Disclaimer: This article is published in partnership with Siemens. Siemens is paying for my engagement, not for promotional purpose. Opinions are my own.
The pandemic has created a situation that provides a unique opportunity to fundamentally change our mobility behavior for the benefit of society
More than half of the world’s population already lives in urban areas 1), and this number could rise to about two-thirds by 2050. All of them want and need to remain mobile to work, go shopping or pursue leisure activities.
The demand for interurban passenger travel could almost double between 2020 and 2050 2)
Although public transport is still the most efficient means of transporting, it needs to overcome the first and last mile challenge.
Completely unexpectedly, the COVID-19 pandemic led us into an unprecedented global crisis that suddenly challenged our daily lives including our mobility options:
- The number of passengers using public transport decreased by 70 to 90 percent in the world’s major cities 3)
- Ride hailing services have experienced declines of up to 60 to 70 percent, and many micromobility and carpooling players needed to suspended their services completely 3)
- Employees who could not perform their work remotely turned to their cars, which led to traffic jams in many places
The near term
In the subsequent course of the pandemic (until a suitable vaccine has been found and has reached the broad population) the possible degree of physical distancing will have a considerable influence on each individual’s mobility behavior. Many city dwellers will consider the risk of infection as a core decision criterion for selecting the modal mix that seems most appropriate for them.
Those who privately own a car will increasingly use it, while those who previously relied on public transport might consider switching to other, “safer” means of transport such as bicycles or scooters instead.
In the short term, the pandemic is likely to have a negative impact on the scalability of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) development, as the MaaS business model has largely focused on mass transit and shared mobility that has suffered from the collapsing demand.
In the medium term, MaaS could contribute to greater system resilience through a wider choice of mobility options (ride hailing, taxi, scooters, bikes, bicycles, Segways, etc.) and improved usability and attractiveness.
Here is, where the “New Normal” of mobility begins: as in the long run the pandemic could initiate a sustainable change in mobility behavior and be a starting point to reform the MaaS sector to positively change the way people travel for the benefit of society.
- Residents of urban areas have experienced how much air quality has improved during the lockdowns. Substituting private transport with additional cars should therefore not be a viable option
- Working from home is becoming increasingly popular with both employees and employers and has become an integral part of everyday working life already 4)
MaaS could act as an enabler of a new agility in the mobility sector, where municipalities motivate their citizens to switch to alternative modes of transport by creating new green zones, cycle paths and pedestrian zones. As the attractiveness of alternative individual modes of transport increases, the need for private car ownership will decrease for many city residents – also because stricter environmental regulations and limited parking space make it increasingly unattractive.
In the short term, the share of mass transit in the modal mix is likely to decrease (until immunization of the population is achieved) but there will still be users who, for various reasons, will not be able to switch modes of transport.
Technical adaptions such as contactless payment options, automatic train and bus doors, temperature monitoring during boarding, etc. will help to minimize infection risks, while “Occupancy Analytics” 5) makes the occupancy transparent in real time for each individual means of transportation, even each individual train car – to give passengers the freedom of choice for boarding.
What it takes to make it happen
Technology plays a crucial role in the transition to the “New Normal”, keeping our societies mobile amidst closures and quarantines. COVID-19 has revealed the need for digitization and innovation in this field.
In the long term, data will be critical to ensuring that Mobility-as-a-Service systems function smoothly while customer experience determines whether they are accepted by their users. Take the current situation as a unique opportunity to change mobility for the better!
- United Nations, World urbanization prospects, 2015
- ITF Transport Outlook, 2017
- McKinsey, The impact of COVID-19 on future mobility solutions, 2020
- Siemens to let staff spend less time in the office permanently
- How the Public Transport Sector can React to COVID-19