Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich – a team of mobility experts at umlaut have been looking at the status of developments and making comparisons with the pioneering metropolis of Singapore. Simon Müller gives insights.
City dwellers are becoming increasingly aware of the mobility transition, in particular with the diversity of new sharing options that are now available – it feels as though a new bike or car sharing service is launched almost every month. What topics have you taken into consideration when comparing the two cities?
Sharing services are an indicator. A certain level of concentration of these services needs to be reached for shared mobility to become a reasonable alternative in the urban environment. However, other topics are given higher priority: for example, sustainability, the role of individual transport and the expansion and the quality of public transport.
Public transport is obviously a key theme: many Asian countries are making huge investments in this area. Are they 'catching up' with Germany or have they already 'overtaken' us?
In our view, this is definitely a case of 'overtaking'. Above all in pioneering cities such as Singapore. When it comes to the use of public transport, this city state has long since caught up with cities such as Berlin and Hamburg. On the supply side, there are plans to introduce driverless buses and autonomous on-demand shuttles for commuters and residents by the year 2022. The impression we get is that their lead will probably get even greater in the coming years, as Singapore was very quick to gather a multitude of experts and leading companies to help them to create a forward-looking transport strategy. Furthermore, by comparison, the city authorities in Singapore provide more funding for this sector compared to any other German city. We believe that German cities need to invest even more in mobility that they do currently.
What is Singapore's vision – and could it also work in Germany?
In fundamental terms, yes: in order to ensure that people living in cities have a high quality of life in the long term, a mobility concept is needed that makes more efficient use of space and resources than has been the case so far. Singapore's vision of a transport system of the future is based on a mix of public transport, sharing options and transport that is activated according to demand. The goal is to make mobility accessible to all, cheap and convenient, so that residents can get anywhere in the city without much effort – and without having a car of their own.
The starting situations are rather different in each case: Singapore is significantly more densely populated than Berlin, for example – and ownership of a car is already strictly regulated.
There are only a limited number of ten-year certificates for car ownership in Singapore and these are sold by auction. Certificates only come back onto the market when the term of a certificate expires, or if a vehicle is deregistered. Most recently, the price was the equivalent of around EUR 33,000 – the same as the cost of a new car for the middle classes. This presents a considerable obstacle and certainly has an impact on urban mobility. We need to be clear of one thing: regulations such as the admittedly strict measures in Singapore have not been put in place as an end in themselves. They are rather aimed, for example, at reducing CO2 and particulate matter emissions in urban areas by changing the mobility options on offer and reducing the volume of traffic. There are also other ways to achieve this. For example, by focusing on electro-mobility. This is why indicators such as the number of electric cars and the charging infrastructure are also included in our assessment.
What role does the analysis of mobility data such as this play in urban development?
In our opinion, it is of key importance. Technical innovations on the supply side are one thing. In this regard, networking and connectivity are playing an increasingly important role by also allowing urban planners to offer mobility alternatives. The real time analysis of data sets from various different methods of transport can deliver valuable findings on the travel behaviour of commuters which can be used to develop more effective transport strategies and services that are based on specific customer benefits.
What can cities do today to improve their position?
By 2050 there will be more than six billion people living in cities, twice as many as there are today. By then, the volume of urban transport will have tripled. It is high time for us to act. The first thing to do is carry out a precise analysis of the individual mobility situation and needs of the city in question. For example, with regard to traffic flows, but also in terms of the specific user experience on various different routes. Everyday factors can play a key role here: What does my ticket cost? How easy is it to buy a ticket? How are the transfer points between different methods of transport organised? How long will I have to wait, and how will I spend this waiting time? By considering things from the user's point of view, we can find concrete potential areas for optimisation of the existing infrastructure and ideas for new provisions and services. A time of change is also a time of opportunities. We would be happy to help you make use of these opportunities and implement your plans.