Electric vehicle charging infrastructure, universal basic mobility and all things air mobility were among the many topics addressed during the CoMotion Miami Conference. Following a year that saw billions of dollars worth of U.S. federal funding allocated for transportation networks and infrastructure upgrades, companies and city representatives gathered to discuss new approaches to multimodal mobility issues, focusing on data-centric approaches that promote equity and innovation.
In late April, the hybrid two-day event hosted over 1,500 attendees in Miami, with panel discussions that unified stakeholders across the transportation value chain, including mayors from multiple counties, transit operators and technology companies participating in what conference planners call the “new mobility revolution.” On the public sector side, mayors of Miami and Montreal were in attendance, joined by representatives from EV charging provider Blink Charging Co., original equipment manufacturers Hyundai Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co., Beep Inc., and others. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also delivered remarks. CoMotion has hosted transportation and mobility events in Miami and Los Angeles biannually since 2017, with additional events hosted in Rio de Janeiro, London and Jakarta.
CoMotion’s approach to programming highlighted the intersection of smart-city planning and smart mobility and transportation efforts. Paving the way for the arrival of the “hyperconnected city,” mayors, council members, transit operators and commissioners are front and center in efforts to update legacy infrastructure and improve efficiency for constituents using new data insight. Central to upgrading and managing the digital transformation is a base layer of mobility data that has been collected and contextualized by hundreds of micro-mobility providers. Leveraging private capital and data resources to provide public services in transit is a handshake that benefits both parties. Officials praised the ability of mobility data to transform transit networks and expressed excitement for the digitization and electrification of transit networks, focusing on promoting equity through multimodal transportation networks and public-private partnerships. Public transport management and traffic control/smart roads significantly impact city operations.
The conference highlighted three main themes: advanced air mobility, micro-mobility proliferation and guaranteed basic mobility. Discussion of emerging standards in the areas of curb management, data sharing and the importance of public-private partnerships in enabling the transformation of transit networks echoed throughout the panels.
Advanced air mobility
Companies in the urban air mobility, or UAM, and advanced air mobility, or AAM, sectors are relatively new entrants to the multimodal landscape. UAM refers to automated aircraft operating at lower altitudes than traditional planes to transport passengers and cargo, with common modes of UAM including drones for food and package delivery. AAM has similar characteristics but can offer additional services like intercity transit. Offering a 60% to 70% reduction in trip times through crowded cities, air mobility providers hope to give citizens their commuting time back, promote accessibility and connect distant areas in shorter times via air vehicles.
Multiple companies looking to impact AAM attended the CoMotion conference, including Embraer SA, Ferrovial SA, Regent Craft Inc and Supernal LLC, with the latter two aiming to offer fully electric air vehicles for passenger transport in 2025-2028. Regent Craft plans to offer 12-passenger sea gliders with a 180-mile range to offer regional coastal connectivity at half the cost of a traditional flight and six times the speed of ferries.
Entrants to the developing sector addressed integrating this mode of transit — and doing it equitably and affordably. As companies and the public sector work to develop and realize the potential of AAM ecosystems, Hyundai President Jaiwon Shih offered four main steps critical to its widespread adoption — steps that he claims could lead to the democratization of flight.
On the development side, Shih emphasized the importance of creating new infrastructures, such as vertiports for electric vertical takeoff and landing and new network communication air-traffic management systems. On the policy side, Shih expressed the need to update existing policies and then create a new transit-specific policy. On the networks side, to promote efficiency in multimodal networks, Shih posited that AAM should be seamlessly integrated with other mobility options in transit networks — an effort that requires the enablement of a new set of service providers in air navigation.
Finally, while this mode of transit is currently a luxury afforded only to well-connected passengers, private-public partnerships could accelerate the transition to mass adoption. Although companies enjoy reduced costs associated with vehicle electrification, initial pricing for customers will remain higher than traditional alternatives before the market reaches scale.
Scooters, bikes and more in multimodal cities
Public-private partnerships looking to facilitate and manage innovation are critical in achieving integrated multimodal transit networks. From bikes and scooters to AAM, integrating new modes of transit into existing networks is becoming increasingly important as cities hope to promote ridership and reduce emissions. Collaboration between private companies and the public sector is integral for seamless multimodal transit as the former increasingly replaces the latter in providing extended mobility services.
According to Miami Dade Department of Transit and Public Works Assistant Director Carlos Cruz-Casas, getting the digital experience right is essential to integrating private and public successfully. A digital experience that integrates payments can unlock rider loyalty and promote the use of new transit options. Beyond the digital aspect, the experience — where the transit hub is, where bike lanes are, and the robustness of the offerings — must integrate “mobility as a service” and multimodality in the broader initiative of shifting away from the car.
CoMotion panelists shared that transit information must become standardized and front-facing in the area of standards for open data. One such effort, the Mobility Data Specification, or MDS, forwarded by the Open Mobility Foundation, is already used in 120 cities. Open-source MDS aims to standardize communications between public and private entities, preparing cities to digitally manage streets and sidewalks with aggregated multimodal data.
Identifying ridership trends between modes is critical for cities looking to get transit right. With a central data exchange, city officials hope to inform rules of engagement as a foundation for policy and safety for riders. Increased awareness of others’ data — whether a transit agency or a scooter provider identifying near-misses and crash sites — can help formulate policy and contribute to safer transportation. City officials from Tampa, Fla., and Los Angeles expressed the need for micro-mobility and multimodal transit providers to share trip and movement data for public use.
Universal basic mobility
Multiple city officials at the CoMotion event touted the idea of universal basic mobility, or UBM. Similar to universal basic income, guaranteed basic mobility aims to make transportation networks more accessible and affordable to underserved communities. Prioritization of UBM and equity is one tactic cities use in requests for proposals and when undertaking partnerships with multimodal transit providers.
Examples of UBM enablement include cities offering one transit pass across all multimodal assets, focusing on first- and last-mile modes of transportation, and identifying how to allocate transportation-directed funds to align with community goals. Cities like Pittsburgh; Oakland, Calif.; and Los Angeles have already rolled out UBM pilots to better connect constituents with access to jobs and opportunities using transit networks. Los Angeles announced the rollout of a $17.8 million UBM pilot in May, including funds for a monthly prepaid mobility wallet for riders in southern Los Angeles and investment in new transit infrastructure, including EV charging networks and shuttles, e-bikes, and bus-only transit lanes.