Towards a successful shared mobility transition
Rotterdam is on the verge of publishing an integrated policy document that merges various transportation elements—car sharing, bikes, mopeds—into a cohesive strategy. This approach aims to establish a strong foundation for the development and implementation of district hubs, fostering a smooth transition for residents. Joeri van den Ende emphasizes that he would like "to shift the narrative from individual vehicles to a broader perspective that embraces diverse and collective modes of transportation." Together with the municipality of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, and Eindhoven, the so-called G5 municipalities, we at PosadMaxwan conducted research focused on how mobility hubs can land in existing neighbourhoods. Now, a few years later, we reflect on this study and look ahead to what is still needed.
Parking policies and their challenges
A prevalent issue highlighted in the interview is the conflict between parking policies and the vision for shared mobility when realizing district hubs in existing districts. Parking policy is often still left out of the discussion on the mobility transition, whereas "we need a paradigm shift in the narrative, away from an individualistic approach, which often includes solutions for personal parking, to a holistic perspective that includes walking, cycling, public transport and shared mobility," as Van den Ende emphasizes. It is therefore crucial to adopt an integral approach to the district rather than a plot-centric one.
This approach is encouraged by the tools provided by the municipality, such as the parking standards policy. While such thinking is already present in area developments, the appropriate tools are often lacking. Awareness of these challenges and the necessity to address them are key in navigating the complex landscape of urban development, with the municipality actively involved in exploring and implementing necessary tools.
Strategic planning, GPS signal concerns, and repurposing existing infrastructure
Strategic planning is crucial to integrating shared mobility seamlessly into existing urban structures. An intriguing aspect of the conversation revolved around the business case for mobility hubs and the potential reduction in municipal income due to altered parking policies. Shared car providers face a visibility conflict, preferring street visibility but often finding themselves relegated to less visible parking garages. In addition, the conversation also raised concerns about the impact of urban infrastructure on technology: the GPS signal. We experienced this in past projects as well, as Stefano notes, “if you want to place your shared bike or shared car indoors, the GPS signal is often lost, and that's a significant challenge for shared mobility providers." This challenge adds an additional layer of complexity to the seamless integration of shared mobility services. Strategic decisions about parking thus significantly influence the success and visibility of shared mobility services.
An intriguing proposition emerged regarding the surplus of existing parking garages. During the conversation the possibility of repurposing these spaces for mobility hubs was raised, potentially circumventing the need for new constructions. Stefano elaborates, "Repurposing existing infrastructure, like parking garages, for mobility hubs is an innovative solution. It not only minimizes the need for new constructions but also utilizes the available space more efficiently, contributing to the sustainable development of urban mobility."
The role of municipalities and behavioural change
The conversation touched upon the role of municipalities in shaping mobility policies. Stefano and Joeri discussed the challenge of balancing reduced parking tariffs for shared cars with the financial considerations of parking garage operators. A proposed solution could be to create a special status for shared cars, emphasizing the municipality's role in managing public mobility options. Additionally, the municipality of Rotterdam is actively promoting shared mobility as an individual freedom, encouraging citizens to explore diverse mobility options.
Initiatives like "fietsvlonders" (bike docks) showcase a bottom-up approach to mobility solutions, engaging communities in behavioural change. The municipality of Rotterdam, for example, is "actively engaged in a behavioural change strategy” as using shared mobility can broaden individuals’ mobility options. Then it’s up to the individual to decide to keep using it or not.
While we’re ideally advocating for low-traffic districts, this, in practice, remains complex to navigate. The clash between long-term government perspectives and immediate public concerns adds an additional layer of complexity. The interview revealed a challenge in aligning the short-term objectives of car-sharing providers with the municipality's long-term vision for mobility hubs. This misalignment poses a barrier to the sustainable growth of mobility solutions.
In the pursuit of a more sustainable mobility system, Rotterdam embarks on a fascinating yet challenging journey. What appears as a straightforward environmental solution becomes a paradoxical complication when viewed through the lenses of economic sustainability and inclusivity. At PosadMaxwan, we find inspiration in these paradoxes that intricately shape our reality and add complexity to our spatial planning endeavors. Grateful for the collaboration with esteemed partners and clients, including the municipality of Rotterdam, we navigate this intricate path together, supporting one another in the face of these challenges and contributing to the ongoing process of our city's sustainable future.
* In this interview, we specifically focused on realizing district hubs. In fact, we distinguish five main types of hubs:
- Street Hub: primarily intended to provide shared mobility options for residents.
- District hub - aimed at providing shared mobility for district residents and serving as a transfer point for visitors to the district.
- City Hub: intended to connect regional public transportation with city-level public transportation.
- Regional Hub: intended to facilitate the transition between private vehicles and public transportation towards urban areas.
- Logistics Hub: hubs for logistical transshipment (can operate at various scales).