We continue with our ‘Words of the Day After’ series with an emphasis on: Mobility
While the lockdown has gone hand-in-hand with the almost total removal of mobility, where towns have seen a 50 to 90% reduction in travel, the end of the lockdown period is seeing a very gradual return to mobility, unlike anything we have known until now, as illustrated by the capitalisation of Zoom, which has surpassed that of the top seven airlines combined. There are many opportunities, such as citizens’ proposals for the climate convention (speed limited to 110 kph on motorways, reduced VAT on trains, home working, zero-interest loans for clean vehicles, the end of domestic flights, etc.). Will the crisis allow us to fully enter the paradigm of sustainable mobility?
With the lockdown, companies all over the world have organized themselves to minimise their employees’ journeys to their workplaces, to encourage home working as much as possible, to implement team rotation systems, etc. The need for mobility has been drastically reduced. Some companies now want to anchor these new habits in the long-term, like PSA which intends to make home working the norm. Social distancing on public transport and in workplaces also raises the matter of smoothing peak periods; Ile de France Mobilité is campaigning on this to stagger arrivals at work.
Restoring mobility is also marked by the movement to relocate journeys. A study of posts on social media carried out by Bloom over the lockdown period reveals a change in individual aspirations and the desire for a new form of urban life, focused on residents and their personal sphere. Our journeys – private and professional – will become shorter with the development of local third places.
More individual mobility?
Mainly due to social distancing, mass transit lost 70% of its capacity in the initial weeks of the lockdown.
Mass transit is the backbone of public transport in cities. But passengers are now worried about using these forms of transport, which they consider to be dangerous: how to reassure them on the issues of hygiene and overcrowding on trains, buses and underground lines? In May, the RATP set up a crowdsourcing system making it possible to identify the levels of use on Parisian transport services, taking inspiration from Waze.
Travel companions offered by MaaS (Mobility as a Service) platforms meet the need for personalised door-to-door mobility by proposing, in real-time, multi-modal journeys that are compatible with social distancing: use of bikes, less busy transport lines.
One of the fairly natural responses to the fear of proximity in public transport is to use one’s own vehicle: solo or car-pooling with friends or family. In March, 66% of Chinese people stated an intent to give precedence to driving their car for their daily trips, compared to 34% pre-crisis.
However, this solution is far from going in the direction of the history written by many territories and actors of mobility and the environment just before the Covid-19 crisis: reducing solo car journeys and the use of individual combustion vehicles to help reduce our environmental impact.
More sustainable mobility?
France has made the aid granted to Air France conditional upon the stoppage of flights from Paris to towns that are accessible via TGV high-speed train in under two hours 30 minutes. The government thus seized the opportunity to enrol the air sector in the sustainable mobility movement. This ban should be extended to all airlines to avoid replacement by low-cost companies and to secure the switch to the TGV. In the longer term, all European short-haul flights could switch to TGV and the night train, which is coming back into favour, notably under the impetus of Austria.
Renewed interest for individual cars is also an opportunity to promote the electric vehicle. Citroën thus launched its electric micro-vehicle that does not require a licence in France, the AMI, marketing it at FNAC stores to target young. Investors confirm this scenario: Tesla has just become the leading car manufacturer in terms of market capitalisation and promises in particular a revolutionary battery to break the price gap.
The driverless shuttle could also be a good candidate, with on-demand service that minimises social interaction.
This solution is also an opportunity for transporting goods and urban logistics. In a world where travelling and traffic are reduced, lanes reserved for electric vehicles could be introduced, like for car-pooling vehicles.
More active mobility?
In line with this aspiration for individual means of transport, with the end of lockdown we are also seeing that active forms of mobility, and cycling, are on a roll! In May, 58% of company fleet managers anticipated an increase in the use of bicycles for home-to-work journeys. In May 2020, bicycle traffic in Paris was greater than 50% compared to the traffic recorded in May 2019. Many local authorities reacted quickly during lockdown to implement tactical urbanism, for example with temporary cycling lanes, which are currently experiencing great success in towns that have implemented them correctly. This success is supported by public financial aid (subsidy to buy an electric bike, allocation of 50 euros to have one’s bike serviced or for a cycling school, etc.). The challenge now is to make them last.
More supportive mobility?
Now, when our mobility is shaken, is the time to rethink it collectively. Several individual, private or public initiatives have been launched, but the matter of the cost of investment comes up each time, to change vehicles, infrastructures, habits, etc.
The transport sector will benefit from a record support and recovery plan: 15 billion euros for the aeronautics sector, 5 billion euros for Renault, 50 million euros for road transport. However, it is unfortunate that these envelopes are mainly for the air and automotive sectors rather than for public transport, as commented by Thierry Mallet, President of the Public Transport Union.
It is also necessary to invest in sustainable transport, but for greater efficiency, these investments should be pooled among the stakeholders – private or public – in particular to create joint property, just as La Fabrique des Mobilités has made it its name.
Every business can contribute to this in two ways with regard to its rationale: encourage employee behaviour and contribute its skills in a partnership approach. We are currently experiencing this with the Mon Compte Mobilité project that we are conducting with the support of the Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition. This general interest project, inspired by the Compte Personnel de Formation, aims to merge for citizens the mobility rights provided by companies and local authorities on the one hand, and mobility offers to promote sustainable mobility and reduce solo car journeys on the other. It is co-funded by public and private players. This mobility account approach could be extended in a “pay-as-you-go” approach to fund mobility by the least sustainable modes of transport and thus successfully achieve what did not work in the world before (environment tax, urban tolls, etc.).
The challenge is therefore to launch several projects to build common ground on the various aspects of mobility to ensure that the day after can finally shift to sustainable mobility.
Manager – Citizen Services