31 May 2017

Mobility as a Service

One Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung mobility as a service maas whim app finland ministry hietanen autonomous driverless Helsinki Singapore
Helsinki, Finland
We all know someone who lives in a big city and has access to several transportation options but who still uses his own car to move. Why can’t he get rid of this personal car? Maybe public transportation stations are a little far from home. And this bus or this tramway does not always run early in the morning. What about a shared bike? Why not, but not for a long distance? Well, he could use a taxi or an Uber. Yes, however they are usually more expensive than public transportation. And what about the 2 hours week-end trip outside of the city? Well, he could get a rental car… All this looks a little bit complicated to him. It takes time to compare and the options are accessed through different services, different accounts, different payment methods… Wait! This is about to change! Follow us and learn about a transport revolution…

One app to rule them all

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, wants to make car ownership pointless by 2025. The foreseen mobility-on-demand system will be cheaper than owning a car, but just as convenient. Imagine. Order your trip on a smartphone application. A trip to your work or a trip to your holiday place. The application guides you. You may jump on a bus, an Uber, a rental car, a bike or something else. Your smartphone is your ticket. For that you have paid a monthly fee. For unlimited trips… This is Mobility as a Service!

“Today the means of transport are scattered, there is nothing global,” Sampo says. “I thought: there has to be a way of consolidating them all.” Sampo Hietanen is the CEO of MaaS Global, the world’s first Mobility as a Service company, which he founded in 2015. Finland is the birthplace of the concept. He says: “The original idea was to combine all the transportation options into one package together with the ticketing and payment, which is key in terms of convenience.”

One Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung mobility as a service maas whim app finland ministry hietanen autonomous driverless Helsinki Singapore
Sampo was the first person to introduce the concept of Mobility as a Service, several years ago.
Do we really need to own a car which we use so little? “Let’s follow the money!” Sampo says. “In Finland, people spend every month around 30€ in telecommunication, and around ten times more, 300€, for transport. For people owning a car, 80% of the transport budget goes directly to it. On average, this car is used… 4% of the time. 4%! There is a huge potential in terms of productivity.”

The application is both the journey planner and the universal ticketing/payment platform. You can ask for the fastest trip, the greenest trip (lower greenhouse gas emissions) or public transportation only. Sampo says: “The app learns from your experience and preferences. And will show your preferred options first.”

A monthly package for unlimited transportation

Sampo adds that “on the other hand, the service must stand in comparison with the promise of a personal car: freedom of mobility. You usually use your car to go to work, but what about the few times when you go further or elsewhere? To reach the freedom of mobility, Mobility as a Service must gather as many options as possible, including taxis and rental cars. By design, our smartphone application Whim is ready to integrate more and more choices. Today in the app, we have public transportation, taxis, and rental cars for Helsinki. Tomorrow we could add shared bikes, shared cars, ferries, etc., as soon as an operator appears and wants to be part of it.”

One Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung mobility as a service maas whim app finland ministry hietanen autonomous driverless Helsinki Singapore
Here is your ticket! A member of the Team gave us an exciting demonstration of the smartphone application Whim.

“There are 2 payment options available,” Sampo says. “One is a pay-as-you-go payment: one payment for one trip. The other option is a monthly package. The monthly fee depends on the use and the distances.” The CEO adds: “Today in Helsinki we have a few hundred test persons using the application. We built statistics to compare the transportation solutions they used before and after using Whim. It turns out that in the end public transportation is now used more often. It went from 48% of the trips to 74% of the trips. Helsinki is going live this June and next is Birmingham in the UK and Amsterdam.” Sampo concludes: “One important thing is Finnish legislation is moving in the right direction...”

A government which clears the path

One and a half year ago, within the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Transport policy department merged with the Communications policy department. “It is hard to separate them anymore, they are so intertwined,” Krista says. Krista Huhtala-Jenks works at the Ministry as a Senior Officer for Digital Services and Mobility as a Service. She explains: “Data is at the heart of transport. For few years, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) has been in the core of the Ministry policy. People think that Uber or autonomous vehicles are the big disruptions, but they are just new technologies. I think MaaS is the real disruption, it is about behavioral change.”

