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American Public Transportation Association

 Supporting the Effort to Manage Mobility

BY Robert G. Stanley
Former Principal
Cambridge Systematics Inc.
Washington, DC

Several years ago, the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) endeavored to describe how the transit agency of the future might be organized and how it might function - to craft a new paradigm for public transportation service design and delivery. The project asked three questions:

  • Why is fundamental change in the industry necessary?
  • What should be the nature and direction of change?
  • How will fundamental change be carried out?

Examples of ongoing fundamental changes in a host of other businesses and industries revealed consistent lessons for the transit agency of the future. In answering these questions, what emerged as was a clear, operational definition of “mobility management” as a potential new, overarching role and responsibility for public transportation agencies. A responsibility that would require fundamental changes in the organization and business practices of both transit agencies and allied organizations.

Rather than focusing on the use of a single agency’s assets - such as vehicles, facilities, personnel, and funding streams - the concept of “mobility management” shifts the strategic mission and focus to ensuring the quality of the travel experience, regardless of whose assets are being used. These findings and conclusions that led to this notion have been documented in a series of TCRP reports, concluding with Report 97, Emerging New Paradigms: A Guide to Fundamental Change in Local Public Transportation Organizations.

In 2008, APTA embraced the concept of "mobility management" in its TransitVision 2050 document, noting that to meet critical national as well as local goals more effectively, and to better serve the needs of individual travelers, the industry must evolve to embrace this new concept and role. The APTA vision saw the evolution of transit agencies as they assume the role of “integrating the full range of mobility services.”

Today this vision is coming into sharper focus. “Mobility management” is emerging as a critical, strategic public responsibility that transit agencies are beginning to embrace in a broad variety of ways, tailored to local settings and circumstances.

Through a joint effort, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and APTA are seeking to advance mobility management further as a core public responsibility in today’s transportation arena. The project will provide a variety of resources, including descriptions of where breakthroughs are occurring and the practical steps being taken to shoulder the responsibility for managing mobility more effectively.

Collaborating Outside the Traditional Transit Arena: Sharing the Responsibility for Managing Mobility

Collaboration and integration of assets, services, and resources at the service provider or operator level lie at the heart of efforts to better manage mobility. New collaborative arrangements among transit agencies, other service providers, health and human services agencies responsible for client transportation, and businesses and industries looking to improve employee travel options show great promise.

Even the most innovative efforts to partner among service providers who may have been ardent competitors in the past often remain frustrated and success in these collaborative effort can be limited by the actions - or inaction - of other agencies, organizations, and interests outside the provider/operator community. As a result, the FTA/APTA joint effort is reaching out to audiences and actors outside the transit provider community to explore their roles in better managing mobility.

A brief summary of ‘outside’ agencies, organizations and interests that can be central in the effort to better manage mobility is provided below. In virtually all cases, the effort to define and carry out a mobility management initiative should include outreach targeted to both elected policy makers and professionals, public and private, charged with carrying out these interrelated roles, responsibilities and policies.

Decisions about Other Elements of the Transportation Infrastructure

Historically, we have assigned responsibility for various portions of the transportation network to different agencies at different levels of government, and often they act relatively independently, and sometimes in direct conflict. Managing mobility more effectively will require more aggressive outreach and collaboration on planning, policy, investment, and funding decisions affecting construction, maintenance, management, and related standards for streets and highways, parking, rail access, airport access, intermodal facilities, and pedestrian and other non-motorized infrastructure.

Emerging information technologies hold the promise of providing the traveling public the ability to navigate the entire transportation network to heighten the quality of the travel experience while taking advantage of the most useful characteristics of each component. Policies, procedures and investments by all the varied intermodal actors and agencies that may be in conflict or that frustrate travelers should be examined continuously and dialogue and resolution of potential conflicts sought as part of the responsibility to manage mobility more effectively.

Decisions about Economic Development, Land Use and Growth Management

Mobility needs result not only from the characteristics of individual trip origins and destinations, but also from broader development patterns dictated and guided by regulations that historically have been the domain of local, and in some cases state, governments. The roles of private developers acting under the authority of local governments, and the project-level requirements of construction finance and lending businesses also affect how well development decisions and patterns reinforce or conflict with transportation and other public infrastructure policies and investments.

Despite our better understanding of land use – transportation relationships, many areas continue to struggle to ensure that community development, land use, and transportation decisions are mutually beneficial and reinforcing. However, an ever-growing catalogue of new, effective policies, regulatory breakthroughs, and collaborative project management techniques is emerging. These can serve to enhance mobility and make more effective use of our transportation network while promoting development that enhances our communities sustainability and livability.

Outreach to and collaboration with the governments, agencies, organizations and businesses that guide economic development and land use is an essential part of any effort to better manage mobility.

Decisions by Funding and Financing Institutions

The battle for public (and private) resources to support private sector investment and enhanced public services is increasingly competitive. Managing mobility more effectively will require that transit decision-makers understand the shifting conditions for use of limited resources and the procedures that guide the availability and flow of funds from both public and private sources.

Eligibility for and expanded flexibility in government funding programs has emerged at the Federal level but perhaps less so at the state level. Constraints remain in how funding sources can be integrated and combined, including flows of public funds across such broad program categories as health, housing, and transportation. As noted above, financial institutions often dictate transportation-related requirements, e.g., parking, as conditions for development and mortgage loans. Insurance companies restrict coverage for service providers, such as volunteer drivers who often represent a significant potential resource in better managing mobility. Each of these institutions and related agencies should be represented in the dialogue to better manage mobility.

Decisions in Provision of Utility Infrastructure

Availability, standards, and costs in the provision of public infrastructure other than transportation affect land use patterns and, as a consequence, access and mobility. Yet public and private utilities maintain policies and procedures largely independent from transportation planning, policy-making and investment decisions.

The organizations responsible for policies, standards, and pricing for provision of water, sewer, gas, and electric services as well as telecom organizations should be engaged to pursue steps to that can reinforce access and mobility goals, realizing there may be extenuating public safety concerns to be considered..

Environmental Management Decisions

Beyond management of water resources and waste water systems, policy, investment, and management of air and other natural resources in the public sector has an obvious direct impact on the provision of transportation infrastructure and services, most often through enforcement and oversight of overlapping local, state, and federal laws and regulations.

A sustainable future, including sustainable mobility, will depend on ensuring that mobility managers and their partners have a comprehensive understanding of how best to protect the environment, including approaches that can maintain the desired balance between environmental protection and enhanced mobility. The agencies, institutions, and interests that serve to protect the environment should remain participants in the dialogue on managing mobility.

Decisions in Other Public Policy Sectors

There are also other arenas in which policy, law, and regulation might better reinforce the goals of mobility management and/or serve to reduce conflicts in the effort . Among the most important are pricing public services, taxation, and labor relations. Actors and agencies whose principle responsibilities lie in these areas should also be part of the mobility management dialogue.


Full value from the efforts of transportation service providers to manage mobility - transit agencies, health and human service providers (for-profit and non-profit), taxis, volunteer organizations - is not likely to be achieved without mutually reinforcing actions by a host of agencies, organizations and actors outside the traditional service provider/operator community.

As the role and responsibility for mobility management in a region becomes better defined, engagement and collaboration with all these types of outside agencies and organizations will be necessary to meet the new, expanded mission of “managing mobility,” and to do so in a way that serves our desire for more sustainable and livable communities

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