he percentage of people living in urban areas worldwide will increase from 55% in 2018 to 68% by 2050. This number will be substantially larger in the US and Europe, where urbanisation will grow from 82% to 87.4% and from 75% to 83.7% respectively by 2050. Intermodal mobility solutions, among others, can help our cities remain liveable but only if we ensure their challenges are sufficiently addressed.
Increasing urbanisation will inevitably bring challenges to the ways people commute within urban areas, such as increased congestion levels, and significantly change the landscape of urban mobility. Welcoming and supporting all this change, I am a firm believer that the future of urban mobility must revolve around and integrate with the backbone public transport network.
An integral part of this changing landscape will be about creating a mix of sustainable transportation modes integrating with and complementing the backbone public transport. Such mix can include active mobility like cycling and walking – we’ve already seen a shift towards that during the pandemic in cities like Barcelona.
Micromobility, involving e-scooters, e-mopeds, and e-bikes, is another mobility solution entering the scene. There’s also demand-responsive transport, ride-sharing and park & ride facilities that can complement public transport. And the list could go on.
Each of these modes of transport can have its own place in the mix of sustainable urban transportation. And then there’s intermodality which aims to combine these different modes of transport into a seamless travel experience. It should be convenient, efficient and hassle-free. But most importantly, it needs to be integrated with public transport.
However, there’s plenty of challenges to be addressed to make intermodality a truly viable option within urban mobility. How can we make intermodality really sustainable and equitable? How can we integrate with an existing public transport infrastructure? How can we ensure it’s easily adopted by users? I’ve put together five principles to navigate these challenges.
1. One size does not fit all.
There are already solutions, mostly Mobility as a Service (MaaS) platforms like Moovit, Transit or Citymapper, combining different modes of transport into an intermodal journey. However, I would argue that while they try to build up towards a one-size-fits-all solution, they took upon the generalisation too early and don’t offer an ideal solution that would fit the needs of many individual use cases perfectly.
At the same time, residents have many different transportation needs, whether it’s the morning commute, the trips throughout the city during the day, or the evening commute back home, to mention just the basic ones. And we, as an industry, need to find viable solutions for these individual use cases first, before they can converge and serve every one of the residents’ transportation needs satisfactorily – so the residents do leave their cars at home.
2. Complementing the backbone public transport with intermodality.
Intermodality can play an important role in complementing public transport by integrating new mobility solutions with the backbone network of the subway, bus, tram, and train services into one journey.
In the city centre, public transport can be complemented by active mobility spaces for walking and cycling as well as by micromobility solutions. These are well-suited for shorter commutes in densely populated areas and don’t contribute to congestion or air pollution.
For remote areas, where the public transport serviceability is lower, park & ride facilities can help to make public transport a part of the intermodal journey. This enables residents from suburban areas to use their private cars or bikes to get to the closest public transport line and continue to the city centre using a subway, train, or bus.
Taking one step further towards sustainability, intermodality can motivate residents to leave their cars at home altogether. This can be done by complementing public transport with taxi and ride-hailing or demand-responsive transport services in the suburban areas.
And we at, Mileus, believe that intermodality not only can but should help grow public transport ridership, increase revenue for public transport operators, and motivate residents out of their private cars. This is not a vision for the distant future, this is attainable today.
For example, our solution enables public transport operators to incorporate the taxi and ride-hailing service into their offering as part of an intermodal journey complementing, not competing with, their current transit service.
And as a side effect, it enables these public transport operators to generate revenue from the commissions paid by the on-demand transportation provider, whose service will become integrated with public transport. While increasing the revenue, intermodality can thus also contribute to improved quality, accessibility, and equitability of public transport.
3. Ensuring the equitability of intermodal mobility solutions.
One of the challenges public transport authorities are concerned with is equitability – making sure transportation is accessible for everyone. Not only from the financial (pricing) standpoint but also geographically or considering residents with physical limitations.
In the city centre, transportation in the form of public transport is mostly equitable, whether it’s routes and frequencies, affordable price, or vehicle accessibility for the disabled.
Moving away from the urban centre to the outskirts or suburban areas, the situation gets more complicated. The public transport serviceability in terms of routes and frequencies decreases.
Using intermodality to substitute the lower serviceability of public transport in remote areas can be the way to go. However, as I stated, one size does not fit all. Consider the following two examples.
We, at Mileus, enable multimodal journey planning by combining public transport in city centres with taxi and ride-hailing services in suburban areas. We focus on a single use case of the evening commute back home, providing comfort on the last mile with a taxi dropping residents right at their doorstep. Our service is equitable from the geographical standpoint but only affordable for a certain segment of the population.
Demand-responsive transport services, such as Via, improve public transport serviceability by providing virtual bus stops in remote areas. The comfort is lower than that of a taxi service or the Mileus solution explained above as the user still needs to walk the last mile (albeit shorter). However, the ride pooling of passengers enables demand-responsive transport services to be more equitable in terms of affordability.
