To say technology is forever changing mobility sounds like a terrible cliché. But the truth is, technological advancements and new economic models are changing transportation faster than many of us can comprehend, leaving us all in a constant race of ‘catching up’ and adjusting to this new, strange reality, filled with smart devices, autonomous vehicles and on-demand services. But human beings are creatures of habit. It will take more than fancy new tech to change our ideas on transportation.
It is exactly this aspect of modern mobility that we’d like to explore in a monthly series of four articles, touching on the issues related to the sharing economy, our attachment to private cars and other important considerations that may hinder the journey towards Mobility as a Service (MaaS). To begin, we look at the issues surrounding shared use mobility, especially when it comes to first- and last-mile connections.
Part 1: The Three C’s of Shared Mobility
Convenience, cost control and riders’ confidence – or as I like to call them “the three C’s of shared mobility” – are at the core of issues surrounding the wider adoption of shared use mobility – transportation services and resources that are shared among users – in cities around the world.
While people’s acceptance of shared services such as carpooling, car-sharing, ride-hailing and ride-sharing is growing each year, they tend to opt for a single ride on their own in one of the vehicles supporting these services. Instead of helping alleviate congestion, this only adds to the growing problems many cities face today. The issue is particularly evident when it comes to first- and last-mile connections. In city centers, commuters have the ability to fulfill their mobility needs through a variety of modes, but public transit options can be limited when it comes to getting people to their doorsteps. Therefore, many default to driving their own vehicles to complete that part of the journey.
The sharing economy in practice
One of the central philosophies of (MaaS) is the concept of moving people away from the reliance on their personal vehicles and becoming more open to using both public and private transportation solutions to get around. Yet, right now, single-occupancy private vehicles account for the majority of transportation options in urban areas: 76 percent in Los Angeles, 60 percent in San Francisco, 51 percent in New York City and 68 percent in Melbourne, Australia. In the sharing economy, how can we become less attached to traveling alone?
Without convenience, cost control and riders’ confidence, shared-use mobility cannot become a viable and effective solution for first- and last-mile connections.
More people, less vehicles
To compete with private cars, first- and last-mile connections must offer near real-time services. Nobody wants to wait too long for a vehicle to show up or detour for miles just to share a ride with another person. Having recognized this, Uber’s Express Pool service is trying to encourage riders to share rides by asking them to walk up to a nearby pick-up location and then to walk again to their destination after drop off, thus making shared rides much more efficient.This also increases rider’s confidence in shared mobility options – those with safety concerns no longer have to expose their private address to complete strangers. Other solutions, such as routing, which manages and matches users’ detour tolerance, “trustworthiness” or preferred rider’s profile (e.g., women can choose to share after-dark rides with women only) can ensure first/last-mile journeys are not only safe but fall within acceptable time constraints.
There’s also the question of adapting existing solutions to the challenges of first- and last-mile connectivity and incentivizing travelers to opt for shared use mobility – creating safe pick-up and drop-off zones on routes, ensuring enough docking stations for bikes and scooters in city centers, and setting up free parking at “park and ride” facilities for carpool vehicles.
Furthermore, bundling tickets for first- and last-mile connections with public transit, irrespective of the mode of transportation, providing incentives for companies that offer corporate support options for first- and last-mile travel for their employees, or ensuring shared riders can save on other mobility services, can help keep costs down – a key factor if shared use mobility solutions are to become an attractive alternative to single-occupancy cars.
Delivering and managing shared use mobility services that are convenient, cost-effective and instill rider confidence, can – but doesn’t have to be – a challenging task. There are already solutions and services, both within the public and private sectors that offer elements of the three C’s. Integrating them with each other is a logical next step, but that cannot happen without a collaboration between governments, public and private transit operators, as well as MaaS solution providers.
Many of us are part of the single-occupancy car commute – what’s stopping us from using shared use mobility? Share your thoughts below.