"Cannibalism" in Mobility

New competitors within the transportation sector have started a battle against traditional modes by aiming to directly or indirectly dominate and monopolize future replacement models. Unfortunately, this influx in competition does not necessarily lead to better mobility for all. Coordination and adherence to certain rules by all parties remains key in providing an efficient, sustainable, and inclusive mobility ecosystem.

In today’s world, models of transportation have multiplied and diversified, from individual modes to collective systems. The most dominant personal modes are still the private car and the motorbike, followed by bicycles and taxis. Buses, trains, and trams continue to have a strong presence as part of collective transportation systems, although emerging modes such as car-pooling, ride-hailing, and micro-transit are gaining market share as these new types of non-public collective transportation develop.

We can all either move by ourselves or by sharing a vehicle with other people. There is an interaction, between all modes, that depends on their proximity, price, and availability but also on personal preference and additional factors like weather. For instance, public transport if made free of cost mainly attracts new passengers who might otherwise have walked short distances. Also, when it is raining people tend to leave their bicycles at home choosing instead to drive their private car. Increasing evidence suggests that the emergence of new e-hailing companies siphon off passengers who would otherwise have used public transport. 

In this context, different modes are said to “cannibalize” each other. While this is surely a catchword, it does point to one important matter: mobility is a system that requires coordination in order not to become a blind competitive race where market shares prevail over any other consideration.

Coordination in this new mobility ecosystem is paramount due to:

  • Space. It is a scarce resource, especially in dense urban areas, and cars have a detrimental effect at this level, especially if they only have a single occupant and need to be parked. Similar concerns can be raised with the impact of new free-floating micro-mobility services.
  • Infrastructure can only handle a limited amount of simultaneously operating vehicles. Vehicles that can transport more people per stretch of street or rail are preferred.
  • Access to mobility relates to social inclusiveness. Only if people are able to commute within a reasonable time and at an affordable rate regardless of their wealth or social status, will they be socially mobile and thus able to improve their income levels.
  • Impact of transport can also be measured in terms of safety, sustainability, and public health. This is especially relevant in relation to zero-emission services as well as other active modes of transport such as walking or cycling which have an obvious positive impact on public health and fitness.
  • Competition between and within modes is welcome as it increases user-friendliness and cost efficiency. It should, however, be coordinated and regulated with these factors in mind.

The deployment of a shared on-demand operation along these lines involves a decidedly collaborative approach. In particular, it should aim to take private cars off the street without competing either with existing bus lines nor with active modes. It should also deliver more flexible mobility for those who rely on or prefer a shared mode of transportation. 

At Shotl, we are guided by the belief that cannibalization in the mobility marketplace should be prevented. We understand that the only way to achieve this is to work hand-in-hand both with public authorities and existing operators. An example of such collaborations are the new on-demand bus services in which we are currently helping to facilitate in Malaga, Vallirana, and Montbéliard.

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