This month on the ‘Women In Shared Mobility’ series, our CEO Sandra Phillips interview, Megan Broccoli, the CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER at Wise Mobility.
A native Floridian and the first of her family to graduate college, Megan enjoys challenging the status quo to effect change for those that are underserved. As a young mother, she received her BBA in Finance from Florida Atlantic University in 2013 and went on to a career in renewable energy, specifically financing large-scale solar facilities across the United States.
Since 2016, she has served on the Board of Directors of Florida Organic Growers, a non-profit that supports and promotes organic and sustainable agriculture in Florida. At FOG, Megan focuses on the vision, strategy, and fundraising efforts as the organization expands in scope and depth.
When she’s not leading the team at Wise Mobility, she’s in a kayak with her son somewhere in the mangroves.
Women in Shared Mobility: thoughts on social equity, inclusive design, automation and electrification
MEGAN BROCCOLI, CO-FOUNDER & chief OPERATING officer, Wise Mobility
Sandra Phillips, chief executive officer, movmi
Megan is joining us from Wise Mobility, she is the COO and Co-Founder and is joining us today from Miami, Florida for this months Women in Shared Mobility series. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what Wise Mobility does.
I went to school for finance and kind of stumbled on the concept of dealing with citations because we are constantly in the space where people get citations, and they’re frustrating and it’s fragmented, it’s hard to figure it out and it’s not fair. I think I have a natural aversion to authority and that’s kind of where that all stemmed from. Wise Mobility has essentially automated the process of discovering and handling a ticket. Especially when shared mobility fleets and in any kind of commercial fleet, you have a mismatch between the person who’s driving the car and the person who owns the car. Typically the way of handling that is a very slow process, very labor intensive with a lot of human involvement. We said ‘it doesn’t need to be that way, we can apply technology, we can find these things and deal with them upfront, we can work with the renters and so that they can handle it and they’re not getting hit with huge fees’ and now we’re doing that and and it works really well.
1. What changes have you seen in shared mobility over the last year, particularly in your niche of the market?
I think that the electric vehicles and the electric/autonomous driving in fusion is really starting to change things and it’s not just changing things for the millennials, but also for high income urban households, even older people, they are ditching our cars, they are trying your new modes of transportation and I think that the high tech options that are being brought to transportation are changing the way that we move. Not just for the new generation because everything is on their phone really but for everybody. I think that cities are slowly starting to recognize that this isn’t just a fad, we are moving this way because people want shared mobility – not just because it’s quicker and it’s faster to hop on a scooter verses walk for 15 minutes, but because we’re we are in a serious climate crisis. We have to do something as a collective people to make that change. If only a few of us choose shared mobility for whatever the reason, it doesn’t make the same impact if we all made that decision together as citizens, as government, making the choice to use more sustainable transportation.
2. Cities are beginning to realize that citizens have different needs and wants with regards to mobility. Have you seen any changes with how cities deal with shared mobility start-ups such as yours over the last 24 months?
We’re a bridge between shared mobility and government. Even though the government is not our customer we have to work closely with them because of the data exchange that that they’re providing us with. I think some of the things that I’ve noticed is just that they’re realizing ‘oh wow, they are here to stay. These scooters are not going anywhere, there’s new things on the horizon and we don’t even know what they are yet but they’re going to be here.’ I think that cities are starting to put plans in place, especially as it relates to curb space and safety and how to accommodate these new versions of transportation.
I think, we as a people are saying I’d rather hop on a scooter to go down the street than get in an Uber and go down the street. We’re we’re as a population making that decision and I think the cities are trying to catch up and say ‘okay if it’s going to be scooters on the street and not cars on the street, how do we make sure that the road is shared? How do we make sure that this is safe?’ In a lot of the parking conversations that I have, which is not just about enforcement, but how is curb space being used? How is parking being used? There’s a lot of conversations about ‘how do we maintain safety for people when they’re using bikes and are using scooters and whatever else is in the mix when they’re not insulated by a car? That’s that’s probably the biggest change I’ve seen.
Also, cities starting to get a little bit more interested in the data that shared mobility has to offer. Cities are now saying ‘what can we learn from those who are using shared mobility?’ You can theorize how we should use the curb space to do this and ‘we need to have the road this wide’ and ‘we should have an extra lane for bikes here.’ But we don’t know how the cars are being used, we don’t know who is using these scooters and these bikes. When shared mobility is exchanging data with the cities, we get safer streets. We get we get safer kind of interaction and I think the cities are now saying ‘pass that over to us, we want to see what you’re doing’. LA is one of the cities that has really made an effort and taken an interest in what we are doing.
