by Salvatore Moccia PhD.
Recently, researchers from the Escola Politécnica da Universidade de São Paulo, Claudia Soares, Nicolas de Salles, Fernando Tobal, José Quintanilha, published an article on the academic journal “Sustainability” regarding shared mobility. In the article, researchers, provide an up-to-date and well-structured review on the area of shared mobility to researchers and practitioners of the transport sector. Here there are some of the key issues.
In a wider understanding, shared mobility can be defined as trip alternatives that aim to maximize the utilization of the mobility resources that a society can pragmatically afford, disconnecting their usage from ownership. Then, shared mobility is the short-term access to shared vehicles according to the user’s needs and convenience.
The present literature review on shared modes of transportation has discovered that the introduction of these modes alone will not solve transportation problems in large cities, with elevated and growing motorization rates. However, it can among the strategies employed to help alleviate the problems caused by traffic jams and pollution by reducing the number of vehicles in circulation, congestions, and the urban emission of polluting gases. Thus, the implementation of shared mobility schemes offers the potential to enhance the efficiency, competitiveness, social equity, and quality of life in cities.
The future of urban mobility is the integration of on-demand multimodal services that may be enabled and accessed through digital platforms that suppress the need for multiple tickets and payments, optimize transport mode choices, and provide access to real-time journey information and weather conditions.
According to the UN Habitat III, private vehicles remain parked about 95% of the time, and when they are moving, their average occupancy rate is well below 2 persons per car, despite the fact that private cars in general have 4 seats for passengers and the driver. In 2007, the average occupancy rate was 1.8 persons per car in Eastern European countries and 1.54 in Western countries. In 2017, in the USA the average occupancy rate was about 1.5 person per car.
Innovative mobility initiatives such as electromobility, autonomous and connected vehicles, and shared modes can transform the transport sector, supply the foundations for sustainable growth, and become urban travel controlled, resilient, and convenient.
The recent popularity experienced by shared mobility services is due to advances in technology (mainly smartphones, positioning systems, and mobile payment), economic changes, and social and environmental concerns related to vehicle ownership and urban living.
The main reasons for users to adopt shared mobility schemes:
- Financial reasons: The shared mobility service is more economical for users because it is less expensive than acquiring and maintaining a vehicle. Using shared transportation modes allows one to save money for other activities due to fair prices and, usually, free parking.
- Convenience: Ease of use and convenient access to the service. Services aim to facilitate daily routines and offer increased parking spaces, flexible vehicle use, reduced liability, and simplified fare models.
- Lifestyle: This service associates the inherent pleasure of using a private vehicle with the feeling of being engaged in a community with other users. Easy-to-understand symbols associated with shared modes, such as a uniform fleet of vehicles (preferably electric) identified by special paints or adhesive, can generate a sense of belonging. Thus, users want to have contact with others while simultaneously differentiating themselves.
- Sustainability: Environmental concerns (eco-friendly service) are considered to be important for improving quality of life.
In recent years, much controversy has been generated in terms of regulating technologies and services related to shared mobility modes, in particular about transportation network companies (or on-demand ride services) that operate resourcing and/or ride splitting services.
Such issues emerge due to an increasing time gap between innovation development and regulatory responses, which pressure policy-makers and local authorities to find a breakeven point among the administration, regulation, and control that enable disruptive innovations in urban mobility to be integrated into transportation systems.
In turn, transportation users are increasingly demanding in terms of reliability, flexibility, availability, comfort, and cost of their transport mode choices.
Despite the fact that on-demand ride services are the modality of shared mobility that generate most of the media attention, it doesn’t mean that other shared modes are irrelevant. On the contrary, in large urban centers there is space for many mobility options, which can operate in a complementary way rather than as competitors, improving the transportation supply and expanding the range of users’ choice.