How can cities balance ride-sharing and resident needs?

Mobile scooters.


3 min read

As ridesharing, scooter rentals, and all manner of “micromobility” solutions have taken root in cities across the country, local government leaders are struggling with how to balance expanded mobility options against rising levels of congestion, curb space management, and airquality concerns. 

With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Stephen Goldsmith, the Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government at Harvard Kennedy School and Director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, hosted convening late last year of city transportation leaders, industry heads, academics, and foundations all hoping to find a consensus around many of these urban mobility management issues as part of the Center’s Project on Mobility and the Connected City 

Based on many of these discussions, the Project recently released a pair of papers examining how policymakers can better navigate many of these new regulatory, data-sharing, and environmental concerns as mobility patterns continue to evolve. The inaugural report in the series, Prioritizing Public Value in the Changing Mobility Landscapeidentifies the transformative changes affecting cities and mobility and discusses in more detail the guiding values and goals that cities have set around mobility. Rather than segmenting the rapidly changing mobility space, Goldsmith and the project team recommend that cities should take advantage of the interconnectivity of issues like curb space management, air quality, and e-commerce delivery to better guide public policy.

Transportation has entered a new phase, and it is crucial that cities prioritize public values when planning and evaluating mobility,” according to Goldsmith. As the landscape changes, an intentional values lens should be used when considering new forms of mobility, updates to older modes, and changes to infrastructure.” 

Effectively Managing Connected Mobility Marketplaces serves as a follow up by examining how local government leaders have struggled to adapt their regulatory framework to adequately address new challenges or the needs of the consumers of these new services. Goldsmith argues that cities must use the levers at their disposal to ensure an equitable mobility marketplace and utilize real-time data sharing to enforce compliance. Specifically, these include investing in and leveraging physical and digital infrastructure, regulating and licensing business conducted in public space, establishing and enforcing rules around public safety, rethinking zoning and land use planning to be transit-oriented, and regulating the digital realm to protect data integrity. 

“Cities are increasingly confronting the reality that 19th-century regulatory frameworks no longer work in this new era of expanded mobility solutions,” says Goldsmith. “They need to see the future and regulate in a dynamic way, while at the same time harvesting the benefits of what technology promises and restricting the dangers and abuses it can engender.”