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Financing Better Mobility

A universal pass (daily, monthly, and/or yearly) paid for by all residents, for local, multi-modal, carbon-free public transportation.

Photo of Paul
2 5

Written by

Debbie Mytels, Serge Rudaz, Rose-Marie Twu, Tom Komuro

How are you connected to Sunnyvale?

  • I live in Sunnyvale.
  • I work in Sunnyvale.
  • I visit Sunnyvale regularly.

What type of applicant are you?

  • Team

Stage of Development.

  • Early concept or idea (<few months of work)

What problem are you aiming to solve? (100 words)

Affordable, covenient, safe, carbon-free access to local transportation.

Tell us more about your climate strategy or solution (500 words)

Payment is like paying for your monthly trash ad recycling pick-up. All Sunnyvale residents will pay for a minimum pass. (System for non-residents and visitors TBD.)

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (100 words)

Meets convenience needs and affordability for all residents. Also, easy to use. Significant reduction in carbon emissions. Reduces traffic congestion.

Explain how your idea would be implemented in Sunnyvale (700 words)

City imposed fee or voted on by city-sponsored ballot initiative.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (250 words)

Significant reduction in carbon emissions and traffic congestion.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of people affected. (250 words)

Universal pass for all residents.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (500 words)

Would need community approval.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (300 words)

Cost analysis.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with our partners?

  • Yes, share my contact information

Evaluation results

0 evaluations so far


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ursula Syrova

It is not entirely clear to me what the variety of transportation options would look like, but is this something that might be eligible for a BAAQMD grant?

For Sunnyvale, which has a fair number of people aging out of driving but living in single family homes away from services, this could also be a big benefit to enable aging in place.

Photo of Debbie Mytels

Transportation is a PUBLIC need — and therefore, it should be a PUBLIC responsibility — so that all of us have access to adequate and appropriate transportation. We all benefit from transportation -- whether one looks at it as purely an economic function of distributing goods and services to a more human-centered view of helping us connect with family, education, recreation, health care, etc. If we think about this, transportation is a service, much like trash collection or sewer service. In essence, it's a vital service in a civilized community -- and therefore it should be paid for like other public utilities. This idea embodies that concept: the public benefits from transportation, and therefore the public pays for it. We don't allow some people to pay for garbage collection and some not: it's everyone's responsibility. We only have to see how SO MANY PEOPLE are currently being dis-accomodated by today's LACK of good transportation to see that it now needs to be elevated to the level of a public service.
Our team also came to the conclusion that there are several components of an essential transportation system. It has to be carbon-free, accessible to all, convenient, frequent, adaptable for various types of individuals and their varying needs, affordable, safe and clean. In short, the system should be multi-modal, have frequent shuttle buses along major streets and include a "rides on demand" component.
If we agree that transportation is a vital service, therefore, the question is: how shall we pay for this public service that everyone needs? The fairest way would be to require everyone to pay SOMETHING for a reasonable level of service (such as enough to get to work, school, groceries and medical appointments) - while those who want a deluxe service could pay more (i.e., have a private car and or chauffeur service, etc.). This could be paid on a monthly basis as part of a utility payment to the city.
An analogous situation now exists in Palo Alto, where the city decided that it would create a "Storm Drain Utility," and every utility customer (i.e., every address) pays a monthly service charge for the operation and maintenance of the storm drains that clear water away when it rains. That case, the city government voted to create this "utility service" and added the monthly service fee onto the utility bill.
Sunnyvale operates its own water utility, and so it already does a regular billing to each address. The transportation service fee could be added in to the city's monthly (or bi-monthly) service billing.
While it may be legally possible for the city to institute such a utility and fee system by a simple vote of the city council, it would be a better idea to have the council place this idea on a city-wide ballot for ratification by the voters. While there would inevitably be those who vote against it as "a tax increase," given the challenges that we all feel with transportation today, if the system were optimally designed, it could achieve voter approval. Having voter "buy-in" would defuse the type of criticism that would occur if the system were put in place solely by a city council vote, without being ratified by the population.
If the system were initially set up so that everyone benefits from SOME reduced traffic congestion, more and more people would approve of it and be happy to pay the monthly service fee. Then, the city could invest to increase the percentage of carbon-free vehicles (electric cars, buses, delivery trucks, etc) -- and more and more people would be served and fewer would turn to using private gasoline-powered vehicles. Funds could also be used to create and maintain more pedestrian paths, overpasses (like the lovely bridge that helps students get safety over the freeway to Homestead High!), and bike paths.
Lastly, an additional benefit could happen if parents who currently drive their young children to school could order up a "regular driver" to provide their kids with this transportation -- and such drivers could be OTHER PARENTS who are available to do that service during school/commute hours. These parents could be PAID for offering carpool services to others' kids -- and this would provide an income stream for stay-at-home parents who might then see that this was enough of a financial incentive to avoid the workplace rat-race and be available to be with their children and others in the neighborhood during after school hours. This would mean that all the time some parents now spend informally chauffeuring their kids and others to and from school, to soccer games and other after school activities might then find that they can have a modest income stream to support their stay-at-home occupation/service to their families.