The strains are rather high, on everybody involved: Many road users have long since stopped to count the hours lost to traffic congestion – and for the industrialized countries, all this unproductive time and the resulting delays add up to an economic disaster. Cities must fear that their chronically congested road network will make them less attractive in the global competition for investors and professionals. At the same time, they are under pressure from ever stricter pollutant emission thresholds. And the providers of public transport services don’t have much reason to rejoice either: They have difficulties to reach a satisfactory capacity utilization level because most of their potential passengers still prefer to take the car.
And yet it moves
For years now, multimodality has been seen as the key to efficient mobility. The modal split, however, has not substantially changed yet. But now things are starting to move, thanks to an intelligent IT-based system that offers benefits to travelers, mobility operators and municipalities alike.
The only way for mobile society to keep moving
The way out of this dilemma has long since been staked out by experts: multimodality. Only if the transport load can be distributed much more evenly across the different transport modes our mobile society will have a chance to keep moving. “For quite some time now, this topic has been high up on the municipalities' priority list," says Markus Schlitt, Head of Siemens Intelligent Traffic Systems. “But even so, the modal split in most major cities, apart from a few exceptions, is still too much in favor of the private car.”
For Schlitt, the reasons are obvious: “Firstly, humans tend to be very much set in their ways and reluctant to change long-established habits even if proven inefficient.” One tool that may help to turn car drivers into ‘multimodal travelers’, says Schlitt, could be an external incentive such as a city tolling scheme with tariffs depending on current traffic volumes. “On the other hand, there are also a number of practical reasons that keep nipping our willingness to switch modes in the bud. Often people simply give up in exasperation when, for a single multimodal trip, they have to deal with three, four, five or more different providers, schedules and ticketing systems. Seamless mobile telephony around the globe is a matter of course today – while seamless travel is often not even possible within one and the same city.“
This is probably not least due to the fact that in many cities, metro, tram and bus networks are operated by different companies. "At least in the field of public transit, there is no organizational framework in place to effectively foster the concept of multimodality,” explains Rainer Czerwinski, Senior Strategy Consultant at Siemens Mobility. And then there is the tight financial situation of many rail transport systems: “Most of those systems do not make a profit and need to be subsidized out of tax coffers," says Czerwinski. “This means that even in those cases where the responsible public bodies are willing to implement schemes for fostering multimodal transport, the end result is often just a compromise due to a lack of funds."
The current market dynamism is a threat to the established providers
In contrast, the new players who are currently pushing into the mobility market usually benefit from a much better financial situation. “After an extended phase of experimentation in the scope of small-scale projects, the topic has been picking up speed for about three years now,” explains Dr. Steven Ahlig, whose role as Innovation Manager for Siemens involves keeping a permanent eye on ongoing market developments in the area of mobility management. “Eight-digit investment sums in trend-setting start-ups such as moovit or Citymapper are not uncommon these days.”
This dynamism is also what Dr. Ahlig sees as a serious threat to established providers of mobility services. And he is not the only expert to think so: “Rüdiger Grube, Chairman of the Board of Deutsche Bahn AG, recently said that his worst nightmare was to see new players such as Uber, moovit or moovel insert themselves as a kind of ‘sales hinge’ between the travelers and his company. This is also why many public transport providers have started to look actively for ways to strengthen their own position in the sales process, for instance by integrating additional service offers."
The idea is as simple as it is logical: If the user-friendly smartphone app of a subway network operator provides in addition easy access to car- or bike-sharing schemes and allows ordering a taxi or reserving a parking space for one's private car, the operator switches from his role as a simple public transport provider to that of a holistic mobility partner. As a result, the wide range of integrated services will counteract the travelers’ deep-rooted reluctance to choose multimodal travel options over remaining a part of the daily traffic gridlock.
SiMobility opens up a new dimension of multimodal travel
The key to the door to a new dimension of multimodality is already available: SiMobility, a perfectly coordinated range of intelligent IT-based solutions that covers all transport services offered by conventional and innovative providers, integrating them into a large, inclusive mobility system. The different portfolio elements make the required information available to the users in real time and enable all kinds of transactions before, during and after the trip. Transport operators and mobility service providers profit from reduced complexity when it comes to managing inter- and multimodal transport services.
Today, the system consists of three main components:
- SiMobility Connect allows the provision of information and enables transactions
- SiMobility Flow triggers the provision of proximity-based information, whether relating to transport or other individual needs, during the trip
- SiMobility JustGo makes traveling more convenient thanks to hands-free “Be-in/be-out” ticketing
Depending on the application, virtually all transport modes can be integrated
The core of SiMobility Connect is a B2B platform that includes system interfaces to both multiple service providers and mobility retailers. Which transport modes can be included depends on the specific use case. The list includes public and private transport such as car- and bike-sharing schemes, taxis, demand-responsive transport services, ferries, gondolas as well as parking-related services.
The focus of SiMobility Flow is the provision of context-sensitive information for users while traveling, for example in bus and rail stations or in vehicles. For operators, targeted data analysis tools enable efficient fleet management and the optimization of infrastructure and services based on actual passenger behavior.
With SiMobility JustGo, the user’s smartphone is the ticket – thanks to hands-frees “Be-in/Be-out” (BiBo) ticketing. The system operates on the basis of low-energy radio beacons and an innovative smartphone app. The smartphone is detected when in a moving vehicle. For the user, this means the end of individual ticket purchases: no hassle with vending machines, no waiting at gates, no bothersome check-in. Service operators benefit from highly efficient ticketing management using the SiMobility backend.