What proportion of the population can shared transport appeal to? Writes Alistair Kirkbride: LTT Mobility Matters

People who do, people who don’t

Who travels how? As we consider new models of mobility – whether these are autonomous vehicles or Mobility as a Service packages – perhaps the more interesting question is, who is likely to travel how in the future? Put another way, of the people you know, how might they be travelling in 5 or 10 year’s time?

In the housing sector, an oft-overlooked likelihood is that about 80% of 2050’s housing stock has already been built[1]. In a similar vein, how similar will be people’s mobility lifestyles be in 2050 to now? Who (and how many) might be travelling differently – but more importantly, who won’t be. While we can’t know the answer to this, we can explore who is currently changing behaviour.

The last 15 years has also led to a much clearer understanding of the sorts of people that use sustainable transport. This is mainly due to the of Government initiatives such as the DfT Sustainable Travel Towns and Local Sustainable Transport Fund programmes, and Scotland’s Smarter Choices, Smarter Places. This has still not been brought together into an evidence-based coherent understanding of future mobility lifestyles. As a complement to this, having good data regarding types of users of shared transport. Spoiler alert – car club use is fairly socially filtered but widening, bikeshare (and especially electric bikes) seems to appeal to a wider demographic than cycling more generally. So who does – and doesn’t – use shared transport, and what might we take from this knowledge regarding broader understanding and influence over how people might travel in the future?

The Table shows that the majority of types of people that currently use car clubs come from a minority of the types of people in the UK population. Perhaps more interesting is the differences between the places: is the wider range of types of people in Scotland’s car clubs a result of the very deliberate intervention and support by the Scottish Government since 2010? Is the narrower range of types in London due to the dominance of the commercial focus of London operations and development? If this is the case, then it is a strong case for public sector intervention to ensure that the benefits of car clubs are spread fairly – across types of users and places.

X% of car club users come from Y Mosaic groups (of 66); these groups account for Z% of the population (Data from Carplus Car Club Annual Survey, 2016)

table LTT May 17

So what about shared bikes? Compared to cycling generally, the charts shows that users of on-street public bike share in the UK attracts a broader age range of people compared to cycling and there is a less unequal gender bias. Bike sharers still generally have higher than average incomes and educational attainment. But is this because these people are attracted to bike share, or is it because bike share targets them as early adopter markets? i.e. which way around is the cause and effect?

Graph: Age and gender of bike share users (data from Bikeplus 2016 bike share use survey 2016) compared to general cycling

graph LTT May 17

For both car clubs and bike share, are some types of people more likely to use services more than others (greater propensity) or are initiatives targeted at them as they are believed to be the near markets (greater opportunity)?

The Scotland car club data suggest that given the opportunity, a wider range of people would join car clubs than would be suggested simply from targeting the near-market (c.f. London) – although this still represents only a minority of the population types. For bike share, an increasing number of North American cities are demonstrating that given the opportunity, a much wider range of people will use bike share than if they are just targeted at the neighbourhoods of the core markets. Early stage work in Glasgow is currently deliberately exploring social equity in relation to bike share and will report later this year.

Is there – and if so – what is the limit of popularity of car clubs and bike share? No mode satisfies all users. Are the current limits of popularity linked to the inevitable diffusion of the innovations (and hence will naturally expand), or do the current propositions only appeal to a relative narrow range of user types (and hence a limited market)? At the risk of semantic pedantry plus a dollop of jargon, if we generalise car clubs and bike share to the sharing of cars and bikes for the purposes of realising socio-economic and environmental benefits, is it possible to pitch the idea in ways that are more widely popular and relevant? For instance, the idea of ownership is important for many types of people, so asking them not to own a car or bike – regardless of whether their travel demands needs exclusive use – is a non-starter. Maybe this is where fractional ownership models and swap-out deals may come in. At Carplus Bikeplus, we consider the two main target types to be people with high transport intensity (probably with several cars on the drive) or those for whom sharing would lead to socio-economic gain. The question therefore refocuses on what sort of shared transport models would be relevant and attractive to these types on their terms? It is highly unlikely that the commercial sector would focus on these types of people yet there is still a sizeable untapped core market for shared transport. If we want to realise and maximise the benefits of shared transport, we need to consider seriously what service innovations are required to open shared transport to a wider set of user groups.

 

The wider significance of this is that shared transport is probably a pretty good model for considering the mobility disruptors such as autonomous vehicles and Mobility as a Service. The images of the brave new worlds may be beautiful and compelling, but are only valid if there is also a focus on making the services relevant to a wide user group; there also has to be the political willingness to restrict other mobility behaviours.

So what will the range of mobility lifestyles of 2050 look like compared to now? I suspect they will be very familiar for most people, but that there will be a few significant changes – though these probably won’t be felt by the majority of transport users. Maybe a good ambition would be to design the future mobility landscape to make sure that there is no need for transport related charities?

[1] Boardman, B. 2007 “Home Truths: A Low Carbon Strategy to Reduce UK Housing Emissions by 80% by 2050”, A research report for The Co-operative Bank and Friends of the Earth; https://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/home_truths.pdf

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