering with Remix to gain access to rich quantitative metrics and seamless communication tools. From policy experts to increased access to data insights, Remix can help planners coordinate mobility programs with reliable partners, so they can build a safer, more equitable, and more sustainable future for their community.
Read Capital Metro's story on leveraging a collaborative approach to transit data to implement transit prioritization.
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