We firmly believe in the power of community and when it comes to mobility innovation, it’s essential that we take a look at the systems our international counterparts are implementing. We can learn so much from their success and failures. The challenges they face and what solutions they are bringing the table. Which is why we launched our latest international transportation series; ‘Global Mobility.’
In each episode of ‘Global Mobility’ we will be working alongside our intercontinental partners who will be speaking with local industry experts to give you an up-to-date look at what’s happening on the ground in each country. This month, we are back in Brazil with our partner Humberto Maciel, Founder of OPTAI. In episode two, the panel of experts take a look at how the pandemic affected travel behaviour and mode choice and the challenges public transportation authorities faced in Latin America.
Watch the full webinar below or keep reading for a breakdown of the conversation in English. Don’t forget you can turn on auto-translated captions in this video. Simply hit the gear icon ⚙︎ then subtitles then auto-translate.
You can also check out episode one here.
Global Mobility – Brazil: Travel Behaviour & Mode Choice
Founding Partner of OPTAI | Parter of movmi in Brazil
Head of Latin America Office | UITP
CEO | Necta
Ayrton Camargo e Silva
Urban Architect | Writer | President of EMDEC
Travel Behaviour & Mode Choice
What aspects of governance should be highlighted with regard to urban mobility transparency adherence, mobility planning, dealing with the public directly and public policy around data security?
That’s a really broad range of topics which could be debated for an hour each. However, if you are referencing what I said in my speech, I will give you some background on what I was referring to then. Within UITP there is a committee of experts, of which I am a leader for Latin America. The committee is made with experts from around the world who discuss and evaluate the roles of public policy. Within this, UITP manages to have an overview of what the challenges are and what authorities need to implement public policies and what are the most ideal public policies to have in order to create better mobility within cities.
Good governance manages to overcome the frontier of criticism and continues to give continuity to long-term planning. One of the sins that happens in Latin America is the interruption of public policies. We need to understand that public policy will change, when the elected officials within the government change, but we should also be doing long-term planning as well. What we’ve experienced over the last 18 months showed a weakness in governance. Transportation and mobility as a whole suffered. For us to have a better, stronger system, we are going to need transparency from those who are operating these mobility systems. We also need transparency from those who are promoting public policy and contracts. So, when we talk about governance in our case, we have this public and private participation, which needs to be a hand-in-hand partnership for mobility to work.
Eighty percent of the transportation systems in Latin America are operated by private companies. They make guarantees to the government that there will be a quality service, an essential service, a public utility service. But these guarantees must also be made for the private person who is using these services too. In this case, we saw that when governance became unstable, there was an absence of operations. Brazil managed to overcome these challenges, but in some Latin American cities, we saw that these private contracts with the cities were so fragile and had so few guarantees, that the operator was unable to guarantee the service and so the local authorities found themselves unable to offer the service. When it comes to public policy, we need to be prepared for any type of crisis and this flexibility needs to be included in these contracts with private companies.
We also need to think about data, particularly when it comes to Mobility-as-a-Service. Who will be in charge of this data? What data will be shared? We need to have a long conversation about how to implement these changes as it is no doubt fundamental for the innovation and evolution of our transportation systems.
Can you explain what you meant when you recently wrote in an article, ‘Smart mobility is not investing in technology, but the expansion of existing services.’
A problem that cities have are creating contracts with providers that offer great technology as part of its service, before realizing whether or not the technology will be beneficial to the city or not. This is something that we expect to be done in the planning phase of implementing new mobility systems, not afterwards. When it comes to the acquisition of products, services and technologies, to do it responsibly, the government needs to do it with as much communication as possible. We need to make sure to defend appropriate planning and to defend government models in which it is possible to make the public listen. When we plan, we don’t only plan based on the needs we understand, we need to collaborate with citizens and encourage their participation in the planning as well. And then, yes, of course we factor in technology. When we talk about micromobility and MaaS, we of course need technology, but they will only be successful if we understand the needs of citizens and factor it into the planning first.
