“Switzerland could be a lot braver!”

Nobody can get by without mobility – but they can manage without a second car, says transport expert Daniel Matti from Interface, a company that provides policy studies and research and consultancy services. He sees potential in the area of collaborative mobility and calls for greater courage on the part of the federal authorities in this area.

Interview: Yvonne von Hunnius, 24.2.2016

A geographer by training, Daniel Matti is Director of Transportation and Spatial Development at the Interface policy studies, research and consultancy provider in Lucerne. He focuses on the areas of mobility, spatial development and demographic change in his work.

How can the Swiss people ensure optimum protection of the environment through their mobility habits?

This is clear to anyone who does the online-check on the Mobility Advisory Service Switzerland website. This platform is funded by public and private partners and it provides around 5,000 individual consultations each year. These consultations demonstrate, for example, the environmental impacts of individual mobility, how much time and money it costs, and what kind of alternatives are available. According to research studies, environmental issues are the most important concern of transport users, followed by issues of cost and time.

And do they really change anything based on the consultations?

In a survey, between five and ten percent of the users of Mobility Advisory Service Switzerland indicated that the consultation helped them with decisions in relation to a fleet and that they decided against running a first or second car. And car ownership is a crucial factor when it comes to mileage. A good example of this is the car sharing energy balance, which we calculated for the first time in 2006 on behalf of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy and recently updated. Thanks to Mobility car-sharing, the equivalent of 8.8 million litres of petrol were saved in 2014. This positive outcome was enabled by the relatively small proportion of Mobility users who, in addition to using carsharing, do not have a car of their own – they make such a difference that energy is ultimately saved.

What kind of people are moving from car ownership to the sharing model?

Often they are people who experience changes in their lives and move house, for example. For this reason, on the Mobility Advisory Service Switzerland website we draw attention to brochures containing information for new residents, for example in the commune of Köniz. It is at such times in life that people reorganize their mobility habits – they tend to stick to existing routines otherwise.

Where do you see major potential for sharing models?

Sharing concepts offer major opportunities, for example, in the coverage of off-peak times in peripheral regions: carsharing or car-pooling can offer the perfect complement to public transport or call-a-bus services. Many of these models are still focusing on urban areas – however, the spread of collaborative mobility services will increase in peripheral regions as soon as the major transport operators like the SBB and Postauto Schweiz develop more activities in this area.

How do you see Switzerland in general – how can mobility here be made more sustainable?

There are three starting points here, in my view. First, greater change is practically impossible without “mobility pricing”, that is a use-based levy to fund infrastructure and services in both private and public transport. This can best be implemented in the area of public transport at present, however it is important not to make public transport less attractive as a result. Second, good framework conditions are needed for collaborative mobility – for example, legal questions remain open and the role of the federal authorities needs to be clarified. We are currently cooperating on National Research Programme 71 “Sharing Economy: Hype or Promise?” which is investigating the energy-efficiency of collaborative mobility. A survey that also aims to research rebound effects is currently starting. Sharing services should enable energy-efficient mobility. Third, the authorities must focus more on pedestrians and cyclists. Non-motorised transport is the poor relation of federal transport policy and an area in which we are not pioneers in Switzerland – even when compared to states with less favourable climate conditions.

So you would make the federal authorities more accountable?

Switzerland has not had a really innovative transport project since the emergence of car sharing. Impetus from the state could get things moving here. Given that price sensitivity is relatively low in Switzerland, we could also be far more innovative and brave. And if we do not rapidly advance innovative concepts with public transport and sharing, we will be overtaken by the development of (fully) automated cars. It is clear to me that a number of appear to be most willing to invest in this area at the moment. But many fail to recognise the major challenges involved. With automated cars, almost all of the limitations relating to car use would be eliminated and mileage could explode – what’s more, at the expense of the environment.  

Federal authorities seek sustainable mobility concepts

Switzerland’s federal department for infrastructure and the environment (DETEC) supports ideas and approaches for future-proof mobility. The DZM (Service Centre for Innovative and Sustainable Mobility) was established for this purpose as part of a pilot scheme. On the completion of its consolidation phase, it shall act as KOMO (Coordination Office for Sustainable Mobility) and become established as the central point of contact for sustainable mobility projects. When it comes to improving the performance and sustainability of the overall transport system, particular emphasis is assigned to the interfaces between different transport modes. Accordingly, actors seeking funding are jointly assessed by experts from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE), Federal Roads Office (ASTRA), Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), Federal Office of Transport (BAV) and Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

Link (in German, French and Italian): www.are.admin.ch

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Last modification 26.02.2016

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