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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Future of Public Transit and Shared Mobility: Scenario Planning for COVID-19 Recovery

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In 2020, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic enveloped the world, leading to a public health crisis that profoundly changed allaspects of society, especially multiple sectors in transportation such as public transit and shared mobility. With so much uncertaintyabout the future of travel, the transportation sector needs to move rapidly to shape the nature of public transit and shared mobilityservices during the COVID-19 recovery period. Consequently, the University of California Institute of Transportation Studies (UC ITS) and the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) Executive Committee launched a scenario planning exercise from June to September 2020 involving 36 transportation experts. The exercise resulted in a series of policy options and research directions across three timeframes (i.e., within 12 months, one to three years, four to six years) that could guide the recovery of the public transit and shared mobility industries. This report offers several key takeaways. First, external forces beyond COVID-19 (e.g., economy, political will, etc.) will significantly drive the future of public transit and shared mobility and determine the effectiveness and feasibility of any policy strategies. Second, while public transit and shared mobility face a dire future in the short run, steps can be taken immediately to reduce the effects of the current crisis, while also laying the groundwork for more sustainable transportation in the future beyond COVID-19. Actions taken to only address the current crisis will not prepare public transit and shared mobility for the future. Finally, future policies and actions will not be effective without in-depth analysis and development. Research and lessons learned from demonstration and pilot projects will be critical for crafting policies, identifying all positive and negative outcomes, and shaping actions toward a future transportation system that is more resilient, socially equitable, and environmentally friendly.

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