Krista says: “MaaS is the future. It deals with smart traffic, smart payment systems. And flexibility. You promote public transportation but allow the user to take a taxi or a rental car from time to time. It combines public and private transport. We live in a world where assets must be shared. With MaaS being flexible, reliable and cost effective, we will meet the needs.” About Sampo’s company, she explains that “it is one of the mobility companies which already exist in Finland. But MaaS is not only a solution for big cities: another Finnish company wants to operate in rural and semi-rural areas, where the service level should be higher.”

One Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung mobility as a service maas whim app finland ministry hietanen autonomous driverless Helsinki Singapore
We met Krista at the Ministry.

Driverless vehicles are already legal in Finland

“The Ministry focuses on the people, the users and their experience,” Krista says. “Of course the business models and the operation have to be fair. As soon as we judge that a new service will help us reach our targets, we try to get rid of the possible barriers. Actually we want to anticipate the changes as much as possible and facilitate the positive transitions. In the end we have in mind the climate issue and our ambitious targets in terms of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Krista adds: “Autonomous vehicles are one of the major transitions we have started to work on. Finland wants to be a world leader. For a few years already, the law allows for there to be driverless vehicles. Tests have been ongoing on our roads, they are quite positive.” She concludes: “Driverless cars and shuttles will help a lot in our rural areas.”

The autonomous vehicles will reshape the cities

Autonomous vehicles have started to pop up in the cities all around the world. Singapore (again!) is one of these places. The country sees the autonomous vehicles as a public transportation solution. Their citizens should be transported by shared autonomous (electric) vehicles instead of personal cars. The shared vehicles would transport on demand. A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explains that these vehicles can potentially decrease passenger vehicles to a third, from 900,000 to 300,000 vehicles. Of course, these new vehicles will not pollute, they will be electric. Singapore goes even further. The city hopes to be reshaped around walking and cycling, with the autonomous vehicles transiting in an underground network… Do you remember the movie Minority Report by Steven Spielberg?!

The avant-garde company nuTonomy
and the French constructor Peugeot
will start soon to test autonomous cars
right in the middle of Singapore’s traffic.
Luis Belalcazar, who we met in Colombia, told us few words about autonomous vehicles. “I had the chance to go to Marrakech and participate to the COP22. There was a very interesting talk by someone from Mercedes Benz, the German constructor. The person was explaining that for sure autonomous vehicles will change the automotive landscape. The industry will transform totally. And Mercedes Benz really wants to be part of the game! They mention the case of Kodak: the former camera worldwide leader which in few years bankrupted because they could not anticipate the boom of digital cameras. Their talk even included what could be done with all the existing parking lots which would not be necessary anymore once the autonomous vehicles arrive... In the future, people will not want to own a car anymore. Imagine it. You just request a vehicle on your smartphone, it arrives few minutes later! The connected vehicle will drive safely, it will use the fastest itinerary, maybe someone else will jump on it during part of the trip. And when you leave the car, well you do not need to think about it anymore. The vehicle will probably start another trip one minute later…”

Less traffic jams. Less accidents. Less...

Studies show that autonomous cars will prevent traffic jams. They also show that the number of traffic accidents will fall. In Texas, distracted drivers (mainly texting while driving) are the origin of one in five accidents, resulting in 463 deaths in 2015. In France, traffic accidents cost 23 billion euros in 2015. They cost 324 billion euros in the USA that year. A recent study by Expert Market/Global Positioning Specialists shows that these figures could fall by 90% thanks to autonomous vehicles!

The final goal is clear: transport as many people as possible with shared vehicles. Less and less individuals should own a car. Like Helsinki, Oslo, Paris and Madrid for instance have their plans to chase personal cars out of their city center. The citizens will be the big winners. Mobility will be ensured and we will win in the sense that there will be less (polluting) vehicles in our cities. Less health issues. Less emission of greenhouse gases…

One Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung mobility as a service maas whim app finland ministry hietanen autonomous driverless Helsinki SingaporeOne Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung mobility as a service maas whim app finland ministry hietanen autonomous driverless Helsinki SingaporeOne Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung mobility as a service maas whim app finland ministry hietanen autonomous driverless Helsinki Singapore
Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences (last day of the trip!) - 
We could discover an autonomous shuttle which operates already in few Finnish cities. The Easymile shuttle can transport up to 12 passengers. We could also meet Tesla people who were showing two Tesla cars. We learned that all the manufactured Tesla cars already have the cameras and sensors to switch to autonomy.

