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Integrated Mobility and Transformative Technology

“Not since the invention of the automobile has transportation technology seen so much change.”

That statement by Kim Green, executive director of business development for Genfare and APTA secretary-treasurer, was the main thesis of “Integrated Mobility/Transformative Technology: Positioning Public Transportation in a World of Game-Changing Innovation.” Green presided at the session, which was sponsored by Accenture.

Vincent Valdes, FTA associate administrator for research, demonstration and innovation, listed some of the demographic changes he sees affecting the future of transportation. As the baby boomers age and millennials demand increased levels of mobility, he said, transportation technologies will have to encompass new communications and data processing capabilities. He suggested that by 2025, individuals may have personalized on-demand mobility plans that will take into account the weather, carbon use and many levels of public transit service.

“From my perspective, we’re looking at providing traveler-centric service,” Valdes continued. “We have to focus on changing the paradigm from isolated silos to an integrated system that evaluates needs on an individual basis.”

Panelists provided information about specific ways that integrated mobility will change the face of public transportation.

Susan Shaheen, co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, noted how personal vehicles are the second largest expenditure for a U.S. household after housing and how encouraging drivers to use public transit or share cars can lead both to saving money and reducing vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas levels. The transportation system is changing so fast, she said, that “a study conducted a year ago isn’t representative of the market now and one conducted today won’t stay current for long.”

Sarah Hunter, head of public policy, Google, noted that the San Francisco Bay Area and Austin, TX, have begun testing self-driving vehicles. “The vision is there, but the reality will take some time,” she said, noting that a fully autonomous car would not even need a steering wheel.

Shomik Mehndiratta, senior public policy associate, Uber, reminded the group that people who want to live in cities are willing to share transportation, while those who don’t want to use transportation to manage their lives in more sustainable ways.

Nathaniel Parker, chief executive officer, GlobeSherpa, pointed out that the U.S. must repair its infrastructure before investing in new transportation technologies. He also mentioned ways that public transit already interacts with new modes of operation, such as paratransit operations that contract with taxi services.

David Leininger, executive vice president and chief financial officer, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, focused on how public transit fleets have different needs in different types of communities. Agencies have to learn about the new transportation options before making a major investment. Kim-Mai Cutler of TechCrunch moderated the panel.

At the end of the session, APTA Immediate Past Chair Phillip Washington, chief executive officer, Los Angeles Metro, invited conference attendees to the 2016 Annual Meeting, Sept. 11-14 in Los Angeles.

Panelists at the “Integrated Mobility/Transformative Technology” session, from left: David Leininger, Nathaniel Parker, Shomik Mehndiratta, Sarah Hunter, Susan Shaheen, moderator Kim-Mai Cutler and Vincent Valdes.

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