(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 341: A Guide to Open Mobility as a Service

July 8, 2021

This week we’re joined by Andrew Salzberg, Head of Policy at Transit App.  Andrew talks with us about Transit’s Guide to Open Mobility as a Service and discusses how policy can create a better travel experience for everyone.

The Guide to Open Mobility as a Service is found here.

For a full unedited transcript, follow along below…

Jeff Wood (1m 21s):
Andrew Salzberg, welcome to the Talking Headways podcast.

Andrew Salzberg (1m 52s):
Thanks for having me

Jeff Wood (1m 53s):
Welcome. So the podcast, I should say a few changes since the last came in to the studio for episode 197, are you still in the San Francisco or, or did you move elsewhere?

Andrew Salzberg (2m 4s):
I have no in Montreal, Quebec.

Jeff Wood (2m 5s):
How is Montreal? It is nice. I love Montreal.

Andrew Salzberg (2m 8s):
Yeah, it’s diagonally opposite of the continent from San Francisco. So I couldn’t go much further away or

Jeff Wood (2m 13s):
Is it diagonally, mentally opposite as well? Is it a little bit different in that respect a,

Andrew Salzberg (2m 18s):
I mean, it’s a, a climate wise, maybe more than the a mentally gets a lot colder. Yeah. We have a winter. I don’t know if you’re familiar with seasons in San Francisco, but we definitely have them. And what is that we got from a fall. Yeah, but I miss that sometimes in January. It’s a nice I’m from here originally. So I grew up in Montreal, so I live in the U S for 15 years now I’m back

Jeff Wood (2m 36s):
In close to home and I imagine a life has a bit different now what you’ve been working on.

Andrew Salzberg (2m 40s):
Yeah. A lot life is different. I mean, most obviously I am working with transit, which I think is a lot of it. We want to talk about today. A transit app to some people are, we’ve been working on a big report that just came out today. Actually we just finished a webinar on that. We launched that report, which I think is, is what I’m excited about. That we’ve been working on for the last little while. And we can get in the weeds on that, but a big part of why I’m back in Montreal is that transit as well as being a great company happens to be based in my hometown. So what more could you ask for?

Jeff Wood (3m 7s):
That’s awesome. Well, so for those that might not be familiar. What is transit app do?

Andrew Salzberg (3m 12s):
Yeah. Transit is the largest public transportation navigation app in north America. So basically if you want to find anything from when your next buses arriving to, you know, the step-by-step directions to take a trip to downtown on public transportation, that’s our main use case, but over time, and increasingly you can find everything from a Uber to a, a micro transit right up to a scooter, and you can both find it in many places or unlocked rides across those modes. So it’s a trip planning app. It’s a navigation app, but it doesn’t have car directions. So it’s everything other than your own car is what’s in transit. And that’s a big difference from, you know, Google or apple maps. And so we have a lot of dedicated users. There are millions of the trends that users across north America who used it to find their everyday journeys on everything.

Andrew Salzberg (3m 54s):
That’s not your own car.

Jeff Wood (3m 55s):
Somebody who uses the transit app, what is their kind of response when you tell them that you do the work for transit, what are they say? What is their feedback?

Andrew Salzberg (4m 3s):
Yeah, we have a pretty passionate user base. And one of the features do you can use it or is that you can actually share your location with other people. So if you’re riding a bus and this happened in San Francisco, when I lived there, actually, you know, the real time notifications went down that was provided by the SFMTA, but transit a sort of a crowdsource version of that. Or you can just, you know, fall into here to provide your GPS location when you’re riding the bus. And that’s used to provide other people who are waiting for the bus or more accurate predictions. That’s a kind of a feature that people who use transit volunteered to do because of the idea of sort of being part of a community of people who are using transit, using public transportation generally, but also using the app sort of bond together. And actually, you know, really enjoy, I would say it’s got a pretty passionate user base fan base.

Andrew Salzberg (4m 44s):
And if you talk to someone who was a trans or user, we tend to be a pretty enthusiastic

Jeff Wood (4m 47s):
About it. I guess that’s better to share your location yourself rather than having I had a situation or where Google maps asked me how my ride was on the bus after I got off. And I, I didn’t, I didn’t tell it that I was there a intelligent being of some sort, I guess, but yeah, right.

Andrew Salzberg (5m 4s):
Oh, no. I tried this pretty careful as a company about asking people when they’re engaging in music, the information like that, but it’s been, it’s amazing how many people are willing to sort of a volunteer that information in the context of helping other public transport writers. Right. That’s pretty awesome. Yeah.

Jeff Wood (5m 18s):
You did to come on to talking about this recent document, The Guide to Open Mobility as a Service, you all discuss creating open mobility standards and the, like, what does that mean specifically? What does an open mobility standard mean?

Andrew Salzberg (5m 29s):
Excellent question. I think I like to talk about it or using an analogy. So the one that’s the most obvious to me and we have lots of digital systems where the data standards, our already a thing. But my favorite example is in the communications. So if you think about email, which is not a very exciting topics, but if I send you an email and you use Yahoo and I use Gmail and we include someone else who uses Hotmail, like our messages get to each other, and we don’t really have to think about it. You know, the fact that I’m even saying it probably strikes as a kind of odd, so boring and mundane happened in the background. But the only reason that’s the case is because, you know, literally 50 years ago in the 1970s, people got together and set up a data standard for how email actually works. And it’s been working on that standard ever since, which means that no one company controls the interface and no one company he can dominate it.

