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Coordination & Mobility Management

Mobility management is about moving people, not vehicles.  Mobility management programs are varied throughout the country, and you, as a transit manager, may operate a mobility management program out of your transit system or you may belong to a group of organizations that works with an independent mobility management program.  While the services mentioned in the previous section are more standard service types, shrinking resources have caused communities to think about transportation in new ways.  In order to do this, you will have to look beyond the traditional model for providing transit service and inventory of all of the resources in your community.  You will also have to reconsider any reliance on separate modes, funding silos, and protected use of assets.  This is especially important for transporting individuals with special needs such as older adults, children and students, people with disabilities and lower income people.  This section will explore how coordination/mobility management is helping communities think outside the box when addressing mobility issues. 

Mobility management is an eligible capital expense under 5311 funding (with an 80% federal share), but this excludes operating expenses.  FTA also expects that public transportation systems that receive 5311 program funding must “participate in the local planning process for coordinated public transit-human service transportation in those areas applying for funds under Sections 5310, 5316, or 5317” (FTA Circular 9040.1F)  The State will certify compliance with this coordination requirement for you. 

To read more about the eligible expenses or coordination requirements under Section 5311, see FTA Circular 9040.1G, Nonurbanized Area Formula Program Guidance and Grant Application Instructions.

 

Mobility management


Ron Barnes, Chair of the APTA Mobility Management Committee, defines mobility management in the following ways:

 

  • It focuses on moving people by utilizing all mobility services in the community. 
     
  • It replaces the business strategy of exclusively focusing on the buses and facilities that you, as a transit system, own to one that includes partnerships and alliances among multiple transportation providers. 
     
  • It relies on building partnerships with all providers and organizations in the community whether they are public, private, for-profit or not-for-profit. 
     
  • Most importantly, it emphasizes multi-modal trips rather than single-mode trips. 

He also recommends six dimensions of change needed to move toward mobility management: 

Mission shift:  From ‘capacity provider’ to ‘mobility manager’
Customer focus:  On the quality of the customers’ travel experience 
Collaboration:  Across modes, agencies, programs,jurisdictions 
Integration:  Of facilities, equipment, systems,services, functions, processes, resources 
“Info-structure”:  About universal fares, real-time info,joint scheduling and dispatching, unified accounts, etc. 
Organizational Structure:  Distinguishing strategic from operational responsibilities, new/reorganized functions, units, skills 

Ron Barnes’ full presentation, given during the "Mobility Management: Not Your Traditional Transit Operation" session at the 1st Technical Assistance and Tribal Transit Program Conference and Roadeo, can be found here.

Researchers at the Texas Transportation Institute developed the following overarching goals for mobility management based on the U.S.Department of Transportation (USDOT) transit themes of policy, safety,accessibility, sustainability, equity, coordination and livability:  

 

  • Focus on the individual 
  • Improve coordination 
  • Promote accessibility and livability 
  • Greater diversity of products and services 
  • Foster education and awareness 
  • Promote financial sustainability 
  • Ensure safety and security 

These dimensions of change and goals can be used to assist you in creating goals for your agency’s mobility management program. To read more about these goals, please see the full report here.

 

Mobility Managers


According to United We Ride, “Mobility managers serve as policy coordinators,operations service brokers, and customer travel navigators.  As policy coordinators, mobility managers help communities develop coordination plans, programs and policies, and build local partnerships.  They also work to promote land-use policies that favor transit-oriented development, public transportation, and pedestrian access. As brokers, they coordinate transportation services among all customer groups, service providers and funding agencies. And, as travel navigators, they work with human service agencies and/or workforce centers that coordinate the travel and trip planning needs of individuals who receive human service program assistance.” 

 

If you are considering implementing a mobility management program in your community, United We Ride also recommends the following key steps:  

 

  • Developing an inventory of available services 
  • Identifying customer needs 
  • Developing strategies to meet needs 
  • Coordinating financial and other resources 
  • Improving coordination through transportation brokerage systems 
  • Training staff and volunteers 
  • Promoting the use of innovative technologies, services and other methods to improve customer service and coordination 
  • Developing customer information and trip planning systems 

For more information, please see the United We Ride Mobility Management brochure (quote above taken from this source).
 

Tips from the Trade


Jason Kelly, Mobility Management Planner with the Northern Arizona Council of Governments, shared the following thoughts on the role of the mobility manager, how to identify stakeholders and bring them to the table, how to keep stakeholders involved, and how to facilitate communication between all partners. 

 

 

The mobility manager
Mr. Kelly, as a mobility manager, wears several different ‘hats’ as he works to build successful partnerships:

 

 

1.  Coach/Mentor
2.  Champion/Captain
3.  Technical Advisor 
4.  Sounding Board to Providers
5.  Planner 
6.  Artist/Salesman 
7.  Moderator/Facilitator 

Facilitating conversations between groups of people with varying needs and interests, getting buy-in from stakeholders, and implementing plans for a new paradigm of providing service requires skills from each of the 'characters' above.  The mobility manager's role changes and evolves with the process.

Identifying stakeholders and bringing them to the table
The Northern Arizona Council of Governments first reached out to those stakeholders who were in direct contact with and provided transportation to passengers.  These included public, social and human service providers, veterans and case managers.  Their next wave of outreach included local champions representing constituents, such as government officials.  The last group they reached out to was private providers.  When reaching out to this group, the need to show the benefits of the partnership to the private providers was greater than when they had reached out to other groups of stakeholders.   

