The Urban Transportation Wallet

In Transportation Transformation I observe that urban transportation must transform. New urban mobility will emerge as a result of this transformation and will result in providing the movement of consumers and goods as a service using vehicles of various form factors. In this piece, I introduce the Urban Transportation Wallet as a composite metric for assessing an urban area’s progress toward new mobility.

Megatrends such as congestion, pollution, noise, climate change, the future of work, and aging societies always influence our decisions on where and how to live. Consequently, they have a direct impact on mobility. Think of the multi-hour congestion-induced commute times in Sao Paulo, or Mumbai, and the pollution-related transportation restrictions in Beijing. Today we are hampered in effectively addressing how megatrends impact mobility because we approach urban transportation as a collection of silos: personally owned vehicles of any type represent one silo, public transportation represents a second silo, and on-demand mobility services, used for people transportation or goods delivery, a third. This approach impedes the optimized allocation of mobility resources, the effective utilization, and the operation of the available transportation infrastructures, as well as the quality of the overall mobility experience. In my book Transportation Transformation, I identify these as important reasons for reimagining and transforming urban mobility. The result of this transformation will be an integrated system for frictionless, safe, affordable, and convenient mobility of passengers and goods through which the movement of people and goods. This system will bring together intelligent transportation infrastructures with multimodal fleets of public and private vehicles that are automated, autonomous, connected, and electrified. For such a system to become a reality automakers, mobility services companies, and cities need to collaborate. This post introduces the Urban Transportation Wallet metric and presents some of its uses.

Cities must lead in the introduction and broad adoption of new mobility. This will not come easy for every city because leading will require transformation. Some, like New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle in the US, Paris, Berlin, and London in Europe, and Singapore, Shanghai, and Tokyo in Asia have already embraced new mobility and are proceeding with ambitious transformation projects. Others may need to first see the results of early adopters before deciding to follow. There are four reasons for cities to transform. First, through their transformation, they must define the role they would want to play in new urban mobility, including how they will utilize their public transportation systems. Some cities in the US have already started partnering with mobility services companies in an effort to provide frictionless multimodal transportation in a way that addresses the needs of more citizens. In the process, they are also attempting to reduce the growing losses of their public transportation systems. Second, they must learn to manage effectively and in an integrated manner their transportation infrastructure resources: curbs, sidewalks, parking spaces, and roads. As new urban mobility advances, these resources, particularly the curb and the sidewalk, are becoming extremely important for passenger pickup and drop off, as well as goods pickup and delivery. By properly managing these resources, cities will be able to monetize them and thus fund their participation in new mobility. Third, they must address jurisdictional boundaries which today often negatively impact convenience and user experience and will have an even larger negative impact in the case of offering Mobility as a Service (MaaS). Finally, as part of their transformation, cities must determine how to regulate MaaS while enabling it to thrive. Depending on the transformations they decide to undertake, cities will emerge as intelligent transportation infrastructure providers, transportation coordinators that actively manage traffic flow across their intelligent infrastructures, or transportation orchestrators that control the efficient operation of resources used in passenger transportation and goods delivery very much like air traffic control systems do in the case of air transportation.

To assess their progress towards achieving the integrated system that provides frictionless, safe, affordable, and convenient mobility to urban populations, cities (or metropolitan areas), automakers, and mobility services companies need a new metric. The Urban Transportation Wallet is an attempt to establish such a metric. The Urban Transportation Wallet captures:

  1. The trips a consumer makes during a specific period, e.g., a month, within a geofence (typically a metropolitan area), as well as the tripos that were not made because of using delivery services. For example, shopping trips that were not made to the supermarket because groceries were delivered using a groceries delivery service. 
  2. The modality, or modalities, used during each trip. For example, a daily commute may involve walking, riding a local train, and using an on-demand micromobility to the final destination. The distance traveled using each modality is incorporated and the use of each modality, or combination of modalities, is correlated to the weather conditions at the time of the trip, and the congestion levels along the routes used.
  3. When available, the metric can also incorporate the value of the traveler’s time. For example, the value of a pharmaceutical company’s representative who is trying to visit a specific number of doctor offices during a day may be higher than that of a retired person’s who needs to go grocery shopping.
  4. The amount spent on each transportation modality used during the period of interest. This reflects the percentage of the consumer’s mobility budget that was spent on each modality utilized for transportation and goods delivery but also reflects the modality’s mileage share in the consumer’s mobility plans.

