How is Mobility Changing?
As a community in the Bay Area, Walnut Creek is at the forefront of many emerging services and technologies related to transportation and mobility. This includes services such as Uber and Lyft, as well as the proliferation of shared mobility companies throughout the region. The City has already taken steps to leverage these innovations through a number of pilot programs, including those for bike sharing, autonomous delivery robots, and senior transportation services. Walnut Creek has also taken advantage of innovations in parking management technologies to better manage parking supply and provide real-time information on parking availability.
In the context of Rethinking Mobility, emerging forms of mobility provide new mechanisms to support travel by modes other than single-occupancy vehicles. This is especially important for the Core Area of Walnut Creek, where future residential and commercial development will be located. As this part of Walnut Creek continues to urbanize with a greater concentration of residents, jobs, and activities, reducing vehicle trips and parking demand will be a critical component of its continued success as an attractive place to live, work, and play.
The Future Brings Both Opportunity and Uncertainty
Now more than ever, the future of transportation and mobility is uncertain. Technological changes and a wide range of other factors will affect how we travel, how we work, and how goods and services are delivered.
One of the fundamental ways mobility is changing is the way we access different types of vehicles and modes of transportation. We are moving away from a model of individual vehicle ownership to a model of “mobility as a service,” or MaaS. Instead of personally-owned modes of transportation, MaaS is a shift toward shared mobility that combines transportation services from public and private transportation providers through a unified smartphone application. Such apps enable users to create, manage, and pay for trips with a single account. MaaS applications are just starting to develop in the United States.
These new forms and options for personal mobility are being led by the private sector, but are being implemented in cities through various public-private partnerships. The following figure illustrates how innovations in shared mobility have significantly expanded the options available for personal travel.
Transportation Network Companies
User Information and Usage
TNC ridership is largely concentrated in dense metropolitan areas, and riders tend to be relatively young, mostly affluent, and well-educated. User data shows that riders age 25 to 34 use TNCs two to three times more frequently than less affluent, less educated, and older individuals.1
Position in Urban Mobility
TNCs have added 5.7 billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) annually to the Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC metropolitan areas. Simultaneously, car ownership across the US increased faster than the rate of population growth. TNCs compete primarily with public transportation, walking, and biking; attracting individuals who were once users of these non-auto modes, and increasing their VMT from what it once was.
Shared ride services such as UberPool, Uber Express Pool, and Lyft Shared Rides are promoted as a means of traffic reduction. However, these shared ridership programs currently do not necessarily reverse the increased rides generated by UberX or Lyft. The inclusion of shared services results in a marginally lower VMT per trip: 2.6 new TNC miles for each mile in personal autos taken off the road for every 2.8 new miles incurred by private ride TNC services. Shared rides ultimately add to traffic if most users switch from non-auto transportation modes.1
Connections to Public Transit
TNCs can provide new options to expand access to public transit by facilitating first-mile and last-mile connections from residential areas to transit stops or stations. Many cities have experimented with these types of public-private partnerships, including cities in the Bay Area. Programs such as Go Dublin and Go Monrovia are examples of how public transit agencies have partnered with TNCs to provide shared first- and last-mile connections to transit from lower density suburban areas which are difficult to serve efficiently with buses.
Expanding Mobility Options for Seniors
Walnut Creek operates a mini bus program with volunteer drivers and dispatchers Monday through Friday from 8:45 am – 3:40 pm for eligible senior residents. The City recently partnered with Lyft to provide free Lyft rides outside of regular mini bus hours. This has provided Walnut Creek seniors with a 24/7 mobility option.
Connecting Riders with Existing Drivers
Other programs, such as Scoop and Waze Carpool, connect individuals to existing drivers by aligning daily commutes or other frequent travel. For example, Scoop partnered with BART to manage parking demand during peak periods at several stations throughout the Bay Area. BART riders who arrived at the station with a passenger through Scoop were provided guaranteed parking during peak periods.
The increased usage of TNCs and online retail, as well as the proliferation of delivery services, has made curbside space a critical resource and policy issue. Cities across North America have implemented new policy frameworks and tools to understand existing usage and rationally plan for future trends and demand. This may include inventorying existing supply and demand of curbside space, as well as implementing tools to maximize efficiency of existing curbside space through measures such as time restrictions for specific uses. In terms of supporting mobility options, curbside management can support shared ride services through the provision of passenger loading for TNCs, carpools, shuttles, and other services.
One innovation that may help reduce the demand for curb space and help eliminate some vehicle trips is the use of automated delivery robots. Walnut Creek is currently running several pilot programs with companies that use automated robots to deliver goods, including restaurant take-out, to residents and other businesses.
Shared mobility services provide vehicles that are available for short-term rental by multiple users. These include shared bicycles, electric bicycles, electric scooters, and cars. Dockless bicycles and scooters that can be left at any location within a specified service area have arrived in a number of Bay Area cities. While it has been important to ensure that these new options are used safely and do not adversely impact others, they have provided an important new mobility option for shorter trips within a city, or to or from transit stops or stations.
As opposed to more traditional car rental companies, car sharing services focus on short-term rentals of less than a day. They typically distribute their cars throughout an urban area to facilitate connections with other modes of transportation. For example, car sharing companies place vehicles in the parking lots of many BART stations, or in parking structures within central business districts. In Oakland, Berkeley, and Albany, GIG Car Share provides point-to-point car sharing, which allows users to leave vehicles anywhere in the service area once the trip is completed (as opposed to returning the vehicle to its original parking spot). This provides a convenient and affordable alternative to car ownership or all-day parking in some parts of the East Bay.
Needs, Opportunities, and Challenges
Transportation demand management and mobility strategies need to address a shared mobility future. We are in a time of rapid change and innovation in the transportation industry. While there is still uncertainty as to exactly when and how changes will unfold, it seems increasingly likely that there will be an even greater shift toward shared mobility in the future.
Shared mobility and other innovations in transportation provide new TDM tools that can help cities reduce automobile trips. Shared bicycles, scooters, and cars are providing new options for first- and last-mile connections to regional public transit services. Carpooling apps such as Scoop and Waze are enabling commuters to share rides to and from work more easily. In addition to providing additional options for individual mobility, Uber, Lyft, Scoop, and Waze also provide the opportunity to increase ride sharing. Lastly, delivery services and automated delivery vehicles may reduce the need for individual trips to pick up food and other goods. Walnut Creek has the opportunity to act proactively and develop TDM strategies which leverage these innovations in transportation in order to reduce vehicle trips and demand for parking.
Shared mobility and other innovations are putting new pressures on public resources. While shared mobility options may reduce the demand for longer term parking spaces, they are increasing demand for curb space and short-term parking for passenger and goods loading. If the demand for shared bicycles and scooters continues to grow, then there may be additional demands on the public right-of-way to accommodate their safe use and storage.
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