There is no disputing that technology has changed our lives, including the way we get around. From buying bus passes on the phone while hustling out the door, to getting custom alerts of the quickest route to drive, tech can make it easier, faster and less stressful to travel.
More advances are sure to come, from autonomous cars to on-demand carpooling and shared e-bikes. The possibilities are as endless as our imagination.
On Friday, August 25, Metro’s Regional Travel Options program hosted a workshop to explore how the program and its partners can:
–Support technology that reduces single occupancy vehicle trips.
–Ensure advances are distributed equitably.
–Address local needs.
The workshop is part of the Regional Travel Options strategy update, which guides the program in creating safe, vibrant and livable communities by supporting partners in their work to increase walking, biking, ride sharing, telecommuting, and public transit use.
The program is one of a series of strategies aimed at reaching the regional goal of 50 percent non-SOV trips by 2035. The program does this mainly by providing federal funding through competitive and strategic investments that support partner groups encouraging the use of travel options.
“There is promise and peril in technology,” said Eliot Rose, senior technology strategist at Metro. “Our role is to maximize the good and minimize the bad. We are working in an uncertain area, but we are charged with forging a path to benefit all of our residents.”
Breakout sessions with partners addressed how Regional Travel Options' funding and policy strategies can move and support technology advances that make getting around our region easier, more efficiently and serve more people.
Four themes in the workshop highlighted how technology can help reach regional and partner goals. Below is a synopsis of themes.
Partners called on Metro to create clear avenues and possibilities for public-private partnerships, including funding and facilitating relationships. Public agencies are good at developing or providing data, but not as strong at creating, maintaining and updating technology. But that doesn't mean local governments and nonprofits don't have a role in advancing and collaborating in new technology. These groups can ensure local needs are met and, in the case of RTO program, ensure actual traffic and drive-alone rates go down.
But often public funding and organizational structures make it difficult to form partnerships that make sense for private industry. Workshop attendees encouraged Metro explore ways to allow for flexibility in funding and act as a meeting place and clearinghouse for possible collaborations. Outcomes to these partnerships could be many, including influencing products that can make partners’ work more efficient, resulting in better programs and services for residents.
Innovate for travel options
"We need the same level of innovation to make it easier for people to not drive alone as we do for self-driving cars," said Rose. Ideas from participants included: make existing travel option subsidies easier to deliver and provide better, and give real-time travel information to residents about walking, biking, transit and ridesharing. Apps and platforms should be broad to serve everyone in the region, but also leave room for specific technologies to serve different communities, such as universities or business districts. "The trick is to make sure we don't invest in the next Betamax," said Carolyn Baar from the City of Hillsboro.
Collect and share data
"If we had data more readily available, [to] make it easier for parents and schools to tell us what their barriers are, we could be more responsive in our programs," said Kari Schlosshauer, the Pacific Northwest regional policy manager for the Safe Routes to School Partnership. Many of tech advances are unseen to the public, but creating ways to have data more centralized and shareable can give partners the tools to be more efficient, better inform transportation decision making and budgets, and meet community needs.
Access for all
Technology (and transportation) advances often come to low income communities last. While the private market needs to make business decisions, public entities can ensure a wider variety of residents and their needs are taken into consideration. Ultimately new technology should be made with communities for communities. Examples include BikeTown for All and Forth's electric car sharing pilot program with Hacienda CDC, both of which use technology to give people more options for getting around.
The Regional Travel Options program has three upcoming workshops. We encourage government agencies, educational institutions and non-profits working to promote travel or mobility options to attend.
Safe Routes to School 1 - 4 p.m.
How can the RTO program support school districts’, cities’ and counties’ efforts to promote walking and biking, as well as traffic safety, for families throughout the region?
Collaborative Marketing 9 a.m. - noon
What emerging trends, markets, and tactics help partners reach participants?
Potential Partnerships 1 - 4 p.m.
How can the RTO program engage new groups and reach new constituents around travel options?
All workshops are held at Metro, RSVP required. Register online or contact Pamela Blackhorse at Pamela.Blackhorse@oregonmetro.gov or (503) 797-1757.