Oakland, LA, piloting universal basic mobility

By Laura Bliss, CityLab, November 11, 2021

In Oakland, “one of several pilots in U.S. cities testing the concept of ‘universal basic mobility,’ up to 500 residents will [soon] receive prepaid $300 debit cards for transit and shared mobility services. Los Angeles is preparing a similar grant-funded program focused in south L.A.”

“The goal is to understand how a minimum guaranteed level of transportation could change outcomes for people who have previously gone without it. Across the U.S., poorer households spend far more on transportation as a percentage of their incomes than more affluent ones.

“Interest is strong. Oakland officials received more than twice as many applications than it could take for the city’s grant-funded pilot. [Five hundred east Oaklanders] will be able [to use] debit cards on public transit, car share, bikeshare, and scooters from multiple operators for as long as the $300 lasts. 

“That will likely be no more than a few months, said Quinn Wallace, the Oakland transportation planner who originally designed the program to strengthen access to a new bus rapid transit line. Now the goal is to [see] how a small amount of extra money can change how, and if, people opt to travel.

“ ‘Increasingly, this project is about reducing financial barriers to … transportation…’ she said. ‘So if we give you $300 on a prepaid card and you … put it all on a transit pass [or] you use it to replace a few vehicle trips with bikeshare… that’s a win.’ 

“The programs come in the wake of guaranteed income pilots in cities such as Stockton … that support … guaranteed cash flow for vulnerable residents. Oakland recently launched one such study on low-income families of color, separate from its $300 mobility pilot. …Transportation is closely tied to economic success in the U.S., and … providing discounted access to multiple services beyond public transit for disadvantaged riders is something that’s been discussed … for years.”

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