Changes Are a Comin’

The Austin Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Mobility Report is the first time we have seen a clear and compelling case for why travel – yours, mine, everyone’s in this region – simply must change. The research in the report, conducted by the Texas A&M University’s Transportation Institute (TTI) for the Chamber, points out that doing nothing means traffic and congestion will get much worse over the next 20 years.

Screen shot 2014-07-23 at 1.10.15 PMBut there is more: even if we build all the improvements we know we have money to build, we will only make a dent in the problem and traffic will still continue to get much worse. The solutions that make the biggest differences and could even lessen traffic depend on one thing… fewer cars trying to get to the same places at the same times.

Helping companies set up telework programs and shift to more flexible work schedules that allow more people to travel outside of rush hours is one solution. An even bigger fix involves helping people to stop driving alone as they find and use options like carpooling, transit, rail, and bicycling. Changing the way we travel will have the biggest impact on our traffic problems – and Movability Austin can help employers and employees explore and use options. But serious structural changes also need to take place. Companies need to allow employees to work from home or work longer hours four days a week. And people need more, and more convenient, travel options.

There are also trends in transportation that are just emerging which may have a huge impact on how all this comes to fruition over the next 20 years, most notably driverless cars.

The prospect of driverless cars, which are already being developed and tested, has drawn a variety of reactions from the auto and tech industries. Some are predicting they will make current trends worse: Toyota officials have said that driverless cars will help increase sprawl and traffic. Others are predicting more radical shifts. Google cofounder Sergey Brin wants us to imagine never needing to own cars. “What if every time we needed a car, we unlocked our smartphones and called for one with a single tap, and as soon as it dropped us off it went off to its next job? We’d need fewer parking lots, reduce our emissions, stop driving drunk, and get in fewer accidents. Those who couldn’t or shouldn’t drive – the blind, the elderly — could still get around. This is the future Brin imagines, one with huge ramifications on everything from the environment to the economy,” an article in The Verge states.

The inventors behind driverless cars aren’t the only ones imagining a future without car ownership. Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford Jr. thinks that’s a reality, too. There won’t be enough roads or parking lots to handle single driver cars, he told the Wall Street Journal.

“Ford has frequently spoken in recent years about the auto industry’s approaching transformation,” an Autobeat Insider article says. “He foresees a $130 billion business opportunity for carmakers willing to turn themselves into “personal mobility” providers. He says the most successful companies in the future will be those that view the vehicles they make as “mobile communications platforms” that are part of a broader network of interacting transportation options.”

What does all this mean? It means that big changes are coming and everyone is guessing at exactly how these changes will turn out. Movability Austin looks forward to helping you make the most of those changes.

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