The aspiration to own a car is not as widespread as in the past. This is just one example of a change in attitude towards travel, reports Beate Kubitz
Many of the pressing issues society faces – solving congestion, improving air quality, reducing obesity, improving cardiovascular health and reducing CO2 emissions – hinge on reducing car use and switching away from the internal combustion engine (ICE).
Although the private car seems to be embedded in society, it need not necessarily be so. Despite assumptions that car use will only go up, there are indications that people’s behaviour is changing.
Car ownership is already losing popularity and people are receptive to alternatives. Digital transformation is enabling shared transport to be convenient and accessible and new modes are becoming more widespread as adoption increases.
The first Commission on Travel Demand report, published last year, found that, individually, we are travelling less often than we did 20 years ago – both in terms of distance and time spent. In particular, younger people travel less often and fewer miles than people over 60.
Among many factors, work patterns have changed and digital communication has reduced the need to travel for work, leisure and social purposes. Although subtle and only recently acknowledged, these trends will dent car use over the coming decades as these people age and particularly if subsequent cohorts are similarly less interested in car ownership.
As climate change has shot up the agenda and poor air quality affects people’s life expectancy and quality of life, communities too have begun to demand change.
Consequently, there is enormous potential to change driving behaviour with only 9% of people actually enjoying driving, according to the Transport Systems Catapult report Traveller Needs and UK Capability. Driving is a less attractive choice practically in urban areas, with journeys slowed by congestion.
While it will be difficult to change the attitudes and behaviour of the small minority with a ‘petrolhead’ mentality, the vast majority drive for convenience, out of necessity and habit.
Shared transport models
Changing public attitudes are coinciding with the digital revolution, which has enabled the development of shared transport models. They are maturing to the point at which they can play a significant role in the transport ecosystem and enable a shift away from car ownership and towards Mobility as a Service (MaaS).
Longstanding ideas have been enabled by technology and become embedded in cities, companies and people’s lives. There will have been car clubs in the UK since the turn of the millennium – almost 20 years.
What started as cooperative groups set up with paper and spreadsheet booking systems and (sometimes quite informal) key safes has been transformed. Car clubs can now manage fleets with telematics, which can be booked online and accessed by smart card or app.
Bike share and ride sharing have become agile – with bikes booked through smartphones and rides arranged at short notice online. In these rental experiences, there is no longer a booking station, ticket office or human eyeballing the hirer. Trust is mediated by online identity, credit card and driving licence checks.
This automation has enabled the adoption of self-service assets: convenient, publicly accessible, shared transport. This development is necessary for shared transport to scale up.
These changing patterns are not entirely disconnected. The issue is how to foster shared modes, growing their use beyond the early adopters and digital natives to drive down car journeys, reducing congestion and emissions, improving air quality and public health.
Shared transport comes in two distinct flavours. Bike share and car clubs enable people to share assets – bikes and cars – that are publicly accessible, while lift or ride sharing enables people to share a journey. Each form of shared transport presents a distinct opportunity. But there are equally distinct barriers to take up.
What are the barriers to take up and how can they be overcome? Read the full article, Shifting to sharing (PDF), taken from the Smart Transport Journal.