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"How much can seven decades of automobile development be reversed?” asks CAR’s Adela Spulber. Roger Hart
How much can seven decades of automobile development be reversed?” asks CAR’s Adela Spulber.

Panelists of One Opinion About Multi-Modal Transportation

How to get from point A to B in various steps, with an app platform used to arrange it all.

 TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Yes, personal vehicles will play a part in the developing world of multimodal transportation, but a supporting role at best.

That seems to be the consensus of speakers at a panel session entitled “Is the Future of Mobility Multi-Modal or Car-Centric?” at the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars here.

The panelists’ answer to that question: Multi-modal, in which different modes of transportation are used to get from point A to B, and an app platform is used to arrange it all.

Panelists focus on the prospects of shared vehicles, shared bicycles and even shared electric scooters (which are the rage or bane in some cities, depending on whom you ask).

“That doesn’t mean the (personally owned) car isn’t part of multimodal,” says Andy Taylor (pictured below), strategy director for U.K.-based Cubic Transportation Systems. “If people use cars to get to public transportation, that’s a step.”

Roger Hart

At Cubic, he has spearheaded a mobility-as-a-service initiative to ease traffic congestion, which he characterizes as a big problem in many cities. He touts enhanced public transportation as a “front and center” solution.

“Cities should take ownership of public transit,” he says. “Getting people out of their own cars and into shared cars isn’t a solution.”

Forward-thinking cities are working on becoming “mobility conveners and brokers,” says Sharon Feigon, executive director and founder of the nonprofit Shared-Use Mobility Center. “They are offering a suite of options.”

Today, personal vehicles sit unused 90% of the time, she says. “In a shared world, they would be used 90%.”

A session attendee says later that he wants no part of that world. “There’s that saying, ‘You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hand.’ That’s how I feel about my car.”

Feigon says with shared cars, “the opportunity for OEMs is that they would provide the vehicles that would have more rapid buying cycles because of their constant use.”

For many people, vehicle ownership is a status symbol, says Adela Spulber, a CAR analyst. “Will mobility replace that? How much can seven decades of automobile development be reversed?”

Mobility as a service is particularly attractive to people living in congested cities, says Regina Clewlow, CEO and founder of Populus, a data platform for private mobility operators and cities.

Nearly 50% of residents in San Francisco’s Bay Area now use Uber and Lyft ride-hailing services, she says. “That’s astounding, and we expect those numbers will (rise to the point of becoming) ubiquitous.”

Municipalities hold considerable power in influencing people’s transportation choices, Clewlow says. “If you take street parking away, more people will use alternative transportation rather than cars.”        

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