Universal basic mobility

Chances are you’ve heard of Universal Basic Income (everyone in a population getting a certain amount of money every month, regardless of employment status or income), but have you heard of “universal basic mobility”? Like many UBI pilot programs, it’s not really universal but it’s an intriguing proposition nonetheless: if local government provides a stipend for mobility, what kind of change does that bring to the lives of people with very limited income?

In Oakland, up to 500 residents will receive prepaid $300 debit cards for transit and shared mobility services later this month. Pittsburgh plans to launch a year-long study with a 50-person cohort next spring. Los Angeles is preparing a similar grant-funded program focused in south L.A. […]

In Bakersfield, participants will receive free passes for Golden Empire Transit’s local bus lines and five free rides per day on Spin’s shared e-bikes and scooters. The participants will be recruited by and from the Dream Center, Kern County’s resource hub for current and former foster youth, many of whom are homeless

Low-income neighbourhoods are often disenfranchised from many things, including even having access to multiple forms of mobility, especially in many US cities. A bus pass for infrequent busses or rides for e-scooters when they are not offered near your home will have little impact, and there might be hard to navigate car-first areas to ride through.

“It probably changes their budget, and that’ll have some good impacts, but any of these programs that don’t acknowledge the role of the automobile in almost everyone’s life in the country — including the very lowest income people — is really missing the point.”

And yet, when every dollar counts, every bit of help does too. The security of knowing you can get around town and a way to make daily commutes more reliable should definitely make a difference for many people in these programs. The results will be something to pay attention to.