Automotive > Autonomous Vehicles Blog

Mass Mobility Requires Fare-Free Future

by Roger Lanctot | Jan 23, 2020

As I planned my travel to attend MobilityTalks in Washingdon, DC, yesterday I considered my options:

  • Drive to the Metro and park my car there - I am not sure where I would or could park, how much it would cost, would it require a special permit, and how long I could park.
  • Drive in to DC and park there - not knowing what the traffic would be like and knowing that I'd have to avoid the HOV routes where I might have to pay exorbitant fees or fines - and face the same issues depending on when I returned home from the city.
  • Find a bus to DC - good luck - I have never made use of the extensive local bus network - certainly not for a trip into the city.
  • Get a taxi - most likely to be prohibitively expensive
  • Hail a ride with Lyft - Done!

Thousands, if not millions, of people make the same calculations every day - and many arrive at the same conclusion: drive in with your own vehicle (as two Audi executives I met at the event admitted) or hail an Uber or Lyft. Decisions like this are flooding cities with vehicles today in a manner which is unsustainable. Cities are getting larger, not smaller and populations are growing accordingly as is the number of vehicles on the road.

The growth in the number of privately owned vehicles is nearly matched by the growth in privately driven vehicles available via Uber, Lyft, Via - and Yandex, Grab, Gett, DiDi, and FreeNow outside the U.S. There are more and more cars using the same amount of roadway with predictable results.

Transportation experts talk about nibbling around the edges with congestion charging and bicycle/scooter lanes and parking areas and multimodal applications and transportation as a service subscriptions and car park limitations and road diets and on and on. Let's make this very simple. The quickest path to mass mobility adoption is:

  • Free public transit;
  • Severe taxes on private and public parking

This is the one-two punch that will solve the urban traffic crisis in a jiffy while amping up use of public transit systems - many of which have languished in the wake of Uber/Lyft's on-demand transportation revolution. Make transit free - and set your citizens free from gridlock.

The goal of zero emissions, zero fatalities, and zero congestion will be achieved with zero fares. Entire countries, such as Estonia and Luxembourg, have already taken this visionary step with predictable, desirable, and laudable results - cleaner air, less traffic, fewer traffic fatalities and, probably - though unverified by research - less stress.

I made this suggestion in the form of a question during a session at MobilityTalks yesterday and a French transportation consultant on the panel of experts stated flatly: "It is a very bad idea." Oddly enough, French cities by the bushel are adopting this strategy. Perhaps the success of this simple gambit is a threat to future consulting fees for this executive.

Lobbyists for ride hailing companies, car sharing companies, and scooter makers are trying to tell and sell cities on the virtues of their solutions to the burgeoning transportation crisis. Politicians have been twisted into regulatory knots trying to accommodate all of these new solutions only to discover that all of these alternatives are pulling passengers from already struggling transit offerings - which often are used mainly by economically disadvantaged segments of the population.

Making transit free and making parking expensive represents the essential path to equity and equanimity in transportation. Transit should have the priority and mobility service providers should ultimately be serving/feeding the existing transit network. If you are interested in learning more, here is a Website: Here you can find more information about what I believe is a very GOOD idea, indeed.

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