We liked these words from the Nordic think tank Demos Helsinki, about the “as a Service” revolution. It is a revolution! And it has started. It is good not to own things…

”What is so revolutionary about the “as a service” model then? Why is it good not to own things? There are two main reasons and these are related: First, ownership makes us lazy. Second, the planet cannot survive with us consuming so much stuff.
When we buy things we easily get bored with them and forget they exist, or, alternatively, use them only because we own them. On-demand is about using things when we actually need them. It leads to the more effective use of resources. […]
It takes a large amount of natural resources to manufacture a car, house, or smartphone in the first place. We are now running out of those resources. That’s why digital “as a service” platforms show great promise. In the future the “as a service” model will revolutionise some areas of our lives that are completely unsustainable right now such as housing, mobility and communications.”


19 May 2017

Accompanying the cities through adaptation

One Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung New York 100RC Resilient Cities Adaptation Bogota Colombia Mocoa Medellin
The offices of the Rockefeller
Foundation are located
on the 5th Avenue in
Since the beginning of our trip, in several places, we heard about the 100 Resilient Cities program. In Sydney and in Hawaii for instance. We were told that the network was pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, based in New York City. Spending some days in the Big Apple, on our way back to Europe, we wanted to have a talk with someone from the head office. We had the chance to meet Isabel!

100RC and the Rockefeller Foundation

A quick reminder may be necessary. We previously talked about resilience in our article Hawaii in search of resilience. What is resilience? It is the capacity of a city to face stresses or shocks, and retrieve from them. In particular climatic events… “The 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) organization allows cities to think and drive their transformation towards resilience,” Isabel says. Isabel Beltran is an Associate Director of 100RC, City and Practice Management. She is in charge of the relation between 100RC head office and 6 of the 13 Latin American cities: Cali and Medellin (Colombia), Quito (Equador), Panama City (Panama), San Juan (Puerto Rico) and Santiago de los Caballeros (Dominican Republic). She supports these cities in their adaptation to climate change, among other stresses.
One Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung New York 100RC Resilient Cities Adaptation Bogota Colombia Mocoa Medellin
Here is Isabel!
100RC network counts 100 member cities today. Isabel explains: “Before the creation of the program in 2013, the Rockefeller Foundation had been working for 20 years on the concept of resilience and adaptation, especially with Arup, a consulting firm. With 100RC, we are more visible and have a greater impact.” 100RC has offices in New York, Singapore and London. Since 1913, the Rockefeller Foundation aims at “improving the well-being of humanity around the world”.

“Cities are definitely at the front of climate change fight”

Isabel adds: “The main actions of the program are the following. First we fund the creation of a new innovative position in the city government for 2 years: a Chief Resilience Officer, who will lead the resilience moves. Then we provide the cities technical assistance for understanding the concepts and developing the transformation strategy. For that, an external company provides local assistance. We call this company the strategy partner. It can be an engineering company like AECOM or Arup.”

The program also consists of “developing partnerships with NGOs, the private sector or Think Tanks for instance,” Isabel explains. “Partners provide occasional and specific services to a city, pro-bono. Finally 100RC allows their members to be part of a network through which cities exchange.” Via an online platform, the cities are encouraged to communicate, sharing guidance, technical solutions, reports and data. The platform is a “great place for chatting, asking questions, creating relationships,” Isabel says.

She concludes: “We want to focus on these 100 cities which were selected and make sure of their success. Their solutions will inspire other cities. The Rockefeller Foundation wants to promote the resilience revolution. Cities are definitely at the front of climate change fight.”

AECOM, one of the super partners
One Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung New York 100RC Resilient Cities Adaptation Bogota Colombia Mocoa Medellin
We met T. Luke in AECOM's
offices of Bogota.