Andrew Salzberg (6m 16s):
And it doesn’t matter what client you use are what software you used to send email. We can all look strange with each other, but that’s, that’s a way in which that system was built on an open data standard. And if you contrast that with other ways to message someone, you know, I want to message my cousin who uses Facebook messenger. I have to download Facebook messenger to send her a message. And that means that even if I don’t like Facebook, for whatever reason, I don’t love the company or the interface is clunky, or I just have enough messaging apps, I still have to download that app. And that’s because there is no open standard for sending someone of Facebook messenger message, or you have to be in that little ecosystem to be able to use it. And so broadly speaking, the purpose of our guide that we put out or an open mobility is a service is to try and provide a pathway for mobility, as it goes increasingly digital to work more like email and less like Facebook messenger.

Andrew Salzberg (7m 2s):
And we can get into the specifics. But I think at a high level, if that happens, we have a theory and I personally have a real strong belief that that system was going to be more transparent, more accountable, ultimately also a more equitable for writers’ and more of a sustainable if we can do it that way. So that’s kind of the big picture with you. Yeah.

Jeff Wood (7m 17s):
We hear a lot about this idea of the quote unquote walled garden. Yeah. The idea that, you know, they want to keep whoever they is, they want to give up, you know, users inside of there are local ecosystem instead of allowing them to break out and to be different. So what gives you kind of a heart that, that actually would happen with an open data system that is more akin to email then save Facebook messenger? Yeah.

Andrew Salzberg (7m 40s):
Well, I think it’s, you know, I want to, I don’t want to sound like it’s going to be easy. Right. I don’t think there’s any guarantee that it will happen. I think a lot of the email’s not have to run tomorrow. Well, just be, if there are pieces and then we can talk about it that are happening already, there is a really good step that’s actually happening, but I don’t want to be a really negative, but I also didn’t want to pretend like the stuff just going to have happen on it’s own. And this is a will magic. We can work. I think there’s a lot of investment money and businesses that really want to have as much control over a mobility systems and frankly, other areas of business to, so that they can funnel their users to the place that makes the most sense for them. Like, you know, I, I came on the show last time and I worked at Uber and at the time around then I think we were, we started using a tagline being the Amazon or the transportation.

Andrew Salzberg (8m 22s):
And if we think about that now a few years later, you know, there’s a lot of worry. I think about what the power of Amazon is and how does it work to show you one seller or, or another, and why do they do that? And how much power does that give them over supplier’s and whose interest are they working in? And I think generally speaking, probably Amazon might not be the model we would love to choose for how our mobility system would work. So I think that we wanna try and outline in a different way to do things, but I don’t want to pretend like it’s the easy way. In some ways, I think it’s more challenging, which is why it takes a concerted, a group of people to actually make it happen. And that’s one of the things that are in the guide is it’s really no transit wrote the guy, but obviously, but it’s not about transit. You know, the inside there, there are at least a dozen or more companies that we highlight who are doing things differently.

Andrew Salzberg (9m 7s):
And either they’re, you know, then providing open API APIs as a micro transit provider in the case of spare, or they have an API for a mobile ticketing platform like Masabi and Ohio does a multiple people could actually buy transit tickets are really easily. So there’s a lots and lots of examples of individual companies or organizations that are laying the groundwork for a, a, a more email, like a vision of the future of mobility. But I think it’s going to take a lot of energy and dedication to actually make that the way things go.

Jeff Wood (9m 35s):
Are there a bigger examples that you might pull from as well? I mean, the first thing that popped in my head was a very cursory a bond, which we’ve had folks on the podcast talking about Ralph peeler at Virginia tech, or there are other examples around the world that we can kind of take for them to think about this and a larger context. And maybe just to region like for cursor a bone disease. Yeah.

Andrew Salzberg (9m 51s):
Well, I think the most famous example that I like his one then again, is that was so obvious then we don’t think about it, but, you know, GTF S it, but those that are no, no, that’s the general transit feed specification, the way that all of the, to basically every transit agency in north America at any size publishes their schedule information. In most cases also real time information to the work, to the public for free and a pretty permissive license, which is how, when you open Google maps or, or you open transite or you open apple maps and you get a transit information, that’s where it comes from you. No, but that only happened ’cause 15 years ago, trying to get in Portland. I work with Google to find the, create a standard for sharing public transit information. So what I tell a story of how we want to build this big vision of open mobility as a service, the nice thing is while it’s sort of daunting to do that, it’s not like we haven’t done pieces of it already.

Andrew Salzberg (10m 37s):
So I think GGFS is a really good example of transit agencies, you know, work to create a data standard and now publish it almost ubiquitously so much so that we kind of forget that it’s important and happening. And if you dial back 10 years ago, you know, we have a quote linked in the guide to a New York times article about the MTA suing app developers who had managed to get a hold of their schedule or information and build apps are for people to find what the bus was going to arrive, which sounds funny now 12 years later, but that was kind of a lot of the thinking for transit agencies and others that you want to keep all these things under lock and key and build your own interface, et cetera. And we really, we broke out of that almost universally and people now assume that having that information out to wherever people want to access it is the way to do it.

Andrew Salzberg (11m 20s):
So for me, a really strong example of that’s a really positive won, not just a mobility, but I think the data standards generally is the GTF S has been remarkably successful and a very well adopted. And frankly, you know, I work with trends at a company wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for that innovation, you’d only started in 2011, you know, in the wake of GTS, kind of be more and more widespread. So I think we don’t have to look outside of the mobility honestly, to find super-good open data standard examples at a powered business model’s and a new company.

