The Top 5 Ways We Move
Updated: Mar 31
There are numerous barriers preventing equity in today’s transportation system. To understand what these barriers are and how they could be solved, we first need to know learn the language used to explain how we move. Often, the gap between services and destinations is the barrier that prevents people from having access to social services, job opportunities, schools, and much more.
1. Personal Vehicles
Owning a vehicle provides the freedom to travel wherever and whenever you want. The ability to drive with such freedom expands our opportunities to more jobs, schools, services, and hobbies. Perhaps more importantly vehicles provide us the ability to experience other cultures and communities outside our own. One major drawback of car ownership is the price tag. According to AAA, the average operating (fuel, maintenance, repairs, tires) and ownership (license, insurance, registration, taxes) of a vehicle is a little over $5,000 for every 15,000 miles driven. For comparison, twelve 31-Day Bus Passes from Tulsa Transit cost only $540.
2. Public Transit
Most major cities in the Unites States have a public transit system ranging from bus lines, train cars, subway systems, and ferries. Interestingly, ferries were one of the first systems of public transportation going all the way back to ancient times as noted in Greek mythology with Charon who was the ferryman of Hades. While the public transportation system has advanced, many still feel it is a hellish commute (pun intended).
A blaring shortcoming of public transportation is traveling on a pre-set schedule. Since most public transportation systems are underfunded, the availability for frequent stops, close transit stations, and walkable transfers are limited. Access to convenient, dependable, and safe transportation should not be exclusive to those who can afford to drive a personal vehicle. Yet in the last few decades, funding for public transportation has gone by the wayside. In his book, Better Buses Better Cities: How to Plan, Run, and Win the Fight for Effective Transit, author Steven Higashide notes, “Highways get roughly four of every five federal transportation dollars. States have broad authority and large budgets to widen roads, while cities that hope to improve transit typically must navigate competitive, multistep federal grant programs, convince citizens to vote to raise local taxes, or both.” While public transportation is being paid for by the entire community, there is a lack of advocacy to advance the system to better serve those who use it.
3. Transportation Network Companies (TNC)
Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) connect drivers using a personal vehicle to customers who order a prearranged ride through online platforms, such as a smartphone app. The most commonly known TNCs are Uber and Lyft who have paved the way for app-based ride services since 2009. These companies have recreated the way in which urban dwellers commute and socialize. The clearest limitation to using a TNC is the need for both a smart phone and an account that requires a credit card. This pushes out many individuals who are unable to hail a ride due to low-income, limited resources, or lack of training on how to use the technology required. This is where non-profit TNCs, like Modus, have come into play to revolutionize the way this mode of transportation is taking over. Modus partners with social service agencies to provide curb-to-curb rides for their clients who face transportation barriers like not owning a smartphone or having consistent internet access. As we continue to grow, Modus will become a key player in providing transportation solutions to those who most need it.
The sudden appearance of electric scooters and bicycles happened overnight a couple of years ago. These small single-rider vehicles scooters, bikes, and other electric or manual powered vehicles that weigh less than 1,100 lbs. are part of what is called micro-mobility. While Tulsa has welcomed these new environmental conscious modes of transportation not all urban cities have opened their arms to this new way of transportation. Some cities cite safety concerns and the lack of cohesive laws as reasons not to engage yet. The trends of micro-mobility use have almost doubled in the last year, partly due to COVID-19 restricting share-rides. Are tiny single-rider vehicles the future of urban travel? Perhaps for commutes less than a mile long, but until the standards of legislation and road use are more commonly agreed upon, we will leave this mode of travel to only short distances.
5. Walking is Transportation Too!
Walking is overlooked as a legitimate form of commuting, but it is integrated into every other system of transportation. The transportation industry uses the term “the last mile” to describe the commute from a transportation service station to the final destination. While not common in most of the USA, walking can be a chosen form of transportation to those who live in cities with a high walkability score. Walkability scores rate residential areas on how easily one can walk as a method of transportation. For example, on a scale of 0-100, Tulsa has a walkability of just 39, making it a car-centric city. The advantages of walking are numerous: it is essentially free, leaves little to no environmental footstep, and is a healthy habit for both body and mind. Walking as a way of commuting has become more difficult because of the ways in which communities have been built. Massive highways, expansive parking lots and other car-serving infrastructures make walking commutes longer distances as buildings have been spaced further apart.
Future of Transportation
These five modes of transportation will continue to change and evolve as innovative technologies and policies are developed. A growing number of new transportation methods, like autonomous, shared, or electric vehicles could transform transportation entirely. As we move forward in finding better ways to use current transportation systems and build new ones, there will always need to be advocates speaking up against the barriers preventing some communities from having access to equitable transportation.