Shared mobility: resource for improved mobility and liveability
In the Timmerhuis on Meent we meet Rosemarijn de Jong (senior mobility adviser at the Municipality of Rotterdam) and Edwin Brugts (partnership manager at BMW i). We find ourselves in the city centre, where most people don’t venture by car unless they absolutely have to.
The Rotterdam municipal authorities actually like keeping cars out of the city centre, to promote a cleaner and more liveable inner city. This is why investments are being made in shared mobility and sustainable collaboration in this field. It is not a goal in itself, but rather a way to enable Rotterdammers to be more mobile and to improve the living environment.
Rotterdam Mobility City Campus
How do you reach residents and involve them in the mobility transition? This is the question that is at the core of Rosemarijn’s work as a mobility adviser to the Rotterdam municipal authorities. She is always working on the future of the city, which is every bit as enjoyable as it sounds. “We immerse ourselves in all kinds of innovative traffic-related developments, such as self-driving vehicles. We are currently working on the concept for a Mobility City Campus in Rotterdam, a place for major players and innovations related to mobility.” We hope it will be the top location for developing new mobility concepts for transport by land, water and air. The concept is expected to be launched this month. “Our aim is to curb the use of cars while ensuring that people are still mobile”
The objective? Mobility for all!
Collaborating on innovative projects with (major) companies and knowledge institutions is important to help Rotterdam improve in terms of mobility. Rosemarijn constantly reflects on the importance of improved mobility for Rotterdam and its residents. “I connect the right people and companies, provide substantive support and make sure everything is in line with Rotterdam’s objectives.” She explains that the objectives are not insignificant. “We have major ambitions related to climate, accessibility and improving the living environment in every possible way, but it is important in this respect to identify our residents’ exact wishes and capabilities.” It is important for Rosemarijn and her colleagues to know whether people will use certain solutions. “When promoting shared mobility we mustn’t lose sight of the objective. We aim for effective use and added value, otherwise rental bikes and scooters will simply take up valuable space in the city centre.”
Curbing the use of cars constitutes a major challenge for Rotterdam. In the near future the shared car - just like the shared bike - will be an everyday reality for many people. Rosemarijn: “Along with other cities, Rotterdam has signed the City Deal on ‘electric shared mobility in urban area development’”. Under this Deal, innovative housing projects go hand in hand with the provision of electric shared cars. For instance, each housing complex will have four shared cars that residents can use, which is more efficient, cleaner and reduces the number of parking spaces needed. “Our aim is to curb the use of cars while ensuring people are still mobile. The municipal authorities are always examining how we can contribute to improvements in any matter. I believe that the solution lies in shared mobility, but subject to certain conditions. The municipality must provide the ideal circumstances and must cooperate with other parties in order to do so.” “Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is one component of the Municipality of Rotterdam’s mobility plan (Stedelijk Verkeersplan) and BMW is also involved,” reveals Edwin Brugts.
A BMW for sharing
BMW has been building cars for the ‘premium’ segment of the auto market for over 100 years, but the company is innovating and increasingly focuses on the provision of mobility and services. Edwin: “We have observed how the needs of people and cities are evolving and we are now responding to the changes. The importance of sustainability and sharing is growing. We are now in contact with municipal authorities as a result of the recyclable and 100% electric BMW i3.” Unlike, say, Greenwheels, BMW does not use a free-float concept, in which a large fleet of cars is made available in a city. “Our cars can be found at specific locations and can be reserved for the following day, or week, using an app.” BMW’s new business model focuses on city centres, by connecting car-sharing platforms and e-mobility to real estate. The company does so, for example, by collaborating on innovative project development, in line with the City Deal. Edwin: “The construction of innovative new housing models offers future residents a unique opportunity to try out shared BMW i3s as part of their new living environment. Moreover, this will immediately increase the service level of the new housing complexes.
In short: it’s a win-win-win situation, because municipalities will also benefit considerably as a result.” The collaboration with the project developer Heijmans and architects’ firm OMA for the Timmerhuis serves as an example. Edwin: “Places that combine living and working are particularly ideal for using shared cars. We have now completed the pilot phase. This is the future.”
What makes people tick?
Rosemarijn works on this very future every day. Rosemarijn: “Rotterdam is open to innovation. We don’t compile lengthy reports to determine whether an innovation could help us achieve our objectives. Instead we launch pilot studies to see what happens. Policy is developed (or amended or focused) based on the results of those pilot studies. I think it’s a great approach.” However, when working on improved mobility, the facilities are not the only thing that has an impact. The behaviour and habits of residents have an impact, as well. “People are creatures of habit. The greatest challenge is to effect a change in behaviour.” The question as to what makes people tick is twofold here. Are our plans genuinely helpful to residents? “A shared scooter is fun and could serve as a fine alternative to a car, but ideally, it would not replace a bike. It is not something we can immediately counteract, but we are studying it.” Rosemarijn has a good feeling about the felyx scooters that can be seen everywhere these days. “They are an excellent option, not only because of the convenience a scooter offers, but also because of the fact that they are a cleaner (electric) alternative to cars. The level of their success took us by surprise. We are now examining the extent to which car use has decreased as a result.” Just like Rosemarijn, Edwin views cars, bikes and scooters as part of a greater whole. “I don’t view the felyx e-scooters as competition, but rather as an addition within this trend.”
Experiments exclusively involving shared and public transport are fully under way. They are collectively referred to as the ‘MaaS experience’. As part of the research programme implemented by Verkeersonderneming, one hundred Rotterdammers were selected to participate in a pilot study. Rosemarijn: “They were given a budget and were given permission to use it on all kinds of transport modes for a period of four months. Participants who own a car were asked not to use it, or to do so as little as possible. The user group was a fair representation of Rotterdam’s population and exclusively used shared bikes, scooters and cars, trams, buses, taxis, water taxis and buses and the metro and train for four months.”
After this period, all the participants were asked if they would like to continue travelling in this way for a certain period of time, and were given a choice of several different types of transport season tickets. They were reimbursed 50 percent of the cost. “No fewer than 75 of the 100 people decided to continue travelling that way, which I think is a success!” Rosemarijn states proudly. “This group is acquiring new experiences, as well as an insight into the costs of this way of travelling. This is a valuable experience, because people often underestimate how much their car costs and overestimate the costs of public transport.” Edwin also thinks using the BMW i3 as a shared car is an advantage in this regard. “It reduces the demand for parking spaces and contributes to a cleaner city. We are seeing more and more residents get rid of their second car, because 95 percent of the time it is not used. What’s more, a parking space also costs money. A shared car is a good alternative. Availability is outstanding and you save around 80 percent of the costs.”
Living side by side and sharing
We live side by side in our city and share the facilities, so why not share our means of transport as well? It makes so much sense. Rosemarijn thinks there will be more mobility hubs where everything will be made available - shared cars, bikes, scooters and even shared cargo bikes. The main thing we have to do now is provide people with positive experiences with regard to this way of travelling. “Rotterdam is ready for it, but there’s still a lot to be done. We have to make it easy for people, and we want to achieve this with an app currently being developed by market parties. Everything must be brought together on a single MaaS platform, but this is more complicated than it might seem because we are dealing with so many suppliers.” Will everyone in Rotterdam be using the app by 2030? Rosemarijn is startled by the question. “Much sooner than that I hope! We are already aiming for self-driving cars by 2030, so let’s hope the app can be downloaded by 2023.”