Shared Mobility Thoughts

The shared mobility blog.

Trōv Mobility: An Interview with Sandra Phillips of movmi

Jun 18, 2020

Last month our Founder and CEO, Sandra Phillips, spoke with Brian Glynn, Director of Business Development at Trōv, a company that works with fleets of all shapes and sizes to deliver modern end-to-end insurance solutions built with intelligent technology and designed specifically for today’s emerging mobility. In this interview, Sandra shares her top tips for emerging mobility platforms and talks about the Covid-19 Task Force, which is helping operators navigate through the current crisis and advocating for shared mobility operators across the sector.

Are you a shared mobility operator? Watch more interviews from the Covid Task force highlighting best practices to help you weather the storm here.

Trōv Mobility: An Interview with Sandra Phillips of movmi

What are common mistakes or things that are overlooked by operators when it comes to launching a new shared mobility service?

SANDRA

I really think you have to think of shared mobility as a service. You have to provide a service that people can rely on. I always say, “reliability comes before desirability.” It’s great to have a nice product that people would like to choose, but if you have to walk half across town then it’s not a reliable service.

With that service approach, you also have to really work with the city you’re in, to make a reliable network. It’s not about just placing a bunch of scooters or cars across the city, you have to have a partnership with the city. I’m going to use Calgary, in Canada, as an example of a city that has learned a lesson and changed their approach to this. car2go launched there and they were super excited because most bigger carshare operators bypass Calgary, because it is a smaller market. car2go was there for about four/five years and then pulled out last Fall, just before they pulled out of the North American markets. You have to realize that profit margins in this industry are very small, so you can’t have a city that charges extremely high parking fees and carshare heavily relies on that real estate space in the city to distribute the vehicles. When they pulled out, car sales went through the roof in Calgary, because all of a sudden a third of the population, I think, was stranded without options anymore, so they bought their own car because there weren’t any other players.

The city approached a bunch of operators. They also approached me and said ‘what can we do to attract another player?’ Their citizens really liked the service and were essentially left hanging and so in the last couple of months they changed their policy framework and were able to attract another big player. It’s a Canadian player coming out of the east side, but they committed to launch in Calgary again. So, I think it’s service first and then partnership with the city, those are the two most important pieces to consider.

Can you tell us about the Carshare City Awards and give us a sneak peak at what to expect from the finalists?

SANDRA

This is the first year the Carshare City Awards has been celebrated. The idea is to celebrate the cities that do policy frameworks really well and when I say ‘really well’ they do so that it’s successful for the city’s transportation goal. These include greenhouse gas reduction goals but to also ensure that it’s sustainable for the operator. It’s a long-term partnership, with private carshare operators. The awards shine a spotlight on the cities that do that well and shines a light on what other cities could be doing. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what you should be doing if you’re a smaller city and the type of framework you should be introducing, so that’s really the objective of the awards.

We have received 27 nominations from across the globe which include a lot of European and North American cities because there is a lot of car sharing in these places and the Middle East has also submitted three. We even have South America and Australia in the mix and there are two awards, one for regional cities, which is a city smaller than 750,000 people and then metropolitan cities, which is any that have a population over 750,000. This is because different things work in different sized cities.

The judges have come up with a short list. On the regional side we have all European cities anything from Ghent, Ljubljana, Bergen, Bremen and Lisbon and then in the Metropolitan city category we have a handful of European cities, the 3 ‘M’s’ as we always call them, Milan, Munich and Madrid and we also have Paris, Vancouver and Calgary. 

Since this interview the 2020 Carshare City Awards have taken place and the winners have been announced. If you would like to watch the full awards ceremony, featuring a brief presentation from both winners, click here.

What comes next? Will some of the initiatives taking place during lockdown in our cities become permanent fixes? Are there any silver linings that this lockdown might have from a mobility perspective?

SANDRA

I think the one type of transportation that has seen an increase is active, biking and walking. There’s a lot more people actively moving, obviously in a smaller geographical radius. You have active transportation seeing an increase with infrastructure being put in place. Cities like London have publicly committed to keeping those temporary lanes and bike infrastructure in place post Covid. Another area where we are doing a lot of work is in shared mobility and public transportation. Both most have seen drastic reductions in demand when lockdown was put in place. Public transit has the challenge of sanitization plus physical distance. With bike share you have the sanitization problem but no physical distancing problem. Coming out of recovery, this is where shared mobility can play a crucial role in getting around. We are finally moving out of the age of the car and the last thing we want is what happened in Calgary and, quite frankly, Milan. In Milan, private car sales have gone up during Covid because people want to feel safe. This is where shared mobility can play a crucial role in building an alternative mobility ecosystem that is resilient in the face of the crisis. 

We have a shared mobility task force, that is really focused on providing best practices for the operators during the crisis but also to educate stakeholders on the place of shared mobility in a bigger ecosystem. Public transit has groups that advocate for them and then you have the automotive sector that has advocates, but then you have this big piece in the middle that somebody needs to speak up for. That’s what the Covid-19 Task force is here for.

I don’t know if you remember the children’s book, Doctor Lorax by Dr. Seuss? At one point the Lorax talks about the very last seed of this special tree and how it’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become. I’m not saying we’re down to the very last seed of shared mobility, I know there have been cuts everywhere, but I don’t think that’s the case. It is, however, what we can become now that we move out of lockdown. How can we become more integrated into the fabric of our cities, as a true alternative to car ownership?

It is an essential service and I think especially for essential workers. There was a research paper that came out a couple of weeks ago that showed that a large number of essential workers rely heavily on public transit and often can’t afford or don’t have access to a private vehicle. So how do we make sure that we move these people around safely? I know shared mobility operators around the world have stepped up and have offers for essential workers and have given them an alternative that is affordable to move them to and from work, even during off peak hours.


If you have a direct question for the taskforce related to Covid-19 or wish to seek advice on managing your own operation, send an email with your question to taskforce@movmi.net. For more Covid-19 information and resources click here.

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