Jeff Wood (11m 47s):
And I guess we were stuck with the acronyms now, right? Like the DTFs GFS GBFS MBS Mohs more. Are we going to ever get out of that or are we good? Well,

Andrew Salzberg (11m 57s):
I think it’s, you know, we can blame the bike, share a crowd because I think once, once it became, you know, DTFs was one thing and you might think it’s not the most a doesn’t really roll off the tongue as an acronym, but once the bike share a group got GBFS and there sort of like, well, everyone else has to be a G G X F S we can talk about geo F S to get to the weeds. But the nice thing there is that some people have started calling it a go F S, which is a little catchier, maybe the same GTF S I do like that

Jeff Wood (12m 20s):
Better. I do like that better to go Fs. So the document kind of reviews a lot of the positive actions of many companies that are going open and doing open standards, but is there anything that’s new in the document that has come out? That’s kind of, you know, not revolutionary, but just something that’s being introduced.

Andrew Salzberg (12m 37s):
Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a couple of things we can talk about. I mean, one thing that’s pretty new is what we were just talking about with go F S so, you know, we, we, we talked about GCFS being the trans of feeds specifications, and then 10 years later, bikeshare came up with the GDFs for bikeshare and now it’s being used for a scooter and dockless bike sharing, or even car share. But no, one of the things that I’ve known her my life, when I look at Uber app and beyond is that there’s no equivalent data standards to those, to for taxi and Ryedale, and also some of the on demand transit services, which I always kind of struck me as a pretty odd that we haven’t tried to come up with a basic way to show that information, even though lots of integrations have happened for taxi ride hail in whether it’s Google or a trans or elsewhere.

Andrew Salzberg (13m 20s):
So one of the things that’s, that’s pretty new and frankly is still a work in progress. Is this idea of GCFS or taxi ride home. And that’s what we’re calling the general on demand, feed specification, the geo LFS and mobility data, who has mentioned several times in the handbook. It’s a nonprofit actually based in Montreal. They’re the ones who manage a lot of these data standards and their, the ones that are running a working group to see if they can actually create that data standard. So that’s a new enough of a sense that it actually, we have a name for it, but it doesn’t actually exist in the world. And there’s a working group coming up with it. So we referenced it in the guide as a model for the very near future where people can ask a taxi ride and on demand transit providers to give them information in a standardized way, but it doesn’t actually exist.

Andrew Salzberg (14m 2s):
So that’s one really concrete thing that is new in the book, but I don’t say the other thing that’s new in the book for me is thinking about all this stuff as kind of a unified idea, right? The idea that there is, there’s been something called mobility as a service, which I’m sure you’ve talked about a show, oh, we can talk about all the hope, the hype around it. Then maybe some of the disappointments. And I think we were talking about how do we do that in a way that is open and how are our data standards part of that. So to me, one of the big new things is telling the story of linking the progress in GTF S the creation of some of these data standards, the work that’s happening in mobile payment, not as individual isolated things, but as part of a big movement to actually see if we can build a digital feature from the ability that is more open and interoperable,

Jeff Wood (14m 42s):
How it, all of these things kind of come together. I mean, they’re all separate in their own way. I mean, you have a payment systems, you have the different transportation modes, how would they come together as well? I mean, obviously this hasn’t completely been answered yet because otherwise we have the answers. We have to be winning, but now, but we don’t. But how does, how do these all come together as one like of Ultron as it were?

Andrew Salzberg (15m 3s):
Well, I, I can tell you, it was a good example right here in Montreal, where I am, where you can actually buy a ticket on the bus system, using mobile ticketing in transit app. And you can also unlock a bike share on the bike shares disappearance. Bixy so you’re right. Those are all at different systems, right? The idea that person who operates big study of a company that operates the bike share system here in the person who runs the mobile ticketing for the transit system are very different systems, but they are now coming together in transit app to allow you to both buy a bus ticket and unlock a bike. So there are specific places. These are coming together, I’m highlighting devils from transit, but there are other examples to, you know, we are working in Denver with RTD, their, and their, the mobile ticketing provider, no Uber, who is one of the early people to consume the API.

Andrew Salzberg (15m 52s):
And then you can actually by a transit ticket into the Uber app, or you can also buy that ticket in the transit app. And increasingly you can unlock a bike in some of the same places. So there are individual places where these things are starting to come together where different operators are making it possible to both find, discover, and pay for your ride. So it’s, you’re right. It’s far from universal. But the nice thing is that if you think about a handful of markets, Las Vegas is another one where the transit operator is working with a bike share or operator that’s be psychol and RTC. Their and Las Vegas will make a possible to do a combined spans of ticketing and bike share purchasing. So, you know, I think we could all be a little bit disappointed at the magical mass feature is not here, but it’s not that there’s a zero examples where the full level of integration from payment and unlocking through discovery, et cetera, is happening.

Andrew Salzberg (16m 39s):
So it’s exciting to find some nuggets of, of positive breakthroughs on this that are, are indeed

Jeff Wood (16m 43s):
Happening. How hard is it for writers to figure out there are apps out there to get on board? I mean, for me personally, I still haven’t transferred my clipper card to my apple pay because I’m like, well, I’m going to lose my clipper card. I mean, I won’t lose it the fair media itself, but once you transfer it out, the card’s dead basically. And then also, I know this is gonna be a blast for me to Steven. I think I told him before, but, you know, and I use rootsy as my app and I’ve used it forever. Yeah, no, exactly. By the way, Stephen Miller is, is staring at us through soon. I should let folks know who are listening to the podcast just because I’m referencing his name, but that’s because I’m just a creature of habit. I’ve done it forever since it came out.

