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 consumer’s Urban Transportation Wallet as a composite metric for assessing a metropolitan area’s progress towards offering Mobility as a Service (MaaS).

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. They have a direct impact on transportation. 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 transportation because we approach urban transportation as a collection of silos: personally owned vehicles represent one silo, public transportation represent a second silo, and on-demand mobility services a third. This approach impedes the optimized allocation of mobility resources, the effective utilization of the available transportation infrastructures, and the quality of the overall mobility experience. In my book Transportation Transformation I identify these as important reasons for re-imagining and transforming urban transportation. The result of this transformation must be an integrated system for frictionless mobility of passengers and goods through which the movement of people and goods will be safe, affordable, convenient, offer a good user experience, and be provided as a service. This system will bring together intelligent transportation infrastructures with multimodal fleets of public and private vehicles that are automated, or autonomous, connected and electrified. It will require automakers, mobility services companies and cities to collaborate. The Urban Transportation Wallet is a metric that can be used to assess the state of new mobility in a city or metropolitan area.

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 and Seattle in the US, Paris, Berlin, and London in Europe, and Singapore, Shanghai, and Tokyo in Asia may embrace transformation and may have already started the process. Others may need to first see the results of early adopters before deciding to follow. There will be many that choose to maintain their mobility status quo.

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 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: curb, 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 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.

The three main constituencies that can make new urban mobility a reality (cities, automakers, and mobility services companies), need a metric towards their stated goal. The Urban Transportation Wallet is a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that measures this performance. The Urban Transportation Wallet captures:

  1. The number of trips a consumer makes during a specific time period, e.g., a month, by transportation modality, as well as the number of trips that were not made because of using mobility services, e.g., shopping trips not made to the supermarket because groceries were delivered using a groceries delivery service. The calculation takes into account distance traveled using privately-owned vehicles, private micromobility, e.g., personal bicycles, walking, public transportation, on-demand mobility services, including ride-hailing and shared micromobility, and services for goods delivery. It also reflects each modality’s distance share in the consumer’s mobility plans.
  2. The amount spent on each transportation modality used during the period of interest. This reflects the percent 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:

  • 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 services;
  • Establishing how heavily the consumer utilizes services instead of traveling to accomplish particular goals;
  • Measuring the affordability of each mobility service in each population segment of interest;
  • Assessing the consumer’s loyalty towards each mobility service utilized and calculate the individual’s lifetime value to that service.

By analyzing Urban Transportation Wallets at the consumer level, a city or an entire metropolitan area can determine the steps it must take, including the incentives it may need to offer, in order to succeed in achieving its new mobility goals. It can be as valuable to an automaker, a company offering on-demand mobility 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).

CountryPOVs/1000POV Miles/capitaPublic Transport rides/user/yearAnnual mobility services users (million)Mobility services rides/user/year
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, city 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.

CityPOV/1000POV (%)Public
Transit (%)
Walking (%)Biking (%)
Frankfurt *515464167
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 in order to provide to their citizens specific incentives that will cause them to change their mobility behavior in order to bring it closer to the city’s goal. Example incentives may include discounts to public transportation fares when combined with the use of personal of shared micromobility during the morning and afternoon commute periods. 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. Depending on how it is implemented it will give rise to 3 different scenarios:

  1. Co-existence of mobility services with private vehicles and continuously decreasing role for public transportation. This is the likely scenario that we will continue to see in US cities.
  2. Dominant role of multimodal public transportation, co-existing with on-demand mobility services offered by fleets, and a smaller role for private vehicles. This is the likely scenario for European cities.
  3. Centrally orchestrated multimodal mobility offered exclusively as a service in certain parts of a metropolitan area, using advanced transportation networks many relying on autonomous vehicles of various form factors, with only a very limited role for private vehicles. This is the likely scenario primarily for Asian cities.

Regardless of how the Urban Transportation Wallet is implemented, it will be an important metric for city and transportation planners, automakers, and mobility services companies, as well as other parties involved in the transformation of transportation.

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