11.–12.06.2025 #polismobility

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About great visions, unclear roles and bumpy roads

Digitisation and the transport transition

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What lies ahead? Dr Mara Cole outlines what mobility could become possible through digitalisation - for users, cities and companies - and what steps still need to be taken to get there.

According to the study "Urban Post-Corona Mobility" by Bayern Innovativ, individually bookable mobility offers can support the transport turnaround if they are truly integrative. At the same time, however, the offers must also be usable non-digitally in order to allow all groups to participate. | © Bayern Innovativ GmbH

According to the study "Urban Post-Corona Mobility" by Bayern Innovativ, individually bookable mobility offers can support the transport turnaround if they are truly integrative. At the same time, however, the offers must also be usable non-digitally in order to allow all groups to participate. | © Bayern Innovativ GmbH

The existing mobility offer and the resulting mobility behaviour are closely linked to the quality of life in a region. In addition to the various possibilities for locomotion itself - whether in and on means of transport or through active mobility - the quality of stay in urban areas also plays a major role. Thus, the entire mobility system faces multi-layered and partly contradictory challenges, which are reflected in the demands for a transport turnaround: It should put people at the centre, become more connected, climate-friendly and inclusive, ensure deep integration of all mobility service providers and offer the most diverse payment options in intuitive mobility platforms with real-time information across all modes of transport. For me, at the centre of all efforts is the desire to realise a mobility offer that meets demand. I see digitalisation as the central enabler of this promising new mobility (vision). However, the road ahead is still bumpy and may hold one or two surprises in store.

Successful regional pilot projects and the first successful integrations of various mobility service providers already give interested end users an idea of where the journey could lead. The potentials are multifaceted and extend across all stakeholders of the mobility system. I would like to briefly touch on a few areas:

A mobility offer that can be searched for, booked and paid for via digital mobility platforms allows customers easy access. The fact that one e-trekking provider is integrated but another is not is not comprehensible for users. Integrating all mobility providers - whether public transport, sharing or on-demand services - in one region is of great importance for customer friendliness. Demand-responsive mobility must always offer customers exactly the combination of transport options that suits their current situation. For example, the possibility to save different search profiles or to have the cheapest, the healthiest and the fastest route displayed for selection enables informed decisions. If, on top of that, disruptions lead to a dynamic adjustment of the route or means of transport combination, another big step towards user-friendliness has been taken.

Digitalisation can also make an important contribution to the utilisation management of existing infrastructure and the evidence-based reallocation of space. In densely populated urban areas, the further expansion of road infrastructure for private transport is generally not possible (and, incidentally, in my opinion, not productive either), nor is increasing the frequency on central underground lines. The demand for more climate-friendly mobility through the increased use of large transport vehicles is already coming to nothing at many public transport hubs. Smart transport planning, but also the dynamic control of current traffic, is based on data availability across transport modes. There are several examples of so-called mobility data platforms that bring together and make available the relevant data. The Mobilithek of the Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport and the Mobility Data Space are examples of this. Proactive, data-based planning and optimisation of the infrastructure, combined with dynamic utilisation control, are target images for me in this context.

Digitalisation and the availability of data enable the development of new business and pricing models for intermodal transport. For example, on-demand and pooling solutions can only be operated meaningfully if geo-referenced user requests can be processed in real time and a sufficient number of citizens use the service. Access to traditional mobility services can also be completely rethought through digitalisation: The implementation of e-tariff concepts is one example.

An important next step would be the integration of sharing offers with public transport in a door-to-door ticketing system. Automatic capping not only on a daily, but also on a weekly or monthly level would also significantly increase the attractiveness. Gamification approaches and incentives, such as discount campaigns, can certainly also be used in the future to increase the potential for capacity utilisation control.

However, as already mentioned above, the implementation involves some stumbling blocks. For me, they are more in the non-technical areas. Of course, functionalities have to be integrated into apps, ways have to be found to share the identities of users across stakeholders without violating data protection principles, etc., but we already have the necessary technological foundations. It is the legal framework, company strategies, regionally oriented transport associations, rigid tariff structures and lack of resources (whether money, personnel or space) that make the implementation of a networked mobility world so arduous. Other significant factors are unclear roles and responsibilities as well as a lack of trust between the stakeholders. This is quite understandable, as they have often acted as competitors in the past. Also, people with the right competence profiles do not always work at the important interfaces - hardly surprising in a system that until recently was very technical. Change management, learning organisations, lifelong learning are likely to be buzzwords that shape the next few years on the road to transport transformation.

Who can take on a formative and moderating role in these complex challenges? An example: The City of Munich broke up existing structures a good two years ago and founded a mobility department in which competences for the implementation of the transport turnaround are bundled. In mid-2021, the "Mobility Strategy 2035" was adopted by the city council, demonstrating a clear will to implement it. Building blocks for the concrete implementation of the strategy are now being successively formulated in 19 sub-strategies. Sub-strategies refer, for example, to areas such as shared mobility, digitalisation, public transport, multimodality, traffic control, but also social justice or pedestrian traffic.

Dr. Mara Cole

Dr. Mara Cole | © privat

Dr. Mara Cole | © privat

has been dealing with challenges of shared and networked mobility in the area of a municipal administration since the beginning of 2023. Her range of tasks includes topics such as mobility platforms, tariff and distribution. Previously, Dr. Mara Cole promoted connected mobility as head of the thematic platform of the Zentrum Digitalisierung. Bayern (supported by Bayern Innovativ GmbH), she promoted interactive dialogue and knowledge transfer between business, science, politics and the public in the context of networked mobility and digitalisation. Until 2016, she worked at the research institution Bauhaus Luftfahrt e.V. as deputy team leader and research group leader, among other positions. Dr Mara Cole studied ethnology and holds a doctorate in psychology.