Learning from OECD-ITF: Significant positive results even with phased/partial implementation of shared mobility

Jose Viegas, Jari Kappula, and Philippe Crist from OECD-ITF spoke at the National Academies (of Science and Engineering) Transportation Research Board (TRB) in January this year, received an award for their work and presented in one of TRB’s Spotlight Sessions.  Mr. Viegas spoke again at TRB in May, before his retirement.  Here are a few notes from their work and perspectives:

Transportation agencies are required to plan for coming tech, business model and climate shifts (adaptation).  Mobility is not the objective; it is a way to fain access to jobs, public facilities, and social interaction.  

We must also leverage the upcoming radical changes affecting supply of mobility/transport to radically reorganize the mobility system.

Such radical changes include:  digital connectivity, electrification, and automated vehicles.  Due to advances in computation, information technology, and material science, digital connectivity will be available everywhere and at any time.  Electrification of vehicle power trains and automated driving will dramatically lower mobility costs and clean up air pollution.  And these technologies will force radical change in the fiscal regime of automobiles and will be accompanied by an evolution of consumers’ preferences, with car sharing becoming prevalent and vehicle ownership no longer necessary.  It is possible to look toward clean energy economies, clean air, good life, and new mobility cities.

First order impacts of these changes include that:

  • Electric vehicles will provide cleaner air and lower GHG emissions and will lower operating cost per kilometer.
  • Automated vehicles will enhance safety, but that by allowing people to make better use of their time in vehicles, they could also induce longer trips.  Automated vehicles will likely lower the cost of professional services such as taxis and buses too.
  • Acceptance of car sharing reduces the pressure to own an automobile, which releases this capital spent on something that sits unused 95% of the time, for other uses.

Since the combination of these impacts could lead to even higher levels of congestion and asymmetry of accessibility, it is particularly important to employ other strategies.  Urban landscapes and lifestyles have been aligned with the private vehicle paradigm over the past 70 years, representing an entrenched socio-technical system.

  • Changes beyond technology must be made in directions that still provide a good match with existing settings; i.e., ways to accommodate car owners and suburban needs; e.g., direct trips. For car owners, this approach might mean
  • Providing the essential features of the private automobile including availability, comfort, and speed. New public transport providing direct rides to avoid transfers will also be needed.  Costs will need to be reduced in both cases.

We must consider radical organizational changes focusing on shared mobility solutions.

Widespread deployment of shared taxis and taxi buses (a simpler name for demand-responsive micro-buses) that provide a high quality of service at a much lower cost than the types of services in operation today.  Widespread deployment/public availability of these could achieve better and more equitable accessibility, a reduction of traffic volumes and emissions, and the release of large quantities of parking spaces for use by people walking and by cyclists.

ITF’s analysis for Lisbon, Portugal was based on providing shared mobility by a fleet of 6-seat shared taxis, providing on-demand, door-to-door service, in conjunction with a fleet of 8- and 16-person mini buses. The existing rail and subway network continued to be in operation. For a 24-hour period, the simulation results showed that the same number trips could be provided with only 3 percent of the current vehicles.  Further, there was a 34 percent reduction in CO2 emissions and a 95 percent reduction in parking spaces needed.  The use of small, demand-responsive buses provided improved and more equal access for residents.

A more recent analysis conducted in 2017 for the Lisbon metropolitan area analyzed accessibility impacts using an attraction decay curve calibrated for the region.  ITF reports that taxi-buses alone or in combination with suburban rail improved access to jobs over the current public transport system.  The following conclusions are summarized in the ITF’s report Transition to Shared Mobility, which came out in June 2017.

  • Metrowide application of taxi-buses produced considerable increase of the use of high capacity public transport services.  Application to this wider territory followed essentially the same approach but took advantage of the existence of a network of high capacity public transport services (suburban rail and ferry, and the metro in the city) by the introduction of a new type of service – Taxi-Buses used as feeders to those public transport services – and led to results that were even slightly better than those for the city, in terms of reduction of traffic volumes and emissions as well as of equivalent prices per passenger kilometre. Three very important co-benefits would be felt across the whole LMA: access to jobs and other public services would become much better and more equitable; a massive release of parking spaces for other uses of public interest would be possible; and, quite interestingly, introducing the feeder buses leads to a considerable increase of the use of high capacity public transport services.
  • Significant positive results even with phased/partial implementation.  A phased pathway was defined, focusing on more acceptable policy measures that could mobilise early adopters, identifying a first phase that could be introduced to deliver very noticeable positive results, and subsequently building on this for the next phases to achieve the full benefits of the shared mobility concept.  An additional scenario was explored, with differentiated implementation of measures in support of shared mobility, in the city of Lisbon but not in the surrounding municipalities. ITF found that application only in the city of the first effective phase of the pathway (as simulated for the whole LMA), coupled with a scheme of reduced access to the city for private cars of non-residents could deliver significant positive results for the city.
  • Losses of efficiency with multiple dispatchers were very high. It could be feasible to design shared mobility services with a single dispatcher and multiple Shared Taxi operators, thus benefiting from competition amongst operators while preserving system-wide dispatching efficiency. In such a case, special care will have to be given to reduce the incidence of empty vehicle kilometres. A second scenario involved a single dispatcher allowing requests by some clients for exclusive occupancy (i.e. non-shared) service. Since we believe the demand for these services is inevitable but they induce some loss of efficiency, the recommendation is to make it possible but control the price differential to keep the demand volume for this kind of service at a modest level.