When reaching out to all stakeholders, the Northern Arizona Council of Governments used simple electronic and paper invitations, and meeting over snacks or a meal worked as a good incentive to get people to the table.  They held individual meetings to learn about programs and services and develop relationships with key stakeholders.  They also held sub-region meetings that were localized to a particular area in order to generate more tangible, realistic success for coordination (in Arizona’s northern rural territory, clusters of communities create sub-regions).  At a macro level, they also conducted regional meetings which comprised all stakeholders.      

Facilitating communication and keeping stakeholders engaged
Mr. Kelly maintains frequent contact with stakeholders through individual meetings or phone calls.  Not only is this a way for his organization to keep track of what each stakeholder is working on, but it also shows that he is actively aware of their concerns.  By posturing itself as a ‘technical assistance’ resource, the Northern Arizona Council of Governments is able to help stakeholders navigate through issues while building a strong relationship with each stakeholder.  While he is maintaining these one-on-one relationships with the players involved, Mr. Kelly is also conducting quarterly group meetings at which all stakeholders are present.  Between these quarterly in-person meetings, Mr. Kelly utilizes email and phone contact to keep the energy alive until the group can get together again.   

When stakeholders are brought together for conversations, Mr. Kelly always closes the meeting by recapping the discussion, identifying action items (if any), and requesting what is expected of him by the next meeting.  Having all stakeholders agree on these issues at the end of the conversation provides closure until the next meeting and also communicates that all parties are working toward a common goal.  During these conversations, it is also important for the mobility manager to determine stakeholder expectations through acute and active listening.  By actively listening, the mobility manager is able to determine each stakeholder’s ‘What’s in it for me?’ position, and this serves as a trigger for how they can be brought into the fold.

Lastly, Mr. Kelly shares that inactivity is stifling to progress.  Therefore, follow up and even the smallest successes are important.  When dealing with a complex issue, break it down into tangible, manageable items that can be addresses one at a time.  This approach will keep the energy of the project moving by allowing the group to successfully complete a large project one item at a time.   

 

Performance measures


Transit agencies, as recipients of government funding, are expected to show the impact the funds have had on their services and the community.  This information is usually collected through a system of performance measures, but because each mobility management program is so unique there are few to no standard performance measures that a transit agency could use to assess their programs.  It is important to understand that traditional transit performance measures will not accurately reflect the impact a mobility management program has had on a system and community.  Recognizing the lack of performance measures for mobility management programs, the Texas Transportation Institute has put together a menu of guidelines that transit agencies can use to assess the success of their programs and report this information to grantors and other stakeholders. 

 

Each mobility management program is as specialized as the area it serves– no two mobility management programs will be the same.  However, while the implementation of the programs might be very different, they are all working toward similar goals.  Because of this, researchers of the Texas Transportation Institute found that the “goals of mobility management are universally the same, but the objectives, outcomes, and measures for mobility management may vary based on the scope of the program and the operating environment.” 

As the report states, “there are many faces of mobility management, so it is important not to limit new considerations and program ideas!”
 
To read the full report and to view the menu of guidelines, please click here.
 

Case Study – Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Ithaca, NY 


The text for this section was taken directly from an APTA web feature on TCAT.  For the full text, please see the link to APTA’s web feature below.

Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Inc. (TCAT) is a not-for-profit corporation that provides public transportation throughout Ithaca and Tompkins County.  Basic fixed route transit service and rural demand responsive services are operated by Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, a merger of three local systems reorganized as a private non-profit transportation corporation in 2005.  TCAT transports nearly 4 million passengers every year covering a distance of 1.7 million miles.  The fleet of 55 buses currently includes 8 hybrid-electric diesel buses.  TCAT also contracts with Gadabout Transportation to provide ADA Complementary Paratransit service.

For TCAT, mobility management is a well-recognized function that is guided jointly by the county Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Ithaca Tompkins County Transportation Council (ITCTC), bringing together a wide variety of service providers under an equally wide variety of institutional arrangements to fill mobility gaps.  Other partners include Ithaca College, Tompkins County Community College, the Department of Social Services, as well as private paratransit, taxi and other service providers. 

Aside from a long-standing commitment to interagency collaboration and the joint leadership provided by ITCTC and DSS, three core strategies have been at the heart of the effort to manage mobility across the Tompkins County:

 

 

  1. A willingness to establish joint ‘coalitions’ to assess and address evolving, unmet transportation needs or “mobility deficits,” as they are recognized; 
     
  2. The creation of non-profit organizations to guide specific services and solutions arising out of coalition planning efforts directed by boards, typically with wide-ranging public, institutional and private sector participation; and 
     
  3. The knowledge, ability and willingness to share and coordinate all available funding sources to support the full range of mobility initiatives and delivery schemes. 

Among the services, programs and initiatives currently underway are:

 

  • Regular TCAT fixed route bus and rural demand response (DR) services;
  • Contracted paratransit services for ADA and non-ADA eligible users (“Gadabout” service);
  • Contracted “CityVan” subsidized taxi services;
  • Contracted ridesharing services through ZimRide, overseen by the Tompkins Rideshare Consortium;
  • Ithaca Car-share, a locally owned and operated non-profit car sharing organization;
  • FISH Volunteer Driver Support Program;
  • Women’s Opportunity Center Taxi Voucher program;
  • DSS “Wheels for Work” car loan program;
  • Cornell University Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs; and
  • The “Way2Go” coordinated travel training and education program serving users as well as county and provider staff, operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.

As you can see from this example, many stakeholders in the community were brought together to find solutions for mobility issues, and without this collaboration, the wide breadth of services that TCAT and its partners now provide would not be possible.

To see APTA’s feature on TCAT, please click here (italicized text in section taken from this source). For more information on the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit system, please click here and here.
 

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