Share on Social

Episode 122 guest Benjamin De La Pena

The Shared-Use Mobility Center’s CEO Benjie de la Peña shares how the market is constantly evolving to allow mobility to connect us to opportunity and community, from informal transportation throughout the Global South to the latest in shared micromobility in the US.

Hear more from Josh Cohen in this blog and take this two question quiz (seriously—only two questions!) on how we can build this community to truly create the equitable, accessible, and verdant mobility future we all deserve?


Cohen: Josh Cohen
Jensen: L’erin Jensen
Peña: Benjie de la Peña

Cohen: Before we get started this week, I wanted to ask for your help. Please go to to answer a quick, two-question survey about The Movement podcast and how we can take even bigger steps towards an equitable, accessible, and verdant mobility future. That’s It’s just two questions; I promise. Thank you so much.

Every once in a while there’s a guest who drops some nuggets that you just need to sit with for a few minutes and let wash over you. Today, Benjie de la Peña of the Shared-Use Mobility Center does just that and gives

L’erin and I some insight into the upcoming National Shared Mobility Summit in July, coming up now on The Movement podcast. Let’s go.

F: The freedom of movement to access jobs, education, and social activities is a fundamental human right, but that freedom is not distributed equitably, undermining our ability to create vibrant and sustainable communities for all. Welcome to The Movement where we talk with the leaders who are reshaping their communities with brave decisions, inspired advocacy, and a stubborn unwillingness to accept the status quo all in an effort to inspire the next generation of leaders. Here are your hosts Josh Cohen and L’erin Jensen.

Jensen: Benjie de la Peña is the CEO of the Shared-Use Mobility Center, a role he took over from Sharon Feigon who we chatted with in “Episode 105.” He is also the man behind Makeshift Mobility, a newsletter about informal transportation that is ubiquitous in the Global South.

Cohen: I first met Benjie when he was the chief of strategy and innovation at the Seattle Department of Transportation where he spent a few years after previous stints at the Knight Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Jensen: Welcome to The Movement, Benjie

Peña: Good evening in whatever time it is in this kind of pandemic time-zone world. [LAUGHTER]

Cohen: That’s what so nice about podcasting, is people can listen whenever. Right?

Peña: Absolutely.

Jensen: Yeah. Well, we’re super excited to have you, Benjie, so I guess we’ll just hop right into it. So what has you excited about mobility and urban planning today, the focus on equity, multimodality, open spaces, public streets, Biden’s infrastructure plan, whatever?

Peña: Everything. Right? So we’ve been seeing so many changes to urban transportation in the last two decades, and even more so in the last five years it’s accelerating. And then the pandemic itself got us to start doing things that we wouldn’t have tried. So you saw all these cities building bike lanes, electric bike and e-kick scooter sales going up, sharing companies just exploding all over the world, along with kind of hype for ride-hail companies and all of that and kind of money coming in through SPACs and IPO. So there’s a lot of excitement and a lot of technology coming right up to, you know, these pressing, existential issues of climate change—and a third of our greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation—and race and social justice.

And those two kind of overlap neatly into transportation and our ability to get around cities and how fair all of that is and how in particularly in the U.S. the history of redlining and building over communities of color and ramming our highways through and then just the inequality in the system of forcing people to have to own a car to be able to participate in the economy. So there’s a whole lot in this conversation on infrastructure. So I’ll stop there, because I really could go on for two days just talking about this.

Cohen: You mentioned the pace seems like it’s accelerated over the last five years.

Peña: Yeah.

Cohen: Like, do you expect that pace to continue at that pace? Because it seems the last five years are almost like white-knuckle, holding on for dear life with all of the things going on. And it feels like it can’t necessarily continue at that rate, but maybe we can. I don’t know.

Peña: I think we can. If you think about the build-out of the last time we had major transportation change in the north, in the Global North, that was when cars came around, and then we started building out roads. That whole period was probably a decade, a decade and a half—right—and then it’s resulted, you know, five or six decades later and a 100 years later we’re still building out this big infrastructure. And I think that’s what happening. The core of it is information; we’re building out an information infrastructure.
I’m going to say 2005—that was 16 years ago—I moved from Boston where I took grad school down to D.C., and back then there were expensive GPS sets that you could rent on a U-Haul, but they were like a $1,000, $1,500—right—for a GPS unit. You had to print out your Yahoo! map—

Jensen: Yeah.

