Volunteer drivers are a key component of human services transportation in Minnesota. They provide low-cost transportation for trips ranging from non-emergency medical appointments to general errands. Most of the organizations that use volunteer drivers are located in small towns or rural areas where dedicated transit services do not exist. But changing demographics and the rise of ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft could put many volunteer driving programs at risk, according to a new U of M study.
The project, funded by the Minnesota Council on Transportation Access, examined volunteer driver programs in Minnesota. The objectives were to learn which organizations use volunteer drivers, how they organize and fund their volunteer driver programs, and what challenges and barriers they face.
Last semester, 39 students in the U’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree program explored ways to integrate a Minneapolis neighborhood—the North Loop—into the sharing economy. Located just north of downtown in the Warehouse Historic District, the neighborhood has experienced revitalization and increasing property values in recent years. In the class, student teams created 13 proposals on topics such as parking reallocation and walkability.
This guest post, written by three students in the course, highlights their work related to bike sharing and equity.
As cities across the U.S.—from college towns to major urban centers—have introduced bike sharing into their mix of transportation options, elected officials, advocacy organizations, and social justice groups are raising questions about equity. Racial segregation and disparities continue to plague U.S. cities, and people are rightfully questioning whether bike sharing combats, perpetuates, or has little effect on these challenges. At the center of the conversation around bike sharing and equity are two questions: (1) What is the purpose of bike sharing? and (2) Who is bike sharing intended to serve?
We interrogated these questions for our final project in our Land-Use Planning course, taught by Fernando Burga, Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. With a focus on Minneapolis-St. Paul’s nonprofit Nice Ride bike sharing system, we examined the location of bike sharing stations in relation to demographic and economic data.
Car to Go. Hour Car. Uber. Lyft. Nice Ride. These and other “shared-use mobility” options are making their way into more cities across the country, including RCP’s partner community, Brooklyn Park. As the City prepares for the arrival of light-rail transportation (LRT) service and evaluates options for improving mobility for residents without access to an automobile, it is considering whether—and how—to integrate such services into its transportation planning.
As a suburban community, Brooklyn Park is nowhere near as dense as Minneapolis or St. Paul. This has created challenges for the City in thinking about how to include services like Hour Car or Uber as solutions to current transportation needs. They may not seem like an obvious choice for a suburb, but through robust community engagement efforts, City staff learned that residents were interested in more shared-use mobility alternatives. The City is now considering such options as a larger, targeted investment in transportation.
A typical car sits unused for more than 95 percent of its service life. Cars are just one of many things—from meeting space to power tools—that are privately owned but barely used. Unlocking this excess capacity is the essential idea of the sharing economy, said Professor Saif Benjaafar, director of the U of M’s Initiative on the Sharing Economy and chair of the Symposium on the Sharing Economy, held last month in Minneapolis.
The two-day symposium was organized by the Initiative and sponsored by CTS and the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Minnesota. It consisted of a research workshop and a public forum.
Did you miss last week’s Symposium on the Sharing Economy? Presentation slides and video recordings from the event are now available! The symposium began with a one-day workshop that brought together researchers from around the globe to discuss their work,…
CTS Scholar Tom Fisher, professor at the U of M’s College of Design and director of the Metropolitan Design Center, was recently highlighted in an online feature by Pollen.
Fisher shared his thoughts on driverless cars, design thinking, how the collaborative economy will shape cities in the future, and more.
Picture a day like this: You use an app to locate and rent a car and drive to a meeting. You check another app for available parking and find a spot at a nearby condo complex (it’s available because the owner is away). The meeting place is rented for the day by your company. On your way home, you stop for coffee with a friend, who hands you the books you ordered together online. You use another app to see if a neighbor has a power drill you can borrow to assemble a bookshelf.
This vision is increasingly becoming a reality, says Saif Benjaafar, Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the U of M’s Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering and the director of the new Initiative on the Sharing Economy.
The initiative was established by CTS in partnership with Benjaafar and other faculty members across the University and is administered by CTS. It aims to position the U of M at the forefront of the development of a science of the sharing economy.