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Randell Iwasaki on a Government Role Model for Transportation

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Randell Iwasaki, executive director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) in California, spoke at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center on September 25, 2019, as part of its speaker series Our New Mobility Future. His talk on “Redefining Mobility” is summarized here. Please note, the views expressed here do not constitute or necessarily represent official policy of the U.S. DOT, and the U.S. Government does not endorse products or services.

Just east of San Francisco, Contra Costa County boasts a large, active, and innovative transportation agency.

Voters established CCTA in 1988 to manage the county’s transportation sales tax program. CCTA is responsible for maintaining and improving its county’s transportation system and overseeing its transportation infrastructure projects; however, it is the agency’s integration of innovative technologies and policies that has made it a benchmark in transportation’s public sector.

Watch a video highlight about government role models for transportation from Iwasaki's talk as part of the Volpe Center's 2019 speaker series, Our New Mobility Future.

Testing the Safe Integration of Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles promise to make for safer roads, less congestion, better air quality, and increased accessibility and opportunity. CCTA is making use of these vehicles in a pair of experiments serving its aging population and wheelchair users.

CCTA is also one of eight applicants in seven states to be awarded grant funding from U.S. DOT in September 2019 to test the safe integration of automated driving systems (ADS) on our nation’s roadways. CCTA will demonstrate Level 3 and Level 4 automated vehicles using shared on-demand, wheelchair accessible ADS-equipped vehicles.

By 2035, 30 percent of the population is expected to be age 65 or older, and new and alternative transportation solutions are needed to support this aging population. CCTA’s ADS demonstration projects seek to advance the safety of ADS and facilitate data collection in order to support rule making and safety-performance standards, provide a range of mobility choices to transportation-challenged and underserved communities, and expand shared mobility options.

At Rossmoor, a gated assisted-living community in Walnut Creek, California, first mile/last mile shared autonomous vehicles are being tested in order to increase transit accessibility for the elderly on the community’s private roads.

“The idea is to put an on-demand shuttle system and then make a handoff,” Iwasaki said. “We want to bring that transit service and make a connection that’s protected.”

In Martinez, California, county-hospital-accessible transportation includes an innovative on-demand, wheelchair accessible, autonomous vehicle shuttle service. By providing accessible transportation to the local public health facility, it achieves two goals: quality of life for participants is improved and medical appointment absenteeism is decreased.

Creating Integrated, End-to-End Journeys

Iwasaki sees mobility as a service (MaaS) as being a combination of public and private transportation services that aim to optimize the transportation system while providing personalized mobility options based on traveler needs. These integrated, end-to-end journeys can then be conveniently paid for by the traveler with a single payment.

CCTA has set a goal of a 10 percent shift from solo drivers to shared mobility, with this marginal mode shift resulting in a measurable reduction in congestion.

“You want to get people into transit and then make the connections to modes. If you don’t do that, you’re going to drive,” Iwasaki said. “Once you get in your car, you’re staying in your car—that’s just the way it is.”

Promoting shared mobility may not be as daunting as it might seem. A new generation is shifting away from car ownership and moving to other modes of transportation because of increased convenience, environmental awareness, and the costs of car ownership and maintenance. As a result, fewer people are obtaining driver’s licenses and are relying more on other modes of transportation. The costs of shared mobility and other modes of transportation are now readily competing with car ownership.

One mechanism for achieving shared mobility is the prototype Bay Area MaaS platform that uses software applications and transportation assets to harnesses existing mobility options. It is also flexible enough to add new mobility options, payment options, and meaningful local rewards and incentives. The platform integrates efforts in the San Francisco Bay Area and provides a scalable, phased approach to implementing mobility as a service.

“[Right now] you can’t just go from one point to the other point and everything’s taken care of,” Iwasaki said. “So we want uniform payment.”

The vision for the mobile application is for the user to enter an origin and destination, then the application will provide a suite of mobility options to meet the user’s needs, at which point the user can schedule and reserve the transportation modes, pay, track their journey, and receive incentive rewards.

Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2019