The past decade has seen dramatic changes in the ways many Massachusetts residents travel. Real-time information on traffic and transit conditions is now delivered right to our smartphones. Emerging shared mobility services – from Uber and Lyft to Zipcar and Hubway – have created a new array of daily travel options.
And the changes are just beginning. New shared mobility services are emerging each year, older services are expanding their footprints across the Commonwealth, and the most potentially transformative change of all – the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles – is growing closer by the day.
How are these new technologies and services affecting Massachusetts today? How might they affect our transportation system, our economy, our climate, our environment, and our health and safety in the future? And what can we do now to ensure that they deliver the greatest possible benefits for the largest number of people, without leaving the most vulnerable behind?
FAST FORWARD: The Technology Revolution in Transportation and What it Means for Massachusetts reviews the current state of innovative mobility in the Commonwealth, explores the implications of innovative technologies and services for our communities and our transportation system, and proposes a public policy framework for the integration of these services into our cities and towns.
By taking a smart, proactive approach to innovative mobility, Massachusetts can build a healthier, more equitable and cleaner transportation system – and avoid many of the pitfalls that might emerge as innovative technologies and services find their way into our communities.
Innovative mobility services are spreading rapidly in Massachusetts.
Automakers and tech companies are working to bring autonomous vehicles to the roads soon.
Innovative mobility can play a role in solving many of Massachusetts’ biggest transportation challenges, if intentionally shaped by public policy designed to protect the public interest.
Congestion – Shared mobility services can reduce the number of vehicles on the road, encourage people to share rides, and in some cases promote the use of low-carbon modes of travel such as bicycles. Traditional round-trip carsharing has been shown to remove 9 to 13 vehicles from the road for every carsharing vehicle. Autonomous vehicles provide an opportunity to manage vehicle use so as to reduce congestion, and may reduce the amount of space devoted to parking.
Climate and Pollution – A future of shared, autonomous and electric vehicles has the potential to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving the efficiency of the transportation system. In the short run, innovative mobility services can make it easier to use public transportation by providing accurate, up-to-date information for would-be transit users as well as “first-mile/last-mile” connections to transit services.
Economic Opportunity – By empowering people to live car-free or car-light lifestyles, shared mobility services can relieve households from the significant financial burden of car ownership. Massachusetts is also well-positioned to benefit economically from the introduction of autonomous vehicles, given the strength of the Commonwealth’s high-tech economy.
Social Equity – Shared mobility services have the potential to break down traditional barriers that limit access to jobs, schools and opportunities for low-income people, communities of color, the disabled, elders and youth. Ridesourcing services such as Uber and Lyft have expanded access to on-demand mobility in communities that often struggled with poor taxi service, and smartphone transit apps have improved quality of life for those who rely on public transportation.
Public Health and Safety – Autonomous vehicles hold the promise of dramatically improving transportation safety, with the potential to eliminate the 90 percent of motor vehicle crashes that are caused by human error. By supporting the integration of electric vehicles into vehicle fleets, shared mobility services can reduce local air pollution, improving quality of life in communities.
Few of the benefits of innovative mobility are guaranteed. Without smart public policy, innovative mobility has the potential to undermine key societal goals and values.
To get the most out of innovative mobility technologies and services, Massachusetts should embrace a set of common-sense principles and adopt a series of forward-looking public policies, including: