Accelerating Our Climate Progress One "Share" At A Time

Screenshot 2015-03-04 19.09.01.png

Reflections on the Live.Ride.Share Conference

California's carbon pollution and climate change goals are the most aggressive in the world, calling for 30% less GHG by 2020 and 80% less by 2050. During last week's Live.Ride.Share conference, I asked the audience to wonder with me: "What if we all took some form of shared mobility service rather than driving alone JUST ONE DAY A WEEK?" California could make tremendous progress towards these goals TOMORROW.

Sharon Feigon of the Shared-Use Mobility Center (SUMC) called for setting a goal of removing 100,000 cars from LA roadways over the next 5 years. Obviously, I support that goal but wonder if we want to dream even bigger. Some conference attendees asserted that we should challenge ourselves to eliminate half the cars in Southern California. I look forward to analyzing what it would take to remove 1 MILLION cars off the road in five years in California through shared mobility, transit, active transportation, and land use. That may sound ambitious. But I believe the emerging shared-mobility industry, smart technologies and shifting preferences, coupled with all the progress underway through California's sustainable communities law SB 375 are opening up dramatic new opportunities to create a more efficient transportation system.



The CEO of Lyft was quoted last year in Governing magazine as predicting shared mobility would cut car ownership in half in ten years. It's a bold vision and I'd love to hear from others about whether or not you think this is realistic - or just pie-sharing in the sky.

These goals would not just dramatically help our carbon pollution problems, improve our air quality, and continue to cut the great costs of congestion - they would offer an additional, tremendous boost to our regional economy. The shared economy is already a $30 Billion market according to Forbes. How much of that can we bring home to LA?



By now you can see why our Live.Ride.Share conference was trending on Twitter by lunch.

Apparently so many people were tweeting with the hashtag #LiveRideShare that we became the 4th most popular subject of conversation on Twitter. Well, at least in L.A. It's amazing in retrospect how well those tweets tell the story of the day. See a couple collections on Storify from NRDC , Move LA and SUMC.



It was an incredible day. With more than 75 speakers from Helsinki to South L.A., close to 400 attendees, six breakouts on panels ranging from shared mobility for all to how shared mobility affects the need for parking, and a special concurrent workshop for implementers, it was a remarkable event.



For more coverage of the day , see TransitCenter, Huffington Post, Streetsblog, Santa Monica Next, and ClimatePlan blog.

I was so honored that Leslie Ito of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles opened the conference (held at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo) by explaining the Japanese word "mottainai," which conveys "a sense of regret concerning waste." What an incisive concept, steeped in centuries of tradition, that applies so seamlessly to the current opportunities of shared-use mobility.

leslie ito.jpg

Leslie Ito, President, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. Credit: Ted Soqui

The opportunity we at NRDC Urban Solutions see in shared-use mobility is to accelerate the reduction of GHG, to use our fiscal resources and tax base more efficiently and to offer low income and communities of color much greater access to both jobs and less expensive transportation choices.



We all complain about horrible traffic congestion and parking nightmares. But what role do we play in creating those problems? Is there an opportunity to help address those challenges ourselves by sharing transportation resources while also cutting waste and reducing our transportation costs? It's in part about emphasizing access over ownership. It's about getting from here to there, without having to own a car.



Examples of shared-use mobility include carsharing (i.e. City CarShare, GetAround, ZipCar); bikesharing (i.e. Bay Area Bike Share); ride-sourcing (i.e. the commonly-known services provided by Uber, Lyft, Sidecar); and, increasingly, ridesharing (i.e. Carma, LyftLine, UberPool), which allow people to share rides in real time.)



Conference speakers explored shared-use mobility from many perspectives. For example:

Greater Access to Opportunity for All via Live.Ride.Share: Tamika Butler, Executive Director of the LA County Bicycle Coalition, delivered one of the most critical statements of the day: "We need to make sure we're thinking about integration of different systems and agencies so that the 'share' is really available to all of us."




Justin Holmes, ZipCar, Tamika Butler, LA County Bike Coalition,
Jacki Bacharach, South Bay Cities Council of Governments Credit: Ted Soqui

Making Sure People Can Access All That New Transit: Jay Kim, Principal Transportation Engineer at the L.A. Department of Transportation, explained: "We are building the transit backbone right now, and it still only reaches a portion of the people. There is pent-up demand. People want to use public transit, but they can't tie into it. Often the last mile is not taken care. If done right, shared-use mobility can broaden access."

Less Parking, More Sharing: Stuart Cohen, Executive Director of TransForm, demonstrated the huge opportunity to leverage shared-use mobility to make development more affordable. TransForm worked with a developer in South Berkeley to eliminate the need for any parking for private vehicles. Instead, residents will receive a membership to Getaround, a peer-to-peer car rental platform and will share vehicles the developer will purchase.

Demographics Are Driving Demand: Tim Papandreou, Director of Strategic Planning and Policy at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, who skillfully led a nine-person panel of heavy hitters including Seleta Reynolds, General Manager of the L.A. Department of Transportation, framed the challenge: "The most dangerous phrase in the public sector is, 'We've always done it that way.'" Instead, he illustrated the new preferences of younger generations by sharing what an intern recently told him: "Texting is not a distraction from driving. Driving is a distraction from texting."


Tim Papandreau, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Credit: Ted Soqui

Is SoCal Ready for Shared Mobility? Sharon Feigon, Executive Director of the Shared Use Mobility Center, taught us that 10% of the population in Boston and Washington, D.C., are members of a carshare service. But what about notoriously, auto-centric L.A.? Papandreou reminded us to look at it piece-by-piece, as he brilliantly compared Central L.A. to San Francisco--did you know that Central L.A. and San Francisco have similar density and similar rates of bike use? Central L.A. is ripe for shared mobility; other neighborhoods can follow.



There were far too many rich conversations during Live.Ride.Share for one blog, which is why we are planning a series of blogs to help you catch the essence of any sessions you missed. We'll also be releasing a brief video of the day shortly. Stay tuned. Follow us at @aeaken, @NRDCSolutions and @LiveRideShare.

I want to thank all of the incredible speakers, all of my colleagues on the Steering Committee, and all of you who joined the conversation for making the conference a success. Check out more photos of the event here.




LRS group photo.jpg

Nat Gale, City of L.A., Michael Woo, Conference MC, Amanda Eaken, NRDC Urban Solutions, Seleta Reynolds, LADOT, Gloria Ohland, Move LA Credit: Ted Soqui