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Seleta Reynolds

General Manager, Los Angeles Department of Transportation

by / March 24, 2020

If leadership is having a clear vision and propelling other people to make it happen, then Seleta Reynolds has personified leadership in Los Angeles.

And there are few better examples of that than the development of the Mobility Data Specification (MDS).

When Reynolds stepped in as general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) in 2014, she was seeing a lot of mobility companies — including a couple of emerging startups called Uber and Lyft — laying out their own visions for the future of cities. She thought cities ought to be a bigger part of that conversation.

So she began searching for ways to improve dialog between local government, the private sector and stakeholders. What she found was that one of the most effective communication channels she could open was the application programming interface, or API.

That’s how LADOT wound up creating the Mobility Data Specification, which allows it to push actionable information to mobility companies — things like when and where a scooter can park, whether payment is required and even when an area is being evacuated — and receive information such as locations and routes in return.

“I can’t let them know that with paint and concrete and steel alone,” Reynolds said.

The system came in handy during the Getty Fire in 2019, when the city used MDS to let scooter companies know which areas were being evacuated so they could remove the machines from the path of the fire and emergency vehicles.

What’s truly remarkable is the spread of MDS. LADOT developed the tool in collaboration with officials in several other cities and launched the Open Mobility Foundation to govern it, and now it’s in use in at least 90 cities across the world.

And it’s not just helping those governments adapt to the present — it’s helping create a flexible architecture for the future too.

“What [this] opens up for me is the freedom to not create a set of ad hoc standards and rules for every kind of new thing, whether that’s a robot that delivers a pizza or a drone that’s delivering medical supplies,” Reynolds said.

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Ben Miller Associate Editor of GT Data and Business

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.

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