TRB panel recap: Cities Leading the Way on Micromobility

Remix

Seleta, Paul, Emily, Jason, and Sam rounded out our panel in front of approximately 200 guests in Washington

It was an exciting and snowy week in Washington during the 2019 Transportation Research Board Conference. The event drew over 14,000 people from around the world to discuss trends in transportation from aviation, freight, urban mobility and much more. A hot topic amongst cities centered on the rapid growth of shared scooter and bikeshare fleets. These forms of “micromobility” have posed new opportunities, challenges, and have set the stage for new types of partnerships to develop between local governments and the private sector.

We gathered a panel of industry experts on the topic to hear their stories and share takeaways with our audience.


The panel included:

  • Seleta Reynolds, General Manager, Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT)
  • Paul Supawanich, Head of Mobility Policy, Remix
  • Emily Warren, Senior Director of Policy and Partnerships, Lime
  • Jason JonMichael, Chief Innovation Office, City of Austin, Texas

The panel was moderated by Samantha (Sam) Herr from the North American Bikeshare Association (NABSA).

To kick things off, Sam outlined the definition of “micromobility” from NABSA’s perspective:

Working together across the transportation industry

Seleta outlined the necessity of governments and private companies developing a mutual understanding of each other’s strengths and needs.

I say cities should behave more like a product company, but I wish product companies would sometimes act more like cities. Product companies need to act with more humility and vulnerability.
— Seleta Reynolds, LADOT

She went on to challenge city leaders to be proactive towards this change.

The stakes are really high. If we don’t change the way we are doing things it’s going to get worse and we are going to lose the cities we love.

Emily from Lime followed to applaud LA’s existing efforts to help create a private sector ecosystem by leading on the Mobility Data Specification (MDS) that enables a mutual language to be shared between the public and private sector.

Seleta gave us a gift with MDS. She gave us something we as a product company understand; my engineers understand.
— Emily
Everyone in a city is your consumer.
— Paul

Speaking of mutual understanding, Paul from Remix re-iterated how important it is that private companies be conscious of the responsibility local governments carry to serve everyone within their communities — highly diverse communities with numerous needs. It’s an understanding and type of collaboration that may represent a change in approach to how the public and private sectors have traditionally operated.

We faced this in the 90s.
— Jason JonMichael, City of Austin

Jason from the City of Austin described a time in the 90s where the industry was similarly faced with new technologies and a need to come together. However, there was not enough leadership or momentum to forge unity.

We created NCTIP for cameras and signs etc. it never came to fruition. We had no way to validate that standard and everyone interpreted as they wanted.
— Jason

Future opportunities

When asked the question on the importance of mobility data for cities, Paul brought up the notion of “Big Scooter”.

You may have heard of “Big Oil” or “Big Auto”, but I’m going to talk about “Big Scooter.” Why I’m excited about Big Scooter is because we, for the first time, have a national industry that has safer infrastructure in their interests. It’s an opportunity to help planners and local advocates capture the data needed to support safer streets.
— Paul
If “Big Scooter” can get VCs to pay for bike lanes, we’ve really done something.
— Emily

Panelist best and worst case predictions for 2019

We asked our panel to provide their predictions for 2019. What are their opinions on the best and worst case outcomes for the industry?

  • Jason’s best case: I’m not dealing with scooters next year [in the context of programs becoming more normalized]
  • Emily’s best case: We have the data sharing architecture in place that lets us shift people off cars — Emily
  • Paul’s best case: We see the foundation for more balanced fees across private vehicles, including congestion pricing
  • Seleta’s best case: A government is monitoring MDS
  • Seleta’s worst case: A private mobility walled garden forms

At the day’s end, it’s a transformative time in the industry and we believe that it’s a critical time to equip cities with the tools needed to effectively serve their community.

Thanks to everyone who joined us for this amazing panel. If you’re interested in learning more about how cities are leading the way on micromobility, contact us at hello@remix.com.