Cohen: Mm-hmm.

Peña: —to be able to go follow where the heck you were going. And between then and now your phones and the maps and Google Maps and along with that ride-hail and bikeshare. So the infrastructure below it, which is all about information and the ability to deliver information, is still getting built out. Right? And so on top of that are all of these innovations both in technology and innovations in business models and innovations in organizational setups and institutions that are happening and are continuing to happen. Right?

What’s happening with batteries is going to be really, really exciting. Partly, I think, it’s the small vehicles that are going to make a real big difference and not the big, fancy Tesla’s—right—or maybe the Ford F-150 Lightning might make a difference. But all of that is still happening, and the deeper societal changes that it’s brining forward and institutional changes are still happening. So I think it’s going to be white-knuckle more so for the venture capitalists and the startups. But what’s really important is we don’t lose sight of what transportation and mobility is supposed to do, which is it’s supposed to connect us to opportunity and community. Right?

And my big fear, just to pivot on your question—right—is it’s a lot of exciting things happening. I’m very, very worried that we’re going to just calcify, further ingrain, and even make invisible the inequalities that already exist in the system because we’ve papered it over with information that doesn’t show us actually what’s happening. So long answer to your question of lots of exciting things happening, lots of potentialities, lots of big dangers too.

Cohen: Mmm. L’erin, do you remember printing out your maps?

Jensen: Absolutely.

Peña: When you were three years old, L’erin?

Jensen: No. [LAUGHTER] So actually I moved from California to North Carolina in 2009, and I drove across country.

Peña: Yeah.

Jensen: And, I think, at the time I had a Blackberry, so, like, I was able to do that on there. It was awful though; definitely got lost coming from South Carolina to North Carolina, took the back roads. But I think, like, we used to drive to Alabama growing up from California because I have family from there, and I remember printing out, like, MapQuest and Yahoo! Maps with my family and, like, driving. I was like 16, not three. [LAUGHTER]

Cohen: That’s funny. I actually was in Boston when I called my wife because I had left my directions, my printed out directions on, like, where I needed to go for my next meeting at my hotel or wherever I was staying. So I had to get her to tell me to get from there to, like, you know, what my next meeting was. I had to get her to come to my computer or whatever. She was like, “I’m getting you one of these fancy smart phones.” You know? So—[LAUGHTER]—that was my end of that, I guess.

Peña: That was a good excuse, huh?

Cohen: Yeah, I guess so.

Jensen: GPS is a godsend. I’m kind of sad though because I definitely as a kid used to sit in the car and, like, look at the Thomas Guides. I don’t know if that’s, like, a regional thing or if they were everywhere, but I used to love flipping through those pages sitting in the backseat of the car.

Cohen: Oh.

Jensen: It’s kind of—you know, I miss that. I miss being able to look at that.

Peña: I also remember, you know, sitting next to someone or driving yourself and someone else has the road map, those big roadmaps.

Jensen: Yeah.

Peña: And then you’re asking, “Where do I turn?” The other person is, “I don’t know. I don’t know. Give me a minute. Give me a minute.” Like, we’re driving down at 60. I have no idea what exit to take. Right?

Jensen: [LAUGHS]

Peña: And you’re trying to read that. So there’s a talent, a skill to that.

Cohen: Yeah.

Peña: I think there’s also—sorry, we’re veering a little way. There is also something about our cognitive spatial abilities that humans are very, very, very good at. Right? So that you would remember where your phone was in your moms household in your head. Right? Or you would remember your favorite teacher, where she would stand or he would stand in the classroom next to the board, you know, the position that they would take. Or if you had a crush in class in middle school, you knew exactly in your brain; you can still orient yourself.

Cohen: Yeah.

Peña: Really, really powerful brains we have on spatial orienteering. And, I think, one of the challenges for shared mobility is making it physical, because it all exists on our phones now. The phones have made it really convenient, but it’s not tapping into our spatial orientation. And that’s, I think, part of the challenge of how do we make it easier for people to use, because there’s already an inequality there, whether you could afford a phone or your wife tells you, “I’m going to buy you a smart phone.” Right?

