Want to know what drives transportation entrepreneur Robin Chase? On her website there's a statement: "Every day, create the world you want to live in."
Chase is best known for co-founding car-sharing company Zipcar in 1999. Twenty years later, she's still helping to transform cities.
One way is through the Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities, created in 2017 to guide urban decision-makers in these times of rapid technology-driven innovation from the private sector.
Government agencies and mobility companies worldwide have adopted the 10 principles, the first of which reads: "We plan our cities and their mobility together. The way our cities are built determines mobility needs and how they can be met. Development, urban design and public spaces, building and zoning regulations, parking requirements, and other land use policies shall incentivize compact, accessible, livable, and sustainable cities."
Here are edited excerpts of Chase's email interview with Editor Leslie J. Allen.
Q: How do you personally define a livable city?
A: I conjure up a streetscape and a city where 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds, and my past self when I was 16, 21, 35 and 40, with children and without children, living on a shoestring budget, or my professional tightly scheduled self, can get around easily. Livable implies I travel without fear for my safety, with enjoyment of my surroundings, with clean air and low stress.
Q: To what extent are cities putting the principles into practice? any standouts?
A: Both Paris and Pittsburgh signed on early, and it is clear those cities have taken these ideas to heart. In Paris they continue to push for efficient use of public streets by allocating more lanes to bicycles, taxis and buses, and making it more inconvenient and slower for personal cars to be used. Pittsburgh has just brought in a collective of shared mobility providers with whom it will work to make alternatives to personal car ownership more convenient and safer in the city, and give vulnerable populations better and more affordable choices to travel.
I recently co-founded NUMO, a global alliance of public- and private-sector organizations working to align actions and values to create transformational, on-the-ground change. Part of the alliance's work is to operationalize the 10 principles.
Q: How do shared vehicles fit in a livable landscape?
A: Shared personal vehicles are an important part of a multimodal lifestyle in our urban future, which is by definition densely populated. If we want people to be able to choose the right mode for each trip instead of going everywhere by their own car, we need to make walking, biking and transit safe, convenient and reliable. And in addition to those choices, we know that for some trips — off the public transit grid; or when you are carrying heavy loads, freight or children; or late at night; or when you aren't feeling well — a personal car, a shared personal car, is the best choice. If we don't offer up a shared-vehicle choice, people will revert back to owning their own, which takes up more street storage space, and which encourages more urban driving due to sunk costs.
Q: what would you change about how cities approach mobility planning?
A: Remove parking minimums! [Some cities require parking spaces for new buildings.] Create a safe bike network. These are responses to Shared Mobility Principle 3: Make efficient use of curbs, lanes, and vehicles.
Q: What else is on your agenda?
A: I think we need to press for fair data requirements across all modes. I don't want to see shared transport trips have no privacy protections and private car trips be the only way you can maintain privacy. This sends exactly the wrong signals.