Successful Shared Mobility in Cities and Beyond

New mobility concepts are rapidly being implemented in urban environments. Cities need to develop tools to guide this innovation so public needs are better served through a public-private partnership.

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A bus in front of several checkmakrs
Illustration: © IoT For All

Cities are constantly looking to improve the quality of life for their citizens. New mobility (technology-enabled, on-demand and shared transportation options) has the potential to help cities reduce both carbon emissions and traffic congestion, thus improving the livability of cities. However, without the right smart city planning in place, new mobility could just as easily have the polar opposite effect, increasing carbon emissions and traffic. The right strategy touches on all aspects of public policy, which is, in and of itself, a significant hurdle for cities hoping to improve livability through new mobility.

While working with cities like Hannover, Almere, Varberg and Rotterdam, it became clear that there are two prevailing success factors in the process:

  • The first is a high-quality public-private collaboration so that the private market can effectively implement new mobility modes.
  • Secondly, a solid understanding of the cascading impacts of new mobility deployment with accompanying city policy is crucial. It can guide deployment to help achieve community goals and ensure future-proof investments for public authorities.

Luckily, there are already several successful examples of such collaborations in the US from which European cities can learn. As it stands, the first implementations are happening in cities all over the world.

But without the right smart city planning in place, European cities are finding it difficult to manage their role as both incubator and regulator. Without the proper parameters, even the most promising mobility initiatives can fail before they even have a chance to get off the ground. Recent examples in Amsterdam and Paris showed potential drawbacks of the open market for private undocked shared bike or electric scooter companies. The open market access increased pressure on public spaces and bike-sharing companies to be cost-competitive, leading to several bankrupt companies abandoning bikes throughout the city and ultimately the cities closing free market access for new players by introducing a permit-based system.

Interacting With Private Solution Providers

Many of the concepts (from e-scooters to shared mopeds) being tested in cities across Europe certainly have a lot of potential, but they also leave policymakers facing new challenges when it comes to guaranteeing low costs, road safety and distribution of liabilities and responsibilities. This is especially true for the interaction with private solution providers as the private market is able to be nimbler, test models more quickly, take more risk and more effectively implement mobility solutions than cities. To successfully implement market-driven innovative solutions in urban environments, cities need to set the right framework in which solution providers can deploy their shared vehicles. This means both cities and private solution providers are aligned in terms of operating models, service areas, pricing, legal requirements, etc., and they have a clear understanding of each other’s motivations and overall goals.

As cities are increasingly thinking proactively about their priorities, Seattle is just one example of how public authorities might approach mobility. The Seattle Department of Transportation has produced a playbook on new mobility that outlines many of the key considerations policymakers should bear in mind when collaborating with the private market. Meanwhile, public authorities in Europe are only now starting to test different collaboration models with private suppliers to implement shared mobility solutions (e.g. Milan, outcome-oriented contracting models; RATP-Paris, set-up of new governance model – creating holding structure). To regulate and steer the deployment of the private market, cities have a number of instruments at their disposal from permit structures to incentive systems that are currently being developed and tested.

Smart City Planning – Future-Proofing a City’s Long-Term Investments

It’s worth remembering throughout the development and implementation process that mobility must always be considered as a means to guarantee the best possible quality of life for citizens. That’s why their Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) must be both flexible enough to incorporate future innovations while preventing ineffective investments. A future-proof SUMP requires a collaboration of multidisciplinary, international experts on various topics (urban planning, future investment strategies, real estate evaluators, parking associations, economists, sociologists, etc.) and a clear understanding of private sector needs, public sector leverage points and how deployment might have cascading effects on a range of community goals.

While this type of collaboration does not yet exist in the EU, cities in the US have already started (e.g. Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco), enabling European cities to learn from their US counterparts. This is what the partnership between Nico Larco and Bax & Company is all about. Supporting European cities through state-of-the-art practices from the U.S. so mobility can provide the citizens with the best possible quality of life.