Jeff Wood (17m 26s):
And, you know, I just, I don’t at the moment anyways. I don’t see any reason why I would change the way from that. It’s my home system. I know where I’m going. Most of the time, I just, you know, refill my clipper card at the Bart station. So like how hard is it to get people to adopt these newer kinds of technologies that would lead to a better world for everybody, you know, the, a more coordinated or as

Andrew Salzberg (17m 46s):
It were. Yeah. Well, first I would say, you know, I don’t the fact that you use that set of systems is bad and someone should try and change it. Right? I think, I think one of the things we want to talk about it in the book is kind of complicated. The idea or the guidance. You can complicate the idea that there’s, there’s going to be a one point of access to the whole system and you, Jeff need to go to my S Inc to buy all your tickets are also, the system is a failure. I think one of the things you want to highlight and we really try and hit on is at the hope is not that there’s one magical the app, the rules and the heart, it’s a short for Mohs app or the idea. But the whole point of having these standards is to say, well, people can find an unlocked and pay for them to discover these trips in whatever a system makes the most sense for them.

Andrew Salzberg (18m 27s):
And you’re right. There’s a lot of people who use the same system every day and maybe the like paying cash or are they have the clipper card and their comfortable with it. That’s great. Those people were probably regular transit users. And I think that’s not really a problem, I think in general, to be the kind of high level hope for this whole business of why do we care about making likes and translate and car share more easier to find more easily to pay for more interoperable in general, then all of that increases the attractiveness of the system and then more people use it. And I think, I think most of the benefits you can ascribe to any future mobility as a service system is that more people use the alternatives to the car, right? I mean, that’s, that’s a transit is it’s literally every mode besides your own car.

Andrew Salzberg (19m 11s):
And the hope is how do we make those things more attractive? So the fact that you are happy with the set of apps and services you use, I think that’s fine. I think there’s no reason that we necessarily have to change that. And I think in the future world, we’re imagining there’s probably a plethora of different ways to access to the service. But the point is that increasingly want to make sure that transit is competitive at the center of that. And that it’s easy to find it a purchase tickets it’s easily to combine that with the other modes. So that to me is the main story. There’s not going to be, you know, a San Francisco Masa up.com where you are, everybody has to go and unlock their services. There’s just fundamentally that the operations of all those different systems work better together so that anybody can find what they need wherever their used to using it.

Andrew Salzberg (19m 53s):
The nice thing is a very, you know, ideally transit transit app. My company can compete for you and find value for you and how they build it. But if they don’t, that’s okay too. Right. I think we want to make sure we build the for users and value to them and that forcing anybody use up and we didn’t want to use.

Jeff Wood (20m 7s):
Yeah. And I don’t, I don’t think I am a regular type of, I mean, I’m not a traditional, like a regular user, but I’m also thinking about, you know, the folks that they go to a city and they want to use the transit system, their, and then, you know, because it’s so difficult to figure out what the fare is, or it’s so difficult to figure out how to get on the bus or where to go, or, you know, and I think early adoption, I mean, I think right now we’re seeing, you know, a lot of folks rethinking the way that they move around because of this traumatic experience that we’ve all gone through in the last year. And I think it’s been shown through research that when somebody moves to a new place, they’re more open to a new system or a new way of getting around. And then once they get the routine in place, then they are set. So, you know, these changes you, there’s, there’s a way of to get new people onboard that might not of got on board before we get them out of their car.

Jeff Wood (20m 53s):
And for many people, because the Lyft and Uber apps are so easy to open and they’d probably use them before. That’s the go-to right. That’s the first thing that we have to do. So how can we get people to kind of, in my opinion, get away from just going into the ride hail app and getting all of these other plethora of opportunities that might be available then.

Andrew Salzberg (21m 13s):
Absolutely. You know, when I worked at Uber, I was in a lot of events with the transit agencies and people were complaining that look, it’s just so much easier to open Uber in a new city and pay for ride without thinking about it than it is to do the same on a transit agency. And I experienced that to, you know, I go to a new city for conference when I use to travel, you know, the 18 months ago, a, you know, the finding a way to pay for services sometimes is so painful that, you know, give up trying to do it. And so how do we fix that? And I think there, there is some hope now that apps like ours and others are making it, that you, you don’t have to think about downloading an individual app for ticketing and each agency you travel to, you know, there are many companies that are in the mobile ticketing space who are making those kinds of integrations into services like ours, easier.

Andrew Salzberg (21m 59s):
We talk about people like token transit or a Masabi or a bite mark who, or some of the vendors in the space who are making some of those things simpler so that we can compete. I mean, that’s goes back to our fundamental point, right? If we’re making transit or even alternatives like bikeshare and everything else harder to access clearly were limiting the use of the systems, particularly for people who are traveling. And I think your point about COVID being a real moment of you. No, we don’t know what the future of commuting looks like. I think a lot of people really genuinely don’t know, even if you’re able to go back to the office right now, are we doing that five days a week or three days a week or two days a week, some people have changed their location preferences. Some of them were moving to a lower density areas. It’s a really far from clear what the future of transportation looks like.

Andrew Salzberg (22m 39s):
So I think that’s another reason we want it to try and get this guide up now because a lot of transit agency’s and we’ve seen this on our data has obviously been down 80 or 90% of the deaths of the pandemic cutting back up now. So that’s very scary, but as people start to come back, I think people are thinking creatively about what the future looks like. And we’ve seen during COVID a lot more activity on things like mobile payment or on-demand transit pilots, people trying to experiment with new ways to attract users. And the more we can stitch those things together and make them seamless to the rider. I think the more they have the first success, I think it’s an important one.

Jeff Wood (23m 13s):
I’m curious what you think the future looks like on the, on the show. We’ve tried to avoid predictions of, cause we have no idea what’s going to happen. Honestly, we give people an idea of what other people are saying. And I know that for example, you know, Emily Badger had a really great New York times article last week about flattening the rush hour. But I’m curious what your kind of general thoughts are. I’m not asking you to predict, but I’m curious what your general thoughts are about the future of, of, of, of rush hour of trans of commuting, those types of things, the guidebook.

