Shifting from Transit to Mobility

To develop sustainable, equitable and livable communities, the transportation industry is moving away from a segmented view of the market to an integrated model. But where do we start?

Weekend trip in Milan? Nice. Upon arrival, you take the metro to your accommodation that you booked in a quiet residential area, to get away from other tourists. You settle for a 4-day public transport pass that’s valid for all public transport in Milan. Based on a local’s tip, you decide to make a daytrip to Como Lake. Wanting to use sustainable mobility options, you hop on a train at the central station of Milan. To your bewilderment, it turns out on the train that your 4-day pass covers all modes, except the regional train. And somehow, you were supposed to know that.

Happen to be in London? Got a busy agenda, moving around a lot? You just used your contactless bank card on the Tube, easy-peasy. Now, you want to stick to sustainable mobility modes for the rest of your journey. Great, you launch Google Maps and select Santander Cycles. Oh, you need to download an app, create an account and provide all your payment information. Ok, never mind. Maybe a shared e-scooter? At least it’s electric. You select Lime. Oh, you need to download an app again and go through the same process… hmm. Then let’s just hail a black cab and hope that you can pay for the ride with your bank card.

Currently based in San Francisco and travelling to Sacramento and Monterey for business? You’re already used to carrying a stack of transit cards for each of these regions, they’re all in your wallet. While having your breakfast, you are trying to remember whether you have enough balance on your transit cards after your last trip, or if you need to leave your home 10 minutes early to have time to top them up. You booked 2 hours of admin time in your calendar at the end of the month to arrange reimbursement for all your trips. Meanwhile, you can’t stop thinking about why this has to be so complicated? Why can’t you just simply link your trip expenses to your projects directly, as you do when using Uber?

These are mobility stories that sound all too familiar and share the same trait: a painfully segmented mobility experience by mode, geography, authority, or public and private operator. To develop future-proof mobility systems that make choosing sustainable options easy and contribute to a more equitable society, we need to establish a holistic view of the integrated mobility ecosystem. 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

For customers, this means the ability to seamlessly switch between different modes of travel and have sustainable mobility options at their fingertips. Over the past year, we’ve seen promising developments emerging such as:

  • California is ensuring interoperability across transit agencies statewide without the need for one central fare collection system by enabling contactless open fare payment systems.
  • Universal basic mobility pilots in the U.S. have been launched with the goal of understanding how having a minimum guaranteed level of transportation could change the economic and social aspects of a person’s life for the better. 
  • London aims at altering its residents’ driving behavior by extending the city’s Ultra-low Emission Zone. By doing so, London visibly changed people’s mobility choices: in the week following the expansion, shared e-scooter companies noticed a 30% increase in the use of their vehicles.
  • The largest public transport operators in the Netherlands decided to organize a nationwide ecosystem for Mobility-as-a-Service, instead of only launching their own applications. The RiVier platform will connect any mobility provider with MaaS provider who play by the rules of the platform.
  • Paris recognized that to make people use their bikes instead of their cars, the infrastructure supporting these modes must give the same level of confidence to people and must ensure people can get from A to B, no matter where they are. Therefore, Paris is committed to making the city 100% bikeable.

These regions are making a serious effort to develop mobility systems that serve sustainable, equitable and livable communities, and continuing to explore options to align incentives to make it work. Learnings from other industries show that only those ecosystems are sustainable in which all parties are benefiting from participation. These ecosystems are characterized by a well-defined governance structure, clear interfaces, and viable business models and rules. The regions that will be able to organize for such mobility ecosystems are expected to show the way forward.

The jury is still out on who is going to crack the problem first, but it’s clear that the governance of mobility is crucial to enable such developments. Will it be a need for changes in mandates? Or in organizational structures? Will governments need to alter their way of collaboration with the private sector? Or the type of talent they employ?

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