Choosing the right locations for mobility hubs has been one of the biggest challenges Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has faced during the eHUBS project.
A mobility hub – essentially a site where different transport options such as buses, trains, e-scooters and e-bikes come together – has the potential to increase adoption of more sustainable modes of transport and therefore lower a city's carbon emissions, but the concept is still in its infancy.
Manchester is one of six cities taking part in the EU-funded eHUBS project (along with Amsterdam, Leuven, Arnhem, Kempten and Dreux), which aims to establish a blueprint for mobility hubs and the commercial market for e-mobility providers.
Mobility hubs, with 25 e-cargo bikes and 10 electric vehicles, are being implemented in three locations in Greater Manchester: Bury, South Manchester, and Ancoats.
Choosing those locations has been one the biggest challenges of the project so far, according to Sarah Kumeta, senior innovation officer at TfGM, who was speaking at the recent Virtual Smart Transport Conference.
Kumeta explained that due to the number of vehicles available through the project it wasn’t possible to have mobility hubs in all of Greater Manchester’s 10 districts, which meant TfGM had to think strategically.
One of the eHUBS project partners, TU Delft, produced a heat map of areas where it felt a mobility hub would be successful, based on factors such as population density, age and level of accessibility, and different levels of transport around in the area already.
TfGM’s strategic development team then took into account social demographics, current propensity to cycle and issues like anti-social behaviour.
That resulted in a list of the most favourable areas for mobility hubs.
“As well as this data-led approach, we’re very aware that users are integral to the development and implementation and success of mobility hubs in the city,” Kumeta said. “And so we worked closely with Cargoroo, who are a project partner, to understand the personas that are most likely to use the mobility services, understanding different people's lifestyle needs in these different areas, as well as what they perceive their current barriers to entry of shared mobility are.”
TfGM also worked with another project partner, Newcastle University, to distribute a questionnaire across Greater Manchester to further understand how people currently travel and what the current barriers are to shared mobility, and gained insight from the other European cities.
Of the three locations chosen, Bury has the lowest propensity to cycle but has lots of small businesses and a number of short trips are made by car there so it is seen as “a good target area to see whether we can have a positive influence”, Kumeta said.
In contrast, Chorlton in South Manchester has a much higher propensity to cycle and there are a lot of young families in the area, and is likely to be the most successful location for the mobility hub.
Ancoats provides a testbed for shared mobility in a city centre environment.
Kumeta suggested that, in future, a tool which could take into account all the various factors would be the ideal way to determine the best locations.
- For more from the Virtual Smart Transport Conference, visit the dedicated website where those registered can access all of the video presentations and live Q&A sessions, for a limited time period.