Andrew Salzberg (23m 41s):
Yeah. I mean, I think I like your idea of not making predictions. Then what we see as to the embarrassment, having to look back at them later, or it could be fun.

Jeff Wood (23m 47s):
You won a free mark and I do that every year. And it’s a, it’s a way to give each other a hard time about back prediction the, the year before, but

Andrew Salzberg (23m 55s):
Oh yeah. Well or reading someone else’s predictions is a lot to read yours. It’s Jeff, but then I keep my stuff, but yeah, I think the rush out or a piece and the, the New York times article he mentioned was a great cause it does seem like that’s where if people are able, even if you have to go out to the office sometimes, or whether it’s within a day or over the course of the week, you have more flexibility. You’re probably not going to choose to sit in your car an extra hour at 8:00 AM and you might be leading off the top of the community, but you don’t like of crowded subway. And we want to go in and 10:00 AM instead of ADM or whatever, you’re a previous pattern. So we, you know, it seems like some percentage of employers are going to give some portion of their employees, more flexibility to be in an office less often. That seems like what we’re looking at. You know, some percentage is a pretty vague term, but one of the people do with more flexibility.

Andrew Salzberg (24m 39s):
And I think it’s interesting to see that, you know, remote work, which, you know, I spent a lot of time thinking about climate change as well, but people often hold that up as a potential benefit or people traveling Les, but actually, and a totally were seeing the people who do remote work can actually end up traveling more because they, you know, stay in a suburban areas and go out to lunch with a buddy of it. So, you know, I think for us in the context of the guy that we put out, which is designed to help public agencies, you know, totally take the reigns of the system and keeping the public interest in the heart of it, we want to make sure that all the modes that are alternatives to driving are really as, as competitive as possible in the time that I think, you know, I’m a little nervous about what the future looks like. I don’t think the trends in COVID have been on balance positive. I think we are always seeing a mixed, but I have a lot of things to be worried about in terms of how we think about transportation.

Andrew Salzberg (25m 23s):
So to me, this guide is a chance to equipped public agencies with a best tools that can try and keep trans it at the center of the middle of the system. Try and keep a sustainable choices is kind of competitive. The other options.

Jeff Wood (25m 35s):
Are you worried about what’s the fear coming around the bend?

Andrew Salzberg (25m 38s):
I mean, to me, I think that some of the, I think remote work preferences and some of the changes in commuting patterns may be difficult for transmit to compete with, right. Or if we’re talking about more suburban trips, more remote work, people changing locations and moving further out, you know, moving up to Napa valley and only having to commute to San Francisco once a week or once a month, I think that might start to impact transit systems. But also I think it might start to boost the overall amount of travel mileage people are doing or what you think has consequences elsewhere as well. So, you know, there’s a lot of good stories about shared Street’s and bikes and embracing that technology, which are a genuinely positive. Then also some things to be worried about in terms of some of the remote work location changes in what that says for city’s and density and trends.

Jeff Wood (26m 19s):
It’s interesting, you know, I find that a lot of folks or worried about the three-day workweek changing devil’s commute patterns, you know, people thinking that they can drive to work on that one or two days instead of taking transit to work, I actually might, you know, I might be thinking that it’s actually gonna make transit more viable because everybody thinking that they can drive to work one or two days a week might turn out to be a mess. And if you look at the bay, I mean, the, you know, getting over that one, you know, a bottleneck everyday as a monster, so totally, or, you know, even if people are going to work, you know, maybe three days a week or maybe on Monday’s and Friday’s or whatever, or, you know, their preferences, our, I feel like a, it’s going to get a real weird and for people who think they can drive from Napa one day a week or twice a week, because everybody’s going to think that they can drive from Napa one day a week or twice a week, and then we’ll get back to the same problem we had where everybody was thinking they can drive to work day five days a week.

Jeff Wood (27m 11s):
So, you know, like I said, I don’t like to make the predictions and I’m not making a prediction, but I think it might get weird

Andrew Salzberg (27m 16s):
In that way, somehow in the long run, you know, we always think about peak hour trips being when the transit does its best to work. And there are some truth to that, but it’s also true that serving that brief peak is what all the infrastructure is built for. It actually, it’s kind of costly to have all of your rides kind of concentrate in this very short period. So I think if people are spreading out their commutes a little bit, and if transit agencies and publications, these in general can find sustainable ways to serve that demand, it could be good. And I think part of this guide is that it’s, you know, that, that means that if people are commuting differently and making those decisions on the fly, it’s maybe less predictable and less nine to five. So that probably argues that transit agencies and others have to be a little more nimble and kind of ready to adapt out.

Andrew Salzberg (27m 58s):
People want to get around. So it’s a moment of potential change. And I think we need everything we can to be on the side of the, of the smart decision making the transportation

Jeff Wood (28m 6s):
Y’all recently brought in LA Metro, which seems like a, a pretty big deal. The four, there were lots of agencies operating their own apps, but recently, you know, it seemed that they finally figured out it was a waste of their time. How are all of these kind of winds shifting from the transit agencies, want it to have their own app to actually coming in and asking folks like transit to do more?