ITF is now studying Helsinki, Finland; Dublin, Ireland; and Auckland, New Zealand.  Globally, the results are very encouraging in the sense that shared mobility solutions can indeed be a powerful catalyst of change for the quality of life in metro areas.  Also, inclusive mobility to all citizens is possible under this approach with a very low cost increase (overall cost is still much lower cost levels than those of public transport in the present)… Evidence in favour of starting the process towards adoption of shared mobility solutions in urban agglomerations is now even stronger. Naturally, each case is different and careful planning is necessary, but the main challenges that had been identified for this exercise have all been successfully met and technology is at a stage (and cost) where this can be applied in support for an evolution towards urban agglomerations with much better accessibility and quality of life for all, virtually no congestion, much lower emissions and much lower capital and operational costs… On implementation, careful monitoring and attention to user feedback could ensure that any issues be tackled rapidly so as to not affect quality and reputation of the new services.

A smarter fiscal strategy for road transport

In the EU, fuel duties represent on average about 8 percent of the total fiscal revenue of the member states. He noted that the fuel duties were created as an instrument to fund road construction, but have evolved to also fund maintenance, upgrades, and off-transport uses in Europe.

Replacing the fuel taxes/duties with a smart, distance-based charge is logical. Digital connectivity would make it possible to assign higher tariffs in central areas with priority use by active modes, for vehicles providing exclusive rides, and for vehicles with higher emissions.

Planning for a more equitable distribution of opportunities without the need for motorized transport – Digital and spatial access + better urban design of public space

Density and functional diversity are important elements of urban areas, along with the quality design of public areas.  Good design for use of active modes – walking and cycling – encourages their safe use.  Bicycles are increasingly replacing automobile trips in some areas, and parking spaces released by the wide adoption of shared mobility could be allocated for active modes and public amenities.

Managing change

People prefer stability, and change and interest that do not exceed a comfort threshold.  A ratio of 80 percent stable and 20 percent would be in line with this.

The upcoming technological revolution provides a natural turbulence that facilitates introducing other changes, including shared mobility solutions and new fiscal treatment of road transport. He suggested that a critical mass of measures was needed to obtain visible results, to generate positive feedback, and to gain public support.

A new style of regulation may be needed as digitally connected systems will generate large amounts of data and part of that data must be supplied unfiltered to authorities for performance assessment and planning purposes. He further suggested that regulations should evolve in consonance with key objectives and constraints, defining acceptable ranges for parameters, while allowing innovation, and data-led approaches.

Major changes will be occurring in the transport sector over the next 15 years.  These changes will occur across all modes, especially in urban areas.  Technological evolution will make transport cleaner and safer, but it will not necessarily provide a better quality of life.  Other instruments will be necessary to address congestion, promoting better and more equitable accessibility, and accelerate the reduction of GHG emissions.   A number of options provide opportunities for great improvements.  Inclusive political leadership (across the many decisionmakers and parties involved) is essential to lead, explain, include, and share data.  Faster progress is likely:

  • in urban areas through the adoption of electric vehicles for passengers and freight
  • with focus on providing access rather than on mobility
  • with land-use policies used in tandem with transport strategies.
  • Shared mobility options may have the best potential to relatively quickly reduce congestion and emissions, as well as release public space from parking to active modes and amenities and provide improved and more equitable accessibility.
  • Smarter fiscal regimes for road transport can stimulate behavioral alignments.
  • Decarbonizing transportation in rural areas and in long-distance travel is a bigger challenge.  Ride-sharing in rural areas is possible, but a different paradigm was needed. (See recent pieces on rapidshift.net on rural rideshare in the US)
  • Clean fuels are needed in aviation and shipping, and long-distance transport requires new managerial practices related to logistics, road sharing, and rail service quality.