Result vs solution-driven approach
After the first wave of new mobility solutions entered the urban environment (micro-mobility and shared- bikes and cars) with a technology driven approach that lead to undesired outcomes, public authorities started reflecting on how to better take control over the situation and receive the desired response. When public authorities describe what they want, they either describe a specific mobility solution they desire to be implemented (like a shared bike system) or the result they aim to achieve without a specific solution in mind (e.g. improving accessibility to cheap transport, reducing traffic congestion). The former is referred to as a solution-driven approach while the later is referred to as a result or challenge driven approach.
Which approach fits better when it comes to new, innovative, smart mobility solutions?
"There has been a revolution moving away from just launching a Request for Proposal (RFP) (typically associated with a solution-driven approach) in the US. Traditionally, car sharing was mainly pushed by the companies, and didn’t fit as well or at all with the city plans. Now, cities are taking more control of the situation, setting parameters."
Sharon Feigon is the founder and executive director of the Shared-Use Mobility Centre, working to address the environmental impact, accessibility, and cost of transportation by connecting the public and private sectors, building knowledge, and developing solutions that achieve shared mobility for all.
10 years ago, Chicago decided to have a bike sharing system, launched an RFP and selected one company. This gave the city ownership but also made it harder to make a relationship, as it turned into an exclusive relationship. For the scooter sharing on the other hand, the city decided to try out scooter sharing so it selected six different companies (too many perhaps) to operate together in a relative small area. The city had very specific requirements regarding the type of solutions they wanted (station based, low-income area). Their solution-driven approach was very successful. The new pilot will start in a couple of weeks and will be limited to only three companies and will serve most of the city area.
"There has been a big shift from cities issuing detailed RFPs to a realisation that all these mobility solutions are relatively new. So we don’t know how to structure it now. Even if we would know now, the situation can be completely different in six months. So, it’s harder to pinpoint down exactly what cities (should) want. In LA they have an approach that accepts risk and engages the private sector in more of the process, asking solution providers what problems the city should solve and what solutions they might propose. This ultimately leads to RFPs which showed led to actual projects. Check their website! Very transparent, they hired smart people that understand the market and can work collaboratively. This is a different breed of people than the ones developing policies.
In Portland, they did not set-up a micro-managed approach but instead stated the outcomes they wanted: social equity (everyone has access), economic opportunities (job availabilities), environmental (net positive aspect) and set it up for competitions. Eight companies respond and two were allowed access. 12 or 6 months later they shut down everything (as planned), evaluated everything and developed a RFP process based on the results/outcomes.
We did a workshop in Seattle with the public and private sector where equity was a main focus point. Uber and Lyft both said they’re opposed to the idea of the city defining the mechanisms to achieve desired equity outcomes. They stated that cities should take advantage of the competitive nature of the companies and the entrepreneurship and 'Tell us the outcomes you want to happen, we will figure out how best we can achieve them.'"
Nico Larco is a Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Oregon, where he is the Director of the Urbanism Next Center and Co-Director of the Sustainable Cities Institute.
Cities should provide certainty to the private sector on what the playing field looks like. Under what conditions do we expect to make a living as an operator in a market? This requires:
An outcome-based approach
Shared understanding of how the market works. This is lacking in most cases. Or there is a one-sided understanding since it changes so quickly over different dimensions. Companies deal with different scenarios/rules for each different place.
As highlighted by Sharon & Nico, result / outcome-driven approach requires completely different administrative culture and some appetite for uncertainties (and I am still strongly in favour of it :)). For the best results, it also requires enhanced coordination between the administrative silos of cities to make sure that all relevant policy fields / measures steer towards same direction and enable innovations.
“Not only the administrative silos but also the silos between the different modes.”
Yes... it requires a different structure within the city, a different appetite for risk (which means the acceptance and embracing that failures will be part of what will happen), and a different skill set in the employees in that section of the city government.