Author Archives: Federico Giorgilli

The results of the Barcelona workshop/stakeholders’ consultation

Barcelona_workshop_1The Barcelona workshop on automated, seamless, virtual and inclusive mobility was held over two days in October 2015 with the participation of 40 experts in mobility and transport planning, to analyse these four aspects in a MIND-SETS perspective.

The workshop built on the outcomes of a previous online expert consultation held in September. The consultation proposed 10 trends for future mobility mind-sets in the domains of mobility automation, seamless travel, virtual mobility, and inclusive mobility for the disabled and elderly. Respondents discussed to what extent they agreed with certain statements and assessed how current public policies were taking such trends into account. Some 141 experts participated from 104 institutions all across Europe, including researchers, civil servants, consultants, members of the transport industry, service providers, infrastructure managers and groups of interest.

Participants pointed out the role of new technologies in allowing for more customised, self-organised mass transport solutions, the need for transport project appraisal methodologies to reflect emerging social values to a larger extent (collaborative values, well-being, comfort), but warned that new technologies might not be a panacea, might not always induce behavioural change, and might not always be accepted by travellers.   Generally speaking, mobility policies are still not taking these trends into account.

At the workshop in Barcelona, experts debated these topics and came up with a number of key findings:

In relation to mobility automation, it is thought that the shift to autonomous cars will be a gradual one through an increasing number of driving-assistance technologies. There is also a good possibility that many of these cars will be shared, as this will reduce costs. Public, private and shared transport will continue to co-exist, and shared driverless fleets are likely to appear, though with regard to driverless fleets, there are still a number of legal issues to sort out.

In relation to seamless mobility, new technologies will allow for more customized and self-organized transport solutions. In fact, new organization of services like UBER will force public transport operators to provide more customer-oriented policies, flexible and reliable services and better comfort and amenities. As for smart technologies, real-time information may facilitate seamless transport if alternative options are available. It is still not resolved whether traveller choices will become less influenced by time savings as amenities and comfort improve (i.e. Wi-Fi, autonomous vehicles). Some commenters argued that speed remains an extremely important factor in mobility choices, though other factors, such as ease of use, reliability and safety are also important concerns.

Barcelona_workshop_3In relation to virtual mobility, the effects of ICTs might be different on short-distance trips than on long-distance trips in terms of promoting more mobility or reducing it. Much depends on the evolution of technology and prices in the energy sector, as energy costs will be a more important driver than technology. Big Data is an important issue in transport, as in so many other things. Privacy and security must be safeguarded, even if they limit the use and thus diminish the benefits of this data.

In relation to inclusive mobility, smart transport technologies have the potential to lead to increased social inclusion, but it is unclear whether this potential will be realised, as those who need these technologies the most may be technologically illiterate (the elderly) or may not have as much access to new technologies (low income users).

The workshop specifically looked at how public administrations can better take account of social criteria in their assessment methodologies and how they can better integrate public participation activities in their decision-making rationales. In the near future, social values, especially health, well-being and environmental considerations, will carry increasing weight in cost-benefit analyses, substantially more than today. Advanced polling and surveying techniques based on portable devices will increase the capacity to appraise and diagnose mobility problems and possible solutions. New participatory approaches like design-thinking or gamification may change and improve the capacity of mobility stakeholders to learn from citizens and transport users. New technologies will continue to appear as long as they satisfy needs that are not currently addressed by existing services or solutions, whether these needs are perceived by the public or not (as when the market offers something people “didn’t know they wanted”).

These and other findings related to the future of mobility will be examined in the MIND-SETS guidelines and Knowledge Centre.

For more information, contact Oriol Bosca of MCRIT

How useful are models and tools? A survey of transport planners

To better understand how practitioners are using formal tools and where they need to be improved, a targeted survey was conducted online with 16 professionals working in transport from a variety of regions within the European Union.

