Happy Birthday, SMI! Shared Mobility Inc. turns seven years old this month! Though our team has been doing ridesharing work since 2009, SMI was recognized as an official 501(c)3 on March 15th, 2016.
Mike Galligano, our current CEO, started the work in 2007 with colleagues as Buffalo Carshare (BCS). The organization provided affordable mobility options for thousands, focusing on those without access to cars, like the elderly, those with disabilities, and low-income families. Carshare had 19 vehicles, over 35,000 trips, and 1 million miles.
Photo of Buffalo Carshare Prius on Buffalo State College Campus, 2013
BCS expanded into vanpooling and was so successful that Erie county was looking to get 5-10 additional vans for their fleet. Unfortunately, the service went under in 2015 due to New York State’s restrictive insurance policy. Not a single insurance provider would offer a policy to them. During the time that Buffalo Carshare was thriving, BCS had another initiative in the work, bikesharing. The technology was experimental, and the staff was learning how to make it sustainable alongside the rest of the industry. In 2016, BCS officially became Shared Mobility Inc. and Reddy Bikeshare was launched through the sponsorship of Independent Health.
From big projects with NYSERDA demonstrating electric micromobility (EMM) through policy, education, and awareness to pioneering an e-bike library on the East Side of Buffalo to navigating significant partnerships, SMI has a lot of highlights to reflect on from its first seven years.
Group demonstration in downtown Buffalo, 2022
Some notable partnerships include launching car and bikeshare spinoffs like DriveCDTA in New York’s Capital Region and Miocar in California. Both programs now functioning for over five years. A New York Times article was written on the partnership between SMI and DriveCDTA. In the Buffalo region, Reddy Bikeshare has expanded into Niagara Falls, has a fleet of over 400 bikes, and has enough trip miles to be equivalent to riding to the moon. SMI is also currently working on launching another bikeshare in Stockton, California. However, our CEO says the biggest highlight of the mobility work has been every mile, every experience, and every testimonial of lives impacted by the services, whether it be weight loss, an introduction to biking, being able to see friends, or getting to jobs and appointments.
Knowing SMI also means getting to know the staff who make the work possible. As our CEO says, “One defining feature of SMI as an organization is its culture of Family… We wouldn't be where we are now without the commitment of many individuals here or have moved on to bigger, greener pastures.”
SMI Team doing a team building activity at a high ropes course, 2022
Together we are a group of people working hard, grinding it out, and experimenting with what can be. Two favorite lessons that the organization has learned over the years are that local programs are far more successful and sustainable. The EMM Industry has been disrupted by turn-key, big for-profit models that have pulled out from many communities, leaving them only a remnant of a shared system. And two, there are no silver bullet solutions to transportation problems. As with everything, it requires a little bit of all actors working together to find creative solutions that fit their unique circumstances.
For SMI’s next seven years, the team hopes for Buffalo to be redesigned into a home that better serves the functionality of a healthy, green, and non-automobile culture. We hope to grow our partnership with the local transit agencies, as this work is most successful when all transportation options work together. We hope for our local leaders to invest in these mobility modes as if they were buses or trains. We continue to aim for a transportation system that is accessible across all socio-economic classes, excelling at serving members at their needs. Lastly, SMI desperately wishes for the culture of public transportation to shift. Buses, bikes, and carpooling are great and healthy ways to move from point A to B, and we hope to see that embraced by the public.
Most importantly, Shared Mobility Inc. wants to thank YOU for supporting a local organization trying to make an impact. Our CEO believes, “... it is a testament to the spirit of Buffalo. People are ready to support local initiatives.” We are looking forward to the work that is to come, new partnerships, and contributing to a more connected city.
SMI team member assisting demonstration participant with helmet, 2021