Nowhere is the rapidly-shifting mobility landscape more apparent than a city street. A place where, not too long ago you would have only found private cars, taxis, and maybe a city bus or two have become a zoo of shared vehicles dropping off passengers, short-term rentals emblazoned with “Zipcar” or “Car2Go” logos, dockless scooters, electric bikes, and even rentable, dockless mopeds (yes, that’s now a thing).
Though many of these innovations are good for economics, environmental goals and congestion, they also pose challenges for cities. How do you properly regulate where rideshare drivers drop off passengers? Can you limit the number of rentable vehicles in one area? And how — in any way, shape or form — can you prevent those scooters from littering the sidewalks?
“It came faster than all of us had anticipated — it took cities by surprise, and same to us,” says Bob Youakim, CEO of mobility technology company Passport.
But Youakim has set the company on a path to try to manage it all — or rather, help cities do so themselves. The Charlotte, NC-based company currently provides mobile tools for parking, transit and tolling payments, parking enforcement, and permit management for more than 500 cities around the world, including Chicago, London and Miami. Their suite of products helps public and private organizations generate profit and streamline transactions from car-based consumers.
Now, they’re expanding their platform to go after a much larger spectrum of mobility. After raising a $5 million investment in mid-September, Passport this week announced the acquisition of parking management technology provider NuPark to accelerate the transformation.
Texas-based NuPark was founded in 2013 to provide clients like airports, hospitals and schools with a cloud-based platform to manage and enforce parking operations. The company’s technology is based on what is called LPR — license plate recognition. In five years of operation, they have read 25 million license plates and registered 4 million vehicles.
Youakim points first to the expansiveness of the now-combined companies network — approximately 1 in 3 U.S. vehicles will now be processed through Passport.
But his vision extends beyond automobiles. Youakim says that Passport, with the addition of NuPark, is creating a far more robust platform that will help cities manage — and collect revenue from — the wide range of mobility options now available.
“Think about the curb as a utility. You’re using that utility that the city owns and that we all pay for with our tax dollars,” Youakim tells Hypepotamus. “Certainly scooters or anyone else shouldn’t just leverage that and not have to pay.”
The updated Passport platform will act like an operating system for a city’s mobility options. Private companies like Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, Bird, Lime, Jump and the many others popping out of the woodwork will have to register on the platform to operate in the city.
Once available to consumers pending the city’s approval, the platform will facilitate a host of transactions that help streamline operations of the transportation providers, improve traffic, and generate revenue for the city.
“You have two endpoints. One is information, one is payments. Right now, you’re going to a different point of sale system every single time you have to transact — at the bus, the train, the meter, the rideshare, the carshare or the scooter.” Youakim’s vision is for Passport to rectify that disconnect.
“We’re trying to accommodate for this on-demand, gig economy and help cities accommodate for that,” he explains.
For example, dockless scooters have been banned in several municipalities due to infrastructural challenges they tend to cause on city streets: being ridden on the sidewalks, causing obstacles for disabled individuals, getting dropped in inconvenient or downright dangerous locations.
With Passport, rather than limiting the number of scooters or outright forbidding them, a city would charge a scooter company for non-usage — the amount of time a scooter isn’t being used. This would help ensure that only the ideal supply to meet actual demand is on the roads, and the city can enforce compliance about where the scooters are allowed to be docked or picked up.
In another example, cities will be able to designate specific areas of the curb for rideshare drop-offs and pickups. Companies that are not compliant will see fines. Furthermore, the city can charge the rideshare company each time they enter that zone for a drop-off or pickup, generating revenue for public expenditures.
In fact, Passport’s revenue model for the new platform will shift to collect payment along with the organizations it serves. Youakim compares it to a profit share, from which Passport will take a percentage of revenue the city or company generates from using its services.
Passport is in the midst of transitioning the platform for select cities now, and will roll it out to additional customers in the coming months.
Photos courtesy of Passport