Cohen: That’s an interesting—I’m going to have to think on that one. Like, sometimes we get guests that, like, will tell us something, and it’s like, “Okay. I got to—” I can’t do that in the interview because we’ve got so much going on, but I’ll, like, reflect on that.

Jensen: I certainly think my sense of direction is not as good as it used to be. I feel like I used to be, like, fantastic with it, and now I’m just—five years into living in Durham, I use GPS every time I leave Downtown Durham. It never fails. I can get there, but I cannot get out.

Peña: Yeah. And our ability to tell directions to a cab driver, it used to be, “Oh, then take a left here, and don’t take that road.” Now it’s, “Oh, well, I’ll give you the address,” and then they figure it out. And if you’re extraverted and chatty maybe, but if you’re not, you’re just going to sit back there. So there’s something getting lost that we need to change.

Cohen: Yeah.

Peña: But built on that is just the availability of ways to get around that we really, really need to both exploit and yet make sure that that gets us into the right place with our trajectory towards climate change—Right? We want to prevent it—and the trajectory or the arc of justice of our society. We really need to then say, “How do all these things work for us to address climate change and to make society better?” Sorry, preachy point there. [LAUGHS]

Cohen: No, that’s good.

Jensen: It’s okay, yeah. You are the author of a fortnightly newsletter, so thank you for teaching me a new word. I had no clue. The crossword puzzle king over here didn’t know, but he was able to make a good guess of what it was.

Cohen: [LAUGHS]

Jensen: So you write Makeshift Mobility, a newsletter. And in your latest issue you shared a lot of information about the informal sectors, including informal transportation, that make up more than 70% of employment and a third of the economy in developing nations.

Peña: Mm-hmm.

Jensen: One of the reports you shared, “Myths and Realities of ‘Informal’ Public Transport in Developing Countries: Approaches for Improving the Sector” —long name; I know. I’m sorry everyone. But it did some myth-busting around informal transportation. What do you think those of us in the Global North can learn from informal transportation in developing nations?

Peña: Okay, you ready for a long answer, because this is one of those two-days answers? But quickly response, right. I started using fortnightly because I could never figure out is it biweekly, is it semiweekly, which is which—right—and then if you went to biweekly, is it with a dash or without the dash. Fortnightly sounds British, and so every two weeks. So here is the funny little history of informal transportation and for those of your listeners who don’t know what it is. Right?

Everywhere you go in the Global South you step out and you will find three-wheelers or vans or in the Philippines it will be Jeeps; in Nairobi it would be matatus, and these are minibuses to vans. In South Africa it would be minibus taxis. In Latin America they’re colectivos or camionetas. Right? And they’re privately provided, public transportation that most people take. In fact, in cities where you have good and extensive formal transportation, let’s say Mexico City that has subways, bus rapid transit, rail, 76% of people still travel by the colectivos. So these are huge. But the whole thing though is they’re ignored in planning or the imagination is, “Ah, we’ll buy the expensive thing, and then all of this will go away because now we’re modern.” And they truth is they don’t because it serves people.

And you don’t have to look much further than New York City. Right? The dollar vans serve largely immigrant communities, largely communities of color where the rail lines and the bus lines don’t go. And there’s like 2,600 by last count of these dollar vans. In fact, in many cities of the U.S. they exist, but they’re under the radar. They are jitneys in the hill district of Pittsburgh. There are jitneys in Chicago. A long answer. What’s interesting that I discovered was the term jitney actually originated here in the U.S. in the 1910s. So when cars started coming around, enterprising people—this is exactly the model of informal transportation—started saying, “Oh, let me add a few seats to my car or pickup, and then I’ll charge people to ride on it.” They would charge five cents, which was a jitney. That’s what it was called. So you would ride the jitney to get to work. And by 1916, I think, LA had about 700 of these. But the tram operators, which were private sector operators at the time who built out trams so that they could sell suburban real estate—right? That’s what happened in LA—protested with the government and said, “This is killing our business.” And so they squashed it. Right?