Andrew Salzberg (28m 26s):
Yeah. W we’re very excited about the partnership with LA. Metro is one of seventy-five agencies across north America. Who’s a partner to transit where people have asked, like you just said, they’ve endorsed transit is kind of their chosen place for their writers to get real-time information with the MBTA. And Boston is another example of the kind of work were doing the LA Metro. So I think we are seeing more of a movement in that direction and to some ways that mimics what we saw a with JTFS. And we talked about it at the very beginning of the show where when I go back and my head to the 2009, 2010, a lot of people were a commissioning, pretty expensive and involves kind of web a trip planners for each individual agency to sort of go in and play in your journey. They were custom-built and tend it to be not the most compelling user interfaces and transit agencies have kind of shifted from that to say, we are, we’re going to provide the underlying data and we’re going to run a really good service, but we don’t necessarily actually have to build the software that gets you access to that.

Andrew Salzberg (29m 17s):
So I think part of what we’re seeing with people, endorsing transit app as a Metro, you know, work’s in the same trend, I think of transit agencies obviously be the only agency or equipped to run service and do amazing things that they do, but maybe not always being the most able to kind of keep an app up to date and make it as compelling as possible for users and to your point to make it so that can open the same app and multiple cities and get the same experience. So, yeah, we’re seeing more choices of agencies moving to the partners of ours, the across.

Jeff Wood (29m 45s):
Now I’m still trying to understand MDs and everything that goes along with the infighting about it, the pushback on it to adoption of it, et cetera. Can you kind of clear that up for me, what MDs is for maybe what it’s not for, how it relates to GCFS and all of the other standards that like the alphabet soup kind of gets a little bit thick. Yes.

Andrew Salzberg (30m 8s):
The question, and you’ll be happy to know. The MDs is a very different problem and solution sets. Then what we were talking about with this open, the ability of the service guys, right? The most basic way or the most basic thing to think about it, then I think there’s a, on one side, if you think about the mobility operators kind of sitting in the middle, you know, in one direction they’re facing their regulators and they have a stream of information they’re required to get to the regulators. And I’m the other side, their facing consumer it to people like you and me who actually use the services and the kind of data standards we’re talking about, usually fall into one or the other of those buckets. So we think about JTFS, that’s a data standard for a transit agency to communicate with the public. It’s not something that’s going between a mobility operator and a regulator, but MDs, if the other example, the MDs is really about, if you’re a bike share operator in Los Angeles, you or providing an MDs feed to L a D O T as part of their oversight of your operations.

Andrew Salzberg (31m 2s):
But you and me as the regular people who take a bike share, never see the MDs data feed. And it’s not a part of our new to day reality. So I actually have something called the GBFS feed, right? That’s the consumer facing piece. So all of these G blank Fs are really consumer-facing data standards in the book, we call those Mohs data standards to kinda give them a family. Is there really about enabling this Mobilia as a service division? Whereas the MDs is a much more a regulatory tool design to make it easy, to give a lot of information from operators to public agencies and regulators that oversee

Jeff Wood (31m 33s):
That that’s the right way to explain the system. Overall, I’ve seen, you know, a negative reactions. I have commentors for the podcast to say, why are you using that term? I don’t like it. Yeah,

Andrew Salzberg (31m 44s):
Yeah, no, we, we, you know, I think there’s a lot of reasons I have mixed feelings about it. You had the presentation we give about Mohs. I think we highlight some of the disappointment around the term, right. And how much it’s been a hype turn. We actually, no, if you Google mus and look up images, so you can actually find like stock images that mobility has a service with like a guy in his finger and no magical glowing technology floating, right? It’s like the most sort of stock, cheesy overhyped technology things. So there’s a lot of that feeling around a massive, but in practice, I think if we think about what the actual vision described was, which is that increasingly we have more digital technology. Now we get around, there are new modes of on-demand transport. And if we give them to work together, things can be more compelling than driving your car. I think that idea, which we haven’t really seen in practice, but the name for that and the reality of what that could be, I think is real.

Andrew Salzberg (32m 30s):
So we decided to embrace the monster, which I agree is, you know, not without controversy and then say we’re building an open version of it. And I don’t think there’s really another term that encompasses the whole suite of things we’re talking about from finding, planning, paying for your ride and doing that as a cooperative endeavor, across a bunch of companies, all in service of out competing the car. So you, no, I agree with plenty of reasons to be disappointed. And then maybe you about the term , but I think the hope is still there. And we’re excited about, you know, we talked about some of the examples are real, you know, I really can write now in Montreal without creating a new account, buy a bus ticket on a log of bike, it is happening. Then when it does happen, you’re kind of like, oh my God, I can’t believe the sexually works. So we are optimistic about a building, more of those experiences and kind of taking that term, you know, making it open and, you know, putting a movement behind

Jeff Wood (33m 14s):
It. Which section of the document were you most excited to read?

Andrew Salzberg (33m 18s):
I like to read while we, what am I writing a check to? We have to put it all together. Well,

Jeff Wood (33m 23s):
I understand that, but like, you know, this is, I guess is my question. When you’re thinking about putting this together, what was your most exciting part of it to write and then read

Andrew Salzberg (33m 32s):
A, yeah, I think, I think to me, one of the things we do with the very end of the document is to talk about how of these pretty abstract things you mentioned, the alphabet soup actually relate to the core things we care about and transportation, right. What I care about is sustainable mobility and how are we actually enable the kinds of travel patterns we think are going to help us to do things like fight climate change. And so how is it they have the new system and it’s more open and based on open data standards can actually build a better mobility system, not just, you know, a better Musk vision, but actually how does that relate to the things that you find in every transport plan across the country and every strategic plan you see? So whether that’s sustainability or I think interestingly, how do you think about it from an equity perspective or how do you think about the neighborhood a better public procurement?

Andrew Salzberg (34m 18s):
I mean, those are the things that I think we haven’t really talked about mostly because we’ve been fighting battles about the basic nuts and bolts of how do you pay for a ticket and someone else’s ad. But if we can get over that, you know, then what are the benefits along

Jeff Wood (34m 30s):
Those same vein? I mean, how can these be integrated into a long range plans into the city transportation plans or even yesterday Charlotte passed their 2040, a comprehensive plan with new zoning standards. Is that something that you can build this into somehow where you are connecting the dots on transportation and land use?

