Trafi Talks with Daniel Reck

Daniel Reck is a researcher at ETH Zurich. His work aims to advance our understanding of emerging transport modes (shared e-scooters and e-bikes, carsharing and ridehailing) and their integration with public transport (Mobility-as-a-Service, mobility hubs) to inform policymaking that creates more efficient, sustainable and equitable cities.

As part of our Trafi Talks series, we sat down with Daniel to talk about three topics he’s explored at length throughout his career (and taken from the publication he co-authored, MaaS Bundle Design):

  • MaaS bundle design
  • Behavioral change and MaaS adoption
  • Sustainable mobility 

Let’s jump right into it!

What are the key components of a successful mobility bundle design?

D: That depends on how you define success. Success could mean a behavioral shift towards more sustainable transport modes, but it could also mean commercial success. Identifying what success means in your organization and then following a goal-oriented bundle design process is probably the most crucial part of mobility bundle design. In my experience, a very simple truth holds for mobility bundle design: input is strongly related to output. For example, if you include lots of free e-scooter minutes in our bundle, you will incentivize lots of e-scooter usage. In turn, if you include subsidized public transport season tickets in your bundle, you will incentivize public transport use. Simplicity is also key to attracting and retaining customers.

A very simple truth holds for mobility bundle design: input is strongly related to output.

In our recent paper on MaaS bundle design, we synthesize 10 design dimensions for mobility bundles to assist researchers and practitioners in designing future trials and products. These design dimensions include, for example, which transport modes to include, which metrics to employ to measure consumption and budgets, the type and granularity of discounts, and further details such as subscription cycle lengths and roll-over options. We describe each design dimension in detail with practical examples from the case studies we have worked on, and further review the scope and gaps in the academic literature on the topic.

Another key influencer for successful MaaS adoption is very human: willingness to pay. How can we encourage users to do just that?

D: This is simple: if MaaS provides added value to users, willingness to pay will follow. How can MaaS provide added value? First, simplify their lives: one app for intermodal trip planning, booking and payment, instead of many. The Trafi-powered implementations in Switzerland (Yumuv) and Berlin (Jelbi) are great examples here: users can plan, book and pay for a trip with several different modes all in one app.

Second, financial incentives: MaaS bundles can offer discounts. One example are the Yumuv bundles in Switzerland. There, bundle users pay no unlocking fee for shared mobility services. This is valuable and users are likely to be willing to pay for it. Maximizing willingness to pay is complex, though, as demand for mobility is highly individual. Our studies in Switzerland have shown that including additional services can sometimes even decrease willingness to pay if users see no added value but have the feeling that they pay for it.

In general, who should be encouraging a mental and behavioral shift towards shared mobility, and how should they be doing it?

D: First, let’s clarify that shared mobility is not always good, and shouldn’t be a goal in itself. Research has shown that life-cycle CO2 emissions of shared micromobility services, for example, are worse than those of personal e-scooters and e-bikes due to lower lifetime expectancies and operational services (rebalancing, recharging).

“Efficient public transport systems will always be the backbone of sustainable urban transport.

I think a lot of people want to travel more sustainably, they just need the right tools to do so. Intermodal MaaS apps can be of great use here. Reliable, efficient public transport systems will always be the backbone of sustainable urban transport. However, we also need more awareness of the true costs of private car rides. In Switzerland, for example, TCS (Touring Club Suisse) calculated that fuel costs only make up 15% of the total costs per kilometer of private car rides. When comparing the car with other transport modes, many just consider fuel costs. This is obviously a skewed comparison that calls for correction.

Finally, employers have an important role to play. In Germany, for example, many employers provide their employees with company cars. What if, for example, they would provide their employees with MaaS bundles that include public transport season tickets instead?

Imagine a city with a perfectly functional mobility ecosystem. Walk us through this vision of perfection. 

D: In my view, five defining characteristics of functional mobility ecosystems are accessibility, efficiency, equity, sustainability and safety.

First, transport is about providing accessibility. In a perfectly functional mobility ecosystem, accessibility should be high, and it should be high not only for some, but for all.

Second, efficiency relates to how much space an average person needs to move from A to B, and how much transport is required overall. In this aspect, many cities, and cars in cities, are terribly inefficient. Micromobility and public transport are already much better. Increasing efficiency means decreasing the space required for transport. In today’s cities (and much more so in future cities), we are running out of space so we need to increase their efficiency. One way to do so in transport is reducing the number of cars. Did you know that in some cities, 20-30% of the total space is occupied by streets and parking spots?

We need to ensure that those with few alternatives don’t get left behind.

Third, equity in transport relates to situations when certain social groups benefit more from public investments than others. For example, higher income groups travel more regularly in airplanes and long-distance trains and thus over-proportionately benefit from investments in airports and long-distance train networks. With so many new mobility services entering our cities these days (e.g., shared e-scooters and bikes, carsharing and ridesourcing), we need to ensure that those with few alternatives also benefit from increasing accessibility and don’t get left behind.

Fourth, sustainability relates to total life-cycle emissions of the mobility ecosystem, which we should naturally aim to reduce. This includes CO2 emissions but also other emissions such as noise. And last but not least, safety is another very important characteristic of functional mobility ecosystems.

For further reading, you can find Daniel Reck’s papers on Mobility-as-a-Service and shared mobility on his personal website:

To find out more about how Trafi’s services are encouraging the shift to MaaS, check out our website or get in touch.