Multimodal mobility includes a range of transport options, including buses and other public transport.
Multimodal mobility includes a range of transport options, including buses and other public transport.
( Source: Public Domain / Pixabay)

MOBILITY AS A SERVICE Can multimodal mobility get us out of our cars?

Author / Editor: Cate Lawrence / Florian Richert

Multimodal mobility is posited as an alternative to car ownership and single occupancy journeys. To be effective, it requires significant buy-in from both public and private stakeholders and the necessary city infrastructure.

For most people, travel is a key part of daily life. A daily morning commute could include a walk to a train station, then travel by train to work bus. The evening commute might be traveling via an e-bike or scooter to a restaurant followed by a trip home using a ride-hailing service. Add in configurations for longer trips such as ferries, trams, on-demand shuttles, and flights and you have a plethora of transport experiences over relatively small periods of time. Imagine if, with every trip, you could choose from a range of different transport options, all of which work seamlessly together?
Multimodal mobility is a term used to describe integrated transport – seamless connectivity between different modes of transportation. Such transport includes on-demand shuttles, flights, buses, trains, and trams to taxis, bike, and scooter sharing, walking, and cycling. It’s underpinned by the intention to reduce car ownership, lower a city's carbon footprint, increase public transport usage, and ensure that car travel is made less appealing for short trips.

As a trend multimodal mobility embodies fundamental changes to how we travel - when multimodal mobility works well, a private car is no longer necessary. McKinsey predicts that up to one out of ten new cars sold in 2030 may likely be a shared vehicle, which could reduce sales of private-use vehicles. This would mean that more than 30 percent of miles driven in new cars sold could be from shared mobility. On this trajectory, one out of three new cars sold could potentially be a shared vehicle as soon as 2050. They also posit a future where shifts in mobility will contribute to specialized vehicles such as a car specifically built for e-hailing services—designed for high utilization, robustness, additional mileage, and passenger comfort.

Let’s take a look at the key components that make an effective multimodal mobility strategy:

Mobility as a service is the key to multimodal mobility

Critical to the notion of multimodal mobility is mobility as a service (MaaS) is, the use of platforms and apps that enables customers to choose, book, and pay for their choice of transport all in one place.
In Helsinki, the app Whim provides access to all city transport services in one platform, from car to taxis, public transport, TIER e-scooters, and city bikes. Payment options include pay-as-you-go plans and subscriptions. For example, a Whim Urban 30 day ticket costs €59,70 and includes a 30-day public transport ticket, 30-minute scooter, and e-bike rides, and 4 x €10 (max. 5km rides) taxi rides. Pricing options vary, culminating in a monthly unlimited package priced at €699.

In Japan, the app My Route created by Toyota combines public transportation, taxis, cycle sharing, private cars, “parks & rides”, boats, and Toyota's mobility services (Toyota Rent a Car,). The app provides weather alerts, transfer information platform exits, and bus schedules in real-time, including arrival forecasts and delays. It details parking spaces and it also includes local events and sightseeing information.

How long does it take to get from one transport option to another?
How long does it take to get from one transport option to another?
(Source: Public Domain / Pixabay)

Multimodal mobility requires real-time cross-platform information

Effective multimodal mobility requires information real-time including the time it takes to get from one mode of transport to another. People are less inclined to take the transport that bookends their longest journey (such as getting to and from the train station) if it fails to sync with train departure times. Worst is when the time between transport options is merely minutes but the infrastructure is set up in such a way that getting there on time is prohibitive such as lots of stairs exiting a station or the need to cross a busy road to meet an adjourning bus or e-scooter or car-hailing rank.

Last-mile solutions need to be pragmatic

Many people on the outskirts of big cities or rural areas commonly drive to the nearest train station, park, and catch the train to work. Typically, their journey to the train or bus station is more than a ‘last-mile,’ meaning car-free journeys are less practical. Offering real-time parking or creating park and ride parks where people can park their car and catch a shuttle to a train station, increasse the use of public transport and reduce commuter cars on the road.
It’s a space where we’re yet to see micromobility make much of an impact, especially as bike and scooter options may be less practical. Sure, in an ideal world we’d be picked up by an autonomous vehicle to begin our journey but the future ability to meet the actual peak-hour demand is questionable.

Pedestrian journeys are important

One thing that would benefit any multimodal platform is factoring in pedestrian journeys. Most cities implement exercise into their wider markers of citizen health, but it requires the appropriate infrastructure. Think about when you decide to walk somewhere instead of drive: you want to know how long it will take. What’s the weather like? Are there steps and steep hills? Are there footpaths (not always the case in many countries)? Is there adequate street lighting at night? Are pedestrian areas closed due to construction? Mapping and location intelligence have come a long way in providing real-time accuracy to pedestrian maps, greater detail.

Partnerships and open data are critical to multimodal mobility

Like any new developments, multimodal mobility only works with collaboration. It relies upon buy-in and commitment from public and private providers, the latter of whom, such as the taxi industry, is already reeling from the impact of newer, more cost-effective rail-hailing options such as Uber. Using a single app to integrate ticketing and payment services, potentially losing the option of advertising revenue and the customer relationship built by a single service provider.
Partnerships, collaboration, and openness are what really underpins multimodal mobility. Data elicited through journeys purchased, traffic flows, e-bike use, parking, and pedestrian traffic can provide great insights into how citizens and visitors experience a city. It also creates the potential for new business models and new services offered by startups and ultimately better evidence-based transport options. For example, Transport for London (TfL), provides its API to more than 17,000 developers. Its data is currently used in more than 600 apps creating a plethora of customer services.

As new providers evolve in the coming decades, such as electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and autonomous vehicles, we can expect the mix of multimodal mobility to become more complex but also richer in user opportunities. Flights are typically absent from multimodal mobility planning due to the level of complexity involved with changing flight times, passport requires and international travel, but it may fall into the mix. Our cities are rapidly changing, and we can expect our transport to continue to innovate.