With all the problems we’ve faced in transportation over the last 18 months, do you think this is a good time to rethink mobility standards?
I think that this is a timely question. In the wake of the pandemic, I think it’s quite clear that we need to restructure urban mobility systems. We need to look at the urban development models of economic and social social development and what they bring as a backdrop to our expansion model of inexhaustible growth. The issue of governance is important. Parallel with this, is the legal framework, the model framework and the green framework. We also have to discuss the development pact with the relevant players so that we can create the right model for each territory. Coming from a planning background, I get very worried when I see, that despite the fact that we have a mobility law that is more than ten years old, there is still a need for municipalities to elaborate and be thorough in their planning. Not even half the municipalities do this.
In the wake of the pandemic, we now need to think about the types of models that are not only environmentally sustainable, but a model that focuses on public health development. The implementation of more non-motorized modes like bicycles or single occupant modes like mopeds. Why aren’t we discussing more healthy mobility solutions associated with micro-economics? Now that we have had a public health issue, this is the opportune time to do it.
2021 has been historic for the global mobility ecosystem. Can you explain what you meant by that?
The structure of cities and society has completely changed. For example the number of passengers transported from more than 60 cities worldwide, including Latin America, Asia, Europe and North America have decreased. The only ones that have recovered are a few Asian cities that have their numbers back up to 80 percent. No city in the world can say that their numbers are back to where they were pre-pandemic. On average there is a 60 percent recovery of the number of passengers. There have been wide behavioural changes and cities are no longer the same. Telecommuting, for example, is one massive change that we have seen and are still seeing. The UK did a study that showed up to 80 percent of jobs can be done remotely and in Madrid that number is 60 percent. However, that number is much lower in Brazil. With the transformation of the technology industry, we will start to see more remote work becoming a possibility and this will be reflected in the mobility sector.
We saw overnight that stations, which provided a central location for public transportation, suddenly became empty – which led to a loss of revenue from tickets purchased on site. We need to rethink the structure of transportation and not just integrating different mobility services, but other services and activities and creating social connections within urban space so that we have a more robust system.
The pandemic seriously impacted transportation services but on the other hand, they also gained prominence within the eyes of the media and public. Do you see the change of travel habits and mode choice has been beneficial to the transportation industry?
As an entrepreneur, I will always see the glass as half full, but during the pandemic, the half-empty glass was inevitable – especially in the eyes of a spectator. In large urban centers we saw that people had difficulty accessing transportation services because we reduced the supply. However, we did see an explosion of people using active transportation instead, such as bicycles. We also saw a huge reduction in emissions because people could not leave their homes and a reduction of health problems caused by pollution. But how do we get people to continue using these active transportation solutions and reduce their private car usage? We need to do a better job of integrating transportation services so that people do not need to go back to using their cars.
What are the main options being offered in the design of new mobility systems in Campinas?
We have to do our homework first. We need to look at the effective participation public transit has in the daily matrix within each area and question the use of road space. In Campinas, there are 4,000km of road systems but we found that only 19km is for the exclusive use of public transport, yet our bus service is responsible for 40 percent of daily trips. You need to create an order of operational service. Creating space for services without any fighting over that space.
In Campinas, we identified all roads that have over 20 bus hours. 20 bus hours means a bus every 3 minutes. How can we ensure a 3 minute interval between buses when the road is highly congested? So we started to implement exclusive bus lanes, depending on the road. Some of which were permanent and some only temporary for different times throughout the day, for example Monday to Friday during business hours. We made an investment into altering existing roads to start prioritizing the circulation of public transport.
Parallel to this, the local government implemented 38km for the exclusive use of public transport called BRT. Both these actions compliment each other. They have both been implemented in the southern region, the region with the greatest urban expansion and the lowest income in the city. We also have an agenda for the expansion of cycling networks. We have about 80km of cycle lanes and are hoping to increase this by 30km per year depending on budget limitations.
If you have planned it well, good infrastructure in place and all the operational controls are integrated, you will ensure an efficient public transit system.
Check out episode one of our Global Mobility: Brazil webinar series here.