The recent decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation to award a $40 million smart cities design grant to Columbus, Ohio, was based in part on the city’s plan to increase connections between neighborhoods that are poorly served by public transportation.
The city’s development plan, centered on the community of Linden, will involve the creation of a smartphone app and additional ways to access funds for ride-sharing and bus fares. The plan was designed to help people without access to traditional sources of credit better address their health concerns, especially pre-natal health.
The community of Linden, with high rates of infant mortality, is intended to be a test bed to see if improved grant funding can help improve access to health care through alternate transportation options.
Ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft are seen by several cities as part of the solution to transportation infrastructure woes rather than just as a source of disruption to the taxi industry.
In Altamonte Springs, Florida, the city is offering direct subsidies for ride-sharing services that end at light rail stations as a way of cutting down on traffic congestion and increasing access to public transportation systems.
A recent American Public Transportation Association report on the relationship of ride to transit affirmed that ride-sharing increased the use of public transportation. The integration of ride-sharing services into municipal funding decisions holds the potential to be a low-cost way of boosting transportation investment and promoting regional integration.
While the notion of autonomous vehicles — without drivers — being used to ferry commuters to their destinations via smartphone app remains science fiction, reorienting mass transit systems toward traditionally underserved areas and populations could help both reduce car traffic and increase the quality of services available to all citizens. Boosting the overall use of mass transit systems was essential to the city of Columbus’s winning plan for what it intends to accomplish with the grant funding.
Ensuring that residential communities have access to both public transportation and the jobs that they need to afford housing costs could improve access to sustainable transportation and help communities achieve better regional integration.
About the Author
Jeff Bates is APA's state government affairs associate.
Top image: View from the back seat of a rideshare. Photo by Flickr user Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures (CC BY-ND 2.0).