Curbing the chaos: A new vision for micro-mobility management

by Bob Youakim, Passport CEO

During the last decade, Passport has helped hundreds of cities leverage technology to improve their transportation systems. This experience has given us a profound appreciation for the importance of empowering local government with technology that creates better experiences for citizens. We’re proud to announce that we have partnered with Charlotte, Detroit, and Omaha to provide technology to enable these cities to implement paid scooter parking as a mechanism to manage the deployment of e-scooter fleets.

The introduction of ridesharing and dockless mobility into cities has highlighted both the challenges and opportunities of the new urban mobility landscape. Scooters can replace short, congestion-inducing car trips. Rideshare can extend the reach of public transit to move people more efficiently. But these modes of transportation can also increase demand for scarce curb and streetspace, exacerbating congestion and vehicle emissions. In order to maximize the benefits and minimize the challenges associated with new forms of transportation in urban ecosystems, cities must transition from providing transportation services to coordinating complex transportation ecosystems.

Charlotte, Detroit, and Omaha have embraced this new role, and their pilot program is designed to evaluate how cities can effectively coordinate mobility behavior by pricing the use of curb space. Addressing curbside congestion is a critical element of building more livable and equitable cities, because chaotic curbs lead to double parking, cruising, and disruptions on public sidewalks. And without effective incentives, new modes of transportation, like e-scooters or rideshare, can intensify these challenges by simply increasing the number of vehicles competing for scarce curbside inventory at peak times.

Coordinated curbs use pricing and space allocation to affect demand and vehicle distribution while creating open space for multiple vehicle types and uses of the curb. By leveraging existing usage-based fee policies for paid parking across modes to create the most highly coordinated curbs in the country, these cities hope to establish a blueprint for how to build a robust, well-aligned mobility ecosystem that works better for cities, travelers, and private mobility providers.

We’re proud and excited to help these cities bring this vision to life for several reasons. First, we believe in the potential for the public and private sectors to come together to improve the quality of life in cities. Shared scooter company, Lime, has joined this pilot because it has a genuine commitment to improving transportation in cities. And Charlotte, Detroit, and Omaha are focused on the goal of building a mobility system that can incorporate innovative new solutions that benefit their citizens. We’re optimistic about the intersection of technology and governance to collaboratively solve important problems in cities.

Second, this project allows us to apply our expertise and technology to help our clients solve an important new challenge: curbside congestion. Passport has spent the last decade helping cities build the digital infrastructure necessary to optimize their on-street parking operations. We have facilitated the payment of $1B in parking fees across hundreds of millions of transactions for over five hundred cities in North America and the UK. Just as importantly, we’ve worked to help cities manage curb space that was traditionally allocated to paid parking as it has become a highly contested asset for other forms of transportation. As curbs have become more chaotic, we’ve had the opportunity to learn from parking history:

“When cars and trucks gained popularity, they were required to be stored off street (as were horses) in public or private garages often converted from transformed livery stables. Short-term street parking was largely unregulated and unpriced. Free access to the curb was tolerated and the anarchic occupation of public space grew with motorisation. This led to an expectation by the public that they should be able to freely park their cars at their destinations for the duration of their activity there. Chaotic occupation of the curb by parked vehicles quickly led to calls for controls and regulation and by mid-century, on-street parking in central business districts and at other popular destinations was time-bound and often priced.” (From International Transport Forum’s Corporate Partnership Board Report)

Sound familiar? History has taught us that innovations in personal transportation require new rules and that fees can effectively incentivize the productive use of public assets. As the largest and fastest growing provider of digital parking payments, we’re already the market leader in facilitating curb usage payments, and we’re excited to work with the pilot cities and Lime to apply that technology to help solve important transportation challenges.

Finally, we’re excited that Charlotte, Detroit, Omaha, and Lime have agreed to provide regular updates on the results of the pilot. As we learn lessons and test hypotheses in the coming months, we will have the opportunity to provide updates that allow other cities, interested citizens, and anyone else that’s interested to follow along. We’re anxious to work with all of the pilot participants to evaluate this model, and we’re grateful to have the opportunity to share our progress and findings with a community of people that is committed to solving the most important challenges in the urban mobility landscape.