At present, service stations are considered standalone entities serving a specific purpose. The same is true for rail/bus stations, bicycle hubs, and taxi stands. They have usually evolved to provide services for a single mode of transportation. This makes sense, considering that car drivers are not interested in taking the bus – and cyclists have no intention of filling up their vehicles.
Depending on their circumstances, people tend to choose one mode of transportation for a specific trip; commuting to work by train or taking the car when shopping. Cars use up more space than any other mode of transportation. In the space it takes to accommodate 60 cars, cities can accommodate around 16 buses or more than 600 bikes. Considering how many cars are on the road, it’s clear that alternative transportation can help reduce congestion and travel inefficiency.
Also considering the stress of driving in a metropolitan area, making the case for alternative modes of transport isn’t too difficult. But governments and private stakeholders need to offer people a smart alternative to driving a personal car that doesn’t compromise convenience.
A mobility hub is a point in the transport network that integrates multiple types of transport, providing travellers with a convenient way to choose their preferred mobility method. The development of mobility hubs creates a realistic alternative to owning a car. They’ve already been successful in many cities, such as Bremen – where 290 shared cars across 25 mobility hubs have successfully removed around 4,200 privately-owned vehicles from the road.
Using the existing infrastructure provided by service stations and bus stations in particular, mobility hubs can be easily integrated across towns and cities, in suburban areas – and even in more remote locations.
The recipe for mobility hubs
In truth, service stations are already evolving into mobility hubs in a gradual and “natural” manner. There has been a concerted focus on improving mobility and creating a seamless transition from one mode of transport to another. However, it could be argued that these improvements have been largely reactive.
The evolution of strategic mobility hubs will require a detailed plan, and a general change of mindset. In this piece, we will cover the current trends playing a role in this landscape.
The rise of electric vehicles has prompted the installation of charging hubs into service stations across Europe and the USA. The process of recharging an electric vehicle is somewhat different to refueling, especially when the infrastructure only allows slower charging times. This is something that the industry is wrestling with at the moment; as well as the precise business model of how to monetise EV charging.
Electric vehicles will become the dominant force in privately-owned mobility, but this doesn’t mean that fossil fuel vehicles will disappear completely soon. Whilst new vehicles will be electric, legacy transport will still be on the roads. To become mobility hubs for all transport, service stations must integrate their EV charging infrastructure with options for filling up on petrol. What’s the balance? Only time will tell.
A true mobility hub will also offer convenient repair and servicing of private vehicles. Research in 2018 showed that 97% of mechanics in the UK can’t work on electric cars. As the number of electric vehicles on our roads increases, the future for mechanics remains uncertain. Electric cars have less working parts, and diagnostics and repairs are ripe to be automated. When a mobility hub offers servicing, it must cater for a mix of electric and non-electric vehicles; small cars and also large delivery trucks.
According to the Business Traveller website:
Ride sharing, an industry that didn’t even exist a decade ago, is now valued at $61.3 billion and expected to grow to $218 billion by 2025.
This is relevant to private and professional travellers alike, especially when many commuters are heading to the same office on a daily basis. As ever, MicKinsey has released a comprehensive report – this time into the growth of ride-sharing. The article claims that we are now at version 1.0, and in order to break through the ceiling and create ride-sharing ubiquity, the industry must cater for social and private needs within the vehicles, adapt vehicle designs, and offer flexibility for all travel motivations.
Regardless of the obstacles in the way, service stations must optimise for the ride-sharing revolution. In order to become a mobility hub, the infrastructure must allow temporary parking for drop-off and pick-up, and cater for the needs of ride-sharing drivers – at least until autonomous vehicles prevail.
Mobility hubs and ride-sharing are intrinsically linked: without mobility hub infrastructure, ride-sharing won’t take off as a mainstream way to get around. But ride-sharing must become not only convenient, but enjoyable, comfortable, and consistent.