So when you say, “What can the Global North learn from the Global South?” one, informal transit happens in every city because people need to get around. It’s your formal structures that tend to squash them with political power behind it. And what it is, the big difference is if you’re anywhere in any Global South country—and the mode share is like 80% for shared public transportation. Right—you step out and maybe walk a curb and then it will be transportation rich. You’ll find your three-wheel, your auto rickshaw, your tuk-tuk, your three-wheeler, your two-wheeler, boda bodas, which are motorcycle taxis, easy to get. With us, where do you go? Maybe you can walk 10 blocks to the bus stop and then wait, if you’re lucky, 15 minutes.

Jensen: Mm-hmm.

Peña: So one of the things we learned is how rich transportation can be when you allow it to serve people. And, now, granted there’s a lot of land; housing density has to happen. But these emerge because there is a need, and part of what we need to learn is understanding the need.

There’s one thing that’s been driving transportation planning in the U.S. for, you know, the last maybe 80-plus years or 60-plus hears and it’s the downtown commute. And the only thing about the downtown commute, which, you know, it’s changed since then, but mostly White males working downtown, and that’s what we do, plan all our bus lines for and completely ignore the peripheral travel mostly by women who are stringing trips along, mostly by people of color who are not working downtown and are trying to work service industry jobs or manufacturing jobs on the periphery. So we need to learn where are people traveling, and shared-use mobility can help us understand that by seeing the travel patterns.

But we can’t have only the taxi model to do it. So we need to look at how do we tap into it, the kind of informality and self-organization that’s happening without taking in the precarity. Because what’s really interesting is you think Uber is big here; it’s bigger in India, and there’s a company called Ola that is even bigger than Uber in India, and they operate more three-wheelers than cars. Gojek, which emerged from two-wheeler services in Indonesia is going public through a SPAC, and I think the valuation was $35 billion. So there is a lot of money, there’s a lot of technology, but also kind of going back to my theme—right—both climate issues and equity issues and precarity, economic precarity that we need to go and address—these are new forms of organizations, but we need to make sure they’re not more extractive than they should be and that we protect both our communities and people.

Cohen: I love the way you frame that, these informal networks kind of spring up. And what that recalls—I probably shared a similar quote or another one of these quotes. I’m a big fan of Jurassic Park. And Ian Malcolm there in one of his famous quotes is, “Life finds a way.”

Peña: Yes.

Cohen: And what I think about, even though the formal transportation networks don’t cover every single part of the city, life finds a way. Right?

Peña: Yeah.

Cohen: And these informal networks spring up because people have to move around. That’s just part of life, part of how we want to enjoy it. And so I really like how you’re highlighting the importance of those networks. I think that’s really, really important.

Peña: Yeah, and going back—right? So also in terms of how we think about confronting climate change—and, like I said, a third of our greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation—we’re not going to solve that by giving everyone an electric car. Right? If you say, “Okay, here’s a $7,000 discount on a $32,000 car,” for a family that can barely afford a $2,000, third-hand vehicle, that’s not going to make a difference. And if they can’t afford a car, which is why these services emerge, then the best thing you can do is to help those services organize and be better and provide more secure services.

A lot of these informal transportation systems are misregulated. They’re regulated through traffic rather than through the users, which is also part of the challenge we have with shared mobility, which is how do we think about it and how do we regulate it; how do we make sure that they help us fulfill larger societal goals?

Jensen: Fascinating. Benjie, I’m curious to know; what do you believe is the most important thing you’ve learned about good, effective leadership during your career? And who have you come across that you think really embodies or lives those mantras, so to speak?

Peña: I think good, effective leadership is listening and always learning. Right? And it’s listening to the people you’re working with and trying to figure out what’s going on from their point of view. It’s giving them autonomy to try to do what they think is best. Right? There are too many leaders, I included, tempted to kind of be the superhero that solves everything. You just don’t have time or bandwidth for that, and you’re going to get exhausted, and you need to trust people. And you trust to where they can fail, but you can learn together and improve on that.

