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Los Angeles will soon have an ‘innovation zone’ for testing mobility products

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This article was originally published by Christopher Carey on Cities Today, the leading news platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates follow Cities Today on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, or sign up for Cities Today News.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced the creation of the city’s first Transportation Technology Innovation Zone – an area where private sector firms can test their transportation technology solutions.

Designed by Mayor Garcetti and City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, the zone is one of the flagship programs of Urban Movement Labs (UML) – the transportation solutions accelerator launched in November 2019 – and aims to transform the Warner Center neighborhood into ‘one of LA’s mobility innovation and workforce development hubs’.

The zone’s first pilot will be a zero-emissions, last-mile delivery service to help connect housebound residents with food from local businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative was selected based on feedback from community members, businesses, and innovators.

Model zone

“Transportation and technology each have the ability to connect communities, create jobs, and contribute to progress on sustainability, equity, and economic growth — and Los Angeles takes pride in serving as a testing ground for dynamic and innovative mobility solutions,” said Mayor Garcetti.

“The first-ever Transportation Technology Innovation Zone will unite local businesses, workers, and inventors around how to revolutionize mobility in the West Valley, and it will serve as a model for what’s possible as more zones come online in areas across Los Angeles.”

In May, the UML issued a Request for Information (RFI) to understand the market for products and services after it had conducted local interviews, hosted workshops, and completed qualitative, quantitative research in the area.

A second pilot project, set to launch in the spring, will create mini-mobility hubs throughout the neighborhood.

UML’s newly appointed board includes experts from the mobility innovation industry, including Ashley Hand, Co-Founder of Cityfi; Justine Johnson, Mobility Strategist at Ford Smart Mobility; and Veronica Siranosian, Vice President at AECOM Ventures.

Open Mobility Foundation

Lilly Shoup, Interim Executive Director of Urban Movement Labs, said: “With initiatives like the UML, which accelerates transportation solutions, and the Open Mobility Foundation, which gives policymakers the digital tools they need to govern emerging mobility, Mayor Garcetti and LADOT are leading the conversation on how to embed equity, sustainability, and accessibility into our urban mobility future.”

Launched in 2019, the Open Mobility Foundation brought together private sector firms (including Bird, Spin, and Microsoft) and non-profits like The Rockefeller Foundation and Metrolab Network, with LA and 14 other US cities to bridge the gap between data and mobility.

Through the Mobility Data Specification (MDS) – a data-sharing standard that facilitates the exchange of anonymized data between transport operators and municipal transport departments – cities gained more oversight of the use of micromobility in their cities, and insight to inform future planning. The MDS was initially developed by LA and has since been adopted by many other cities through the Open Mobility Foundation.

The initiative was not without its detractors, however, which led to a lengthy legal battle between LA and Uber.

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Published December 24, 2020 — 15:00 UTC