The Future of Transportation is bright, but still a bit murky. The private and public sectors are scrambling to answer today’s mobility challenges while planning for the demands of tomorrow. No one knows exactly what transportation will look like, but most agree the changes will be massive.
“We see is a shift, arguably the biggest since the internal combustion engine, in the transportation sector,” said Stephen Smyth, the CEO of Coord. Coord, an Alphabet company, is building a mobility data platform to power smart cities and transportation.
Given the explosion of transportation options in the last decade, we believe the shift will be from private ownership to Mobility as a Service (MaaS), a network of public and private services that optimizes transportation for everyone.
MaaS is the subject of our mini-series: Multifamily and the Future of Transportation.
Here in Part 3, we are going to look at five specific ways multifamily developers can implement Mobility as a Service on their properties.
Who is Responsible for Mobility as a Service?
Some developers might ask themselves, “Why is it my responsibility to provide transportation for my residents? Isn’t that their job?”
Transportation has been an individual affair for a long time. But private vehicle ownership has become a major burden in our modern world, namely in the form of congestion, climate change, and wasted space. Additionally, the demand for parking has led some people to fight any hint of new development, sending our country barreling towards an all-out housing crisis.
Still, transportation isn’t just multifamily’s responsibility; it’s everybody’s responsibility. Multifamily developers must work with citizens, startups, and civic leaders to solve the problems of the 21st Century.
5 Ways Multifamily Developers Can Embrace MaaS
There are many mobility issues that can only be solved in the public sector. Parking requirements and strict building codes are not technical or financial problems—they are political ones. Of course, all multifamily leaders should play an active role in their communities by advocating for pro-housing and pro-mobility policies, but it’s ultimately not in their control.
This article is going to focus on actions squarely in the power of developers. These are things that every property can implement to help make Mobility as a Service a reality.
1. Build in High Mobility Areas
City Club Apartments, a Detroit-based developer, is building their second Kansas City community in the Crossroads Art District. When choosing a location, they explicitly targeted a plot adjacent to KC’s 2.2-mile streetcar line.
In Denver, Kephart Architects recently opened Denizen, the city’s first community built around access to mass transit. Denizen sits right along Denver’s light rail.
These are just two examples of the numerous developers gravitating toward high mobility areas.
Access to transit is a huge attraction for urban residents who would ditch their vehicles if given the chance. But building in high mobility areas has financial benefits for multifamily developers as well, like higher rents and property values that are more resistant to economic downturns.
Rail isn’t the only form of transit to build around, either. Access to bus, car-sharing, and bike-sharing are also highly prized transportation amenities.
2. Flexible Parking
Kephart is also a leader in another capacity: multi-use parking garages. By building parking garages with flat levels instead of long ramps, Kephart is preparing these structures for life after parking.
“These conversations about flexibility are happening,” said Kephart principal and architect, Bobby Long, in a BisNow article. “People are relying on their cars now, but that might not be the case in four or five years.”
Developers can also adopt flexible parking practices on surface lots and with street parking. Sections of street parking can be designated as Shared Use Mobility (SUM) Zones, where only ride-sharing pickups and dropoffs can take place. If a development does not control their street parking, they can still designate parking spots as dropoff/pickup points for car-sharing services. Greystar is already experimenting with this concept in Houston.
By making room for car-sharing and other MaaS options, developers are ultimately reducing their own expenses. Parking is notoriously expensive to build. The fewer parking spaces a developer builds, the more money they will save in the long- and short-term.
3. Pay for Resident Transit Passes
While less expensive than car ownership, transit costs can still get pricey for regular users. In Chicago, CTA passes cost $105 per month. Even if money isn’t a concern, the hassle of buying and maintaining a pass can be a barrier for new riders.
What can mobility-conscious developers do to encourage their residents to use mass transit? Some communities are giving it away for free.
Apartment communities often run leasing promotions with one-month free rent. For roughly the same cost (and sometimes less), communities could provide free transit passes for an entire year.
At 1620 Central, a community in Evanston, Illinois, new residents received their choice of a year-long CTA pass or an annual membership to Divvy bike-share. In student housing, this promotion is extremely common. Many universities subsidize free public transit for students.
4. On-Site Shared Mobility
According to a report from RCLCO and TransitScreen, apartment communities near bike-sharing and car-sharing services saw a substantial increase in rental prices-per-square-foot. Only ride-hailing services (Uber, Lyft, etc.) spurred more demand.
Developers can’t always control where bike-sharing and car-sharing stations are placed. That’s why some communities are choosing to put Mobility as a Service amenities on-site.
Talia apartments in Marlborough, Massachusetts partnered with Movatic to install a bike-sharing station on the community property. The amenity is exclusive for residents, who can check out the bikes via mobile app and return them at their convenience.
Some communities are taking MaaS to a new level with on-site car-sharing. The West Edge community in Seattle has two dedicated BMWs for their residents to rent at any time, whether it’s for one hour or an entire weekend. Apartment communities in San Fransciso have launched similar services in partnership with ZipCar.
5. Collect Building Data
Buildings generate enormous amounts of data that, if captured, can help developers make smart decisions about MaaS amenities.
The world of shared mobility raises new questions about transportation usage: How often are Ubers and Lyfts stopping at our community? How many residents drive to work compared to shared mobility? How many bikes are rented out each week? How can we put curb space to better use than just free parking?
To answer these questions, communities can use building data captured by smart building infrastructure. At its core, a smart building is made up of connectivity infrastructure (wifi and Bluetooth) and sensors that capture everything from foot traffic to sunlight. Smart buildings help developers measure the effectiveness of their MaaS amenities and identify ways to improve them.
Because smart buildings are platforms, developers can easily add or remove sensors when their data needs change. Services and amenities can also be switched out over time. The modular nature of smart buildings also makes them future-proof.
Multifamily Developers Leading the Future of Transportation
What do we want our cities to look like in the coming decades? Do we want them to be dense, green, and lively? Or sprawling, disconnected, and covered in surface lots?
The choices we make about transportation will determine our future. Our current system, dominated by private vehicles and highways, has gutted cities and turned neighbors into strangers. Mobility as a Service promises to reverse the damage by creating livable urban areas and vibrant neighborhoods.
Multifamily developers work at the crucial intersection of housing and transportation. They have the power to change the way their residents move.
If we want to make people less reliant on private vehicles, we have to make alternate transportation as easy and effective as possible. Multifamily developers can do their part by embracing Mobility as a Service and advocating for shared mobility policies in their cities.
The Future of Transportation might sound like a long way off, but it is here today. Like other paradigm shifts, developers who lean into MaaS will have the most to gain, both in influence and treasure. Those who see the future, and act today, will shape our world for the next 100 years.