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Shaheen Testifies On Establishing Level Playing Field in Transportation for Hire

Looking to the future of mobility, Transportation Sustainability Research Center Co-Director Susan Shaheen testified during a joint meeting of the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications and Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing in Sacramento on February 17, 2016.

The session focused on: “Ride-hailing Disruption: Establishing a Level Playing Field in the Transportation-for-hire Market.”
 
“We are looking to the future of transportation at Berkeley and how our research can help the State understand how to manage travel behavior and access to the rights-of-way,” says Shaheen. “As we move forward, it is important to create access for all—not leaving any populations behind.”
 
Her remarks were based on a study conducted by the Transportation Research Board and published in December 2015. Shaheen was a member of this committee. See: http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/173511.aspx
 
Shaheen spoke about “Between Public and Private Mobility: Implications for Travel Behavior,” noting key observations that: 1) shared services are not new; 2) information technology enables matching, information and payment exchange, and scale in sharing economy; 3) can increase safety for drivers and passengers; 4) the ecosystem of mobility services is evolving rapidly; 5) impacts of emerging services are uncertain; and 6) continued expansion of services has potentially important implications for location preferences of households and firms, travel patterns, and public transit use in the future.
 
She explained that shared services could change the nature of mobility, which could ultimately increase or decrease overall vehicle travel. For example, these services could increase travel by shifting walk and public transit trips to ridesourcing (or transportation network companies, such as Lyft and Uber), sharing more rides and filling empty seats, and energy efficiency or decrease travel by allowing people to purchase transportation by the trip rather than buying vehicles. Either scenario could either impact vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions.
 
In this context, she also focused on a key behavioral question: “If consumers increase use of mobility services, will they become more accustomed to considering the marginal costs of each trip, possibly making fewer discretionary trips and owning fewer vehicles or could this lead to more travel and sprawl?”
 
Shaheen discussed equity and access in terms of the increasingly central role of smartphone apps, which could mean a growing income and digital divide where about 8 percent of U.S. households lack a bank account and 36 percent of Americans currently do not own smartphones. She noted that there are diverging views on accessibility quality associated with emerging shared mobility services, and taxis sometimes are better equipped to serve disabled, older, and low-income travelers, including those in wheelchairs and without bank accounts.
 
Shaheen also talked about opportunities for innovative services and players including: paratransit, suburbs, rural areas, and first-mile and last-mile to public transit. There is a potential to leverage new strengths and features of these services. Such partnership opportunities need to be explored between the public and private sectors. Data and research understanding are key to future policy development, evaluation, and evolution. In addition, new methodologies are needed for incorporating shared and automated services into transportation planning. An information clearinghouse is recommended to capture and disseminate data for use in travel behavior research.
 
Finally, Shaheen addressed the future. She raised several questions to consider including:
 
How might auto ownership and use change with growing suite of shared services?
How might services impact land use, location decisions, and public transit use?
How will automated vehicle technologies impact mobility and shared services?
How do we ensure equity and access?
What types of policies can maximize social and environmental benefits in the future?
 
At present, Shaheen is leading a study in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council of Lyft and Uber, which is funded by the Hewlett Foundation to better understand the impacts of ridesourcing on up to four cities in the U.S. Results are anticipated to be released this fall. See: http://www.newsweek.com/uber-environmental-impact-nrdc-berkeley-395714