There’s a lot excitement about new transport technologies at the moment, with buzzwords like “shared mobility”, “mobility as a service”, “transport as a service”, “autonomous vehicles” and “connected vehicles” being pinged around like crazy. Many of these developments seem like they could be really useful, but at the same time seem to come with a lot of teething problems. This doesn’t stop some from making some really bold predictions about the upcoming changes to how we get around:

I looked at some of the potential impacts of driverless cars around a year ago, reaching the conclusion that it’s quite possible they could end up making our transport problems worse, rather than better. The big uncertainty was around whether people would share vehicles, as in the same vehicle shifting multiple people (ride-sharing) rather than everyone travelling around in their individual little pod.

Last week the International Transport Forum released a study on this issue of shared mobility, using Auckland as a case study. The study’s key findings are outlined below:

This report examines how the optimised use of new shared transport modes can change the future of mobility in the Auckland area in New Zealand. Based on computer simulations of different shared mobility scenarios, the study shows that introducing ride sharing and Taxi-Bus services can significantly reduce C02 emissions and improve accessibility while lowering mobility costs and improving service quality for users. Most scenarios also reduce congestion and release public parking space for other uses. The simulations show that new shared modes work particularly effectively in tandem with public transport supply such as rail and bus rapid transit (BRT), for which they can act as feeders. A survey and focus groups for the study explored how willing citizens in the Auckland area are to using shared mobility solutions. Together, the findings provide an evidence base for decision makers to weigh opportunities and challenges created by new forms of shared transport services. The work forms part of a series of studies on shared mobility in different urban and metropolitan contexts.

The report itself is very detailed, but a few of the key points that jumped out at me were:

  • Shifting all private vehicle trips to shared mobility would reduce total travel (and therefore emissions) by half.
  • Using shared mobility as a “feeder service” to rapid transit (busway or rail) could increase ridership on those core public transport networks ten-fold.
  • Areas that are difficult to serve efficiently with “traditional” public transport seem to benefit substantially, addressing equity issues.
  • Some of the configurations of number of seats were inefficient.
  • People preferred a larger number of fellow passengers on their service (as long as they could still get a seat)

It paints a fairly rosy picture and most of the recommendations seem to be around encouraging transport agencies to get on with providing these services. However, it seems that all of this still leaves a huge number of questions unanswered. Things like:

  • How willing will people be to give up their individual vehicles, for something they need to share? After all, cars are often seen as an extension of one’s living room or personal space.
  • How annoying will it be to keep diverting off the most direct route to pick up or drop off someone? Will people stand for it?
  • Until these vehicles are driverless (which could be a long way away), how expensive will it be to provide a driver for every 8-16 people who want to travel around Auckland?
  • How will security concerns be addressed when it becomes that little bit more obvious to all your fellow passengers exactly where you live?

Increasing vehicle occupancy has long been the “holy grail” for transport planning. If only there were four people in each car instead of one, then all our transport problems would seemingly disappear. But it’s been going in the opposite direction. Sharing a small vehicle and making a whole pile of detours seems like it’s just too annoying for most and as cars have become cheaper, occupancy rates have fallen. Take a look at data from Australian cities about the huge decline in commuting as a “car passenger”:

Over a similar time, Auckland has gone from around 6.7%, down to 4.7%

This isn’t to say that shared mobility shouldn’t be encouraged. It certainly seems like it could play a useful niche role in the transport system in better serving lower density areas, particularly in feeding people into core rapid transit spines. But jumping on the bandwagon still seems a bit premature, at least until driverless technology gets to a point where the labour cost implications of replacing bigger vehicles with smaller ones disappears.

What we don’t want to see is shared mobility eating up precious public transport funding in areas where other transport options already work fairly well. Which is why it’s quite concerning to see Auckland Transport’s latest board report indicating a Van scheme will be operated in Devonport:

We will follow how this trial goes very closely. Hopefully it works better than the last time Auckland Transport tried something like this with the Half Moon Bay ferry shuttle, which was used a grand total of 23 times in two months!

