Aligning shared transport services to attract more users
An EU-funded project has improved understanding of people's choices when using a variety of shared transport services - such as carpooling. The analysis will help planners design more sustainable services better aligned to commuters' needs, encouraging them to leave their cars at home and thus easing road congestion.
© University of Luxembourg, 2016
In most EU countries, commuters spend an average of 20-40 hours a year in traffic jams a burden on society in terms of economic losses and damage to the environment. Increased connectivity and advances in mobile-phone technology provide transport planners with the opportunity to encourage and develop shared solutions as an alternative to private cars.
Such solutions typically allow travellers to access alternatives such as carpooling, car sharing and corporate shuttle services. However, encouraging more people to use these services has been difficult in part due to a lack of information about their preferences.
To fill in the gaps, the EU-funded INCOMMUNE project improved understanding of the factors behind peoples transport decisions, particularly when major life changes like a job move occur. The project also identified relationships between transport mode choice, trip complexity and traveller satisfaction.
INCOMMUNE focused on developing new approaches for travel behaviour analysis and modelling, and on advanced data-collection methods, which allow quantification of the impact of trip chaining linking of trips made for different purposes on mode choice and explain car-dependency attitudes and how they can change in the short and long term, says project coordinator Francesco Viti of the University of Luxembourg. The models will facilitate design and assessment of different service layouts and policies aimed at optimising the use of collective transport and developing the concept of collaborative mobility.
Real-life mobility dynamics
INCOMMUNE started from the hypothesis that a major reason people use private cars is the need for efficient and flexible transport. The project analysed mobility patterns to support the creation of new solutions offering levels of flexibility and comfort comparable to those of private cars.
Project researchers designed rapid data-collection and analysis approaches based on portable devices such as smartphones, enabling researchers to learn more about travel options and identify possible changes. The analysis fed into the development of a travel planning framework. This compares mobility patterns of people within a social network environment so they can receive personalised advice to help them better exploit schemes such as carpooling and car sharing.
The relocation of part of the University of Luxembourg from Luxembourg City to a campus 25 km to the south-west allowed the university to offer its staff carpooling, car sharing and shuttle bus services. The test services provided INCOMMUNE with an opportunity to collect data on real-life use of each of these services.
Three sets of university-wide travel surveys from 2012, 2014 and 2016, and two sets of travel diaries by a sample of staff members affected by the relocation supported the projects analysis of peoples travel decisions when using a collaborative transport network service. To complement these more traditional data-collection campaigns, geolocation and smartphone sensor data have been used with machine-learning approaches to automatically infer individual mobility patterns and detect habits, non-recurrent trips and major events such as workplace and residence changes.
Sustainable transport vision
During the project, the researchers regularly presented their ideas and the intermediate results of the pilots to government officials, Verkéiersverbond a public transport company specialising in use of information technology to support mobility and entrepreneurs interested in the commercial exploitation of mobility services, says Viti.
He adds that this has contributed to a more sustainable vision of transport in Luxembourg as several initiatives can be linked to INCOMMUNEs outreach activities. These include government policies to encourage new car-sharing schemes; a new type of transport ticket covering public transport in combination with other mobility-related services by Verkéiersverbond (such as car sharing, electrical charging, park and ride); plans for implementation of a mobility-as-a-service concept; and the launch of services such as van pooling and flexible car sharing by private operators.
The research has helped the university better manage the move to the new campus, ensure inter-campus mobility and propose new transport services and infrastructure. INCOMMUNE also provided a starting point for the creation of a transport research group at the university. In addition, a doctoral student involved in the project has co-founded a business offering companies help in designing shared mobility plans.
The project received funding through the EUs Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship programme and involved two PhD students working with Viti.