Key to great shared mobility: Simplicity, reliability and integration of services


I’ve been travelling through Europe the last nine weeks. Since I am on a quest to learn more about shared mobility services, I decided to try different modes out myself, anything from public transit systems to new mobility services. Apart from bike sharing (if you want to know more, see here) and carsharing systems, I tried several public transit systems, long distance buses and taxi apps. You can find more details about my top four below.

I realised that as a user, I care about three things when moving around: simplicity, reliability and integration.

Simplicity should be the focus for the entire user experience: from registration, to booking a journey to the actual pricing structure. I like that most systems let you register online and that – if you like – you can download an app to book your journey. I also appreciate that most public service providers still offer ticket vending machines, but they should be so simple that it takes 30 seconds maximum to obtain a ticket. It took 90 seconds from start to finish to obtain a simple metro ticket in Stuttgart, multiply this by 10 commuters in a rush and you have a gigantic line-up in front of the ticket vending machine. Another area where simplicity should be key is in the pricing structure. When I’m in front of a ticket vending machine, I don’t want to pull out an excel sheet to compare prices or figure out what the correct fare is.

Reliability of transportation is key to me because my schedule is often extremely busy and I plan my travels in advance, ideally with the least amount of idle time in-between. Which is why I love trams and trains: they have their own tracks and are not encumbered by other traffic or congestion. To this day, I don’t understand why cars in Toronto are allowed to drive on the streetcar tracks. It defeats the whole purpose of having them on separate tracks in the first place. Reliability is so important to me that I personally am even willing to pay a little more if I know that I will connect to my next bus or train.

Integration of different modes of transportation should be on every transit providers agenda. Buses, trains, metros, carsharing vehicles, bikesharing or taxis – from a consumer perspective, they all complement each other. My perfect day looks like this: I get on a bus in the morning, then jump on a train to get to my meeting but take a bike at the end of the day to get some exercise in. The better integrated the different services are, the more convenient for me as a customer. An easy approach is to geographically co-locate stations: buses arrive where bikesharing stations are. Even better, if my ticket covers not only trains but also metros or bikes for first and last mile.

Top Four systems
Optymo in Belfort, FR is a fully integrated transit system, offered by the local transit authority. Their multimodal approach includes bus, bikesharing and carsharing. They even offer bus-on-demand for small communities around Belfort. Optymo was created in 2007 and by 2014 they had over 9 Mio trips.

Like Challenges
Dedicated and separated bus lanes ensuring buses arrive on schedule. Registration only possible for French residents. I was lucky to get an inside scoop.
Simple pricing structure with four different passes. Each pass allows access to all different modes of transport. One invoice at the end of the month showing all the different modes of transport used.
Fully integrated system: bus on-demand collects you outside the city, buses bring you into the city where you can take a bike or a carsharing vehicle.

SBB, the Swiss Federal Railway, is a dinosaur offering shared mobility services. It was established in 1902 and is partially funded by the public. It is an impressive megasystem that is integrated with trams and buses in cities and municipalities. There are over 2,400 trains for passengers and all are run on electricity. In 2014 SBB moved 1,18 Mio passengers per day!

Like Challenges
Trains are on time and the transfers to buses and trams are timed perfectly. Fare system is starting to be complicated because it is based on zones. You can no longer just choose a ticket from Aarau to Zurich, you have to know through which cities the train goes to pick the right fare. If you choose the wrong one, you will either have to pay a fine or – if you’re lucky – an additional transaction fee plus the additional zone price.
Easiest ticket vending machines and app I have tested for any train system.
Discount pricing possible, you can purchase a  ½ fare pass that gives you a discount of 50% on all bus, train, tram rides.

MyTaxi is a taxi hailing app and a direct competitor to Uber. It’s been designed and developed in Berlin and is backed by Daimler. It has been in the market since 2009 and has over 45,000 affiliated taxis with the strongest market being Germany.

Like Challenges
Simple app, easy to register and use. You cannot prepay a trip, which is a problem if you loose data connection. You can still pay cash but any promotions are no longer valid.
Abundance of taxis available in Berlin, even during rush hours or when DB strikes. No dedicated taxi lanes.

Fernbus is the leading German long distance bus service and was founded in 2011. They have over 600 buses and travel to more than 300 cities within Europe. Fernbus was a lifesaver during my trip through Germany: I would have not been able to make any of my meetings because of the Deutsche Bahn strike in April.

Like Challenges
Easy registration and booking system. Most of the buses I took arrived late because there are no dedicated lanes on highway (such as HOV lanes).
Simple fares which include free wifi on board. Stand-alone service which is only connected to trains with drop off stations close to main train stations.

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