Previously in Bogota, Colombia, we had the opportunity to meet T. Luke Young. T. Luke is a Resilience and Climate Change Adaptation Leader, working for AECOM. The firm is one of the strategy partners, which provide local technical support to the 100RC cities. “We work with 30 of the 100RC cities, 9 in South America, which makes us the most common partner,” T. Luke explains. “AECOM Colombia is recognized as a center of excellence for resilience and climate change adaptation in Latin America and the Caribbean.

We help build adaptation solutions, draft plans, model solutions, diagnose risks, and establish monitoring and evaluation indicators. We also drive change in the field; we train experts and communities.” When we ask T. Luke what are the factors of success, he says: “One of the primary reasons Medellin in Colombia is successful is the continuance of resilience principles across city administrations. The implementation of solutions is a long term prospect.

Cable cars of Medellin. ©City of Medellin
For instance, implementing a new public transportation solution takes time. In Medellin the cable car system has generated very positive changes in terms of mobility but also social cohesion. In particular, it connected communities and brought increased access to education and employment,” T. Luke says.

“We have to learn to live with climate change”

T. Luke adds: “AECOM offers support not only to the 100RC cities. For instance, AECOM recently offered pro-bono support to the government of Colombia after the recent tragedy in Mocoa.” On the 1st of April, while we were in Colombia, a flash flood and landslides killed more than 300 people. It happened when heavy rains started in the region. Before the massive landslide, it rained 130mm in 3 hours, whereas the monthly average (for March) is 350mm. In our very first article, in 2011, we explained that in Colombia climate change will result in a global decrease of precipitations, but when it rains, rainfalls will bring more water than usual. This first article also explained the role of the Paramo ecosystem which serves as a natural water regulator. In that sense, the uncontrolled deforestation in the region of Mocoa is clearly exposed after the catastrophe.

Paramo of Chingaza National Park, not far from Bogota.
“The surrounding ecosystems must be rebalanced; water must be embraced,” T. Luke explains. “In 2010, there was a similar landslide in Gramalote, Norte de Santander region. AECOM helped the city to design a resilient urban plan and to adapt the new settlement. Today we are in a position to support Mocoa rethink its future. What will be done in Mocoa can serve as a model for the rest of the country.” He concludes: “The Dutch live with water! Here in Colombia, we have to learn to live with climate change and heavy rains.”

Cartagena and the ecosystemic services

In Bogota we also had the chance to meet with Felipe Gomez Villota. Again! Felipe is actually one of the first persons we met in the frame of the project One Climate One Challenge. In our first article of 2012 (Paramo mi agua), we talked about him and his previous missions at the Ministry of Environment. We met him again, 5 years later! Now he works for GIZ, a major German development agency, founded in 2011. GIZ is another organization supporting cities in adapting to climate change…

One Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung New York 100RC Resilient Cities Adaptation Bogota Colombia Mocoa Medellin
Meeting with Felipe!
Felipe explains that “GIZ works together with the Colombian government in order to drive projects, in multiple fields. The environmental policy and adaptation to climate change is one of the fields. Every year, the parties jointly select projects, according to the priorities of the Colombian government. Other countries provide the same kind of support via similar organizations: Norway and UK work on forests mainly, France on sustainable urbanism, Japan on technologies like satellites.”

Mangroves of Ciénaga de la Virgen, Cartagena-Colombia. ©Felipe Gómez Villota

“The ecosystems were damaged,” Felipe says. “And a city like Cartagena really needs the ecosystemic services. For instance too much of the mangroves was removed. They are natural barriers in regards to flooding in particular. We want to restore them in several places, like we want to restore vegetation in the city. The green points serve as natural water capture and storage; they also allow reloading of the aquifers. Our canals will be revitalized in order to better guide the water flows, and also reduce water speed. The City draining plan will integrate several of our recent recommendations.” Felipe concludes: “We closely work with the communities. They must be in the heart of the plan if we want to succeed.”

Cities are at the front of climate change fight, the challenge is immense, but fortunately there are plenty of motivated organizations accompanying them through adaptation!