I’ve had lots of really good mentors and leaders along the way. Carol Coletta who runs the Memphis River Partnership and used to run CEOs for Cities is a dear, dear friend and a good friend and was my boss for a number of years. And she had a way of building up a relationship with you when working with her and understanding your goals together—right—and kind of putting up a big vision. I also really enjoyed working with Darren Walker who was my mentor in philanthropy. He hired me for Rockefeller Foundation and kind of advocated for me, and now he heads Ford Foundation*. But also with him it was paying attention, particularly when one of the things you need to understand is the power dynamic in every conversation, which when I was in philanthropy I was keenly aware of, that anyone who wanted to talk to me understood that power dynamic.

In fact, one of the things I learned, I think, from Darren was to say, “Okay, from now on, you know, when you’re in philanthropy, you’re not going to sit alone in a conference and everyone is going to say you have good ideas,” not because they’re trying to manipulate you but because there is a power dynamic. And so part of what leaders need to understand is that power dynamic and not—leverage it in the right way but not take advantage of it and understand what you use it for, and also the goal is to empower people.

Cohen: Let me just clarify something real quick. When you talk about that conference example, is that because theoretically as a funder you had the money? That’s why—

Peña: Yeah.

Cohen: Okay. All right. I just wanted to make sure I understood the point there. Okay.

Peña: Yeah. And it’s not just money; it’s connections too—right—the social capital. So, you know, that’s a small lesson, but I think the bigger lesson really is every time you sit down with someone to be conscious about the power dynamic, especially if you’re the one who holds the power. And if you don’t, to be also conscious about that and say just to acknowledge it. Then that’s in every conversation with people you work with or people within your own team and other people that you may be interacting with.

Cohen: I like that. It strikes me that if we could get all the folks with power to be mindful about that power, I think, most challenges would be solved, I feel like.

Peña: Well, isn’t that the whole point about minding your privilege? That it’s not even that you think you have power yourself. Right? I think one of the mistakes is you think that because, “I’m not using this power and I don’t have this power,” that you think that therefore you’re not using it. But the thing is power is also imputed by the other person. Right? It’s not just what you actually carry. When you come into a conversation the other person imputes power on you for what you represent, whether or not you actually have this power. A lot of government officials don’t understand that, or government agencies.

So being aware of that, being aware of both power and privilege allows us to address it and be conscious of it and work to level the playing field or undermine that power relationship so that you are equals and so that you can really hear. Until you are conscious of that and until you can address it, then you won’t be able to hear for two reasons. One is that, you know, there’s a blind spot. Second, is that the person communicating with you, particularly if the power imbalance is that you have the power, the person communicating with you will be very, very choosy with their words and may not reveal everything—right—or be willing to share everything. Oh, we’ve gone far afield from transportation. [LAUGHS]

Cohen: No.

Jensen: It was a large pivot.

Cohen: But, I mean, they’re related. Right? I mean, like, that leadership that you talk about and that trusting and building that trust and understanding that power dynamic is what allows people to get transit projects done. Right?

Peña: Right. And even on the more quotidian thing—right—when you’re saying, “Oh, why did you lower the speed limit? I can’t drive through,” and you don’t understand that you’re in a 2,000-pound vehicle against a 120-pound, squishy animal. So understand that power dynamic. And so when you say, “Well, you know, you’re taking up lane space with bicycles,” and you don’t see anyone riding there, and you understand, “Well, again, you are driving a 2,000-pound vehicle and you take up 10 square meters of space versus a bicycle that probably has two square meters of space and travels very, very fast. Right? So understanding those power dynamics and what we carry around in the world, I think, is so important, along with the histories of it, which I agree with you.

If you look at infrastructure—and that’s our big thing in Shared-Use Mobility Center, is to talk about all of this infrastructure we’ve built out the last hundred years that privileges private car use and personal ownership—it’s not sustainable, it’s not going to help us face the climate crisis or challenge the inequality in the system. We need to rethink all of that, and we need to build it differently. And 500,000 chargers for electric vehicles is not going to cut it, or your discounts for electric cars for everyone is not going to cut it. What we need is good, efficient, available, affordable, easily accessible shared-uses in whatever form, in the 60-foot bus that is public transportation, or the trains, but also in micromobility, also in P2P car-sharing.

All of that, going back to what you asked earlier, “What can we learn?” it’s just, you know, have a surplus of these things to make it really, really easy and build the infrastructure and going back to the spatial orientation so you know where they are, then you know how to get around, so that more people use it. And then we can shift those trajectories.

