Carles was developed and tested in summer 2020 in the town of Sant Cugat del Valles, Barcelona. Acceptance among local users was high and they described the service as an alternative solution to the car for short trips. The trial proved users preferred Carles to driving whenever they needed a quick ride to the mall, the doctor or access the local train station, especially when those rides would have had to be provided by a relative or neighbour.
There is a major difference between car use and car dependency, as the second is determined by the lack of alternative transportation modes in terms of travel time, effort and cost involved in getting to a destination. While there is a consensus in transport policy and urban planning on the need to offer alternatives to the car in cities, suburban areas suffer from a significant lack of options. Here, public transport is often inefficient and people have no other choice than to own a car. This leaves behind all those who prefer not to drive, or simply cannot, such as seniors ageing in place, children and teenagers and the physically disabled.
Alternative transport modes are generally not available in the majority of these areas, creating huge challenges. This was the case in Sant Cugat del Valles, Viladecavalls and over 65% of Europe’s suburban built environments, where public transportation is often limited and bus routes end up serving a small minority. Shotl’s Carles aims to provide an alternative mode for all short trips connecting two different points within a municipal boundary, especially those that often require a licensed driver to transport the passenger.
In Viladecavalls, everybody knows Francisco; he’s been the local taxi driver for over 20 years. People call him directly whenever they need to go to the nearby Terrassa Hospital or Barcelona Airport. “Everyone here has my cell phone number, they know they can count on me day or night and I always show up on time,” he says. The current health crisis has seriously affected taxi demand in Viladecavalls and right now Francisco hardly gets any reservations to drive a local neighbour out of town. “We thought this could be a good moment to provide affordable local shared rides, as the lack of trips out of town allows us to focus on the city’s inner mobility that’s not covered by the local bus”, he says.
When Shotl’s business development team reached out to Francisco and his two colleagues Norberto and Emilio, we were first interested in understanding whether there was potential demand for local rides in such environments. The drivers personally knew hundreds of neighbours with no access to a private vehicle who would choose such a solution if it existed. Noberto told us, “We are not able to provide cheap shared rides to all, because it is impossible for us to combine so many trips together. People still need to go to the local stores or access public services. If we have the digital means to help them, I believe we should try it.”
Carles’ value proposition is not so much based on its technology, but more on the personal touch that the local drivers can bring to their communities, whether it’s providing affordable rides anywhere in town or delivering goods from stores and restaurants to people’s houses. “From Shotl’s on-demand bus deployments, we have learned that people value the flexibility and reliability of their local driver, even more than the Apps they use to access an on-demand transport service,” says Gerard Martret, Shotl CEO.
All the team at Shotl is excited to test a new B2C concept that can help thousands of local taxi drivers across Europe deliver quick, affordable rides to their neighbours. We want to help improve people’s lives by providing better access to everyone and activate small local economies by connecting businesses and people. Let’s go Carles!
Transport is changing and getting around is becoming increasingly more user-focussed. But, what impact does this all have on the already established modes of public transport within our cities?