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Shared Mobility Needs It’s UBER

In most progressive mobility cities today you can find a plethora of shared services ranging from public transport, cars, ride-sharing, bikes, and scooters which has contributed to reducing congestion and pollution as well as providing more mobility choices, addressing last mile and first mile solutions and reducing transportation costs. But, you still can’t seamlessly enjoy these alternatives because they are almost always powered by proprietary assets & technology and heavily regulated and things get even worse when moving from one city to the next. Shared mobility needs it’s UBER to get on the smart side of history.

Solving the mobility challenge will require bold, coordinated actions from the private and public sectors not just technological advances, marketing & funding.

Bringing it all together in one app is a dream for consumers, innovative startups, and hungry capital markets but not entirely for the different constituencies that make up modern cities, more inclined to maintain burdensome regulation through ignotum per ignotius. But the future is pretty apparent to those that study urbanism and demography independently. By 2030, an estimated 60 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, up from about 50 percent today, and the number of megacities with more than ten million people will continue to grow. What this means is how land is used and how cities are designed helps to determine what kind of transport is used: single-family homes on large properties increase the need for cars, whereas high-rise complexes (with limited parking) create the need for people to choose multiple transportation modes. Therefore transit — publicly owned fleets of buses, trains, ferries, facilities and rights of way, with fixed route local and express service — is the foundation for much of the shared mobility opportunities going forward.

This is why the status-quo is so frustrating, especially for the end user. There is a tremendous untapped potential for transit agencies to integrate with or offer centralized shared modes to increase access to interconnected transportation and at lower costs. Furthermore, the mobility sector is recording the most robust growth within the overall shared economy. Hence, cities trying to protect established providers (taxi & rental companies) by banning shared mobility options (ex. banning of UBER in some cities) is a burden rather than a boost to the local economy. The key to this is understanding that the rise of shared mobility systems will encourage more people to consider not owning a car, thus increasing a mutual customer base.

To be fair, some pioneering public efforts are seizing the opportunity to improve urban mobility for all users.

  • Paris has a bike-sharing network that includes the suburbs and is integrated into the public-transit payment system.

  • Denver is working with Xerox to create an all-in-one app. Moving beyond the example of Google Maps, the Go Denver app lets users compare travel times using various methods such as public transit, bike-sharing, and services like Lyft and Car2Go and it even allows you to book parking at your destination if you choose to drive.

  • Helsinki, which already has good public transit, is developing an ambitious on-demand mobility program that aims to make personal cars unnecessary by 2025. Under its new Mobility as a Service action plan, consumers will be able to use mobile apps to book and pay in one click for any trip by bus, train, taxi, bicycle, and/or car sharing. It’s worth noting that Helsinki is working with the private sector to develop and test the technology and co-finance the operation.

But my favorite is Daimler, Mercedes’ parent company. They’re taking a unique approach with its mobility service, Moovel, which the company launched in the US last year and plans to expand to many other cities. The idea behind Moovel is that it’s a one-stop app for all your mobility needs; you can plan your trip and book rides in one convenient location. To make it attractive to new users, Moovel does feature some competitors on the app. Daimler owns Car2Go, one of the largest car-sharing services in the world. It has also invested in ride-hailing services like MyTaxi, a UBER competitor in Europe that’s also available in some US locations. Moovel has the incentive to make its service attractive to transit agencies because it earns a cut from ticket sales made within the app. Transit agencies in return get a look at Moovel’s data, which shows relevant information like popular pick-up locations and how people use different routes.

Whatever the outcome, the biggest winners in the mobility revolution will be consumers, who will have many more ways to get around — and these modes could also be cheaper and faster, with customized levels of service and convenience and even, determine where we live, work, consume and play.The one-app solution has the potential to play an important role shaping our lives in large cities in the very near future, bridging some of the gaps in existing transportation networks, as well as encouraging us to use multiple transportation modes. Until then, I’ll need to keep carrying seven different transit cards and maintaining nine apps while traveling between London, Paris & Madrid. Sigh.