Transport change on the ground
Viewed objectively, the alternative of bus and/or bicycle is actually not an alternative at all for many, because the distances are too far, the frequency is too thin and the possibility of staying spontaneous or also doing smaller transports is too significant to be able to do without one's own car. And if one needs a car, then it might as well be a "maximum-availability vehicle", just in case. The result is that people are constantly driving around alone in cars that are far too big, often on very short routes and quite slowly, even though the cars are designed to carry five people at high speed over long distances.
In every business where a new machine has to be purchased, let's say worth € 30,000, we check very carefully what the utilisation will be and when the investment will pay for itself. We want to be efficient, and that is an important prerequisite for conserving resources. It is only when it comes to buying a car that this basic quality seems to be neglected. It can be a bit more, big, heavy, fast, and if it says "climate-neutral" on the outside, then it will certainly be "climate-neutral" on the inside. The result is a fleet of 49 million cars in Germany that sits around 95% of the time, and in the short time it is used, it is used incorrectly. In most cases, a much smaller vehicle would be perfectly adequate.
So we need a traffic turnaround: Things cannot go on like this. The strongest actors in this are the public transport operators, because they have immense creative power with municipal money, and the car industry, which is to maintain the freedom of mobility for each:n without a guilty conscience, technology makes it possible. We urgently need both players, and great progress is being made. Public transport is arriving in the digital age, multimodal apps and on-demand transport are being developed, these are key components of the new mobility. And the car industry will achieve the biggest chunk of CO2 savings just by switching from combustion engines to electric cars. But will that be enough?
Doubts are reasonable, because public transport companies are guarantors of reliability and thoroughness, but certainly not of rapid change. And car manufacturers want one thing above all else in the future: to produce cars, and as many of them as possible. This brings us to the uncomfortable part of the story: it will depend on ourselves, on each and every individual. The traffic turnaround begins in the mind. We determine our mobility. Transport is only the sum of individual decisions. It is therefore worthwhile to focus on these individual decisions.
Decisions about personal mobility behaviour are influenced by the infrastructure available at my place of residence and by the offers available in the professional environment.
In the city, it is comparatively easy to do without a car. In rural areas, on the other hand, there is a lack of offers, and even neighbourhoods close to the city often have an unsolved problem of the last mile. If you live more than 300 m from a bus stop, you are almost automatically granted a car; that is the logic of many urban parking space statutes. The question of whether there might not be enough options available by now to manage this last "mile" in a different way is still asked far too rarely.
At the very least, the obligation to build parking spaces should be dropped if there is a prospect that micro-mobility, on-demand shuttles and smart car sharing will enable a neighbourhood to break new ground and its residents to get by with significantly fewer cars. Neighbourhoods with active multimodal mobility management can therefore be a key to solving the problem, and companies also have an important role to play.
The company car is not only a status symbol for a few highly placed managers, but a mass phenomenon of the last decades. Due to the tax privileges for the private use of company cars, the attitude has become established that the employer is often responsible for providing mobility. With job tickets, attempts are being made to transfer this effect to public transport, and job bicycles are being added as a new variety. The parking space provided and the charging current must also be included in the consideration. This leads to companies making ever more complicated personnel accounts in order to correctly account for all mobility offers for tax purposes. The only consistent approach would be to provide multimodal mobility budgets.
Workplace mobility is also of such central importance because the daily peak hours and thus the biggest problem is caused by this target group. Rush-hour traffic has the greatest potential for optimisation in the form of pooling of all kinds, because obviously many people have the same route at the same time. The gaping gap between the car mode and the public transport mode must be closed by new offers from the perspective of companies and employees. Asking people to use the bus more often is only a solution for very few commuters.
The public sector has the task of rethinking its service structure: there is no substitute for strong bus lines, tight schedules and large vessels if they are well utilised. In rural areas, on the other hand, smart on-demand services are needed instead, and multimodal hubs are necessary at the interface in between. In the future, a city's infrastructure will no longer be able to manage without a seamless transition to mobility hubs if the city is to succeed in relieving congestion. This is not to be confused with park-and-ride lots, which often had only an alibi function. We need transfer points with short distances, good service and means of transport that wait for their users - and not the other way round.
Mobility hubs will also be located at the final stops of bus lines in order to organise further distribution on demand and with a wide selection of means of transport. This is also a task for the public sector.
Neighbourhoods that are less well connected and businesses in commercial areas away from public transport routes will also form mobility hubs, because multimodal offers require real places where they are linked. These use cases, however, are not the responsibility of municipal authorities, but are developed and operated by companies. This is a good thing, because here a very individual needs-based configuration is required, and competition stimulates business. Overall, however, it will be important that these systems complement each other: the strong public backbone with maximum bundling of passengers and a complementary system that makes these strong axes accessible to many in the first place.
Cities and regions are faced with the major task of developing their public transport efficiently, reliably and attractively. At the same time, they must make room for the many new possibilities to make the mobility of companies and their employees as well as neighbourhoods and their residents so multimodal that owning a car is no longer an alternative.
Marcell Philipp © Carl Brunn
Marcel Philipp as Lord Mayor of the city of Aachen (2009 to 2020) initiated and implemented numerous projects for more sustainable mobility. Aachen became a digital model region and redefined its role as a university city through an impressive campus development. The impulses in electromobility that emerged in the environment of RWTH Aachen were the trigger for the trained master craftsman and business economist to comprehensively deal with the future of mobility. Marcel Philipp has been the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Aachen-based company e.2GO - and thus Chairman of the Management Board - since 1 November 2020. e.2GO has set itself the goal of providing needs-based mobility for urban and suburban areas and plans to establish extensive mobility services in cities in the future.