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Taking our cities back from the private car

Bernard Tabary, Keolis' International CEO, explains why the ‘Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities’ are vital in meeting the challenges of urban mobility.

We live in a world undergoing rapid urbanisation. Today, 54% of the world’s population live in cities, and by 2050 that number will grow to nearly 70%. In addition, road congestion and pollution are at all-time highs. Life in city environments is becoming increasingly challenging and less liveable. Finally, the rise of digitalisation and an ‘always on’ culture has transformed the way passengers perceive mobility services.

It is therefore becoming more and more important for mobility service providers to have a deeper understanding of passengers’ needs – and it is also more important than ever to develop smarter mobility and flow management.

At Keolis, we believe that mass transit is the best solution to provide the necessary capacity, frequency and fluidity to handle urban growth and passenger demands. It is also one of the best
ways to meet today’s – and tomorrow’s – environmental challenges. We are convinced that mobility must be Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric (CASE). Building future mobility upon
these four pillars will help us address the issues cited above.

On 1 February 2018, together with 14 of the world’s leading transport and technology companies including BlaBlaCar, Lyft, Via and Uber, we signed the Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities, pledging to prioritise people over vehicles, lower emissions, promote equality and encourage data sharing, amongst other goals. The ten principles of this charter are:

1.  We plan our cities and their mobility together

2. We prioritise people over vehicles

3. We support the shared and efficient use of vehicles, lanes, curbs and land

4. We engage with stakeholders

5. We promote equality

6.  We lead the transition towards a zero-emission future and renewable energy

7. We support fair user fees across all modes

8. We aim for public benefits via open data

9. We work towards integration and seamless connectivity

10. We support that autonomous vehicles in dense urban areas should be operated only in shared fleets.

Through our diverse portfolio of mass transit solutions and on-demand transport services, Keolis is already positioned as a pioneer of shared mobility, and our innovative approach is already benefiting many communities. Now, we can build on these ideas and services and take them forward with other committed businesses.

The first shared mobility principle – we plan our cities and their mobility together – is central to this focus. We recognise that the way our cities are built determines their mobility needs and how they can be met. We develop solid partnerships with Public Transport Authorities (PTAs) in order to ensure that the most effective mobility solutions are integrated to meet each community’s specific needs.

A great example of this is the Lille network in northern France. Our experts worked with the PTA European Metropolis of Lille for several months to restructure the network, which we have been operating for over 20 years, in order to reinforce its attractiveness while increasing economic efficiency. They led marketing and social surveys and re-examined all aspects of the network. As a result, EUR17m of efficiency savings can now be reinvested annually to improve mobility in the Lille metropole.

The environment influences the way we build cities and devise their mobility. Climate change has influenced a growing number of cities to aim for a more environmentally-friendly form of mobility. We help cities transition toward a zero-emission future and renewable energy (principle #6) by offering our expertise in operating and maintaining clean vehicles (biogas, biodiesel, hybrid vehicles, electric buses). For example, Foothill Transit in Pomona, California, has chosen Keolis to operate its network of 139 buses, including 14 electric buses, and to help it achieve its
goal of operating 100% electric buses by 2030.

In parallel, we also focus strongly on new technologies and data. We aim for public benefits via open data (principle #7) and believe that the data infrastructure underpinning shared transport services must enable interoperability, competition and innovation, while ensuring privacy, security, and accountability.

On 31 October 2017, we signed a strategic partnership for the sharing and analysis of Big Data to support the development of innovative mobility solutions with the Institute for Data Valorization (IVADO). By partnering with IVADO, Keolis aims to develop innovative mobility solutions that create value for passengers and PTAs alike.

But when we introduce new technology, we recognise that each innovation has different uses and potential. This is why we support that autonomous vehicles (AVs) in dense urban areas should be operated only in shared fleets (principle #10). Due to the transformational potential of autonomous vehicle technology, it is critical that all AVs are part of shared, zero-emission fleets.

Shared fleets can provide more affordable access to all, maximise public safety and emissions benefits, ensure that maintenance and software upgrades are managed by professionals, and actualise the promise of reductions in vehicles, parking, and congestion, in line with broader policy trends to reduce the use of personal cars in dense urban areas. With our partner NAVYA we have been trialling and operating autonomous electric shuttles in various cities, including Melbourne (Australia), London (UK), Lyon and Paris-La Défense (France) and Las Vegas (US).

We aim to play an important role in autonomous vehicle operations, and grow our expertise in this field in order to help cities and companies benefit from an easy, fast and efficient transport option for the first and last mile.

Our world is changing and we are prepared for the challenge.

Article originally featured in May 2018 TAUT (965).