Driving public transport usage by harnessing the power of mobility super apps
David Koral, Director – New Mobility Partnerships at FREE NOW, discusses the work that the company has been doing in Germany to encourage multimodality by integrating regional public transport into its service offering, as well as the key role that mobility apps such as FREE NOW play in the development of personalised and sustainable transportation options.
Credit: FREE NOW
Cities are ever-changing ecosystems, and the future of mobility reflects these ongoing changes, which are currently geared up towards helping cities to thrive in a more sustainable way. As a consequence, future mobility will be more diverse, intelligent, data-driven, shared and cleaner.
Research predicts that 46% of mobility in 2030 will be done by shared, electric and autonomous cars”
While research1 predicts that 46% per cent of mobility in 2030 will be done by shared, electric and autonomous cars, more options to travel are becoming increasingly available in our cities, hence the buzzword ‘MaaS’ (Mobility-as-a-Service), which means that various transport modes will be available to be easily combined at a specific moment in time, instead of solely relying on public transport or on a bicycle, for example.
This trend is led by the fact that, increasingly, people want to get from A to B by being able to combine the most efficient and convenient modes of transport available while keeping an eye on their carbon footprint. They want to avoid bottlenecks and get simple and easy-to-follow recommendations on which transport mode is the best for that specific moment, either to fit their busy agendas, their fitness goals or even their budgets.
The same trend is visible in our business partners, as companies are increasingly keen to offer their employees a one-stop shop for mobility around the city.
Companies such as FREE NOW play a key role in developing personalised and sustainable mobility concepts that allow cities to continue to grow, while enabling people to move around easily using existing mobility options.
Making multimodal transport more accessible
Despite many German cities, even medium size ones, having good public transport networks, the added value that platforms such as FREE NOW bring to the table is the fact that they can aggregate all of the different transport modes in one place; therefore encouraging the use of public transport in combination with other forms of shared urban mobility, such as ride-hailing services, car-sharing, e-scooters, e-mopeds or e-bikes – all easily accessible with the touch of a button.
In fact, in a recent survey, 60 per cent of European respondents said that they prefer a single app solution for their mobility needs, and many platforms – whether public or private – are already working on holistic digital systems today.
FREE NOW was the first private mobility provider in Germany to integrate regional public transport services into our app”
FREE NOW was the first private mobility provider in Germany to integrate regional public transport services into our app – a service that our user base specifically asked for – in partnership with Rheinbahn. This includes Europe’s biggest transport network and largest transit area, including major German cities like Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Essen, Bochum, Wuppertal and Duisburg. By doing so, we are not only offering the largest amount of travel options in one app but, more importantly, we are linking different transport offers which are crucial to making urban mobility more efficient, sustainable, intelligent and interconnected. By facilitating this transition to happen, we are taking a significant step forward and driving the transition towards a better transportation system in Europe.
By actively supporting public transport, allowing city dwellers to quickly and easily book tickets for buses, trams and underground trains alongside other forms of transport, we can certainly drive even more people to consider public transport and combine it with other shared mobility options when going about their busy daily lives.
Helping cities to achieve their sustainability targets
The seamless combination between public transport and shared mobility is indispensable for friction-free daily mobility, particularly in urban environments where there’s a growing need to offer alternatives to private cars”
While the benefits for consumers are definitely obvious and in line with the on-the-move lifestyle that characterises the urbanites – particularly Millennials and Generation Z – this type of integration goes far and beyond it by supporting cities to achieve their transport and sustainability goals. It also helps cities to reduce congestion and CO2 emissions and, most importantly, gives them access to even more data and insights that they can use to improve urban planning; ultimately improving the lives of those who live and work in cities.
To build resilient and healthier cities for the future, we need to ensure that public transport and shared mobility are presented side by side, complimenting each other. The seamless combination between public transport and shared mobility is indispensable for friction-free daily mobility, particularly in urban environments where there’s a growing need to offer alternatives to private cars.
Sharing our learning with partners
We hope to learn and share those learnings with our partners and our markets across Europe, while continuing to improve our service”
By enabling end-to-end ticketing for different modes of transport in our app, for the first time in Germany, we hope to learn and share those learnings with our partners and our markets across Europe, while continuing to improve our service. We already know that, by making booking uncomplicated and seamless, we will see more people – particularly those who are digitally savvy – taking advantage of the service. For example, it will be even easier to combine a bus with a taxi and a bike, or to complete a train journey with a taxi and an e-scooter.
Furthermore, integrating public transport into a mobility app such as FREE NOW also benefits cities and transport planners, not only because they can access valuable data that allows them to make more informed decisions, but also because it can reduce pressure on public transport in periods when it might be too busy by offering multiple other alternatives, all accessible in one easy-to-use app.
Moreover, if we look at the bigger picture, nearly 30% of all current FREE NOW users use the available mobility services in cities where they travel occasionally, which means that, as a business, we are an ideal partner for European cities. We can support them by encouraging people to combine public transport with our wide shared mobility offer, independently of where they are.
Looking to the future
Whilst our solution is useful to everyone, those who do not travel to the office every day, tourists or business travellers (who will not download a public transport app if they are around for no more than a couple of days), are also an important user base that is worth activating.
These are early days and, certainly, a lot can be learnt and improved. Nonetheless, the value that mobility super apps bring in enabling even more people to consider public transport in their everyday lives is irrefutable. If cities want to avoid more polluting vehicles coming into the city centre, paving the way for cleaner and greener cities where future generations can continue to thrive and fulfil their dreams is the way forward.
David Koral is Director New Mobility Partnerships at FREE NOW. He joined the company in 2020, supporting the transition from a pure ride-hailing operator to the leading MaaS platform in Europe. David brings strong expertise in Commercial Finance from various international companies in the tech sector and is a certified internal auditor.