Cohen: All right. L’erin, bear with me here. At the risk of totally going off the rails here, you’ve got the Global South that clearly has bought into this informal transportation network. Right? I mean, it works for them. Right? Intentionally created or not, or life finds a way, whatever, it works; it’s taking 70% of how people move. In the U.S. we don’t have that. Right? It’s a much more formalized on one side, and on the other side you have individualized. I guess, my question is, the sharing that happens in those informal networks, if they were applied here would benefit all the folks that even prefer the individualized. Because there’s always going to be some folks that are going to prefer individualized transportation.

Peña: Right.

Cohen: And that’s okay. Right? I mean, that’s okay. I guess I’m trying to understand, like, what can we learn from that to apply here in the sense that if we invest more in public transportation or bike lanes or informal transportation networks, that’s not going to be worse for the folks with individualized transportation preference; it will actually be better. Like, why won’t that get through? Like, what’s missing here?

Peña: Well, a lot of it is privilege we’ve built into the system.

Cohen: Okay.

Peña: Right? The privilege of being able to travel at more than 40 miles per hour in arterial roads in cities and thinking that the privilege we’ve built in because the only thing we collect information about is the movement of vehicles and not the movement of people, so therefore it doesn’t matter if they have to walk half a mile to be able to cross this road as long as there’s no traffic, because that’s what we’re trying to prevent, traffic congestion. Right? So a lot of it is what is it that we measure. So let me correct a thing you said earlier, that the cities in the Global South have bought into this. I’m actually fighting two fronts. The cities in the south, the leadership has not bought into it.

Cohen: Oh, okay. All right.

Peña: Imagination is still, “We will build something expensive and more like the West and formal. And then all of these things will disappear.” They don’t because people use them. The other is that they’re also operating on kind of what is important is vehicle movement, and so there’s a lot of roadway building and highway building and just making cities even more hostile to people. So we need to forestall that and, again, focus on users and how they’re actually using.

Going back to what you were saying about it emerging, part of it is the rules, which again are built on power and privilege that we then impose and say what’s legal and what’s not. So you know slugging, right? They started emerging in lots of cities including in the Bay Area because, one, there were rules about how many people could be riding in the high occupancy lane, and so therefore if I take in two or three people I can use the high occupancy lane, and they get a free ride or they pay me a little bit. Right? Or carpooling, informal carpooling before we turned it over to Uber and Lyft, that was happening. And the pivot needs to be to recognize that and encourage it and build safeguards around it rather than saying, “That’s illegal. We’ll cut it out.”

It’s in everything we do, is how does power, does existing power maintain status quo, and that’s in land use. Right? Single-family housing, “That’s the traditional housing, so don’t build your apartments because, you know, they’re the wrong kinds of people.” So it’s that. Right? It’s looking at what is emerging, what’s good about it, and then building our institutional arrangements around that rather than saying, “This is the only thing that’s accepted.” And a lot of that is about what we measure and what we hold important. And those two are very, very related. So, sorry if I didn’t quite answer your question on that one.

Cohen: No, no.

Peña: So let’s go to dollar vans. Right? What can New York City do to actually make it easier? There’s a guy, Su Sanni and Dollaride. They have an app that helps. But there are regulatory hurdles, like you’re required to get insurance as a dollar van operator for a million dollars of coverage. And that’s something like $1,600 a month for the operator in order to be legit. So if you’re the operator, it’s like, “Where the heck am I going to get $1,600?” Right? So you have to then rethink, “What level of insurance do you need for that?” It’s the same thing with all of the other things that are emerging that are there, they’re just not visible.

Something I learned from Slum Dwellers International—amazing organization. They said, “The first act of inclusion is to be counted.” And for a lot of these things we don’t count them. Going back to our conversation about the downtown commute and what’s not a downtown commute we don’t count it. So we need to be counting these things.

Cohen: That’s a great perspective. I’m going to sit with that one for a while too. Okay.

Peña: [LAUGHS]

Jensen: Yeah. I have lots of thought on this, but I’m going to save it for a blog post, um, so.

Peña: Yeah.