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  1. I just got back from a holiday in the US where one if the options for Uber and Lyft is the “pool” option. Which allows drivers to pick up multiple fares, with each rider paying less. Basically shared mobility.

    A lot of people I spoke to (mid to late 20s mostly) seemed to almost exclusively use this rather than a “private” Uber. I used it a couple of times and the trips seemed to be pretty well optimized, though hard to say how long the detours would have been, not being familiar with the area.

    Regarding worries of other passengers finding out where you live, a friend of mine said she would be picked up from next door, or around the corner to counter this.

    1. People could gather together on main streets under some shelter to wait for their shared mobility vehicle, perhaps then the route could be more direct, and people could also sometimes get off at these same points, and perhaps the service could come along frequently and of course we could see them coming on an App. And we could give these vehicles special lanes on the street so they don’t get held up be private car congestion… if only there was a short and snappy little name for such a completely new and never done before high tech mobility service….?

      1. Oh my gosh, that sounds like a wonderful idea! 😉

        Reminds me of an old saying – Everything old is new again.

        That’s not to say that there isn’t merit to the idea of TaaS (though I’m displeased that IT terminology like “as a service” has escaped it’s cage).

        Where TaaS has benefit over buses is cost, frequency and coverage. Before anybody calls out the cost aspect, yeah I know that the point-to-point cost is probably higher than a bus/train, but people pay a little bit more if it provides them with perceived convenience.

        I think that the idea of advertising paying the bills is a pipe dream. Sure, it works online… For some. Therein is why it’s efficacy isn’t going to be good in my opinion – How many of you look at existing advertising on bus shelters, etc?

        I don’t think that this is a market that public money should be invested in, nor am I convinced that heavy handed regulation to ensure that the service feeds PT should be deployed. I do think that this will be a market to watch though.

        I guess the question will eventually become one of how long until the congestion TaaS causes becomes a significant portion of overall congestion?

        1. Pretty common around the world in my experience. It’s just not practical for every taxi to have a car seat for a newborn, a car seat for a toddler, a car seat for a child and a booster seat in the boot. What if there are two children? How many should busses have to carry?

          Many taxi companies though if you request it when making the booking they will have the driver pick up the relevant seat from the base for your trip. I know co-op do here, and many min-cab offices in the UK.

          Exceptions to the law

          A child doesn’t have to be seated in an approved child restraint if they’re travelling in a:

          – vintage vehicle (first registered before 1955) that is not fitted with safety belts
          – passenger service vehicle (eg taxi, shuttle, bus) when no appropriate child restraint is available.

        2. You have to order a taxi with one, and then it never turns up with one anyway. One of the reasons why PT to another town then doesn’t work – you can’t rely on the taxis bringing a carseat. Rental car companies often provide the wrong sort of carseat despite clear instructions, too. I ended up having to take carseats with me when travelling by PT. Big hassle.

          I guess if parents were designing the innovations in cars the first thing that would be developed would be seats that convert to any size of child seat, made as a standard feature for all new cars.

        3. In terms of safety it’s needed, but in terms of legally it’s not required. Not sure what the justification behind that being!

        4. Its a trade off. It’s not practically viable to provide the legal range of car-seats for single trip taxi service. If you implemented this law for taxis or similar, most taxi’s would just create a blanket no kids rule.

          As you can see it would become a legislative nightmare, it would have become a low enough risk to justify making a exception due to practicality.

        5. I would expect the parents take it with them. Seems very risk on their behalf to take an improperly restrained child in a car just because it’s a taxi. Car seat laws have become much more strict in recent years and yet still so lax in this regard.

        6. So i have to take my car seat on the plane and cart it around Fiji for 3 weeks? I don’t know about yours by mine is about 15kg, it’s not much fun to carry around with you as I found on a recent trip around Europe.

        7. I just don’t see why being on holiday or in a taxi means it’s okay to sacrifice safety? I’d think the inconvenience would be worth it.

