TAC Conference & Exhibition: movmi's Highlights
The TAC Conference & Exhibition was hosted by Alberta Transportation in partnership with the City of Edmonton and the City of Calgary from Oct 2-5 at the Edmonton Convention Centre. This year the event was live steamed around the world – a first for the TAC conference. movmi’s Venkatesh Gopal attended in-person on behalf of the movmi team and was part of the ‘Curbside Management and Design Solutions for New Mobility’ panel.
Keep reading for an overview of the conference themes and Venkatesh’s panel talk. Find the conference highlights re-cap here.
TAC Conference Themes
This year’s Opening Plenary Session offered perspectives on the Conference theme, Changing Ways for our Changing Climate. Panelists tackled questions about transportation planning and engineering practices to address climate change, the financial implications of building more resilient systems, and strategies for responding effectively to future events.
Across the four day conference, event and panel discussions were held focusing on a range of topics, which included smart cities and big data; road safety and operations; CAVs and new mobility; materials, pavements and structures; and much more.
Supporting the Conference theme, the 2022 Conference was also TAC’s most sustainably-planned event ever! Emissions produced by attendees’ travel to, and participation in, the event have been offset by the purchase of certified Gold Standard carbon credits. A donation to Alberta-based activities promoting CO2 capture and climate change mitigation was also made. On Tuesday of the event, delegates were treated to a vegetarian menu, creating half the carbon emissions compared to a meat-based meal – another first for TAC.
Panel: Curbside Management & Design Solutions for New Mobility
Venkatesh was part of the ‘Curbside Management and Design Solutions for New Mobility’ panel. The two other panelists included Angela Jarvis, E-mobility Manager for the City of Coquitlam and Yuval Vogelson, Curbside Mobility Expert at IBI Group.
Over the last few years we have a seen an increase in new mobility options. With the rise of e-commerce, we have seen more curbside pick-up and deliveries. There has also been an uptick in electric vehicles, shared electric vehicles and micromobility options, as well as charging infrastructure. With this rise in new mobility, we have seen a higher demand for the use of curbside space.
This was the main focus of the panel. To discuss the opportunities and challenges of curbside space and new mobility.
During his presentation, Venkatesh spoke about the cost benefits for riders, users and cities, when they invest in active and shared transportation. Particularly when investing in a multiple modes (multimodal transportation), the return on investment is much higher. However, in most cities, road infrastructure spending is very high, much higher that the spend on active transportation and infrastructure.
To successfully create a sustainable shared mobility ecosystem that reduces private car ownership, it’s important for cities to understand what their residents need in terms of mobility options (what works and what doesn’t), the different technologies available, the policies they have in place and what they can change to allow for these services to operate and the partnerships required to offer mobility alternatives to residents.
The panel discussed how our cities will be transformed over the next few years in terms of new mobility and what they are most excited for.
If we take a look back to 2020/2021, we see the massive changes cities made around the world with regards to their biking infrastructure. Almost over night, cities like Paris, Berlin, Bogata and New York, created and extended bike lanes so that people could safely commute in their communities. Active transportation is the future of our cities.
Venkatesh spoke about his excitement at the rise in usage of both privately-owned and shared electric bikes in our cities. The increase in shared micromobility services also paves the way for a more integrated transportation network. Transit doesn’t have to reach every corner of every region. Instead it could leverage these services to provide first and last mile options to underserved communities, that otherwise would just use a car for their transportation needs.
Angela spoke about how cities are now recognizing that ’emerging’ technology is already here. She talked about the power of smaller scale pilots and their ability to inform and change policy. Technology is changing so quickly and demand is increasing, so we need to change how our approach to how we plan policy otherwise we will end up loosing some of those windows to learn.
Yuval spoke about the opportunity to use new mobility to change the way we design our streets, to be fully part of the planning and design guidelines within our cities. These mobility solutions will also have a economical justification for redesigning our streets.
The panelists were asked questions about what the minimum viable micromobility fleet size is for a city. There is no definitive answer to this because the data is so new and most providers are profit orientated so they go straight to the bigger cities. A good way to start, is by launching a small fleet based the on the population size of your city. Free floating is the most flexible and will give the most data in terms of usage and overall viability.
Cities like Vernon in B.C. launched a scooter share program and have had success because they are the only city in B.C. to allow sidewalk riding. This is due to the lack of bike lane infrastructure in the region. There are multiple case studies for this and it is a different lens to consider, especially if your region has a lower pedestrian rate.
There have also been cases of scooter vendors coming into a region and doing a 100 person pilot, where they provide the device to one resident and track it for the year. So there are multiple ways to dip your toe into the micromobility industry as an operator, especially in a small/mid-size town or city.
Another question posed to the panelists was how to better manage and alloate curbside space for new mobility. Yuval spoke about how there is no holistic way to approach curbside allocation. Usually it is one person or department that deals with bus stops, one with parking, one with new mobility etc. If we could centralize this then we could look at all the space and allocate it better.
Another way to allocate curbside space better is to provide a zone or spot for the type of vehicle instead of just a dedicated spot/zone for one particularly provider or company. However, there is a need to subsidize this, especially if we want to promote more shared active transportation solutions.
It’s not just the physical space we need to look at, but the combination of the physical with the virtual world. We may allocate curbside space for our micromobility vehicles, but if it doesn’t appear in the real world where the app says it will be, it creates a disconnect and barrier for users.
The curbside is not just an interface between the road and pedestrians. For residents, it can form part of the amenity of their neighbourhood, for children part of their play area, for businesses their point of access and ‘shop window’, and for cafes and restaurants sometimes part of their operating floor space.
Moving to a more flexible use of curb space will not be an easy thing. It will imply design changes, engineering and construction costs, revisiting the regulatory treatment of different transport modes and their access to public space, accounting for changes in peoples’ travel behaviours and integrating a wide range of sometimes conflicting stakeholder concerns. However, it is something that we need to consider if we want to create sustainable and livable cities in the future.
If you are interested in learning more about shared mobility and micromobility in particular, we recommend downloading one of our free whitepapers below.