MaaS dates back as far as the 1990s, when Jacques Nasser, former Ford CEO, proposed that car manufacturers should reinvent themselves as mobility companies to market transport as a service.
As we mentioned in our recent article about Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), there are various definitions of the concept. The most popular version is the combination of various transport modes into one digital platform, providing an end-to-end planning, booking, and payment solution for mobility.
A mobility hub integrates various forms of transport: rail, car, bus, bike, tram, taxi, and more. Of course, this mix depends on the background infrastructure for any given location. But the premise remains the same in terms of bringing together as many mobility solutions as possible. This fits closely with MaaS.
In order for MaaS to function effectively, we need to develop mobility hubs that make it easy for travellers to hop between different modes of transport with minimal effort. If the person has to walk 10 minutes in the rain to catch the bus after their tram has arrived, the solution has failed. Naturally, transport planners have taken this into account for many decades – but MaaS needs strategic refinement.
Furthermore, as soon as mobility is treated as a service, it must provide an up-to-standard experience. This concept revolves around convenience; clients should enjoy simple and intuitive booking, seamless payments, security, and comfortable journeys from end-to-end.
A living hub
Mobility is a key aspect of our lives. Getting from A to B is what we do. Every day. This means that it fits naturally into the flow of our activities, and we tend to shape our days around where we’re going, when we’re going, and how we’re going. We already know that service stations (and mobility hubs) are great places for coffee and fast food, but what about other key services?
Motels are common, as are airport hotels. But a new concept has emerged: sleep pods. This has been successfully trialled at airports in the US, Mexico, and other locations. There’s no reason why this can’t be expanded into different types of mobility hub, especially where international travellers are frequent.
In addition, many people shape their work around travel, and vice versa. In the era of remote working and increased self-employment, travellers will be looking to do work on-the-go. Mobility hubs would be an excellent location for coworking offices and flexible workstations.
Alongside hospitality, retail will be a key player in the development of mobility hubs. Put simply, if public transport and ride-sharing infrastructure develops to cater for people carrying bags (this is currently a practical obstacle), these locations will be the go-to environment for retail.
Other key services might include clothes washing/ironing, technology repair, health and wellness, medicine, cinemas, and much more. By offering valuable services and experiences, the future mobility hub can become a destination, rather than just a temporary stop-off. “If you build it, they will come”!
In the context of MaaS, payments might be conducted in the back-end through fully-connected digital accounts – perhaps based on a subscription model.
Indeed, with loyalty schemes and tokenised payment technology, a traveller might not need to make any physical transactions whatsoever at a mobility hub; whether they’re charging their EV, hopping in a taxi, buying a coffee, or checking into the hub’s coworking environment. This is something that CCV can help with; so get in touch and speak to one of our advisors about the opportunities.
Furthermore, mobility hubs must cater for a variety of ad-hoc payment methods. Not everybody will have a connected digital account. Not everybody will be a repeat customer. Not everybody will prefer to pay with a contactless card. Indeed, different countries and regions have different levels of cashlessness – and it’s critical to make payments happen, whoever the customer, and whatever they prefer.
A design by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is truly enlightening. It envisions the mobility hub as a sustainable petrol station that offers a clean, comfortable, and easy experience. The team describes the holistic mobility hub as “inter-connected, data-driven, and automated”.
We’re already seeing the transition from traditional private car ownership towards a more sustainable, multi-modal form of transportation. Taxi stands, ride-sharing hubs, bicycle rentals, and bus stations are already being located close to one another, but this needs to become more seamless and connected. Planners can develop existing locations rather than starting from scratch, bringing together the whole transport network in new and exciting ways.
Stakeholders must focus now on driving intentional transition, designing mobility hubs with strategic purpose to create comprehensive units where people can sleep, work, shop, and travel. For some, the method of travel means a great deal, but for many everyday shoppers and commuters, convenience is paramount in getting from A to B. Mobility hubs play a huge role in facilitating a better way to travel.
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