• Photo by Jack Finnigan on Unsplash

A group of American cities – most notably Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco – started the Open Mobility Foundation (OMF) with the aim of creating an open-source project. OMF, constitutes as a non-profit coalition, from its beginnings it has sought to install a new platform on open standards and software to manage urban mobility efficiently. Let’s see how it works!

Responding to the Needs of Cities

Urban development undoubtedly represents a positive side of modern cities, but when traffic is abundant and mobility options are endless, cities and their citizens need a little help.
The Open Mobility Foundation as a software platform aims at the meeting and dialogue between public and private actors – companies, regional and municipal organizations, technicians, experts a.o. – in order to make the performance of governments increasingly efficient in the organization of cities. Consequently, pedestrian security, equity, privacy and open source governance are the main focus of OMF‘s interest.

MDS Is the Key

One of OMF‘s most notable achievements has been the Mobility Data Specification (MDS), developed by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to help to manage micro-mobility programs focused on dockless e-scooters and bicycles. MDS consists of a set of Application Program Interfaces (APIs) that enable standardized communications between cities and private companies and, at the same time, make it easier for them to share information about their own operations.

As expressed by the City of Los Angeles, MDS is made up of two components:

  • The provider’s API was first launched in 2018 to be implemented by mobility providers. This means that when a municipality consults information about a mobility provider, the provider’s API presents a historical view of its operations in a standard format.
  • The agency API was launched in 2019 to be implemented by regulatory agencies. Providers query the Agency API when an event occurs, like a trip starting or ending.

The importance of MDS on a strictly practical plane has allowed for example:

a) to verify how many e-scooters are operating,

b) to determine whether e-scooters are dropped off outside of a service area

c) to ensure information and help manage the Service Request style operations

d) to inform policy making about e.g. the number of scooters, distribution, etc.

e) to inform future capital investments such as dockless vehicle drop zones or furniture zones.

The main advantage brought by the OMF-model is the meeting and joint work between municipalities, companies and experts. The existence of an open and free software represents a superior proposal created by and for cities. This, unquestionably, enables the construction of efficient cities and places citizens as the main beneficiaries of the breadth and availability of information. Faced with this criterion and the¬†successful approach to mobility management, I can say no more than …let’s go for more replicas of OMF in cities!