Ticket barriers in Town Hall Station, Sydney. Credit Anthony Crescini

+ The first city to successfully implement a multi-modal mobility system could export its solution around the world.

Imagine if you didn’t have to plan and book all the different parts of your journey separately. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could move smoothly from hire car, to train, to bus, to metro, to hire cycle? Well, I believe that technology is poised to revolutionise multi-modal journeys in this way.

German railway company Deutsche Bahn recently ran a trial where they combined cycle, car hire, local and inter-city rail travel into one mobility service. This showed that such integration is technically possible as the connectivity you need to get the data and information is becoming better and better.

Of course, Deutsche Bahn were able to run this trial because they own all the assets involved. Things get more complicated when the different modes of transport are run by different organisations. It would require much closer cooperation than you usually find between such organisations.

I think it would be worth it because of the potential to transform travel. Just look at how Uber is disrupting the taxi market, much to the annoyance of London’s cabbies. Uber don’t provide mobility or taxis or transport; they’re operating a data centre that connects passengers with a car.

Uber’s growth has been astonishing; they’re now in 70 cities. Their success shows that with mobile connectivity and cloud technology, the technology is there to do this sort of thing. What’s needed now is an innovative business model, a bit of vision and leadership, and for stakeholders to work together. 

Cities are ideally placed to lead the way. A city that can set up a multi-modal mobility service that’s not simply a small demonstrator but a system that has two million users every day, could export that solution around the world. It’s a big opportunity because cities everywhere face similar problems in making mobility seamless for their citizens.

Copenhagen has done it for climate change, transforming itself into the most advanced carbon-efficient city in the world. And now the city and the Danish government are promoting the companies who do the work, to export their success around the world. They have a living showcase for potential clients.

There are hurdles to overcome – primarily stakeholders and fragmentation – and that is no small undertaking.

But there is a golden opportunity on offer. I think it would not only benefit cities and the people who travel around them, but also create new business opportunities we can only just begin to contemplate.