The Innovative Transportation Index
The Cities Where New Technologies and Tools Can Reduce Your Need to Own a Car

Executive Summary

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Rapid technological advances have enabled the creation of new transportation tools that make it possible for more Americans to live full and engaged lives without owning a car. Many of these new tools have been in existence for less than a decade – some for less than five years – but they have spread rapidly to cities across the United States.

This report reviews the availability of 11 technology-enabled transportation services – including online ridesourcing, carsharing, ridesharing, taxi hailing, static and real-time transit information, multi-modal apps, and virtual transit ticketing – in 70 U.S. cities. It finds that residents of 19 cities, with a combined population of nearly 28 million people, have access to eight or more of these services, with other cities catching up rapidly.

These services make it easier to conveniently get around without owning a car. That is increasingly what city dwellers – and Millennials especially – say they want. These services individually help travelers, but more importantly, they work together to become more than the sum of their parts.

Expanding the availability of shared-use transportation modes and other technology-enabled tools can give more Americans the freedom to live “car-free” or “car-light” lifestyles – avoiding the cost of owning, insuring, maintaining and garaging a private vehicle. Even when these services provide access to a car, they still make it easier for Americans to reduce their auto dependence by enabling easy access to a vehicle without the constant use associated with ownership. These tools have been expanding rapidly, yet public agencies have been slow to integrate these new systems into their planning and policy toolbox. Local, state and federal governments should explore ways to expand access to these tools and incorporate them into strategies for reducing the congestion, public health and environmental impacts of urban transportation systems.

Technology-enabled transportation services provide new options for millions of Americans.

•         Carsharing services offer vehicle access on-demand, lowering the cost of vehicular mobility for many while still preserving on-demand access to a car. Options include fleet-based services such as Zipcar or peer-to-peer networks that provide cars for round-trip and, increasingly, one-way trips. Carsharing is currently available in 69 of the 70 cities surveyed.

•         Ridesharing services provide a tool for riders and drivers to find one another. Potential riders can find drivers who are already going in the same direction and use these services to coordinate pick-up location, costs and schedules. Ridesharing is currently available in 5 of 70 cities.

•         Ridesourcing services, such as Lyft, Uber and Sidecar, enable users to solicit a ride from their current location from a pool of drivers using a smartphone. These services differ from taxis in that the drivers are not commercially licensed taxi drivers and, as such, are not permitted to pick up passengers off the street. Ridesourcing services are currently available in 59 of the 70 cities evaluated in this report.

•         Taxi hailing services provide technology to help users locate and call taxis with their smartphone, and (in some locations) pay through the smartphone as well, eliminating the need for cash on hand. Taxi hailing services are currently available in 34 of 70 cities.

•         Bikesharing systems increase options for short journeys (for example, trips too long for walking), and can serve as first- and last-mile connections between transit locations and travelers’ final destinations. They also provide a fun and active way to travel without concern for fixed schedules. Bikesharing is currently available in 32 of 70 cities.

•         Static transit data improves usability of transit services by enabling users to access schedules and route maps online via desktop, smartphone or other Internet-connected devices. When accessible on the go, schedule and routing data helps riders navigate transit systems effectively, even when their plans change. Static transit data is currently available in 66 of 70 cities.

•         Real-time transit information builds on the benefits of open static data by providing users real-time information on arrival/departure times and delays. This gives riders the ability to avoid unforeseen wait times, or to change routes at the last minute. Real-time transit information is currently available in 56 of 70 cities.

•         Multi-modal apps knit the transportation landscape together by offering users the opportunity to see side-by-side comparisons of a variety of routes and services for making their trip, including biking, carsharing, public transit, driving and walking. Multi-modal apps are currently available in 47 of 70 cities.

•         Virtual ticketing gives users the opportunity to avoid lost tickets and long wait times at the ticket counter by buying tickets directly through an Internet-connected device such as a smartphone. Riders can set up an account to look after expenses and track ticket validity. Virtual ticketing is currently available in 6 of 70 cities.

This report finds:

•         There are at least 19 cities with Abundant Choices, places where at least some residents have access to all or nearly all of these new transportation services. Austin, Texas, is the only city in the United States to have access to all 11 kinds of services evaluated here. San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have access to 10 of the services evaluated. (See Table ES-1.)

•         Another 35 cities have Growing Choices. Residents of these cities have access to many kinds of innovative transportation services, but not as many as cities with Abundant Choices. Orlando, Atlanta, Louisville, St. Louis, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Newark, Pittsburgh and Raleigh lead this category, and several are already planning the addition of new technology-enabled services within the next year.

•         The remaining 16 cities have Emerging Choices – these are cities where residents have access to fewer than half of the types of technology-enabled services evaluated in this report. Many of these are smaller cities in largely rural states with limited transportation options. These tools are beginning to expand to new areas, and further expansion would signal their potential to benefit a wide variety of American cities.

Table ES-1. Top Cities With Abundant Choices

Technology-enabled transportation services have the potential to reduce driving and car ownership, especially among young people.

•         Studies have shown that tools such as carsharing and ridesharing reduce vehicle ownership and the number of miles driven. Other tools, such as real-time transit information, improve the experience of riding transit and have been shown to give a modest boost to ridership.

•         Residents in cities that have access to a portfolio of technology-enabled tools are better able to construct “car-free” and “car-light” lifestyles that are less dependent on car ownership.

•         Cities with more abundant transportation-enabled services are able to complement public transit by providing mobility options from the train or bus station, and by providing alternatives during unusual times when weather or the need to carry bulky packages make walking, biking or transit less practical or desirable.

Policy-makers should explore ways to tap the potential of technology-enabled services to address transportation challenges and increase the number of people with the option to live car-free or car-light lifestyles. Governments should:

  • Adopt clear regulations for new services such as ridesourcing that fully protect the public while allowing the services to operate.
  • Require, when negotiating regulatory arrangements for these new transportation tools, that providers share their data with public officials, who can then better integrate these services into their planning.
  • Adjust municipal policies, including planning and zoning rules, to encourage the use of these services, such as by reducing parking fees for carshare users, reducing or eliminating minimum parking requirements for new developments that incorporate shared-use transportation, or allocating existing parking spaces for carsharing services.
  • Encourage complementarities between public transit and new technology-enabled mobility options, especially by encouraging bikesharing, ridesharing and carsharing around transit stops.
  • Support multi-modal transportation options by creating universal payment mechanisms that work for various modes of transportation, and expand the availability of real-time information, especially with public transit.
  • Conduct studies on the impact of these services and integration of them into transportation models and plans.
  • Explore the potential of new tools to meet the mobility needs of those currently poorly served by the transportation system, including the young, the old, the disabled and those in low-income households.
  • Adopt open data and open source software policies in conformity with federal mandates.


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