This month, we spoke with Sharon Feigon exclusively for our new format of Women in Shared Mobility. Sharon Feigon is Founder and Executive Director of Shared-Use Mobility Center, a public-interest nonprofit working to create a multimodal transportation system for all. With their piloting programs, ongoing research in the shared mobility industry, and expertise for policy and technical areas, SUMC is an excellent resource for everyone working in shared mobility and one we at movmi have gained insights from regularly.
Women in Shared Mobility: 2018 developments, expectations for next year and social equity in rural areas
Sharon feigon, shared-use mobility center
1. WHAT were the most unexpected developments in shared mobility in 2018?
There was a lot happening in shared mobility in 2018, how much and how fast everything developed was surprising, particularly the scooter sharing. Scooter sharing took off this year and grew in so many places. It was very interesting that the cities got on the scooter sharing trend quickly, seemingly learning from the Uber and Lyft experiences that overwhelmed them in the past. The cities then set some boundaries and figured out how to slow down and manage the growth of scooter share.
2. WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE BIGGEST DEVELOPMENTS IN THE YEAR AHEAD FOR SHARED MOBILITY?
I think we will continue to see an evolution of new technology, and making the scooters more car-like. The light vehicles, golf cart type vehicles, which have been being pushed for years against people thinking it may never happen. Now it may actually happen! One of the things we are most excited about is the idea of combining public transit with the social (human) service transit such as senior vans, and really integrating these two modes of transport, which seems to be moving. I think this will open up new areas we haven’t even thought about yet.
3. IN TERMS OF SOCIAL EQUITY, WILL SHARED MOBILITY EVER EXPAND TO MORE RURAL AREAS?
I think shared mobility will expand to rural areas, in fact, it already is. People who live in rural areas and their lifestyle goes against what we know works for shared mobility in terms of density. The technology that allows us to create algorithms in order to optimize trip planning and be able to offer mobility on demand can work really well in rural areas. In addition, peer to peer carsharing, where people can make their vehicles available to others, and Uber-like offerings are valid in rural areas.
I think we are going to see the growth in all of these services in rural areas. Because we have an aging population living in rural areas as well as a lot of poverty, these facts converge with the need to increase the options in these areas so people don’t have to be reliant on the costs of owning a personal vehicle.
We are currently working on some pilot projects that are interesting and located in rural areas, particularly in the Central Valley of California. One of them just recently launched with a set of vehicles driven by longstanding members of the community that are able to provide rides to their neighbours, and people are very excited about these new options.
Another area that is emerging is this idea of transit agencies becoming mobility managers; this is our passion at Shared-Use Mobility Center, to transform the way that cities and transit agencies operate and create a more holistic system to expand opportunity for everyone.
About the Interviewee
Sharon is a founder and the executive director of the Shared-Use Mobility Center, a non-profit public-interest organization working to foster collaboration in shared mobility and help connect the growing industry with transit agencies, cities and communities across the nation. As executive director, Sharon leads SUMC’s work, which includes conducting innovative research around the impacts of shared mobility, developing pilot projects to test shared mobility strategies, and providing advice and technical assistance to cities and regions in order to help extend the benefits of shared mobility for all. SUMC was also recently awarded a contract to develop the Innovation Knowledge Accelerator in partnership with the Federal Transit Administration to assist cities undertaking Mobility on Demand projects.
Sharon was previously the CEO of IGO Carsharing, the nonprofit organization that started carsharing in the Chicago region. Under Sharon’s leadership, IGO grew from a small pilot project into a successful operating company with 15,000 members in 45 neighborhoods. Sharon worked with the Chicago Transit Authority to create the only combined car-share/transit fare card in North America, which continues to serve as a model for the possibilities between shared-use companies and public transit. She led IGO’s expansion into underserved communities and also developed solar canopies and charging stations that helped introduce renewable charging and mobility hubs to the region.
Prior to taking the helm at IGO, Sharon was the Director of Research & Development at the Center for Neighborhood Technology for more than a decade. She was the Principal Investigator for Combating Global Warming Through Sustainable Surface Transportation and was the lead author of TCRP Report 93: Travel Matters: Mitigating Climate Change with Sustainable Surface Transportation. Before that, Sharon coordinated CNT’s Transit-Oriented Development Program and was one of the authors of The New Transit Town.
Sharon was a founder of the national Carsharing Association and has served as Co-Chair of the Transportation Research Board’s Shared Vehicle Committee and as a member of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED-ND Committee, which created LEED standards for neighborhood developments. She holds an MBA from DePaul University and a BA in Economics from Antioch College.
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 social equity matters related to mobility? 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.