Urban Mobility

Mobility on Demand: Three Key Components

Increasingly, mobility customers are turning to on-demand service providers to access an array of mobility options. Mobility on demand (MOD) is an innovative transportation concept where all consumers can access mobility, goods, and services on demand by dispatching or using shared mobility, delivery services, and public transportation solutions through an integrated and connected multi-modal network. The most advanced forms of MOD passenger services incorporate trip planning and booking, real-time information, and fare payment into a single user interface. Passenger modes facilitated through MOD providers include: carsharing, bikesharing, ridesharing, ridesourcing/transportation network companies (TNCs), scooter sharing, microtransit, shuttle services, public transportation, and other emerging transportation solutions. The most advanced forms of MOD courier services incorporate robotic delivery, app-based courier network services (CNS), and aerial delivery services (e.g., drones). Fundamentally, MOD is about how people make mobility decisions, how they move, how they consume goods and services, and the stakeholders that make it possible. In this blog, we explore three key components of MOD

1) The principle of commodification;

2) Importance of public-private partnerships and stakeholder groups; and

3) Changes in consumption, goods deliver, and mobility are interrelated and integral to MOD.

Commodification of Transportation Services:

MOD is based on the commodification of transportation services by cost, travel and wait time, number of connections, convenience, and other attributes. Commodification is the transformation of transportation services into tradeable commodities or an economic resource. As part of this transformation, transportation services are assigned an economic value that can be traded or exchanged in the transportation marketplace for other transportation mode(s) or money. Fundamentally, the USDOT’s vision of MOD emphasizes enhancing mobility options for all users through the integration of on-demand modal services, public transportation, payment mechanisms, traveler incentives, and an array of real-time information services. MOD is about providing travelers with more seamless travel options (i.e., routing, booking, and payment) for all trip segments. This seamless integration improves the user experience and can enable more informed and sustainable transportation choices. See Figure 1 that presents a user-centric view of travel options below.


mobility on demand susan inforgraphic

Figure 1: User-Centric Travel Options


Importance of Stakeholders and Public-and-Private Sector Collaboration:

To enable a commodified marketplace with seamless physical, payment, and digital integration, public and private stakeholder collaboration is key. The federal government; state and local authorities; public transit agencies; transportation managers; MOD operators; logistics providers; app and mobile service provers; and consumers are all critical. With MOD, everyone can benefit.

1) Consumers benefit from increased travel options and a more integrated, efficient, traveler-centric transportation network.

2) Private transportation providers benefit because MOD connects travelers to service providers and provides an integrated and common platform for mobility services.

3) Public transit providers benefit because MOD bridges the gap between public transportation and private sector mobility services.

4) MOD can also bridge gaps in the public transportation network by extending geographic coverage and service times of transit services.

5) Most importantly, a larger pool of travelers and modal options enables a “network effect,” where modal options are in closer proximity to one another (physical and digital), adding collective value.


Each MOD stakeholder, when integrated together, creates a synergy that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Through public and private sector collaboration, MOD stakeholders can work together to:

– Leverage the positive social and environmental impacts of MOD to enhance accessibility, increase infrastructure efficiency, mitigate congestion and air pollution;

– Receive data inputs from multiple sources and provide response strategies geared to various operational objectives;

– Enable transportation system managers to monitor, predict, and influence conditions across an entire mobility ecosystem and for an entire region;

– Embrace the needs of all users (travelers and shippers) across all modes—including motor vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles, public transit, for-hire vehicle services, carpooling/vanpooling, goods delivery, and other transportation services; and

– Research and integrate emerging technologies that provide additional opportunities to enhance connectivity among travelers, goods, services, and infrastructure and more efficiently manage the transportation network.


Large Image-2017_on_demand_Driver_App_03


Changes in Consumption, Goods Delivery, and Mobility are Interrelated and Integral to MOD:

MOD is more than just passenger mobility. Today, consumption choice is disrupting traveler behavior. The growth of digital and goods delivery services can substitute for trips, while simultaneously creating demand for new ones. An overbuilt retail marketplace, changing consumer preferences, and growth in online shopping and service delivery are changing consumption patterns. Across the industrialized world, consumers in mass are changing how they shop, make purchases, and access goods and services as a direct result of technological innovations, delivery modes, and business models.

MOD is having a transformative effect on urban goods delivery and solving last mile delivery challenges through:

Growth of Low-Cost, Flat-Rate Subscription Delivery Services (e.g., Amazon Prime and Shop Runner) are enabling consumers access to on-demand delivery marketplaces—a key factor contributing to induced demand;

Advanced Algorithms are helping merchants and delivery providers optimize the supply and delivery chain, ranging from order fulfillment to identifying the least expensive or quickest delivery route;

Locker Delivery, already widely deployed by the US Postal Service (USPS), allows consumers to order and have items shipped to a self-service locker at home, work, or an alternative pick-up location. Locker delivery can help consumers, merchants, and delivery providers overcome a variety of challenges, such as weekend and off-peak delivery services and enhanced security (versus leaving a package at a door); and

Courier Network Services or apps that provide for-hire delivery services for monetary compensation are enabling on-demand retail delivery. These services use an online application or platform (such as a website or smartphone app) to connect couriers using their personal vehicles, bicycles, or scooters with goods.


MOD and the Future of Mobility:

In the future, the convergence of MOD and automation will have a transformative impact on goods access and mobility. Drones, robotic delivery, and automated vehicles will offer opportunities for unmanned on-demand delivery options. Automated deliveries (vehicles and drones) will continue the e-commerce trends of reducing the size of brick and mortar storefronts, while simultaneously increasing the need for warehouses and urban logistics hubs to facilitate last mile goods storage, dispatch, and on-demand delivery. Shared automated vehicles (SAVs) have the potential to reduce vehicle ownership and provide innovative opportunities for lower cost and flexible public transportation systems. Reduced vehicle ownership could enable the repurposing and redevelopment of parking. As off-street parking is converted into residential and commercial uses, new opportunities for increased density in urban centers may arise. As MOD continues to grow and mature into automated service offerings, it has the capacity to enhance mobility, access, and economic opportunity for all travelers. Automation paired with MOD has the potential to enhance access and mobility options (e.g., fares, routes), improve safety, increase travel speed and reliability, provide critical first-and-last-mile connectivity, and expand coverage to historically underserved users or communities. Nevertheless, much more understanding is needed to advance and optimize MOD, along with the transition to SAVs.

This article was co-authored with Adam Cohen. Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen are co-authors of the recently released Mobility on Demand Operational Concept Report. For more information, please visit: https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/34258. Shaheen and Cohen are members of the UC Berkeley/Booz Allen Hamilton Independent Evaluation team for the Federal Transit Administration’s Mobility on Demand Sandbox.