Andrew Salzberg (34m 46s):
Yeah, I think, I think land use may be a little far outside of the aisle. I think, I think are connected. Everything’s connected to out. I think the lag is ultimately important for our enabling transport outcomes to meet this. This is a document we’re clear inside in this report, the smart, digital technology strategies around the ability are not a replacement for real strong infrastructure, right? You can’t make an app that makes up for the fact that you don’t have any bike lanes in your city or that transit only runs every two hours. I think they’re complimentary efforts. So to me, but I would like to see is yes, in long-term long range plans, when people talk about investments and, you know, concrete and rail lines also thinking carefully about how do we also enable technology that actually compliments the work we’re doing on the ground.

Andrew Salzberg (35m 31s):
They’re not one or the other, but I think in practice, we think about them as very different things. Typically, right. There are public transport investment plans. And then maybe as an afterthought, if we’re lucky, there’s a little bit about technology kind of been there and consumer facing stuff. So I would love to see them thought of more explicitly together because in practice, I think you might get pretty good value for money out of some of the digital technology, if done, right. Especially in the way we are talking about and a guide, which is really about opening things up for multiple parties, to be able to find in book a trans a ticket, for instance, can only help and a strategy where you are putting serious money in to the ground, kind of a change behavior, change the land, use increase, bus frequencies, all those things that really critical. And we, we go to the patients to say, and the book digital technology is not a replacement for them, but it is definitely complimentary.

Andrew Salzberg (36m 14s):
And I think it’d be nice to see them thought of that a little more explicitly together

Jeff Wood (36m 17s):
Then climate change as well. And you also recently chatted with Dan Sperling of UC Davis, and we had one on when he finished his book, the three revolutions book. I’m wondering what you learned from that conversation. And if it was kind of eyeopening to a certain

Andrew Salzberg (36m 30s):
Extent, I mean, the reason it’s fun to talk to Dan is that I don’t know there’s nobody else, but I can pick up, we are not only been working on climate change, but working on transport and climate change, literally for at least 35 years, maybe longer, then we can embarrass Dan by saying how long has been doing it can certainly, since the eighties you can find a reference. So I think just giving someone who’s been through this cycle of, you know, hype about X, Y, Z technology or the XYZ strategy, and bet around long enough to start to see those things caught and fade in fade and have some perspective on what’s happening in that movement is kind of amazing. So I think it’s hard to resist that when the chair then transport climate change, the experts have been in the daily show. I know, is it becoming a dated reference? You know, it’s a, it’s, it’s a pretty good to breakthrough with a pretty wonky text to give to that level.

Andrew Salzberg (37m 12s):
So yeah, there’s, there’s always something to learn to dance. I

Jeff Wood (37m 15s):
Watch a lot of daily show too, and I think, you know, they often have a recurring cast of characters to, so it’s hard to break through in that way. So you, no, that makes it even more impressive. Was there anything that he said that the really interested you or really kind of made you think about things a little bit differently?

Andrew Salzberg (37m 30s):
Yeah, I think he had a funny point. You know, we, we were talking about autonomous vehicles and I worked in Silicon valley world and, you know, 2016 or 17 when there was a lot of hype around autonomous vehicles. And then I think a lot of disappointments and maybe not a little bit of a recovery and he wasn’t quite as cynical about hype as you might’ve expected. And he was telling a story about Mary Nichols, sort of actually being somewhat of a proponent of hype asserted. You need a bit of a little bit of a fairy dust to get people excited about the, even if it doesn’t always work out, it’s kind of an important motivational tool. And I think he’s, as you mentioned, his book, a bit of a believer that a autonomous vehicles come to work and he kind of feels like hype is just part of the process of getting the investment in activity. And so it was kind of funny to hear no, a relatively stayed or academic being are not totally opposed to a tech company hype, which oftentimes, or posted in a position to

Jeff Wood (38m 15s):
Each other. Then I also, I mean, I think one of the things that was interesting to me and talking with him, but also reading your interview with him was, you know, the kind of the messaging about it all. And that relates to the hype to a certain extent and, you know, VMT as a phrase, as a structure for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is generally seen as good. That’s what we kind of organize things in California around reducing VMT, reducing emissions, but it’s not gonna get anybody excited. Oh, no. Yeah, exactly.

Andrew Salzberg (38m 44s):
I think, I think his point about what we’re trying to do, at least the way you want to talk about it, or even if a mathematically, you can measure this as a BMT reduction, describing it as a VMT reduction appealed to almost nobody outside that maybe you and I have a handful of to listen to podcasts thing, but not a huge constituency. And so I think he was talking about, yeah, we should be a framing it around alternatives to the car, or just sort of obvious, but I think important. And it goes back to what we’re talking about, you know, and the guidance that under a, like a transit is, or how do we make everything that is not the car as compelling, an easy to use it as the car then, you know, that’s where the transits mission his and that’s what were doing. And that’s what this guide is about trying to unlock all the pieces of the mobility ecosystem so that we can bring them all together and try and make alternatives to driving your car.

