MIND-SETS has looked at three major trends on the supply side of mobility that could be game changers: the rise of the shared economy, technologies for automated mobility, and improvements in electric mobility. These developments could lead to profound changes in our mobility systems. At the same time, however, they may pose certain challenges for transport planning and policy.

Implications for transport modelling research and planning

automatic car

Photo: Automobile Italia

Transport models simulating the impacts of shared mobility and/or of AVs concur on the essential qualitative impacts: a widespread use of AV will lead to important decreases in the number of vehicles (and a corresponding decrease in the need for parking space) coupled with an increase in vehicle miles travelled, unless it goes hand in hand with an uptake of ridesharing and an important modal share of high capacity transit systems. There are, however, important gaps in current transport modelling. First, given that shared mobility is still a niche, it is not clear to what extent the behavioural changes observed in this niche (for instance, reduced car use) are representative for the whole population. Second, the greater comfort provided by AVs will reduce the Value of Time spent in traffic, most likely leading to longer distances travelled and to more urban sprawl. Third, AVs could lead to an increased demand for private travel as the need for parking (an important fixed cost) would disappear, though a more detailed modelling of parking options is needed. The reduced need for parking space could also change the urban landscape. Policy will be key in determining how this space is used: this could range from measures to help adapt cities to climate change to new housing and additional transport capacity.

With regard to pricing, studies up to now have focused on a limited number of key decision makers. However, several stakeholders are likely to change their price settings as a response to AVs: public transport operators, managers of parking facilities, electric network operators and, in the long distance segment, air and rail.

Current models, however, use data representing the current situation, and are ill-equipped to model departures from the status quo. In more general terms, there is an increasing need to understand the fundamental mobility motives of people. Travel surveys that limit themselves to past and current behaviour will become increasingly useless.

Implications for transportation demand management

Changes in transport technology and innovative business model do not emerge in a policy vacuum: we need to understand what type of policies will promote specific solutions. On the other hand, these new technologies and business models also raise new policy issues. For one, shared mobility, in its various forms, can be both a complement and a substitute to transit modes. Where it is a complement, this is because it can be an effective tool to bridge the last and the first mile in a transport chain. For low income households, solving the “last mile” problem can mean a significant change in their access to the labour market. However, if shared mobility turns out to be mainly a substitute for public transit, the move to an increasing use of shared solutions could create a new vicious circle of decreased transit patronage and decreased service levels.

Arguably, the most important question in transport policy in the next few years will be whether policies can be designed that harness the strengths of shared mobility solutions to solve the “first/last” mile problem, and thus to promote alternatives to unimodal car mobility. MaaS, integrated ticketing and real-time multi-modal travel information fit into this. Public authorities can also reinforce the complementarity by providing the necessary infrastructure of bike-, ride- and car sharing near important public transport hubs.

With regard to on-demand ride services, some of the controversial elements, such as insurance coverage and driver screening, can be solved through regulation. On-demand services are also having an influence on traditional taxi markets, which are adopting some of their innovations. The issue of data sharing is also important, and there are already concrete examples of public-private cooperation that can lead to mutually beneficial exchanges between the transport authorities and the providers of on-demand services.

Electric vehicles are more likely to be a competitive alternative to vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) in a shared fleet, as they have a higher acquisition cost but lower operating cost. Public policies such as differentiated road pricing or higher fuel taxation, as well as planning and zoning rules, could promote the uptake of electric mobility. Electric bicycles could become attractive substitutes for “classical” bicycles, especially in cities where the relief and high temperatures make cycling unattractive.

A correct pricing of all transport modes according to their social costs will ensure that society will be able to capture the benefits of these innovations, while avoiding the possible disadvantages.

DRT (demand responsive transport) systems can be used to improve the accessibility of the elderly, the mobility impaired, and those who live in areas with very low population densities. Modern communication technologies could improve the efficiency of DRT or other alternative transit systems by making it easier to share rides from the same origin or to the same destination. These types of shared mobility hold the promise of improving accessibility to jobs, healthcare and schools.

For more information, see the full deliverable or contact Laurent Franckx of VITO.

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