3. What are your thoughts on social equity around curb space and shared mobility options?
Shared mobility in my mind, going back to the roots of TIKD, we looked at ourselves as a levelizer. We started with a product that was an easier way to handle a traffic violation ticket, a moving violation issued by a person, which we realized were disproportionately issued to lower income people, to the minority and the same bias we saw on the way they were issued and in the way they were disposed. Minority people paid more in court than white people, just across the board and and so we looked at that and decided it needed to be levelized, it needed to be fair. We created a product that did that and I feel like now you know now we’re in the fleet space, now we’re in a shared mobility space and ride sharing and car sharing, that is a levelizer especially for lower income people. When you can get those vehicles into lower income areas and not only cars but bikes as well, it’s an easier way to get better jobs, better doctors and hospitals, get their kids in better schools because they have the means to make that trip. A lot of times lower income people, they’re in little bubbles and they end up with these long costly commutes on public transportation, switching multiple times and don’t necessarily have a bank account. We’re here in Miami and it has a huge immigrant population and public transportation is so widely used by minorities. Part of the reason for this is because you can pay cash and you can’t use cash to pay for an Uber. So when you have some old phone with a cracked screen and old operating system and not a bank account, you are locked out of all of these opportunities.
I feel like it when it comes to the conversation about curb space something that could bring access to lower income people are mobility kiosks or something along those lines that offer wifi, offer the kind of opportunities that can make your trip easier. I don’t think that lower income communities have the access and also the awareness that these modalities exist.
4. How do you envision what these mobility kiosks will be like?
Somewhere where you can you can order a ride, you can load up an account, put cash into the machine, where there is wifi. You can participate in that space and those can go anywhere especially situated in lower income communities. It’s immediate access, it’s an immediate opportunity and someone who maybe doesn’t have cash and wants to put it their kid in a good school or a mother whose child is in the ICU and can’t get to her child – which happens far too much. This woman could use this kiosk, order in the Uber or Zip Car or whatever the case is, get in the car and see her child.
I think the government needs to bridge that gap. I think the on the topic of equality, Americans, have this individualistic attitude, almost materialistic attitude and owning a car is a thing to be happy about. It’s starting to change, but for a long time public transportation was seen as a second class choice. First class is when you own a nice car and public transportation is seen as this second class choice. I think that American cities haven’t built up that public transportation network that other modalities like carshare has, or scooters or bikes. They can really can build off these and make it an easy rollout and so I think it’s up to government to provide those incentives for everybody. Making sure it’s not just the lower income people subsidizing public transportation – those are the people that are using the buses, those are the people that are using the trains, and meanwhile everyone else is getting in their Porsches and Jaguars which they worked hard for, but we will could levelize this, which really only government can do you, then it becomes I I a truly equitable thing.
5. Public transportation in America has a bit of stigma and a bit of an image problem, whereas Uber has a cool image and so do scooters. Do you think that there is potential for public transit to work together with these companies to create a better image for itself?
Yes I definitely do and I think it’s imperative that they all work together because there’s that stigma and so when you when you can join those things together, you end up with the shared mobility utopian idea. You’re going to use all these things together and there should be no difference between if I want to take a train to get somewhere or I want take an Uber.
If I’m incentivized in some way to do all those things, that either the payment for all of those goes into one thing, then Uber and Lyft and other modalities almost become like para public transport right and they really tie in together. For example you have bus lines that do this, fill in the gaps where other buses don’t go. If we begin to use Uber like it’s public transit and hop on a bird and it’s public transit, and all those modes are identified as public transit, then the idea of a bus being dirty on sticky, or something you use when you don’t have money to get an Uber – all fades away.
I think that this is a government function, the government being on board and cities being on board to say ‘hey guys, this is all the same thing hop anyone and then if you want to take a bus will give you credit for the train and if you take a train will give you credit to hop on a city bike’ or whatever may be the case.
6. What are you thoughts on what shared mobility has done and what can be done with regards to safety for vulnerable population segments?
I’m a single mother and so I recognize that in this day and age the rules are changing, the household structure is changing. There are a lot more single moms than there use to be. I know this intimately but I know a lot of other women who are dealing with this. You’re likely an employed person and you’re also dealing with all the household responsibilities without another partner to off load on. So you are the breadwinner and you have to go to work and then when you get off you have to run by target and get pencils and then you get a run by the grocery store because you’ve got no snacks for tomorrow. You have to make all these things happen and that’s very very challenging right now with those kind of short, down the street modalities like bikes and scooters.
I don’t particularly have any answer. I’ve seen scooters that two people can ride. I don’t know that I would necessarily hop on one of those, my son is 7 and very active and I can just imagine how that would turn out. I feel there is a boom of women taking charge and the roles are changing and things are changing for women in this space. I don’t know that shared mobility has exactly caught up with that, especially for women that are dealing with children. I think the younger your child is the bigger problem is even if you want to hop in an Uber, there’s not gonna be a car seat. I struggled with that even with my 7 year old, you know we do hop in Ubers and I’m buckling him up I’ve got my arm over him to make sure everything’s okay. I think that there has not been that cognizance of what women today are dealing with today. Even if you don’t have children it, it’s different. We are on our own for longer, we’re not getting married as soon and so it’s just a different reality and I don’t know that shared mobility has caught up yet but if it was with me, I’d like some more car seats in Uber.
