Universal Basic Income (UBI) has long been talked about as a way to address income inequality, but there’s a solution that directly stimulates employment: Universal Basic Mobility (UBM), by simply getting people to jobs.
In areas where commutes are long, it’s hard for children to escape poverty, and in many cities, areas with poor mobility have high unemployment and low incomes. The right to freedom of movement precedes the U.S. Constitution and is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: It’s not merely a human right, it’s the foundation of a healthy economy.
Universal Basic Mobility would be a system of partnerships and/or policies that provide a minimum level of mobility to all members of society. An isolated, static population is unhealthy, unproductive and unhappy. A mobile population is economically, culturally, and socially dynamic. UBM can harness automation and new mobility platforms to accelerate economic growth, providing everyone with access to employment and the means to improve their quality of life.
MaaS is currently being tested by three major U.S. ridesharing companies. Via offers ViaPass, and Uber and Lyft offer shared passes. These companies are also expanding to incorporate more forms of transportation: Uber acquired JUMP (electric bikes) and has announced plans to integrate public transit to become a true mobility platform, and Lyft acquired Motivate (bikeshare) and is beginning to add public transit in certain cities.
For a basic user, MaaS plan pricing resembles smartphone plan pricing. The most fully realized MaaS plan is Whim in Helsinki, Finland, that charges approximately $50 per month for limited service including public transit, bikeshare, and limited ridesharing; and $500 per month for full ridesharing service that replaces personal car ownership. MaaS could significantly drive down the amount people—especially urban residents—pay to travel over the course of a year, because while personal cars sit idle 95 percent of the time, shared cars and bikes get much higher utilization—creating efficiencies and cost savings.
The logic is powerful: Just like connectivity, mobility provides essential access to job opportunities, family, and serves basic needs like food, shelter, and medical care. Just as you can’t get a job if you don’t have a phone for an interview, you can’t get to an in-person interview without mobility—or to and from work once you’re hired.
For bikeshare and e-scooters, the collective benefits are the same and operating costs are potentially even lower. Because of the potential environmental benefits, it would be wise for governments to extend UBM benefits to everyone rather than solely to low-income citizens.