Mobility Predictions for 2021

Let’s face it, we’re all hoping 2021 will be an improvement on 2020! And while we’re going to be living with the virus and its effects for some time, at Shotl we see good things ahead for mobility despite, or maybe because of, the ongoing pandemic. Here are our 8 predictions for the coming year:

1. Public transport ridership will recover, but slowly

Fear of enclosed spaces and our fellow travelers saw transit ridership plummet last year. In Barcelona, where we’re based, it’s fallen by 30% on average due to reduced demand—as people continue to work from home and travel less—the economic crisis beginning to bite, a lack of tourists, and commuters opting for private vehicles. Here as elsewhere, transit authorities are focusing efforts to regain public confidence and ridership on this last group in an attempt to recover desperately needed revenue. This is a hard one to call, but we see ridership recovering slowly over the coming months, though it will be a long time before we see pre-pandemic numbers again.  

2. Micromobility will continue to be Covid’s silver lining 

Of course, not everyone has abandoned the subway for the car. Other forms of personal mobility like bikes emerged as an unexpected winner last year, with cities around the world putting in lanes and extending share schemes to meet demand. If Covid-19 has a silver lining, it’s this huge rise in “active” non-polluting transport that’s affordable and accessible to a large section of the population. Properly managed and regulated, electric scooters come in a close second. Even taking into account the impact of battery production and energy consumption, these are far less polluting than a car and, importantly, represent an important consumer mindset shift towards more sustainable options. And they drive the creation of more bike lanes, which is a good thing for everyone. We see this trend continuing in 2021.

3. Shared, demand-responsive transit (DRT) will benefit from reduced transit ridership (yes, really)

DRT ridership also took a hit in 2020, though less than public transport. 2021 promises to be a very challenging year but we think the conditions are right for DRT to gain ground. After all, when demand for traditional fixed-route and -schedule transit is low, there is a compelling argument for converting services to more cost-effective DRT. Passengers will still be wary of shared space, of course, but DRT has two things in its favor that may help win them over. Firstly, advance booking guarantees riders a seat and means onboard capacity can be strictly controlled. Secondly, fewer people traveling means a faster, more personalized service for those that do, so a better experience overall. So we’re hopeful DRT could be an unexpected winner this year.   

4. MaaS will have a moment  

Personalized, multi-service travel tech is in high demand these days! It’s hard to pinpoint the cause but we believe it’s getting a boost from transit authorities seeking affordable ways to differentiate services and improve the experience for passengers. And while demand from public bodies and private companies still outstrips user numbers, we think it’s only a matter of time before public appetite for this already mature technology catches up. Watch this space…

5. Car sales will crash

Ok, maybe this is a bit dramatic, but we can dream, right? In the long term, this is a no-brainer but the short term is harder to predict. The economic storm is still gathering but we foresee a gradual decline in demand as people opt to watch and wait, putting costly new purchases on the back burner. And a slowdown in car sales could have positive consequences beyond just fewer vehicles on the roads.

6. Electric vehicles will spark into life

Every year we’re told, “this is the one” for electric and every year uptake lags behind enthusiasm. This year, though, we think it could finally take off (though we see hybrids being favored over full electric). Several manufacturers launched models in 2020 and are likely to promote them to compensate for falling sales across the board. Besides, cities show no signs of slowing down on plans to penalize older, polluting vehicles so it makes increasing sense for consumers to invest in something future-proof that won’t be outlawed before the end of its useful life. Range and charging points are still a sticking point for some, but let’s face it, how many of us are traveling long-distance anyway these days?  

7. Autonomous vehicles will still need a helping hand

Manufacturers’ need to pivot should also see them pushing autonomous, but we believe these will remain firmly the preserve of early adopters. In areas where manufacturers are located and have the clout to push for favorable legislation and frameworks, however, sales could well rise. For example, countries like Japan, Germany, the US and maybe Spain and China. The rest of the world, though, will continue to cautiously watch and wait.  

8. Cities will continue to think local

The pandemic has accelerated many long-term plans for micromobility, parking restrictions and urban space and it’s a trend we see continuing in 2021. There’s also a lot of buzz around the concept of the “15-minute city,” where nothing you need is further away than that. In any case, improvements like wider sidewalks and more space for children to play are always a good bet for cash-strapped authorities, and more visible and easier to implement than grander reforms like transport services. Best of all, they’re always a hit with residents. After all, there’s nothing like being confined to your neighborhood to make you aware of its defects. Of course, there will always be pushback from certain corners, like drivers, but society has undergone a major mindset shift in recent years and the majority of the public is already onside. We see good things on the horizon.

 

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