In my youth I never really appreciated the freedom that public transit gave me, but looking back I can clearly see where I gained my independent streak — as a preteen riding the bus in Bergen County, New Jersey. It makes sense that I found my way back to transit as an adult.

I guess you could say my passion for transit started on my first day of middle school. My school district did not provide transportation to the upper grades, so my mother and I practiced my first unaccompanied trip on the bus during the summer. When school resumed in the fall, I excitedly put on my brand-new school clothes, grabbed my backpack, and walked up the block to catch the 101 bus down Teaneck Road. I remember sitting on the bus and looking out the window at the streets I had traveled thousands of times before, but this time it felt different. I had a sense of independence.

Once I knew how to read the paper tri-fold bus schedule that I carried everywhere, I could take the bus to the mall, the roller rink, and all the places that allowed me to enjoy the newfound freedom of youth. The bus allowed my young friends and me to explore our community and, when we got a little older, occasionally make our way to New York City. It gave my mother the peace of mind to know that as long as I got on that bus, I would get home safely and on time.

As an adult, transit found me again. In my 20-year career, I have worked with a few different public transit agencies and vendors, as well as in the banking industry. Not long ago, I found my new home with Genfare, a company that recognizes the true benefit of transit and the true meaning of partnership.

The transformation to equitable mobility

While Genfare has been a leader in fare collection for decades, I started my role with the company in the early stages of its recent transformation to becoming a champion of equitable mobility. Knowing Genfare wanted to be part of the discussion really spoke to me. Genfare’s ongoing transformation was one of the things that attracted me to the company and is built on three pillars:

  1. Understanding and meeting community needs
  2. Building multi-vehicle end to end solutions
  3. Realizing value and being cost effective

As an industry, we have primarily been focusing on the riders’ experience when adopting equitable mobility solutions. However, I strongly believe that the community we should be targeting is not just riders, but also everyone else who is affected by the decisions a transit agency makes. This means that equity needs to be part of the discussion about anything that may impact a transit agency’s operations, maintenance, and administration in addition to riders. I would also like to make an argument for including taxpayers. Without knowing every stakeholder in your community, how can everyone share in equality?

Here’s how your agency can utilize the three pillars of equitable mobility:

Pillar 1: Meeting community needs

The mobility ecosystem must anticipate all the ways that travelers want and need to move by understanding the community and their preferences. (And remember, the community includes all stakeholders and not just riders.)

As well as you may know your community, there’s likely a lot more for you to learn. A lot of the information you need can be found in the data you have been collecting along with fares, but it’s rare to see this data used to its full potential. Census data can help fill in some gaps. And then there’s information you can learn by talking to the community, whether that means surveys, focus groups, or informal ride-alongs by transit management.

Some of the many questions to answer for pillar one include:

  • Who are the riders?
  • How do riders pay?
  • What services do riders need?
  • What services are riders using?

By truly understanding your community, you can start to craft a plan. You can identify how to provide useful solutions to support both choice and need riders and meet them where they need to be met, as well as find gaps in your current programs. Giving your riders uncomplicated options is paramount in deploying effective solutions that they will use, which feeds into pillar two.

Pillar 2: Building multi-vehicle end to end solutions

The future of transit includes supporting all types of mobility solutions no matter the type of vehicle. It also includes adding the ability to accept whatever payment type is in the rider’s pocket.

In exploring pillar two, be sure to consider the first and last miles of riders’ journeys as well as the routes served by your system. Include current and potential paratransit, microtransit, ride shares, and other on-demand transportation options in your evaluation.

Working with pillar two will give you the answers to:

  • What services is your agency providing?
  • What services does your agency need to add?

Once you have the answers to these questions you can both start to fill in any gaps and reduce redundancies. It is possible to grow services while streamlining existing processes to reduce strain on your organizational resources and start to create a realistic budget, which leads us to pillar three.

Pillar 3: Realizing value and being cost effective

For transit to be valuable it must provide value to riders, agencies, municipalities, and taxpayers. Value isn’t only about cost – it goes so much deeper. For example, a quality transit system can attract and retain coveted employers, which then drives economic development to the area.

That said, cost-effective, value-added equitable mobility solutions are available to meet the needs, schedules, and budgets of agencies of any size. Even though transit agency budgets are currently strained, to put it mildly, creating a clear plan that increases revenue while leading to equity for all stakeholders is an achievable goal.

From surviving to thriving

I hope that you can use these pillars to identify your agency’s goals and their anticipated outcomes. Having an equitable mobility plan in place will lead to increased ridership, relay confidence to your community, and support operations. Transportation that is beneficial to all who use it — from the transit dependent to choice riders, the banked and unbanked, the commuters and tourists alike – is key to a thriving community.

Adopting streamlined and effective solutions that meet your riders where they are while being adaptable to whatever the future throws your way is a winning strategy to providing equity for all. One size or solution does not fit – and has never fit — all. Selecting the right partner to help make your plan a reality is key in ensuring its success.

Be our partner

Genfare’s business development directors and solutions architects have the expertise you need to help you achieve equitable mobility. Shoot me a message to learn more. Plus, check out our white paper on equitable mobility.

Jennille Logan is Business Development Director for the Southeast region at Genfare.