Exploring Future Mobility Options

In Saint Paul, we want you to have choices. That’s why we offer a number of ways to get around that are both cost efficient and reliable. By using bus, light rail, bikes or walking you can find a simple and safe way to get to your destination.

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Urban Transportation Fellow

In a nod to the rapidly changing world of transportation, the City of Saint Paul is increasing its focus on emerging transportation modes and technologies. These include include existing modes such as  ride sharing and  bike sharing, as well as futuristic ideas and technologies that are still being developed, including autonomous vehicles. In 2018, Saint Paul Public Works was one of more than 40 government entities (including City of Minneapolis) to be awarded for a FUSE Corps Fellow. Julie Sell, the city's new Urban Transportation Fellow, will conduct research, develop curriculum and forge relationships with the private sector to develop a comprehensive strategy to modernize and improve mobility in the City of Saint Paul. Her position is supported by a grant from the McKnight Foundation and Transportation for America.

"As part of a national network of FUSE Fellows, I’m working with Saint Paul Public Works leadership and key advisors in the Mayor’s Office to help the city identify opportunities and prepare for the future of transportation mobility," said Julie. "My overarching aim is to contribute to the city’s planning for a future transportation system. Much of my initial focus is on interacting with external stakeholders in this community and beyond. I will also identify model pilots and projects in other cities that might be applicable to our Saint Paul community."

Why Are We Looking to the Future?

A number of reasons prompted the City of Saint Paul to apply for this special fellowship, including demographic growth that will strain current infrastructure, rapidly changing technology and mobility options, growing concerns about climate change, and the need for sustainability. Transportation sounds like a technical topic, and in many ways it is. There are plenty of talented engineers and planners working on the technical aspects of this issue, designing and maintaining roads, bridges and sidewalks that will last for many years.

The focus of the urban transportation fellow is complementary, but slightly different. "I’m approaching transportation as a means of connecting people, organizations, and communities – within the city and beyond. Part of this involves an exploration of new mobilities, that is, modes of transport that are enabled by digital technology, shared and/or driven by real-time data, and often provide curb-to-curb transportation," explained Julie. "Right now you can use an app on your phone to plan a bus route, order a ride on Uber or Lyft, or unlock a dockless bike or scooter. Some of the questions I will explore include which of these modes make sense for our community and what might be the 'next steps?' What other modes have yet to be widely be deployed, or even invented? To what extent are these mobilities making our lives, work, communities and organizations better, safer, more equitable and/or prosperous? Given these opportunities, how can the city prepare for, evaluate and integrate them most effectively?"

Project Outcomes

Intended outcomes expected by the third quarter of 2019 include: 
Strategic plan: map the current mobility landscape, identify opportunities and models 
Pilots: identify potential partnerships and sources of funding 
Curriculum: information-sharing with colleagues in preparation for future growth

Project Team

Kathy Lantry, Director of Public Works, City of Saint Paul (Click here for a Q & A with Kathy Lantry)
Paul Kurtz, City Engineer, City of Saint Paul 
Russ Stark, Chief Resilience Officer, City of Saint Paul 
Tarek Tomes, Chief Innovation Officer, City of Saint Paul 
Transportation for America

Frequently Asked Questions About Mobility

Q: What are Transportation Network Companies? 
A: Also known as mobility service providers (MSPs) or ride-hailing services, they match passengers with drivers via websites and mobile apps. TNCs operating in and around the city include Uber and Lyft. These companies differ from taxi companies in that they cannot pick up passengers attempting to hail them on the street. Within St. Paul, TNCs are regulated by the Department of Safety and Inspections, which has an application process, and the City Council’s Legislative Code.  

Q: What are Emerging Mobility Services and Technologies?
A: In San Francisco, a leader in the changing mobility landscape, the San Francisco County Transportation Agency (SFCTA) defines an emerging mobility service or technology as something that automates three or more of the following services (www.sfcta.org/emerging-mobility/FAQ): 

  • Driving 
  • Routing 
  • Reservations/orders 
  • Vehicle tracking 
  • Billing 
  • Customer feedback 
  • Matching/sharing 
  • Crowd-sourced routing 
  • (Un)locking 

Examples of such services include ride-sharing (eg. Uber and Lyft), bike sharing and electric scooters. 

Q: What agencies are studying Emerging Mobility Services and Technologies? 
A: A variety of local, regional, state and federal agencies are involved. In addition to the city, these include Metro Transit, MnDOT, and various NSF-funded departments at the University of Minnesota. 

Q: What are the City Guiding Principles for Emerging Mobility Services and Technologies? 
A: The city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan identified a series of goals and guiding principles for transportation. These include: 
Investment that reflects the City’s priorities (prioritize safety and equity benefits in project selection, followed by support of quality full-time, living wage jobs; ensure well-maintained infrastructure that benefits the most people; design right-of-way with pedestrians and bicyclists at top of the hierarchy above transit and other vehicles; significantly reduce carbon emissions from motor vehicles by developing infrastructure that supports vehicle electrification). 

  • Safety and accessibility for all users 
  • A transportation system that supports access to employment and economic opportunity 
  • True transportation choice throughout the city, with a shift from single-occupant vehicles toward other modes 
  • Sustainable and equitable maintenance models 
  • Environmentally sustainable design 
  • Functional and attractive parkways 
  • A system that responds to technology and shapes its implementation 

Q: What are the differences between shared mobility and new mobility? 
A: According to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, which recently issued a report on the steps necessary to prepare for new mobilities, defines shared mobility as “the idea that transportation services, such as transit, bike sharing, scooters, ridesharing, on-demand services, micro transit and other modes of transportation, could be shared among users.” 

The City of Seattle, widely seen as a leader in adoption of new transportation and technology approaches, defines new mobility as: “emerging elements of our transportation system that are enabled by digital technology, shared, driven by real-time data, and often providing curb-to-curb transportation.” (www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-program) The idea, as implemented in Seattle, is to offer transportation as a customizable and on-demand service. This allows residents, workers and visitors to book and pay for various transport modes as they proceed with their journeys.