Buses, Trains, Pods, Shuttles, Bikes, Pathways, Planes, Autos….It’s All About Mobility!
With the New Year comes resolutions, and one of my resolutions is to return to writing this blog. I am committed in 2018 to more regularly post about County Connection and about the public transportation industry in general.
I believe 2018 will be an exciting year for the public transportation industry. Across the country we are seeing a growing interest in public transportation. But not just any public transportation. The growing interest is in how we can leverage and take advantage of transportation technologies to deliver more sustainable and effective forms of public transportation that not only uses technology where it makes the most sense, but also in ways to best keep pace with our rapidly changing world. I agree we should benefit from technology advances, but we also must make sure that our core mission remains intact. To me, that core mission is providing an opportunity for those who can’t or do not want to drive with a basic level of service to get around.
In fact, I would say that this core mission needs to broaden beyond traditional public transportation. Public transportation should be about providing efficient bus, rail, or paratransit* services, but it also should play a role in ensuring that ALL people in our society have full mobility. Mobility is the ability to be where you need or want to be when you want or need to be there. I would say that mobility is necessary for complete freedom and is necessary for a more fulfilling life.
Mobility is served by walking, bicycle riding, running, driving, sharing rides, buses, trains, boats, planes, phones, the internet, etc. Throughout our history, mobility in all of its forms (even horses!) has been challenged by congestion and pollution. If we do not want congestion or pollution to overtake our mobility, and thus our freedom, we need to continue to find better ways of creating and supplying mobility. This is where the pursuit for autonomous zero-emission vehicles is capturing the imagination of so many people. Ensuring we all have mobility is why public transportation needs to be working hand-in-hand in these innovative areas. As an industry, public transportation will be needed well into the future and it is vital we transition to where the technology is going, not for the sake of the technology itself, but for the sake of optimal mobility through flexible transportation options.
With these transition challenges in front of us, County Connection has put into service four all electric buses and plans to introduce four more into service later this year. While battery-electric propulsion buses are still not developed to the point where they need to be, these eight buses will give County Connection a good foundation to build upon as we pursue electrification in the future.
In addition, early this spring, County Connection will introduce a small pilot project in the Alamo Creek area just east of Danville. This project will test the introduction of shared mobility transportation concepts used in public transportation. In short, we will be using a smartphone app that will allow customers to schedule a curbside pickup using a small County Connection vehicle. This demand response type service will be available within the Alamo Creek defined area to take users back and forth to the Walnut Creek BART Station. Thus, this service will have many of same features as an Uber or Lyft service. As we get closer to implementation of this pilot project, I will dedicate a blog to this topic alone.
These are just two new ways in which County Connection – like many public transit operators across the country – will be adapting, updating, and evolving their services in order to continue to provide mobility to a society that is built around good and accessible mobility options.
* Paratransit is transportation for people with disabilities who are unable to use regular, fixed-route transit services.