The Urban Transportation Wallet enables:

  • Assessing the state of new mobility in an area of interest, i.e., assessing progress towards the system to provide frictionless, safe, affordable, and convenient mobility.
  • Understanding how heavily each transportation modality is being used, and how frequently it is used by each individual;
  • Comparing the use of personally driven vehicles (owned, leased, subscribed) to the use of public transportation and mobility/delivery services and establishing the trip types for which each modality is used;
  • Establishing how heavily the consumer utilizes services instead of traveling to accomplish particular goals;
  • Measuring the affordability of each mobility/delivery service in each population segment of interest;
  • Assessing the consumer’s loyalty towards each service utilized and calculating the individual’s lifetime value to that service.

By analyzing Urban Transportation Wallets at the traveler level, a city or an entire metropolitan area can determine the steps it must take to succeed in achieving its new mobility goals. Such steps include the incentives it may need to offer, the penalties to impose, and how to price its infrastructure at different times of the day by type of user, e.g., private citizen versus fleet operator. The metric can be as valuable to an automaker, a company offering on-demand mobility/delivery services, or companies from other industries such as insurance, financial services, retail, and telecommunications.

The Urban Transportation Wallet can be measured at many different levels, such as household, demographic group, geographic area, e.g., a specific neighborhood. A city’s, and ultimately a country’s, overall Transportation Wallet is very dependent on the state of the public transportation system, the cost of mobility services, and the cost of owning and operating a vehicle. Some from our research at the country level are shown in Table 1 (POV/1000 means Private Vehicles Owned per 1000 citizens).

Country POVs/1000 POV Miles/capita Public Transport rides/user/year Annual mobility services users (million) Mobility services rides/user/year
US 800 12000 40 42 35
Germany 561 6300 177 11 5
France 480 6200 154 12.6 34
China 181 620 108 521 3
Japan 615 3900 246 12.6 14
Table 1: Country-level transportation modality data

One can see, for example, that Germany and France have a Transportation Wallet that is more evenly distributed between privately-owned vehicles, public transportation, and mobility services than the US’s Transportation Wallet (where transportation is dominated by privately-owned vehicles), and Japan’s (where consumer mobility is dominated by public transportation).

Analyzing data at the city level is even more illuminating because it provides more insight about how demographics, urban structure, private vehicle ownership, the state of the city’s transportation infrastructure and the quality of its public transportation system impact the modalities consumers utilize. Table 2 provides data from four different cities collected by Deloitte, and Frost and Sullivan (the second number in each cell). In some cases there are significant differences between the numbers provided by each firm that may be due to the differences in the population of the metropolitan area being measured. For example, for Paris Deloitte measures the transportation data for a population of 7.2 million whereas Frost and Sullivan measures it for a population of 10.9 million. In other cases the difference may be due to the year of the surveys. Deloitte reports data from their 2019 survey whereas Frost and Sullivan reports for 2016 or 2017.

City POV/1000 POV (%) Public
Transit (%)
Walking (%) Biking (%)
Berlin 329 30/32 22/27 31/24 13/17
Frankfurt * 515 46 41 6 7
Paris 430 26/34 25/51 46/10 2/5
Tokyo 206 12/29 47/59 24/11 17/9
Table 2: City-level percent of trips by transportation modality

* Only Frost and Sullivan data

The data reveals some interesting differences. Compare, for example, Berlin to Frankfurt. First, you will notice that in Frankfurt the number of POV/1000 is closer to Germany’s national average, whereas in Berlin it is much lower. Second, the modalities usage between the two cities is very different. Then consider the differences between Berlin, Paris, and Tokyo. The Paris data is closer to France’s national average, whereas Berlin’s and Tokyo’s diverges significantly from the national average. You will also notice that neither Paris nor Tokyo can be considered micromobility cities. Paris is trying to change that with the city’s recent announcements to significantly enhance its network of biking lanes.

Cities that are transforming to become transportation coordinators are investing aggressively in smart transportation infrastructures, urban planning aimed to reduce traveling long distances, multimodal public transportation, and intelligent blending of public transportation with on-demand mobility services. Such cities can use the data collected to create the Transportation Wallet to provide their citizens specific incentives or penalties that will cause them to change their mobility behavior to bring it closer to achieving the area’s mobility goal. Examples may include discounts on public transportation fares when combined with the use of micromobility during the morning and afternoon commute periods, congestion pricing, or even limiting access to privately owned vehicles in certain parts of the area. Today about 30% of daily urban trips are related to commuting. Success can then be measured by reducing the average commute time and moving commuters in population segments of interest towards shared transportation modalities.

New urban mobility will be implemented differently around the world. Regardless of its implementation and application, the Urban Transportation Wallet will be an important metric for urban planners and transportation planners, automakers, and mobility/delivery services companies, to use either for their own benefit, or, more importantly, for measuring their collective progress toward transportation transformation. Our firm has collaborated with several members of all three constituencies in such implementations.

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