In The Future of Mobility post-Covid, the authors engaged with 70 leaders and top executives from more than 30 organisations, ranging from transport authorities, mass transit operators, “new mobility” providers and professional bodies. The participants shared views on the impact of the crisis, actual and planned responses as well as insight on the longer term. 

The study assessed the impact of the crisis on 12 key mobility trends in three areas - global, behavioural, and technology/market. It says that while the crisis has and will continue to have tragic consequences for many people, it has also led to new conditions which can be leveraged to drive innovation. 

“The striking result is that with the exception of passenger demand growth (measured in passenger-km) which is expected to slightly decelerate in the coming years, all the other trends will be likely to be accelerated by the crisis, which, in itself, opens up opportunities to drive change, provided that policy makers and public transport operators and “new mobility” MSPs are able to seize the opportunity,” the study notes.

“Covid-19 was, for everyone, a “life-changing moment,” and it is easier to change behaviours during such moments; city centres with less car traffic can be more easily used as “sandboxes” for innovation; there is increased public awareness of environmental and health benefits; and rapid actions taken during the crisis by authorities and operators have demonstrated the “art of the possible” in terms of rapid and agile decision-making.”

The study says that among the key players that can have the greatest impact are city governments and transport authorities. Encouragingly, it says many of the actors engaged with during the study have been taking the new ‘framing’ and ‘enabling’ actions required to institute significant change. 

Framing encompasses changes to regulations governing the mobility system and its components such as urban space allocation, new mobility reregulation, contract reengineering with private mass transport providers, new data regulation and new enforcement measures. Enabling covers new governance arrangements for better collaboration across the system, a reassessment of investments to favour , accelerated investment in digital infrastructure for Mobility as a Service (MaaS) 

However, while some authorities are acting as progressive and firmly committed to the need for change, a minority are considered “non-believers” and do not see the need to radically rethink the system. More than 50% are stuck in the middle, recognising the need, but struggling to make it happen.

“While it is evident that size and available resources limit the type of actions that can be undertaken, ultimately this is not the determining factor and should not be used as an excuse for lack of action,” the report says. “There is a shared fear that unless changes are made, the majority of authorities, maybe as many as two-thirds, may not be in a position to do what is necessary to drive the required change.”

To stimulate the change required the report presents three game changers for city governments and authorities to frame and enable mobility systems for the post-Covid-19 world. 

  • think and act at system level - develop a unified long-term vision
  • foster innovation through public-private collaborations on innovative technology and business model development, and
  • set up a unified mobility management model, which enhances real-time optimisation of mobility flows at a city and national level. 

Falling demand for public transport services resulting in decreased farebox revenues as well as increased operating costs are putting operators under financial pressure. The report includes 70 examples of either new or accelerated actions taken by operators in the context of the crisis, which aim to improve overall customer experience and the resilience of the offering in the context of possible rapid fluctuations in demand. 

These include flexible and adapted service offers, introducing on-demand services on fixed routes, acceleration of MaaS, and promotions and incentives to rebuild ridership. Operational resilience is being addressed through the introduction of new agile crisis management processes, new technologies for contactless accessibility, passenger identification and tracing, new cleaning and sanitation regimes, improved flexibility of staff schedules, and adapation of approaches to capital investment. 

As a result, the report identifies three further game changers to rebuild customer relevance and trust, and to improve operational resilience:

  • build intimacy and proactively engage with clients
  • accelerate digitalisation of both offerings and operations for preference and resilience, and
  • evolve established crisis management approaches to better anticipate risks and improve operational resilience.

The authors state their belief that adopting the six game changing actions will help governments, authorities and public transport operators, and new mobility providers to shape the post Covid-19 future and provide the necessary strategic options and insurances to navigate the uncertainties. They say that changing the basic paradigm of mobility systems is hugely challenging and up to now, most cities and countries have struggled to make the fundamental changes needed. However, the current crisis and the economic stress that is likely over the next few years could encourage various parties to work together to make it happen.

“Achieving success will require vision, creativity, courage and entrepreneurship – but now could be our best opportunity for decades,” the study says.