What is Universal Basic Mobility?
Like the general idea of universal basic income to address the growing problem of income inequality, universal basic mobility is the democratization of transportation that would allow for a minimum level of mobility for all citizens regardless of socioeconomic or disability status. This concept is an affordable and reliable way to move from place to place and takes after the same issues universal basic income wishes to tackle in the form of equal financial support from the government.
Recently, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s general manager, Seleta Reynolds, advocated in favor of implementing this idea and insisted that “the idea that no matter where you live, how much money you have, or who you are, you have access to dignified, frequent, affordable transportation that serves all of the needs that you have” is essential to the citizens of L.A. simply “because there is a strong economic argument to make sure that is the case.” Furthermore, Bloomberg CityLab referred to its implementation as not only a human right but also foundational to the growth and development of a healthy economy.
With UBM in place, services would be linked together in such a way that people will soon forgo their cars and busses and instead take a mix of different public transportation resources including shared bikes and scooters, rideshare, and other micro-transit services, which are small-scale vehicles like shuttles, minibusses or cars, and more that operate on a fixed-route model or on-demand.
This new avenue for transportation would reap collective benefits including the reduction of traffic, pollution, and parking issues. The free bike share or e-scooter programs include these same benefits and are even lower in cost compared to other transit methods. It would also ensure that people can enjoy more jobs, education, healthcare, and recreational opportunities as well as give families easy access to food, medical care, and other necessities that are otherwise out of reach. For example, being able to go directly to a job interview rather than being limited by your inability to get there opens many opportunities as well.
Many countries and cities such as Estonia and Paris have already or are in the works to incorporate this right to mobility through public transit as the first step. The US has also taken steps towards this particularly in California in both Oakland, where participants are given $300 debit cards to use on public transit, as well as Bakersfield where participants receive free bus passes and 5 rides on e-bikes and scooters per day.
Spin in Pittsburgh uses a Mobility as a Service app called Move PGH that integrates many different transportation options for citizens to use including electric scooters and mopeds. It is possible that soon the entirety of the US will join them on this trend to democratize mobility.