The four step model is the one most widely used. The professionals surveyed were satisfied overall with four step models as forecasts are sufficiently reliable, taking into account the data that are available. That said, these models do not have the ability to fully understand chain trips. To clarify, chain trips are trips that, on the surface, may seem to be a simple home-work or work-home commute, but which actually include multiple stops, such as the kids’ school, the gym, the supermarket, and so forth. The reason why these extra stops are important is because they reduce people’s flexibility, which in turn affects how they will respond to incentives. Four step models that reduce the complexity of daily trips will therefore tend to overestimate the impact of certain measures, such as road charging, on people’s behaviour.

Siemens_electrified_motorways_testPractitioners are aware of the potential of activity based models, which are capable of modelling the emergence of new social trends and technologies and new types of transport policies. However, activity based models are not always practical as they require more resources for data collection and more computing power, and as a result are costlier.

A major issue is that there are still a lot of gaps in the data, particularly where the cities and regions in question do not control all aspects of mobility and therefore might not have access to information that is collected by transport operators. Surveys tend to focus on peak travel, leaving travel during non-peak times or by non-commuters and tourists (useful for estimating environmental impact) underrepresented. In addition, travel surveys often do not include parameters related to personal values and attitudes that may underlie the fundamental motives for modal choices. Another challenge involves how quickly technologies, and thus behaviour, are evolving. The impact of emerging technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, and “sharing” services is not yet fully understood. Major societal and technological shifts, along with changing lifestyles and values, still need to be studied in depth. Better data and a better grasp of mobility behaviour could go a long way towards improving the accuracy of these models.

Mobility lifestyles are becoming increasingly diverse, and simple variables are not enough to accurately forecast behaviour. This kind of forecasting is particularly important if policy makers wish to induce behavioural change. But new data sources and technologies, such as GPS information from mobile phones, public transport smart cards, data from sensors in the vehicles and technologies used to enforce traffic schemes, could fill some existing data gaps and provide information on behavioural responses to policy or infrastructural changes. The question of models and tools, and how these can be improved, will be looked at more closely in future MIND-SETS activities.

For more information, contact Laurent Franckx of VITO

Looking into the future: emerging trends, generational differences and The New Mobility

By examining the value sets of different generations, we can come up with new insights about mobility, particularly with regard to technical and service innovation and the impact of social and psychological forces on Europeans’ decisions and lifestyles. While the specific characteristics of each generation are influenced by other socio-cultural, psychological, biological and economic factors, we can still create a rough sketch of the various “types”.

Girl_on_bicycleFor digital aboriginals, or the generation born after 2000, the digital world is as permanent and real as the air they breathe. They are at ease immediately with any new form of technology and tend to be extremely image conscious, frequently sharing life events on social media such as Facebook and Instagram. With regard to mobility, the line between virtual and physical spaces is an often indistinct one.

Millennials, born between 1985 and 1999, are a contradictory bunch as, on the one hand, they are highly likely to use smartphones and be connected on social media, yet they also feel the need to get away from it at times and put a high value on face-to-face interaction. These peripatetic egalitarians are flexible, and prefer shared, collaborative solutions over competitive, owned ones. Above all, they value authenticity and conviviality, something which mobility product and service providers should take into consideration.

Prime busters, the generation born between 1965 and 1984, never have enough money, time or space. They grew up in a pre-internet, pre-smartphone world but have become digital and spend a lot of time on social networks, particularly LinkedIn. They struggle with finding balance in their lives and value local, sustainable, and ethical products and services. As a bridge between generations, they share traits with both the baby boomers (roughly those born between 1940 and 1970) and the millennials.

Baby bloomers, or back end baby boomers, born between 1955 and 1970, are comfortable with technology and social media, but also value their privacy. They are not interested in quick fads and the built-in obsolescence of many new products, and to engage with them, mobility product and service providers should offer high-quality, customized services with lasting value.

Inclusive_mobility_elderlyMaster boomers, who were born between 1940 and 1955, have a lot of time and money to spend. They want to remain healthy, active and independent. To attract them, product and service providers will need to focus on applications and services that promote healthy, adventurous and active lifestyles.

While not exhaustive, these generational perspectives can offer mobility providers and policy makers important insights on how people of different age brackets are likely to respond to new policies, products and services. More about generational perspectives and differences, and how these can be applied to the market, will be showcased in the MIND-SETS guidelines and Knowledge Centre.

