It would be a system that works as well in urban areas as in the countryside, and it would ensure that app-based services such as Lyft and Uber — or even Bird and Lime scooters — could sync up with traditional bus and rail transit. It would move toward a single application — whether on a smartphone or a desktop device — that would arrange in one transaction several different modes of transportation, along with payment from a single account.
It would also emphasize better vehicle design and better accommodations for older people and people with disabilities to get around, and it would work to eliminate inequalities of access that are based on disparities in income. And it would prepare people for the move to more widespread car-sharing and, one of these days, self-driving vehicles.
“It’s one-stop shopping. Customers don’t need to download multiple apps to arrange and pay for a trip,” said Jana Lynott, who wrote the report, “Universal Mobility as a Service: A Bold Vision for Harnessing the Opportunity of Disruption.”
Experts said mobility is particularly important for older Americans — and might even be seen as a form of health care. Whether a person can get to a medical doctor in a regular and timely way can mean the difference between a routine visit or a more costly treatment later for a condition that was neglected. As one panelist said Tuesday, a $3,000 cancer treatment should not be scheduled around a $2 bus ride.
To get to universal mobility, government officials and private entrepreneurs could begin by pushing for more open sharing of data, or at least standardization of how data could be used. Collaboration is a key, between different sorts of transportation companies and between the private and public sectors, Lynott said.
As part of its push, AARP also rolled out a webinar that featured officials from Lyft, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and other transportation providers.
Robin O’Hara, deputy executive officer and head of customer experience at LA Metro, said her agency has taken a step toward integrating several modes of transportation by modifying its electronic TAP card system. As of July, the changes (along with a small fare increase, local media report) allow riders to use the chip-embedded TAP card to travel across the metropolitan area using 24 different transit systems.
“We’re out there doing it while other people are still talking about it,” O’Hara said.