On Thursday 16th April Generation.e launched the first Smarter Mobility World Webinar series. It’s a weekly webinar around all things smarter mobility and the overarching theme will change each month. The first monthly theme looks at ‘Mobility in Resilient Cities – Resilient Mobility Is At Our Doorstep’, and the first topic was ‘Building Resilient Mass-transport For A Seamless Commute’.
One of the key points that I raised is that with the gains being seen in greenhouse gas emission reductions, and cleaner air in cities, we need to maximise our time at home now to have the right discussions to share information, ideas, and solutions, and to make sure we have a plan in place for when COVID-19 starts to calm, and indeed stops spreading and causing havoc.
The speakers that joined the webinar came with a wealth of experience in mass-transport from both a public and private sector perspective.
- Sam Ryan – CEO at Zeelo (UK / South Africa)
- Justin Coetzee PrEng – Founder at GoMetro (South Africa)
- Victor Redabe – Founder at Mobility Centre for Africa (South Africa)
- Iain Macbeth – European Director of Strategy for Electric Vehicles at Enterprise Holdings (UK)
- Host and Moderator: Ben Pullen – CEO at Generation.e (United Arab Emirates)
Sam Ryan who is the CEO at Zeelo kicked off the webinar by reflecting on shocks seen in cities that have had significant disruption on mass-transport to understand what the impact. In Paris for example, the public transport strikes in 2019 which lasted for 45 days caused disruption (over 9 million people per day use the metro in Paris and during the strike there were only 2 out of the 16 lines open). At one point a 391 mile traffic jam on the edge of Paris was recorded! However the city saw a surprising, or perhaps not so surprising, range of solutions coming to the fore, from newer mobility players offering shared bikes and scooters, car sharing and car pooling.
On top of this Sam alluded to a problem of how difficult it currently is to fully understand the impact of shocks to the transport system, the data is not readily available and perhaps measurement tools are not in place. For example, understanding what the cost was on the Paris and the French economy and businesses, not to mention society, was difficult. Although the macroeconomic data did show a drop in French GDP during 2019.
The semi-government and government led services started to recommend other mobility solutions such as BlaBlaCar, which was recommended by RATP. However, Sam highlighted the need for a more coordinated communication plan amongst government and the private sector to ensure that the best available mobility solutions are being used at the right time. Who oversees and controls communication during times of crises is a key factor to determine.
From COVID-19, London is experiencing a shock to the system like no other seen before. No one could have prepared perfectly for this, but now we can learn for future shocks.
- Transport travellers dropped to 10% of its normal levels
- 26 transport workers passed away due to COVID-19 (number when Sam presented on 16th April 2020)
Sam put forward that if public agencies knew how to work with the range of players, it could help as there are so many solutions available that can all play their part in keeping people and products moving.
Sam said there is a need to build in resilience from the get go? To do this the following must be addressed:
- Control and Commercial Flexibility
- Public-Private Collaboration
- Data & Simulation
- Rider Communication & incentives
One of the questions from the viewers came from Roger Atkins, he asked: “Post social distancing discipline – how comfortable will people be in sharing public spaces including mass transit and share mobility platforms?”
Sam’s responded “over time people will go back to using mass-transit, but I hope that there will not be a surge in car ownership and usage.”
Some of the key points that came up during the webinar included:
- Whose role it is to build more resilient mass-transport? The answers indicated that the government does need to create the right framework for both a public and private sector
role to be able to operate and communicate. However, the role of the private sector
should not be underestimated in the new world after COVID-19, and in general the private sector need to be included in the discussion in order to build resilient mass transport.
- Data and simulations are key to understanding. Regardless of who leads on overseeing the building of resilient mass-transport, data and simulations are key to understanding the exact needs of people and products that need to be moved in the good times, and when there are shocks to the system. This is
something that both GoMetro and Zeelo focus their time on to ensure that efficiencies in
operations and increasing accuracy in decision making is being pushed to its
- There will be a huge shift in needs and behaviour of the demand side. Iain Macbeth drew on ideas on what he believes is not just a shift in the supply side from building resilience in mass-transport, but in fact, he believe there will be a complete shift in the needs and behaviours of the demand side – meaning that due to the prolonged lockdowns across the world, people and organisations will become better and more
comfortable at working from home, therefore reducing the need for expensive central city
office locations. The results of this change in behaviour would be a potential change in the valuation of property and assets within city centres due to a drop in demand for these facilities. Furthermore, the need for investing into mega infrastructure projects may drop due to
both a drop in demand for these types of mobility solutions, and due to the fact that
many services may see a drop in their revenue through lower numbers of riders.
- There will be winners and losers. Justin Coetzee thinks that there will be winners and losers from the recent COVID-19 shock, which might highlight areas where increased investment and innovation is needed, and where certain services and forms of mobility may need to be re-thought completely. The rest of the speakers suggested that there was actually an opportunity
and a threat for all forms of mobility, they believe that all services need to critically analyse their business model and value offering in order to ensure that they remain relevant for the new world.
- Now is the time to invest into cleaner more efficient mobility solutions. Iain suggested that now is the time to increase investment into electrifying cars and pumping funds into charging
infrastructure across the world.