Nevertheless, there’s still the issue of equitability for a non-tech-enabled segment of the population. Consider that not everyone owns a smartphone and even some people who do own it don’t use it beyond simple calling and messaging.
It is very difficult to ensure equitability for everyone. That is precisely why I emphasised that one size does not fit all. And why we need a mix of sustainable solutions that complement public transport and meet all the different needs of residents within a city.
The idea that one size does not fit all is supported by recent insightful research showing how demand-responsive transport and taxi are efficient for different levels of demand. It discovered that when there are a higher transport demand and a greater number of vehicles with high capacity, demand-responsive transport is more efficient.
On the other hand, in the case of a lower transport demand and smaller fleets of vehicles, taxis were more efficient. There’s also a wider range of transport requests in between these two scenarios, showing demand-responsive transport and taxis can coexist to serve the varying demands and use cases.
4. Offering convenience and simplicity while minimising friction.
“People that follow habits or patterns, meaning they know exactly how to get from A to B whether intermodally or not – do they really need technology? I would argue they don’t. For those that know exactly how to get from A to B, we don’t really need technology. People will only follow this steering and consider changing their travel behaviour if it’s easy and convenient to do so – they won’t do it if they have to download an additional app because it creates friction where they want simplicity.”
I very much agree with Luisa to the extent that people will only adopt new modes of transport if it’s convenient to do so. That’s why I think new mobility platforms shouldn’t work as isolated solutions trying to maximise their impact, whether it’s revenue, serviceability, or equitability. Instead, they should be open to integration and interoperability to form a functional and sustainable ecosystem of urban transportation. Only then can they become convenient and simple solutions that people will adopt easily.
Where I would, however, disagree with Luisa, is the point that people don’t need technology if they know exactly how to get from A to B. I would argue they would need and use technology if it’s making their journey more comfortable and cheaper.
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As an example, I mentioned earlier that Mileus focuses on a single use case – a journey we could all manage to take with our usual transport mode even with our eyes closed – the evening commute back home. Mileus makes this journey more comfortable and cheaper by automatically interconnecting public transport and taxi into an intermodal journey.
Without such technology, commuters would have difficulties combining public transport and a taxi into one journey themselves. The reason for that is the rather low availability of taxis in suburban areas where commuters either need to wait for a long time, or a taxi is not available at all.
Our intermodal solution is on average 42% cheaper than the price of a taxi ride and 24% faster than public transport in the weekday afternoon peak times. Moreover, using a taxi for the last mile significantly increases the comfort for commuters as they get dropped right at their doorstep.
Another step towards increasing the convenience and simplicity for commuters is integrated ticketing, providing commuters with the opportunity to pay for each transport mode within the intermodal journey in one app. And eventually, pay for the intermodal service on a monthly subscription basis. I will dive deeper into the complex topic of integrated ticketing in one of my future blog posts.
By integrating their services with various other solutions on the market while making the journey more comfortable and cheaper, intermodal mobility providers can minimise the friction and offer a simple and convenient solution for commuters. To make sure they adopt intermodal technology easily.
5. Fostering public-private partnerships in intermodal mobility.
Another essential pillar is the cooperation between the public and private sector. Too many times, startups in the urban mobility sector aim to scale by increasing their user base. This is often not compatible with the public sector, whose objectives revolve around sustainability, accessibility, equitability, and reliability.
Despite this frequent mismatch, public-private partnerships are very important to make intermodality work. I agree with Alexander Vysotsky, Director of Public Policy at Yandex.Taxi, that the public sector would benefit from the strong technological capabilities and know-how of private companies.
The public sector needs interoperability and governance standards enabling open access to services such as ticketing while at the same time, the private sector needs to commit to cross-industry integration. The first step in achieving that is opening our minds to providing data from our operations at some reasonable level, while adhering to privacy and security measures, of course.
The public-private partnerships work best if built on providing mutual benefits to all involved parties. We, at Mileus, strive to design and build a solution that will benefit all stakeholders – the cities, on-demand transportation providers as well as commuters. A solution that will increase public transport serviceability and ridership, but at the same time help on-demand transportation providers to grow their business sustainably. All that while increasing comfort for the commuters and improving liveability in our cities by decreasing congestion, parking problems, and air pollution.
To achieve that, we’ve not only built an intermodal mobility API & SDK technology enabling intermodal transport but also analytical tools enabling both our customers and the cities to analyse, evaluate, and plan the implementation of intermodal service that combines the services of both the ride-hailing and public transport operator. This way, ride-hailing services can increase serviceability and ridership of public transport while growing their own average revenue per user by more than 20%.
A true win-win-win. And as we see it, this is the way to go for intermodality to become a part of a sustainable transportation system of the future. A system where intermodality can play a pivotal role in combining different mobility solutions into a sustainable mix of urban transportation.
Are you an on-demand transportation provider looking to grow sustainably? Or a public transport operator wondering how exactly intermodality can increase both ridership and your revenue? Do you see intermodality as an integral part of future urban transportation?
Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s work together on providing a sustainable mobility solution that will increase the liveability of our cities!
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