Public and private transport must join forces
Nowhere is comfort and convenience a greater obstacle to environmentally-friendly behaviour than in the area of mobility. However, shared mobility concepts promise both convenience and greater sustainability. They can make a particularly big difference when they incorporate clever interfaces with public transport.
Yvonne von Hunnius, 24.2.2016
In 2014 alone, the Swiss population spent a total duration of over two years sitting in traffic on national roads, that is roads operated by the federal authorities. Traffic tailbacks are not just a source of stress and inconvenience: the environmental impacts they generate are enormous. Transport consumes more energy than all households or industry, and over 95 percent of its energy requirements are met using oil-based products. As a result, with its share of around 40 percent of emissions, no other sector emits more greenhouse gases in Switzerland than transport. Hence the aim is to make mobility more environmentally friendly with the help of alternative models.
Digitisation as a driver of change“
If any country in Europe can succeed in making the transition to green mobility, it’s Switzerland,” says Jörg Beckmann. He is the Director of the Mobility Academy, a think-tank for mobility established by Switzerland’s mobility organisation Touring Club Schweiz (TCS). Beckmann is optimistic because Switzerland is environmentally aware and affluent, and would be able to build on its highly developed public and private transport systems. “Nonetheless, it is still a major challenge as we are facing a huge transformation,” says Beckmann. One of the key tracks here is deprivatisation, which more or less involves the replacement of car ownership with shared car use. Yes, the private car is losing importance as the backbone of mobility and digitisation is providing a strong impetus for this trend. “This is in tune with the values of the young urban generation,” says Beckmann. The “digital natives” think in flat-rate terms: there is no need for a ‘mine’ when ‘yours’ is just a click of an app and a user fee away.
Sharing models can reduce the pressure on the environment
The Achilles heel here is that these models must promise greater efficiency and must not involve any disadvantages for the environment. The risk involved here is clearly demonstrated by the rebound effect: If something is more efficient, will it be used more often? Does the success of Switzerland’s shared mobility generate a greater environmental impact than it alleviates? Every sixtieth Swiss inhabitant is now a customer of the Mobility car-sharing cooperative – an international record. The company provides 2,700 cars for over 120,000 customers in 1,400 locations. However, a study showed that in 2014, all of the users together saved on 8.8 million litres of petrol and around 20,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Daniel Matti, one of the co-authors of the study, explains the precise factors that influenced this result in a separate interview. Mobility is currently running a pilot project in Basel involving the provision of 120 shared cars outside of permanent stations. Mobility press officer Patrick Eigenmann says: “We are currently analysing the environmental impacts. It is clear that the more people use these cars, the better as many car sharers are not car owners.”
Another shared mobility model targets the usage rate of the private vehicle fleet. For example, private individuals can rent out their cars through the Sharoo platform when they are not using them. Sharoo CEO Carmen Spielmann explains: “Cars stand around unused 23 out of 24 hours per day. At the same time, 45 percent of urban Swiss households no longer have their own car.” Sharoo has attracted 850 cars and 23,000 users since May 2014. According to Spielmann, these vehicles also include almost 100 electric cars and several Tesla e-limousines can be booked using the platform.
Cities in the mobility spotlight
The Swiss are discovering their penchant for sharing. A current study by Deloitte predicts a rosy future for the so-called sharing economy: 55 percent of those surveyed in Switzerland stated that they planned to use shared mobility platforms in the near future – ten percent more than in the USA. This has not escaped the attention of start-ups in the sector like ParkU, a portal that enables the rental of private parking spaces – 2,400 such spaces are now on offer in Switzerland and the number of registrations is growing by 30 percent per year. If studies are to be believed which indicate that the search for parking accounts for 30 percent of urban traffic, this service could also alleviate the environmental impacts of transport. However, it is also conceivable that the elimination of this source of stress in motoring will make driving in cities more attractive again. The subletting of parking spaces intended for private use also remains a legal grey area in many places.
Cities like Zurich are keeping a sharp eye on the development of shared mobility and the possible rebound effects. They want to reduce the number of cars on the road and are focusing their attention on the modal split, the term used to describe the way in which transport usage is spread across private motor vehicles, public transport and non-motorised transport. Zurich’s public transport system alone is expected to have to convey 30 percent more people in 2020. Shared mobility services can complement public transport in fulfilling this mammoth task, particularly at off-peak times. Moreover, as Stefan Hackh, Director of Communications at the City of Zurich civil engineering authority notes: “It has been demonstrated that Mobility carsharing reduces the distances travelled using private transport and boosts those travelled using public transport.” Zurich is also focusing strongly on bicycles: it is intended to expand the city’s public bike rental system from the current 300 bikes to 1,500.
SBB wants more connections
The example of Zurich clearly demonstrates how crucial the interconnection of services is. The Swiss Federal Railways, SBB, is the lynchpin here. The SBB is already cooperating with Mobility to ensure that carsharing vehicles are available at railway stations and the PubliBike bike-sharing service provides over 1,000 bikes. However, the full potential of this combining of services has not yet been exhausted according to SBB media officer Michelle Rothen. She says: “A new way of thinking is needed that understands mobility as a dynamic and interconnected system. More cooperative ventures are an indispensable component of the future mobility system.”
A platform that provides customers with information about transport interfaces and on which they can book connecting services is equally indispensable. The app provided by Daimler’s subsidiary Moovel aims to provide such a service in Germany. In Switzerland, the SBB is currently developing a door-to-door journey planner which combines public transport and shared mobility services. A prototype is due to be available for market testing in the second half of 2016. An environmental calculator will also be integrated into this tool. It already calculates the CO2 emissions, energy consumption and travel time compared to other modes of transport in the SBB timetable information service.