7. Designers inherently design for themselves. Is it perhaps that we have to many young male professionals designing shared mobility services and they all design for themselves essentially?
I think you’re right and the reason why I think you’re right is because the conferences I attend, the meetings I attend, I’m the only woman in the room. The technological space is a very progressive, forward thinking space and it is still a place where women are not equally represented. I came from Utility Scale Solar, that’s what I did prior and I was of course, the only woman in the room. It was very quantitative energy based, there were a lot of people coming from equities training so I wasn’t surprised I was the only female in the room. But we are a progressive group of people changing mobility whether it’s just because we wholeheartedly, ardently believe insured mobility or because we look at the earth heating up and realize we have a problem and we have to fix this and the biggest impact we can make is using mobility. So whatever kind of your flavour to make changes is, it’s a progressive change. I don’t think that there is enough female input. Things needs to be designed for women especially for women with babies and young children.
8. How do we change it? How do how do we get to a point that there is more female momentum in this industry?
With these interviews, in these talks and starting a conversation and really bringing it to light. Things like having a conversation and acknowledging that we have children, we have to go run in and buy sheets for bed and then go get the groceries and do all of this while we also need to work 8 to 12 hours a day. We have to fulfil these roles and we don’t have the transportation to make that happen. I walk to work every day and during the summer and my son’s camp is on the way. So I would walk him and on hot 90 degree days all I wanted to do was just put him on a scooter and ride. But I couldn’t because he can’t reach the handle bars and sometimes I’ll have my dogs with me and whatever the case, it becomes completely impossible, so we walk.
On the way to the office every day, I wish there was something else. I’m not the person to design that and I know that I’m really good at solving problems that are tangential, like citations, like registrations and I think I’ve nailed that down pretty well and so that’s not me, but I have a lot of peripheral insight, that a person who is a designer and is mined to to say, ‘Hey, I I want to fix this specific problem’ there is that women out there, there is that girl out there and now she just needs to hear this conversation. The more we talk about it, the more we’ll find that girl or group of women who says, ‘wait a second, I know this. I got this.’
9. Is there anything else that you would like to talk about or tell our our viewers?
One thing is the how the dynamic changes in mobility and technology in the automated space has impacted me and I didn’t even realize until I had my Tesla model 3 for a month. One thing I realized is (and this is probably not designed by a women but is a byproduct of women) stopping at gas stations at 10/11 at night, has probably significantly increased my life expectancy and dramatically reduced the chances of me getting robbed at a gas station in the middle of the night.
I think about how much the changing automotive technology has affected me and I look at the advancements that is in that model 3 and I’m just astounded and grateful for this car and I encourage everyone to try it. It’s cool and it’s forward and it makes you feel good to drive, but there are also incredible safety features. It’s affordable too, I didn’t get the $80000 car, you can make a model 3 pretty expensive and that’s not the one I got, but as a woman, I have found that car to be extremely helpful, especially when I’ve got a kid in the back and they’re crying or they need something. You put on the autopilot and now you can deal with your kid and it’s completely changed driving for me entirely. I think that in the age of ‘where is mobility for women?. There is that. I don’t think it was intentional but it’s there.
10. If av and electrification of vehicles is applied right and designed well, do you think it makes a difference to transportation?
I really believe it does. It’s a combination of adopting these new technologies and just, like you said, applying them in really practical ways and telling women especially, these exist for you and these will make your life easier. The fact that I can put it on autopilot and deal with my son when he’s unbuckling himself or doing something crazy in the backseat, I can stop and focus our him and it’s not a disaster, I’m not doing anything unsafe anymore, the car is taking care of me and taking care of me as a single mother which is kind of a by product.
I think the two biggest takeaways I want to put out there is that the technology is there and it’s coming, it’s helpful and we should harness it in these really practical applications and also that the city should be more engaged in this conversation. Cities should be forcing that levelization, they should start to bring Uber and the city bus to the same level so that it’s all accessible. Not just that they are available at the same corner, but that they have the same image. That a bus is no longer viewed as a second class option, it’s just an option for getting around and a part of a full multi modality, which is what really gets us to full shared mobility adoption.
What are your thoughts on the developments in shared mobility that occurred over 2018 and what is to be expected for next year’s developments? What about the future implementation of shared mobility within rural areas? If you would like to be interviewed or to nominate a woman working in Shared Mobility for our next series, get in touch with us here.