FLOWS – The Il monitoraggio dei servizi di sharing mobility (Monitoring of sharing mobility services) report drawn up by the Osservatorio Nazionale Sharing Mobility (National Sharing Mobility Observatory) states, “A vehicle sharing service is structured according to how the four main organisational aspects – type of vehicle, operational model, economic model and governance model, are expressed.” In particular, the operational model describes the combinations of different factors of which the positioning of hire vehicles within the reference urban context has a leading role. Therefore, there can be vehicles at predefined stopping points or variably within the service provider’s relevant area. It’s undoubtedly an advantage for sector operators to be able to create dedicated stopping points in correspondence with large intermodal hubs (mainly airports and stations). What action should be foreseen in the infrastructural design stages of large hubs to promote sharing mobility? And what should be implemented to reduce management costs?
LUIGI LICCHELLI – Intermodal hubs enable multi-modal mobility solutions to be offered to users who can easily pass from a train or aeroplane to vehicle sharing services in such contexts to conclude their journey. There are various elements which could improve the efficiency of these hubs from the points of view of both user and operator. First of all, in view of the electrification of fleets, especially in sharing services, starting not only from requests made by users, the market and municipal administrators but also the convictions of the operators, who wisely choose to electrify fleets so that their impact in environmental terms can be reduced, high efficiency charging columns able to charge multiple vehicles in a short time are essential although costs are considerably higher and the greatest added value in environmental impact is mainly in the concept of sharing the vehicle.
Stations are also essential for washing vehicles, just like workshops for small repairs. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the vehicles for sharing services must be clean, well-maintained, recharged and repositioned 24/24. Spaces for washing and repairs could be shared with all the vehicle-sharing operators in the intermodal hub, thus allowing costs to be reduced and a lower price offered to the end user. Cost containment is of primary importance because there is great complexity behind each individual vehicle that definitely goes beyond the cost of acquisition and insurance.
F – There are several European, and non-European, cities which are carrying forward significant urban transformation projects with the aim of restoring the original identity to public space, taking it back to the centre of inhabitants’ lives. Squares in particular are once more becoming central places in the life of neighbourhoods. They’re no longer enormous parking areas but zones to live in with green areas, spaces for pedestrians and bicycles, more accessible shops, safer crossings and less traffic. How can car sharing operators join, promote and benefit from the new urban development policies?
LL – Various trends are spreading in urban mobility and urban planning policies, municipal administrations are taking various steps forward with the aim of making towns people-friendly although there are various problems which urban centres still face in this sphere. Traffic and pollution have a very high impact on how pleasant it is to live in towns and cities. Even now, huge parking areas for vehicles which stay immobile for 90% of the time occupy public space which could be used for other purposes. Therefore, it’s essential to redesign urban centres setting out large green areas able to lower urban temperature and contain the impact of climate change.
As car sharing operators, we make an extensive contribution to these processes. Our cars move much more than a private car, reducing the number of parking points necessary and optimising use of the vehicle. Some research conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that the spread of vehicle-sharing services considerably reduces the need for parking areas, generating a saving in the use of public space of more than 80%. At the same time, research carried out by the Fleet&Mobility Research Centre focused on Rome in 2021 shows how 20,000 shared cars would generate a reduction of 220,000 private cars in circulation, with clear benefits from the environmental point of view, return of public space to citizens, widening of pavements, spread of active mobility lanes and promotion of initiatives for the recovery of whole neighbourhoods. Thus, it’s clear how car sharing has a fundamental role in the path towards reduction of pollutants in the urban context.
However, imposing different urban planning from the one used to date isn’t enough to generate changes in citizens’ habits. For the purpose of introducing a process gradually, car sharing can play an important role in supporting change and mitigating the effects on people’s daily habits. Climatic factors (heat, cold and rain), just to give an example, strongly influence mobility choices often making the move from private car to public means or a bicycle difficult. Therefore, car sharing becomes an effective alternative and springboard to new habits.
As car sharing operators, we have always tried to move a cultural operation forward in addition to the commercial one. This type of action is effective with the new generations who are now less likely to buy a private car as the result of greater awareness on the effects of pollutants in climate change terms but also on the costs of buying and maintaining a car. Therefore, car sharing services are an opportunity to generate the cultural changes we hope to see more and more widely amongst the new generations.
F – New mobility policies aimed at changing people’s habits must be introduced for mobility sharing to be definitively established in Italy. In your opinion, what should the priorities in this sphere be in the political agenda? What are the international best cases to look at and draw inspiration from?
LL – In Italy, it’s certainly important to incentivise the mechanisms inducing people to reflect on their mobility choices. LTNs, paid parking areas and congestion charges can be very effective in stimulating citizens towards the assessment of alternative forms of transport. Just think that, from one day to the next, the Area C in Milan reduced vehicles by 30% in the areas involved. Ideally, it should all be accompanied by expedients that mitigate possible distortions from the economic-social point of view.
Tariff policies for car parks in urban centres can also discourage the use of the private car and so stimulate the change in mobility choices in favour of car sharing, active mobility and LPT. New York and Amsterdam are good examples. In New York, various tactical urbanism operations have been implemented, increasing and extending pedestrian areas while in Amsterdam there is a fixed quota of parking permits, even for residents, in new-build areas.
Unfortunately, the situation in Italy is very different. Just one example – payment for Area C and street parking was suspended during the pandemic in Milan, a city trying to implement innovative policies, thus favouring the use of the private car to the detriment of LPT. In addition, shared vehicles can access Area C but they can’t access the LTNs. Residents in those areas can use their private vehicles and park outside their homes or park anywhere in an LTN but this can’t be done with a car sharing vehicle. Therefore, it’s essential that Italian municipal administrations understand, first and foremost, that car sharing management costs are higher than those of any other form of shared mobility and, secondly, the operators in this sector are essential players for the implementation of the sustainability policies which various major towns have been promoting for some time.