The US city participating to the SPROUT project is currently testing this innovative solution, which can serve many more purposes than only the decarbonisation of urban transport.
Mobility hubs where people can access shared and electric mobility modes represent a relatively new transport solution, which is currently being experimented by a number of cities across Europe and in the context of EU-funded projects, such as eHUBS.
But this concept – designed not only to offer people a credible alternative to the use of the private car, but also to reallocate public space in favour of active and sustainable modes of transport – is being experimented also by cities around the world, such as the City of Minneapolis, which is also partner of the SPROUT project, in the role of validation city.
Their experience with mobility hubs is a very interesting one. The first phase of this initiative started with the organisation of workshops and other community engagement activities, in order to have the local community familiarise with the concept and the function of mobility hubs. These activities also had the aim to contribute to the selection process of the sites, where the hubs would be deployed. This process followed an equity-driven data analysis, aiming to concentrate mobility hubs in areas where more than 40% of the population lives below 185% of the US federal poverty line.
As a result, twelve locations were selected and the deployment of mobility hubs started in 2019 with the experimentation of different elements at hubs, such as urban furniture, multi-lingual signage and wayfinding, as well as e-scooter and bike-parking infrastructure, and lockers.
The second phase in 2020 was expected to mainstream these hubs beyond the domain of mobility, as a place of community resilience, an aspect that became even more relevant with the outbreak of COVID-19, when hubs started to provide essential services and public health information to members of poor communities. Another milestone event, the assassination of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th, 2020 – followed by a period of civil unrest and protests for racial justice – made clear that hubs can really serve purposes of social cohesion and community-level solidarity, such as food distribution.
In the meantime, a NACTO grant supported the city in the creation of an engagement plan for mobility hubs, in cooperation with neighbourhood-level organisations, and an ambassador pilot program. This latter supported the collection of findings, such as the importance for people to feel safe at mobility hubs (which consequently led to targeted interventions for example, intersection safety improvements), the contentiousness of reclaiming public space, as well as of a consistent visual identity and branding for hubs.
The realization of this pilot was possible only thanks to a structured cooperation between public and private actors, ranging from public agencies and institutions, private mobility providers, consultants, and think-tanks.
The city’s plan for the future is to make these hubs permanent. This objective implies a series of conditions: the identification of long-term funding, the integration of EVs and charging infrastructure, micromobility, as well as of a MaaS application. To know more about the Minneapolis experience, check out the webpage dedicated to the Minneapolis pilot with mobility hubs: https://www2.minneapolismn.gov/government/departments/public-works/tpp/mobility-hubs/