Shared mobility: the solution to crowded cities’ growing problems?

Crowded cities want to tackle congestion, air pollution, and parking space problems. Does shared mobility provide a solution?

Cities are becoming increasingly crowded. As a result, congestion, air pollution, and parking space problems are getting more and more serious. So, many cities have two goals: to use their space more efficiently and to reduce CO2 emissions.

Many policymakers believe shared mobility can provide a the solution. But what is it exactly? And how to make it work?

Shared mobility: a short definition

Shared mobility is built on two principles: 1) people pay to use a vehicle they don’t own and 2) they pay a certain amount per kilometer driven.

They can use smartphone apps to find shared vehicles in zones across the city, where they pick them up and park them. Payments are made through said apps, and vehicles range from (cargo) bicycles and scooters to cars.

Foundation of data

Implementing a shared mobility concept is only half the battle. Policymakers need relevant data. First, to assess the potential impact of measures. Second, to adjust where necessary once the concept is up and running. Finally, for accountability purposes.

Data is also essential to the optimization of shared mobility concepts. For example, it can help determine the availability of vehicles, individuals’ travel chain, and the mobility needs of specific user groups. On top of that, data enables policymakers to anticipate holidays and huge events — times that often require more shared vehicles.

The data quandary

In the Netherlands, there are several parties that could help make data available. The problem is, this data won’t support an overarching mobility picture.

A major issue is that data lacks standards (and therefore the required quality). Is data collected? Absolutely. But multiple parties gather information about several subareas and store it in different places. The resulting ‘data hotchpotch’ is a bit messy and doesn’t cover the full picture.

Then there’s data management, which is also far from perfect. The ‘everyone for themselves’ mentality in data generation has consequences. For example, many contracts limit data sharing. Plus, there’s a lack of clear agreements on using and exchanging data. So, policymakers struggle to use data for the improvement of shared mobility.

No data goes unused in the data space

The good news is, policymakers can play a crucial role in solving the data quandary. Municipalities, for example, should make any shared mobility concept part of their general mobility policy. An essential step is for them to map out the exact data they require, so they can effectively determine and implement this policy. They should also initiate data sharing agreements: if data providers share information in an unambiguous way, policymakers can use it to optimize the existing concept and improve measures.

A potential solution: a data space for mobility data, where all relevant parties can securely share information based on clear agreements. The International Data Spaces Association (IDSA) aims to create a European standard for independent, controlled data sharing. If a party wants to participate in the data space, it should agree to specific legal, operational, functional, technical, and business conditions. A separate body, such as a municipality, monitors if these agreements are met. It might be an intricate system to set up, but policymakers will reap its benefits: no data goes unused.

Making cities more sustainable

If we want to make passenger transportation more efficient and sustainable, data provides the solution. But mobility data providers and government bodies should join forces and create a secure, unambiguous data sharing system. If they combine shared mobility data sources, they’ll gain invaluable insights. These can be used to adjust and optimize policies. And that will bring us closer to the ultimate goal: to make cities more sustainable.