14 jan 21

Shared mobility will thrive – here’s how

Remember shared mobility? Then came the pandemic, and everybody retreated to the safety of their personal car and their own home. But don’t count the sharing principle out just yet. It is poised for a post-crisis comeback, says McKinsey. But in a different form, specifies mobility expert Lukas Neckermann. 

With a deadly virus stalking the world, few people feel comfortable taking any form of shared mobility, especially public transport, shared or pooled rides.

Substantial gains
However, “far from being a victim of the pandemic, some forms of shared mobility – e-scooters (pictured) and bike-sharing – will show substantial gains over the long term,” Mr Neckermann foresees. 

“Fleet and mobility managers should heed the lessons of the pandemic and further intensify their use of data to evaluate vehicle choices and equipment; when staff shift from daily commutes to just twice a week, so too will their demands around individual mobility. For example, having experienced it during the pandemic, some may choose to continue using an e-bike, or opt for ride-sharing for the less frequent trip to the office.”

In a recent report, global consultants McKinsey measured the impact of the coronavirus on shared mobility. Titled From no mobility to future mobility, it also provides some indications on the way forward.

Consumer attitudes
First off, some figures to reflect how Covid-19 has shifted consumer attitudes towards shared mobility.

  • Before the pandemic, 47% of mobility users said time to destination was an important consideration when choosing a mobility mode. Only 14% were worried about infectious diseases. During the pandemic, just under 50% said infection was of concern, while time to destination had dropped to 33%.
  • Only 5 to 8% of mobility users thought carsharing, ridesharing or micro-mobility were safe, from a health standpoint. Only 7% thought the same about public transport. On the other hand, 81% did feel private cars were safe. 

That explains why ride-hailing companies have reported up to a 70% drop in passenger numbers during the crisis. However, McKinsey says, ridesharing – if done properly – may come to be seen as preferable over public transport, especially if the latter is very crowded.

Three phases
The key is for mobility service providers (MSPs) to properly react to the challenges posed by Covid-19 (and potential future outbreaks). McKinsey suggests three phases:

  • Respond quickly, by establishing rapid-response safety protocols. For example, scrap pooled services, but maintain drivers so you can restart quickly. 
  • In the first weeks, learn to cope with the crisis. Where possible, return to normal while maintaining safety. Establish shared mobility as a viable alternative to the safety of private cars, by sanitising vehicles before every use, requiring masks to be worn at all times, and physically separating passengers and drivers. If necessary and/or possible, convert part of the business to parcel delivery.
  • Months later, thrive in the New Normal. Consumers will remember the crisis, but MSPs who reimagined their business models will be able to grow. According to McKinsey’s survey, 15% of respondents expect to use ride-hailing regularly after the crisis. Before the crisis, this was… 14%.

Unifying theme
The unifying theme: safety is paramount and will remain so. Customers will demand it, and MSPs must provide it. For example, 30% of customers said the presence of a physical separator between driver and passengers would help persuade them to book a shared ride. Sanitising vehicles between trips would do the same for 52% of potential shared mobility customers. 

The right responses will help shared mobility thrive again. But preparing for the New Normal isn’t only relevant for MSPs. OEMs too must play a role, by rethinking the design of shared vehicles. 

“We have long been advocates of custom-designed vehicles for new mobility,” says Mr Neckermann. “Expect temporary barriers between drivers and passengers to be just the tip of the iceberg, as vehicles continue to adapt to their new purpose.”

MaaS subscriptions
Mr Neckermann predicts certain forms of micro-mobility will blossom, “not just because millions of users have rediscovered two-wheeled vehicles, but also because more infrastructure has been established, to enable this socially-distanced mode of mobility.”

Cities have stepped up their efforts to accommodate new forms of mobility during the pandemic, he says. “Paris has intensified its efforts to improve air quality while reducing congestion and car dependency. In addition to 50 new km of bike and scooter lanes, the city is accelerating plans to partially pedestrianise the infamous Champs-Élysées ahead of the Paris Olympics. Similarly, Milan has used the momentum to invest in micro-mobility infrastructure.” 

However, micro-mobility’s gain will be public transport’s loss. According to Mr Neckermann, bus and train transport – despite widely proven to be safe – is expected to remain down until at least the middle of the decade, and with it, both investment in and fare revenue from these types of public transport. Also, shifts in working patterns, with more working from home, mean that your typical ‘monthly passes’ for public transport will need to be re-imagined, “perhaps opening the door for new types of MaaS subscriptions.”

Join the Smart Mobility Institute for on online session on shared and on-demand mobility and find out how these services can support your fleet efficiency on Thursday 28 January at 2pm CET. Registration is free!

Image: Shutterstock

Authored by: Frank Jacobs