For more information, contact Stefaan Vandist of Pocket Marketing

How ICTs, social networks and virtual spaces are transforming European mobility

Highway_from_skyIt probably goes without saying that we can’t talk about the new mobility without talking about ICTs. As the locus of social groups has shifted from neighbourhoods and workplaces to ICT social networks, the division between work and leisure and between physical and virtual spaces are no longer clear. But the relationship between the virtual and physical worlds is complementary rather than zero-sum; virtual communication has not eliminated the need for face-to-face contact, but instead created a greater need for in-person meetings to reinforce relationships established virtually. Because of this, the rise in social networks and ICTs may lead to an increase in transportation needs and services.

The unmooring of activities from specific locations has made mobility patterns more flexible, less structured and less predictable, which of course makes understanding them that much more difficult. ICTs stimulate travel and increase efficiency, as for example with the shipping of goods and smart warehousing, and allow for both “top-down” (online trip planners) and “bottom-up” (user generated information) interaction with the transport system in real time.Article_4_ICTs_graphic

Specifically, three direct and indirect impacts of social networks and ICTs on travel behaviour can be identified: 1) changes in travel behaviour as ICTs are used to maintain social networks; 2) the influence of ICTs on social interaction which in turn influence travel patterns; and 3) changes in travel patterns as the use of ICTs impacts the relationship between social interaction and physical mobility.

ICTs have transformed the spaces we live in and the mobility we use to shuttle within and between those spaces. The upcoming MIND-SETS approach and subsequent guidelines will offer a more detailed exploration of how.

For more information, contact Pnina Plaut of Technion


Being mobile, being sustainable and being inclusive

Two_women_on_bikesOur attitudes and decisions regarding mobility are very much influenced by our psychology, by our beliefs and by the values imbued by our social relationships and our communities. But it is a two-way street; our psychological state affects our mobility, but mobility also affects our psychology. Our well-being requires the fulfilment of three basic needs: autonomy, that is, the freedom to explore our environment, competence, or feeling in control, and relatedness, our sense of connection with others. Yet the satisfaction of these needs is difficult (if not impossible) if we cannot move where, when and how we want.

The autonomy, control, connection and consequent sense of connection that mobility offers can also be taken away when mobility is restricted. For groups such as the elderly, the lack of mobility can have a negative social and psychological impact. Where entire communities are mobility-deprived, the community’s collective self-esteem suffers and this sense of exclusion and inequality – this sense of injustice and frustration – can lead to social ills such as xenophobia and radicalized behaviour.

But even in less extreme situations, psychological and sociological considerations play an important role. Aside from the standard neo-classical considerations of costs and benefits, there are “hedonic” factors that are harder to measure, intangibles such as perceived ease of use and “fun”. There are also normative rewards, like when people feel they are “doing the right thing”. All of these are important to consider if we want to encourage people to adopt more sustainable forms of transportation. Users need to perceive the costs as low and the benefits as high, and where costs are not low enough or hedonic benefits not high enough, there needs to be a normative payoff. This is where cultural and social influences come into play: for example, in countries where cycling is a social norm, it is easier to get people to adopt more sustainable forms of mobility.

Culture not only determines whether or not we are socially encouraged to embrace sustainability, it also influences how we perceive the space around us, our urban environment and the architecture that surrounds us. Social and spatial relationships, and thus mobility, are all interconnected. People exist within physical, mental and virtual spaces, and the line between these spaces has been blurred by social media and ICTs. People text and listen to music while walking down the street, internet communities mimic tight-knit rural communities in building networks of trust that generate new modes of travel such as ride sharing. We project an image and seek social approval through mobility, with the new mobility, sharing services and connectivity becoming new arbiters of status.

So how do we design policies to avoid locking marginalized groups into mobility-deprived ghettoes? How do we provide incentives, customized by culture and country, to encourage sustainable mobility? How do we design new mobility products and services that cross the physical and virtual worlds?

That is what the MIND-SETS approach, as well as the subsequent guidelines and Knowledge Centre, will address.

For more information, contact Berfu Unal of the University of Groningen