Integrating Modes

TAFor years, the US has focused on one mode: the automobile.  Recently, we’ve seen more investment being made in “livability” initiatives – making places nicer to walk, bike, and linger in.  We’re also seeing new investment in transit projects through things like the Federal New Starts Program and individual municipalities’ own local option sales taxes. While this inertia in alternative mode-specific investment is important and is likely a cause of an increase in alternative mode use, little attention seems to be paid to the integration and overlap of these modes, an area that has the potential to significantly decrease reliance on the automobile.

Most people’s trips involve at least two modes (often automobile + walking some short distance).  In cities, these two modes are often transit and walking, biking and walking, or driving and transit.  The way these two (or three of four) stages of a commute or other trip integrate, I think, can have a huge impact on attracting new users to transit or to bicycling.

The European Union must also see this potential.  They’ve already compiled a lot of information into an interactive website that links users to various country-specific multimodal journey planners, which in Europe include everything from rail to air to ferry to transit to car and to cycling modes.  On top of this, though, the European Commission on Mobility and Transport has launched a challenge to collect ideas for a more comprehensive multimodal journey planner for the whole union.

This call for solutions highlights the fact that modal integration is important at all scales – from the national down to the local – in personal transportation decisions.  As recent evidence shows, one of the key pieces of this integration is information.  When people have better information, they make better choices, and this information is in large part enabled by several new tech tools we have already seen or will continue to be developed in the months and years to come.

- Terra Curtis