Andrew Salzberg (39m 26s):
We work in Belen and that’s a part of, you know, a good transport policy of the city level of, for a whole bunch of reasons. But, you know, what are the ones that talked about with Dan was, was climate and how holy banking, all of your hopes on electrifying vehicles and not even touching the fact, maybe we should travel a little less or a little differently, I think is a mistake. And so that’s a big part of what, and I think this report is about too, is, you know, everybody’s talking about mode shift, everything increasingly is digital. How do we make sure that we’re building those digital systems in a way that makes the most shift to work a little simpler? And one more thing on that too, you know, there’s a lot of money going into electric vehicle subsidies obviously. And there’s also some work to think about, well, how do we incentivize potentially mode shift behavior? And so one of the things we also touch on briefly in the guide is, well, how does an open and interoperable system let you be more intelligent about subsidizing individual trips or subsidizing, you know, a trip making a behavior where you are dropping off the bike at a trade station, or you’re doing a more targeted investment and subsidy low-income passes for a different modes of transportation and making those easier to access.

Andrew Salzberg (40m 27s):
So I think the conversation around subsidy’s and incentive and building open mass in a way that’s actually usable and interoperable do go together as well. So there’s lots of ways where I think this kind of pure tech conversation touches back on some of the core policy and a transcript who

Jeff Wood (40m 42s):
Is the guide for a specifically? Is it, is it for agencies? Is it for the general population transit writers who

Andrew Salzberg (40m 48s):
Should read it? I mean, the primary audience is probably the public agencies, both not just transportation issues, but across a transport regulators, a public agencies. And we are really specifically in different sections, we’d go through and highlight the guides for a public agencies. If your thinking about your car sharing system and the context of the broader open with the service system, how should we think about it? Or are we talking about mobile ticketing in the context or a ride hail on taxi or micro trends? This is a very specific kind of a guidance for public agencies because that’s the main audience. I would say the number one, but the other thing we really do it in there is we have lots of a highlight boxes of other private companies that are building in and open interoperable Wei. And so we’re, we’re shouting them out there because I think we sort of recognize that there’s a kind of a Alliance of who are doing this together, but maybe don’t always think of themselves as working on the same problem in the same way.

Andrew Salzberg (41m 38s):
So part of the goal with a guide I think is to make other people aware of what’s happening. If you’re a building a company from the brown up and you’re a start-up and then the ability of world, this can be a guide to say that there’s not one way to do things. And there are other companies in your world who are building in a way that are actually open and interoperable. So yeah, I would say a public agency is a private companies and increasingly there is more and more nonprofits. The, you know, the ones, whether it’s the sheer disability center, reality data or a wide array of organizations that were thinking about these topics or apt a trade associations, there’s a huge world, have transportation organizations that are thinking about this Emily and the last, but not least if you’re someone to listen to this podcast, I think you would get a kick out of it. I think transit is a company that writes in a way that’s a little snappy or than the average a publication.

Andrew Salzberg (42m 19s):
So don’t think boring PDF, snappy, exciting, A Guide to Open Mobility as a Service. That’s

Jeff Wood (42m 25s):
Still a PDF

Andrew Salzberg (42m 29s):
Should I say, but you can get it. Or you can put in the show notes or where can folks find it? I can find it a try if the app slash O M a S S a mass transit.app/months.

Jeff Wood (42m 40s):
What’s next? I mean, it’s out today. Obviously people can get, this is going to be two weeks in the future, but it’s out today. What’s next? What are you going to do with the guy, but now that it’s out in the world.

Andrew Salzberg (42m 50s):
Yeah. So I think, I think we’re doing a lot and we’re seeing a lot of, like I mentioned, throughout the COVID pandemic, there were lots of people or public agencies who were procuring things like mobile ticketing or on-demand transit. And then we’re seeing growth of public agencies getting involved in various forms of new mobility technology. And so what are the things we’re seeing as a useful next step of the guide is how can we make public procurement in a way that response to the need to have these systems that actually work together. And so we’re talking to lots of publications, seas, lots of technology vendors to see if we can agree on how we actually make these things work together. So that’s one broad angle is to sort of taking this guy that the people who are wrestling with these problems right now.

Andrew Salzberg (43m 31s):
But the other one that we talk about it in the book is this is not a finisher process. We talked to the very beginning of the interview about taxi and Ryedale and on demand trans or not having a data standard. So that is a work in progress. And very soon the first version of that data standard, it’s going to be published. And we would love people who are in the space, either as operators or consumer’s of that data or a public agency is to get involved and make sure that becomes a living, breathing thing. And even further down the road, you know, I mentioned that mobile payment for transit is really kind of nowhere near having the data standard. We are starting to get different APIs working together, but no, one’s come up with a way that these things could be standardized. So I think, you know, the report talks about some of the stuff that’s already done and that can be adopted, but a lot of this is work still has to be done.

Andrew Salzberg (44m 15s):
And so it’s kind of a call to action to get involved in some of these projects that people can find and the guy,

Jeff Wood (44m 20s):
But, well, I definitely recommend people will go and get it. It’s a pretty quick and easy read. I got my copy yesterday and went through it pretty quickly. So it’s pretty easy. It’s not a, a 200 page, 300 page book. It’s actually pretty snappy. And, and I, I appreciate that a lot as a reader. Yes, Andrew, where can folks find you? Where can folks find you online

Andrew Salzberg (44m 38s):
Then online? Well, I would say I spend too much time on Twitter, so that’s always a good place if you go to the home, we all. Yep. No, no, not all of us, but yes. If you find me on Twitter at Andrew Salzberg, that’s a place to look at me up. Awesome. And you have your newsletter, right? I have a newsletter too. Yes. Thank you for a making sure. I plug that to go to the decarbonizing transportation. It’s a very creatively named newsletter about decarbonizing transportation. So check that one out as well.

Jeff Wood (45m 4s):
If you’re interested to make sure to download the transit app, to use it, to go wherever your heart leads you 300 cities around the world. That’s awesome. Well, Andrew Salzberg, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate your time.

Thanks, Jeff.


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