Ford Bus Service: The Mobility Paradox for Cities
By John Kwant
Ford City Solutions
Here’s the reality: People keep moving to cities because they offer a wealth of cultural and entertainment options, places to eat, and a variety of ways to connect with others. It’s no surprise people want to move to places that provide fun and exciting things to do.
Half the world’s population lives in cities, a number we believe will top 60 percent in the coming decades. The increasing population means urban areas are struggling with transportation and infrastructure challenges to manage the sheer number of individuals needing to get around every day. Moreover, when people move to a city, they bring an ecosystem that supports and supplies their needs, including delivery services.
But people moving into cities is not the problem. Despite increasing populations, cities aren’t becoming larger, nor are they necessarily adding roads. Because the amount of space a city has is finite, adding an influx of single-occupancy cars to an already congested landscape creates more gridlock and frustration, and thus a greater need for transportation alternatives.
Last September, Ford created a City Solutions team to help analyze and solve urban transportation problems. Since then, we have been listening and talking to cities to identify potential solutions that fit into an existing transit infrastructure to move people around more efficiently and comfortably. Our team is working to accommodate urban development by making cities healthier and improving productivity.
Working with Cities to Help People Get Around
We’re working with cities around the world, listening to the specific issues they face. We’re committed to delivering solutions that make sense for everybody, and part of that includes Chariot — the shuttle service we’re launching in Seattle.
Ford’s Vice President of City Solutions John Kwant was joined by Seattle’s leading thinkers, creators, builders, policy-makers and entrepreneurs at the World Trade Center Seattle for a conversation on the city’s mobility future
Seattle marks the third market for Chariot. We’re launching there with its enterprise commuter shuttle service, which serves companies wanting to provide transportation solutions to their employees — from last-mile service, to and from Park & Rides and transit hubs, to providing direct service to and from underserved neighborhoods.
It’s vital employers and city government work together to start the conversation on transportation options, and our City Solutions team is engaging with companies to facilitate those conversations. Workers live and play in the city, and as companies increasingly commit to shrinking their commuter footprint, their input is key to making shared commutes more attractive. While some companies already provide a mobility benefit, we see this as a perk to be widely encouraged.
In Seattle, residents have chosen to move away from the solo commute, with ridership on King County’s Metro system growing. In 2016, the system ferried passengers on a record 122 million trips. Meanwhile, all transit agencies in the county serviced 163 million trips, marking a 17 percent increase since 2010. Despite the transit gains, Seattle is home to the 10th-worst traffic in the country, with residents stuck on the road for nearly 55 hours a year.
Chariot will offer Seattle residents an additional option for commuting to work. Its shuttles can hold significantly more commuters than a typical single-passenger vehicle, with the same physical and carbon footprint, and it’s a fast, reliable and affordable transportation alternative. Going forward, we’d like to see Chariot become available to a larger population of commuters.
Public transit continues to have an important role in the urban commuting environment. We see shuttles as a meaningful way of easing the burden on a transportation infrastructure that’s challenged by increased ridership. Shuttle services can help ensure smooth operation of the entire system.
The goal of transit is simple: to move people from point A to point B. Ford is looking to collaborate with local government, transit authorities and other experts to figure out the best way to do that — whether it means operating independently, coordinating directly with public transit or working with companies to offer alternatives.
From ride hailing and ride sharing to increased ridership on subways and buses, we know people want mobility alternatives. At Ford, we see our job as helping to make that happen, while developing a transportation ecosystem that’s as healthy and efficient as possible. It’s important to help make our cities as vibrant and livable as possible as they grow.