Is it time TDM had an image makeover? While we cherish our custodianship of GHG reduction, health promotion and active transportation like some sort of CSR team for the transportation industry, with few exceptions, we aren't taken seriously when the big money decisions are taken.
The timing is perfect, the shift towards mobility services is creating turmoil in traditional transportation planning because never before has the threat to public transit as we know it, been so existential. City bikes, car sharing, ride-sourcing, micro-transit and ultimately automated taxis are seen by many as setting the scene for a series of adapt-or-perish decisions by transit agencies.
Consider also that within 2-3 years, multiple cities will have service providers offering monthly or pay-as-you-go contracts covering multiple modes (transportation-as-a-service or TaaS). The opportunity here is to influence the necessary legislative framework for taxation and for this revenue to flow back to the public agencies that will be providing the infrastructure, if not the services. Where there is a taxation mechanism there is an opportunity to create a tariff structure based on policy. This means TDM could become choice architects and decouple vehicle ownership from mobility by defining credits for cycling or sharing, levying premiums on solo peak time driving and designing concessions.
New terminology is already entering the lexicon, 'Integrated Mobility' and 'Mobility Management' are not necessarily new, EPOMM (European Platform on Mobility Management) has been existence since 1997, but the meaning is evolving fast. In North America especially, cities are scrambling to be 'smart' and mobility management is beginning to represent the technical rather than the behavioural aspects of transportation. TDM needs to reclaim this emerging field based on hard-earned skills in the field working between private and public agencies and adapting to all sorts of opportunities.
My hope is that soon governments will start establishing mobility watchdogs, let's use the UK phraseology and call it The Office on Mobility or OFFMOB. OFFMOB would be responsible for the taxation and financial framework necessary to manage the business of mobility. It would enact policy through taxation of these services and be able to reinvest hypothecated revenue to support research, innovation and service subsidies not likely through commercial development alone. OFFMOB could lead a root and branch review of the role and definition of public transit, creating new agencies, and placing more risk (and reward) in the private sector to operate regulated services while protecting public interest by retaining the infrastructure assets.
OFFMOB would be a place where TDM would come out of the shadows to be the real business of transportation planning in a world where transportation is in your pocket.