New paradigms in conceptualising shared mobility

This write up is of two sessions (basic descriptions of which can be found here and here) that took place at the RGS-IBG annual conference 2013 and was written by its conveners Graham Parkhurst and Juliet Jain (UWE).

All mobility in the public domain involves the sharing of spaces, but in recent years the modalities and opportunities for sharing have expanded sharply. Two linked sessions considered collective mobility solutions at the forefront of development. In terms of new services offered, Dickenson (Bournemouth) reported on a trial of transport app designed to prompt travel behaviour change within a campsite community through offering lift shares and shopping collection. The field trials demonstrated there is greater willingness to offer than seek lifts, and that not all offers were realistic. Hinkeldein (InnoZ GmbH) discussed a new publicly-available short-term, car hire system in Berlin using electric vehicles which can be returned anywhere within the city boundary (‘free-floating’), with a key finding being that the range of the electric vehicles was generally more than adequate for hirers’ needs. Ricci (UWE Bristol) considered the financial justification of the more established bike-sharing schemes available now in many cities worldwide, raising pertinent questions about the sustainability of subsidies in the absence of clearer evidence about the full range of benefits created. Her colleague Shergold continued this theme in examining the wide-ranging benefits to older citizens of providing community transport (which relies on voluntary labour), identifying the importance of access to healthcare and ‘discretionary trips’ (as defined by neoliberal transport economics) to wellbeing. The new collective mobilities are strongly facilitated by IT systems which provide enhanced and efficient ways of demanding and supplying mobility options, epitomised by the case of emerging high-level-of-service shared taxis. Two papers examined different aspects of this ‘holy grail’ solution: Muscat (Malta) presented a feasibility simulation for a dynamic demand-responsive transport system for the densely urbanised island of Malta, finding that user costs could compete with private car commuting costs, whereas Emele (Aberdeen) introduced a ‘virtual marketplace’ to match demand and supply in rural areas between individuals and multiple providers (taxi, bus, voluntary sector). However, whilst considerable academic and practice enthusiasm is generated by the emerging sociotechnical systems, Jonuschat (InnoZ GmbH) emphasised the importance of understanding the acceptability of the new solutions to potential users, applying the theory of planned behaviour, whilst Delaney (UWE Bristol) reminded that sharing is associated with both negative and positive attributions by the mobile citizen, exemplified by her consideration of the journey experiences of walkers and cyclists sharing physically-constrained spaces.


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