As we are all aware, the vehicle traffic situation in Boston is getting progressively worse. One of the solutions that has been introduced has been a number-plate reading technology resulting in a localized road pricing to the tune of multi-hundred million dollars. As a city already cash strapped around infrastructure projects, implementing a system that would be so costly could potentially be disastrous. Instead, I propose working in conjunction with the different modes of transportation already present in Boston to slowly reduce the number of cars overall on the road. This would be done through a multi-phase operation with a dual focus on encouraging ride sharing and the use of Boston’s already present public transportation system. In order to effectively test this project, I propose an agile framework with slow build-ups in city areas, resulting in a test that would be significantly lower priced that the current solution.
Ride-sharing has already become an integral part of the transportation model within Boston. App-based ride-hailing allows Uber drivers to pick up riders with much greater frequency, by more efficient matching of customers with routes. The precision and flexibility of smartphone-based ride hailing can bring drivers right to customer origins and take customers precisely to their destinations. This unprecedented pick-up and drop-off flexibility lead to a reduction in time the driver spends in an empty vehicle. The pillars of the sharing economy—excess capacity, urbanism, and smartphones—enable a much greater utilization rate and thus a much denser pairing of supply and demand.
In order to further test whether or not increasing ride-share would be effective, I would recommend using the four different performance models created by the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty Federal Highway Administration.
The four models would be:
- Lighthouse Model: Leadership from an individual or agency to formulate an approach to integrating shared mobility which inspires others to follow a similar path
- Strategic Model: Focusing first on a high-level strategic vision intended to drive more specific planning efforts later
- Operational Partnership Model: Engaging with shared mobility companies to experiment and pilot innovative approaches to working together to address regional goals
- Watch and Learn Model: Focusing on research and thought leadership while seeking more information about how to incorporate shared mobility into planning processes
Ride-sharing cannot alone reduce the traffic issues found within Boston. Utilizing the potential within the MBTA will be critical. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) service area is comprised of a 4.9 million people covering over 3,200 square miles in 175 cities and towns. In addition to rail, subway, electric street cars, trackless trolleys, buses, and harbor ferries, the MBTA also provided nearly 7,000 paratransit trips for older adults and people living with disabilities in 2014. The transportation system has been important in addressing the needs of lower-income workers, seniors, and people living with disabilities.
In order to allow for testing, I would segment off different sections of the city and fund public awareness and persuasion campaigns. Agile frameworks seek an iterative process towards each project, which I would base on each local community roll out. Once there is success based on traffic metrics, I would push to roll out the project to another community.