When cars began rolling off assembly lines a hundred years ago, cities were reshaped to accommodate the automobile. Sidewalks narrowed to widen streets, parking garages appeared, transit systems disappeared, and eventually Interstate 5 splintered downtown Seattle from neighborhoods to the east.
This resulted in a city that is unfriendly and at times a dangerous place to be a pedestrian, a lesson Seattle Department of Transportation highlights in its recently released “New Mobility Playbook”.
As rapidly evolving technology is once again transforming how people move around the city, SDOT released the Playbook, a set of goals for integrating new transportation choices into the system.
“With cars, we forced our city to adapt to the technology instead of shaping the technology to serve the people living and working in our city,” states the playbook. “This time around, we want to do things differently. Instead of allowing the technology to shape the city, we’re mobilizing the technology to serve the people’s needs.”
In the playbook, SDOT defines new mobility as a “technology-enabled, seamless, nearly door-to-door transportation system” which “allows Seattleites to treat urban transportation as a customizable, on-demand service.”
The New Mobility Playbook lays out two scenarios: actively shape the future or leave it to chance. In the first possibility, despite rapid growth congestion doesn’t increase as autonomous vehicles are shared rather than privately owned. Transit choice increases in underserved communities as the city leverages a data infrastructure system to manage the transportation system in real-time.
However, SDOT warns leaving it to chance could result in more congestion if regulations and incentives for new transportation options don’t discourage single-occupancy rides, or lead to an increase inequality by leaving behind “unbanked” and “smartphone-less” riders who can’t access new mobility services.
Divided into five “plays”, SDOT lists actions and strategies to reach a set of goals for a future transportation system that puts people first.
- Ensure new mobility delivers a fair and just transportation system for all
- Enable safer, more active, and people-first uses of the public right of way
- Reorganize and retool SDOT to manage innovation and data
- Build new information and data infrastructure so new services can “Plug-and-play”
- Anticipate, adapt to, and leverage innovative and disruptive transportation technologies
Two of these overarching goals concentrate on managing the flow of data by developing a digital data master plan. The agency wants to have in-house capacity to analyze data and invest in analytical tools in order to create “strategic policies to capture the benefits of new technologies and mobility models while mitigating their unintended consequences.”
Looking ahead, other actions include: lobbying for a statewide vehicle miles traveled road usage fee, developing a “pitch book” to showcase the city vision to attract workers and companies, and creating a “Transition to Full Automated Mobility Phasing Plan” while partnering with companies to test automatic cars on city streets. SDOT set a goal that, by 2030, at least 30 percent of all light duty vehicles registered in Seattle are electric.
To ensure all residents benefit from new mobility services, SDOT plans to work with community credit unions to bank the unbanked, create a mobility subsidy program for ride splitting and car sharing for first- and last-mile trips in low-income neighborhoods, and develop a Shared Mobility Hub program which will bring multiple transit options together for easy transfers.
To respond to the ever changing landscape of technology, SDOT aims to update the playbook every six months. To comment on the new mobility plan, contact SDOT at firstname.lastname@example.org.