The key to deploying effective technology is the understanding of behaviours that define the needs and wants of potential users. Rural Techs came to Mobility as a Service (MaaS) as the solution to rural travel needs that prevents the creation of two-level society- those who are connected and those who are not. Our second project delves further into the behaviours in urban areas around transport with a carefully chosen acronym, BUMP.
Rural: Urban Differences?
Our interest came in part with the realisation through the MERGeS project and discussions with public bodies concerned with travel that the needs of rural can stretch quite some way into areas that many consider to be urban.
Is a town in the middle of the countryside truly urban? Is an industrial park that stretches from the edge of a city to its core actually more rural in its transport behaviours? Should we define city regions by their cities or the degree of peri-urban, peri-rural or rural areas that fall within that region. And how should we account for the interlinkages when regional economic powerhouses are involved?
For any successful MaaS system, the interlinkages need to be clear and the behaviours understood to optimise the system.
Some needs are similar but have different emphasis between urban and rural travellers:
- Aid the existing. For those already using public and shared transport the currency of information is important. Under Covid this became more important. Centrally collated information needs to be distributed efficiently to account for changes so that travellers have choice. Here rural needs for certainty are replaced by urban needs for timely choice.
- Moving between. Work commuters come from the suburbs say by rail and then disperse. What influences their choice of secondary transport and how stuck are they in following the pre-existing methods? Can nudge theory and opportunity help or is the binary strike action that changes.
- Wet and dry. Active travel is a buzz concept but the big influencers here are weather, time of day and purpose of trip. If the hourly rural bus is the only option, there is no choice but to wait in the rain. In urban areas there is greater individual choice.
- Attract the new. Climate change, demise of the petrol car and changing work patterns feed into transport. How can the appropriate tipping points be reached?
Operator Behaviour Change
The change in behaviour is not just around travellers. The future is very uncertain and frankly bleak for travel operators. Taxi numbers have been decimated by Covid. Rail and bus companies have also been subsidised heavily to maintain operations, but more cuts are certain as those subsidies are removed and passengers fail to return.
Operator behaviour has been traditionally based on defending what they have and expanding into new opportunities where others have failed. This has created significant winners and losers as well as disjointed timetables with buses due 5 minutes after the train has left. The behavioural change is the full recognition and appreciation of the ecosystems of transport where all forms can thrive. The binary catchall or catchfail needs to be pushed aside for the greater good.
Is active travel really new? Perhaps not if you’ve always walked between services. Yet a major challenge will be the new mobility options such as connected and autonomous vehicles. For urban areas these are significant opportunity if they can be linked appropriately rather than as simple replacements for the current car.
BUMP looks at urban behaviours in using and operating transport to understand what behavioural changes are necessary to continue to deliver flexible choice. That choice underpins the usefulness of MaaS to provide the individual journey plans and to aggregate demand to supply the right vehicle or active options for a fair and sustainable society.