Cohen: [LAUGHS] All right. That’s called a tease.

Peña: Yeah.

Jensen: [LAUGHS] So, Benjie, you mentioned earlier Shared-Use Mobility Center, which is fantastic because, you know, you’re the CEO of it, so we should talk about it a little bit.

Peña: Absolutely.

Jensen: So, you know, National Shared Mobility Summit is returning next month.

Peña: Yes.

Jensen: What are you most looking forward to at the summit as your first year as CEO?

Peña: It’s so exciting. Looking forward with both excitement and trepidation. Right? Because we decided we’re going to go still virtual in July and we’re going to distribute it. Right? Rather than having everyone have Zoom fatigue, which, you know, a year into pandemic people are tired, we said, “We’ll spread it over four Tuesdays and then with echo events on Thursdays in the month so you can check in and say, “I’m just going to spend two hours or three hours with the summit, and then the next Tuesday I can sign up again.” So we’re excited about the format, and hopefully that encourages people to take the whole four Tuesdays or just one Tuesday and participate.

We’re excited about—interestingly enough, the conversation we set up is, “How do we shift this infrastructure?” the big shift. Because the current infrastructure that we have, and by infrastructure I also mean the hardscape but also the softscape like the institutional arrangements, the money that flows in the system. How do we shift that whole thing so we make shared mobility the easiest, affordable, accessible way to get around and you’re not forced to have to spend $10,000 or $12,000 per household per year just to own a car so that you can participate in the economy? How do we do that? How would you shift that whole system?

We are challenging a lot of things. Like, we decided that, “Oh, we’re not just going to have moderators as talking heads; we’re going to invite hosts—and it’s mostly women of color—to say, “What do you want to talk about?” And we’ll put the frame around it—right—around these things like how do we change the financial system; how do we change the infrastructure; how do we change organizations. So I’m very, very excited about the subject matter. For your listeners, it’s Take a look at that and sign up. And we changed it as much as possible, no PowerPoints but conversations for an hour and 45 minutes so people can really participate. And then we’ll have networking events after that.

So you can just—you know, we’re trying to capture that in-person thing. We’re a little worried that, “Hey, maybe we’re late to the party and people are actually coming in person,” but this is where we are, and we’re very excited still with the lineup we have, and we hope your listeners sign up and participate.

Jensen: Well, I have to say, I hope that they sign up and tune in as well, because I will be hosting one of those sessions, so.

Peña: Yes, exactly.

Cohen: I think it’s going to be a blast. I’m going to miss being in Chicago for the event, because every year it is one of the better events that I attend and not least of which because it involves Chicago, and I think Chicago is a great city to visit; it’s a great city for transit. And we still haven’t quite cracked how to do a virtual event, but I think I appreciate the mindfulness that you’re taking to say, “How can we make this as good as possible with distributing it and how we’re leading those conversation?” or who you’re having leading those conversations, I think, is really, really impactful. So thank you very much for that.

Peña: Thank you. And we are coming back in person next year. We figured this was the year to go, “Hey, let’s experiment. Let’s try it. And we’ll learn a few things along the way.” But we’re coming back next year, so in Chicago, so we’ll expect you there.

Cohen: I will be there with bells on. Thank you so much, Benjie. This is great. Give us the URL again for the Shared-Use Mobility Center and any other places that folks can find y’all.

Peña: Yes, for the summit. for our website. My newsletter, my personal newsletter is And it comes out, like you said, fortnightly. So if you’re interested in informal transportation, go to Makeshift Mobility. If you’re interested in shared-use mobility, particularly in North America, go over to Shared-Use Mobility Center.

Cohen: Awesome, awesome. Well, thank you so much, Benjie. A lot to think about, so L’erin and I are going to think. And L’erin is going to also going to pound out some thoughts on a blog post, so.

Jensen: Yeah.

Peña: This was lots of fun.

F: Thanks for listening. If you like what you hear, head to Apple Podcasts and subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can find out more at or follow Josh Cohen on Twitter at @CohenJP. Be sure to join us next week for another episode of The Movement.


*On March 1, 2022, global technology company Modaxo acquired TransLoc from Ford Motor Company. TransLoc is no longer affiliated with Ford or any Ford properties.