One year ago now uncertainty spread all over with sudden, forced lockdowns, a flood of unsettling COVID-19 news, infection curves on the rise, and the pandemic evolution raging all through the globe. Mobility is one of the most impacted areas by this global crisis, where serious concerns having been raised such as: what will happen with plummeted use of public transport, and the worrying trend of consumers back to private cars? Will shared mobility keep growing, or it will stall? What are the challenges for urban mobility as we realise what it takes to adapt to the post-pandemic world?
In this context, the CommINSAFE project –an acronym standing for CommutINg with ShAred mobility covid-FrEe- was submitted to a timely initiative of the EIT Urban Mobility as they decided to (re)act, and so make nearly €5 million funding available to support the most innovative ideas as part of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. CommINSAFE was one of the eleven selected projects in the Call For Proposals among close to 100 proposals that were submitted involving 317 organisations from 30 different countries. As the project has now come to an end after six months, the results are really promising.
The challenge we have addressed: European countries are facing a severe decrease in the use of public transport, with concerns as to the ability to keep physical distance and ride safely, while at the same time private car usage remains high. With the goal to boost shared mobility combined with public transport, a consortium composed of CERTH, FACTUAL, Sant Cugat City Council, Groupito, KTH and Taxiway started to work on a project proposal focused on how we could restore users’ trust in public transport in a pandemic context.
So we decided to focus our Unique Value Proposition (UVP) on commuters, especially those whose jobs do not allow them to telecommute, and so we came up with the idea of offering a mobility service to enable ride-sharing with trusted co-workers who commute to high-density business areas. Indeed, there is an increasing need for safe commuting to workplaces that concentrate many employees, especially to destinations where the available public transport connections are insufficient, or users do not feel confident to use them anymore. This is quite the case of Barcelona and its metropolitan area: the city has 1.6M inhabitants, but its metropolitan area accounts for an additional 1.7M dwellers from 36 municipalities. There are several industrial and business parks dispersed around the Barcelona metropolitan area, within a radius of 20 km from the city centre, and where few mass transit options are available. This situation results in a high share of private vehicles for commuting trips, and with very low occupancy rates.
This dependency on private vehicles for reaching industrial zones or business parks located in an interurban area is the root of many problems for the companies:
- Office space: this is related to the need to use (or we should rather say waste) a significant space for parking in their headquarters that could be better used for other purposes.
- Talent retention: this is related to the challenge to attract and retain talent linked with inconveniences related to the need to commute to the workplace, where time spent on road congestion and the cost of car use are real stoppers for many employees.
So we were faced with the challenge to react quickly to the spotted need, and within a very short time organise and deploy a corporate mobility service just before the arrival of the second COVID-19 wave.
The solution we have developed, and successfully piloted: we often state that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to address every mobility challenge. We decided in the CommINSAFE project to tackle current issues related to daily commuting in metropolitan areas by placing the user at the centre of our proposed solution, and include an innovative, cost-effective COVID-free solution to raise acceptance and trust in a novel, on-demand corporate mobility service based on a technological platform that allows employees working at different companies based in the same business area to book a virtual seat in the more convenient pick-up point and timetable to suit their daily journey to their workplace.
Our proposal combined the efficiency and flexibility of an on-demand mobility service, which was tailored to corporate mobility requirements, in close cooperation with a few companies that helped us recruit users among their employees. The piloted service has great potential for scaling, as commuter trips account for more than 60% of the overall mobility in metropolitan areas such as Greater Barcelona. These are its main components and features:
- On-demand: the Ne-Mi application for providing and managing a flexible transport service which includes virtual pick-up points in tailored and flexible routes that connect dense urban areas (where employees live) with the employee’s workplace.
Full article is available on FACTUAL‘s website here: https://factualconsulting.medium.com/on-demand-corporate-mobility-are-you-ready-to-share-your-trip-with-a-yet-to-know-co-worker-266d30434506