Recent Stories

Scooters could improve mobility in low-income areas, but they have an image problem

December 5, 2018

Cities around the country are grappling with what transportation planners call "the last mile problem": how to get people who don’t drive from a transit stop to their final destination faster than walking. It’s an especially big issue in low-income neighborhoods where many people don’t own cars and transit service can be spotty.

Dockless electric scooters have emerged as a promising solution, but they still face several barriers to widespread adoption.

For years, Erick Huerta and his Los Angeles group, People for Mobility Justice, have been big fans of bikes as a more affordable alternative to owning a car. They have worked to expand access to public bike sharing with discount programs and community outreach. But Huerta has started to realize traditional docked bikes can only go so far.

"It's a whole process, right?," he said. "They have to remove a parking space. They have to install the system where you have to check it out, and the bikes and all this other stuff. So seeing where the bikes are being placed, it’s super obvious that these are touristy locations."

In his mostly Latino East L.A. neighborhood of Boyle Heights, there are no bike-share stations. But lately, here and there, he has been seeing electric scooters, the zippy devices that have practically taken over wealthier neighborhoods at the beach, more than a dozen miles away...

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Thinking About the “Gaps” in Urban Mobility Research: Susan Shaheen on Data Security, Privacy and Sovereignty

December 2, 2018

Lily Maxwell, smart cities content writer for, interviews Susan Shaheen Ph.D., a pioneer in future mobility strategies. She was among the first to observe, research, and write about changing dynamics in shared mobility and the likely scenarios through which automated vehicles will gain prominence. She is an internationally recognized expert in mobility and the sharing economy.

People talk a lot about data — and in particular, data security, privacy, self-sovereignty, and big data — at the moment. How can the academic and research sector go about collecting data in the right way to make urban mobility more equitable and sustainable?

Susan: The data question is a really important one. First of all, big data are not nearly as “amazing” as they are messy. It helps to know what you are looking for in a big dataset, and you almost always end up discarding a lot of erroneous data.

There are two key fundamental issues at play in private-sector mobility data: first, the proprietary interests of the private sector and second, PII (or the Personal Identifiable Information of the individual). These are both real issues that have to be carefully navigated. These considerations apply to most, if not all, entities working with these data: academics, companies, individuals, and governments.

In research, figuring out how to access and manage sensitive data is something we need to work on. At present, we have to introduce a lot of obscurity to protect privacy and proprietary considerations. In other words, we have to go to higher levels of aggregation in our analysis. This offers benefits but can limit our understanding...

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