Cities for Open Mobility: Los Angeles – Data for access, the Mobility Data Specification model

Los Angeles has been a test bed for multiple new mobility modes – ride hailing apps like Uber and Lyft grew rapidly on its streets, the ultimately ill-fated Ford Chariot operated there and now bike share and electric scooters have joined the fray.

The city recognised that, without access to ride-hail trip data, it was difficult to understand the new technology’s impact on congestion or on behaviour such as public transport use or bike ridership. And without information it was hard to develop policy. 

In response, the city has has pioneered a data feed specification (the Mobility Data Specification or MDS) that enables it to keep tabs on the fleets of shared scooters that have taken to its streets. Providing data via the MDS is one of the conditions for operators putting their vehicles on public pavements.

Patterns of movement derived from MDS can shape policy decisions around bike lanes, pedestrian zones or increasing social equity. However, the MDS is a real-time feed enabling the city to see out of zone or poorly parked vehicles and alert the mobility companies involved.

Whilst the feed is only used for micromobility – essentially scooters – at present, it has the potential to include all forms of mobility and give the city vastly detailed information about use patterns and the impact of new mobility on its streets.