        8. If we were *seriously* concerned about safety, we wouldn’t be using cars in the first place. And/or we would be campaigning hard for the whole legislative regime around the use of roads and motor vehicles to be re-vamped with the intense focus on safety that currently applies on rail and in the workplace.

          In practice most people just accept the risk of road transport and use it anyway. Child safety-seats provide some risk-mitigation in the event of a crash happening but they do not magically make car-travel “safe”.

        9. Lena, it takes much of the pleasure out of being on holiday, I reckon. I completely agree. My sister was railing about this when her oldest (now 21) was a baby. I agree with you, too, Dave, and this issue highlights our blindness well. Babies and children are at a higher risk than adults in cars.

        10. Thanks all, learn something new every day! Don’t think I’ll start taking my toddlers in a taxi without a seat anytime soon though.

          I understand the bus exemption as they also don’t require seatbelts, the logic being they are much less likely to be involved in high impact collisions with vehicles of their size. I’m quite happy taking the kids in the bus. The taxi and shuttle exemption seems an odd loophole though.

          Heidi – agree re car seats, we always take ours with us when we fly to the South Island and hire a car. The airlines are really good at dealing with them. Hopefully, Regional Rapid Rail will ensure they are easy to transport as well, along with items like buggies and portacots.

        11. Yes, but note that this words if you’re renting a car and can therefore leave the seat in the car. If you intend to mainly use PT or walk in the town, with just a taxi ride per day or so, you’re left carrying the carseat around with you all day… just hopeless… one more thing that encourages people who don’t want to drive, to have to drive.

        12. One useful item we have found is a booster seat backpack- our daughter got to carry her must have items with her and converts to booster seat when required. Obviously not suitable for all ages or sizes.

        13. Agree Heidi, it’s just something I assumed we couldn’t do for the next few years. We tend to always have a car anyway as we want to go places that would cost a fortune in a taxi and are away from PT.

        14. It can seem perverse at times. I cycled over to a friends house in the glorious sunshine the other day and then that evening thunderstorm came from out of nowhere. My friend couldn’t give us a ride home because he didn’t have a baby seat.

          What’s safer over 800m of slow suburban back streets. Baby in a bike seat on a bicycle in the rain (no windscreen wipers on a bike) or a car ride with no car seat?

        15. Yes we had fun trying to get a taxi with a car seat just before rush hour in Sydney from hotel to port. From memory it was a legal requirement there but maybe we were mistaken. ie didn’t happen, no one much carried them, so I had to walk very fast with baby in small fold our push chair in 26c while wife took standard taxi, lol. Wasn’t a problem from airport to hotel though, it was a people mover type vehicle with more room so easier to have one I guess. I can see why they have exception because they don’t command any more money for the ride, just gives them an extra option others may not have but they loose boot space.

        16. Interesting, i thought in Oz you didn’t need one either, but it seems it varies state by state. In NSW, each taxi company is required to have child seats in 10% of it’s taxis. This will be fine for prebooked taxis, but when hailing one you have a 90% chance of being out of luck. Not sure how they deal with different age groups, as the seat you need is different for different sized children, i guess you just take a chance and break the law if the taxi has the wrong size?

          Be interesting to see how Uber comply with this, no reason why they couldn’t implement something but they have a history of refusing to comply with the rules.

          It’s also no use taking your own child seat with you on the flight from NZ as Aussie have their own rules and don’t recognise the US and European standards that most child seats here comply with. So it would be illegal to use your own childseat.

          In Melbourne it’s the more usual rule that you just don’t need to use them in taxis for children under 1. But if they are over 1 they must use a “properly fastened seatbelt”, whatever that means, I would have thought it was impossible to properly fasten a regular seatbeat on a 13 month old.

  2. Where do they find the pool of people of have never owned a mobile phone, to recruit authors from for that TaaS report?

    Because surely anyone who has owned a Li-Ion battery powered phone or other electronic device would know the batteries only last 2-3 years before needing replacement, and thus 1,000,000 mile lifetime for a battery electric vehicle is a pipedream. Replacing the battery 16 times is going to add a bit to the operational cost of any such service.

    “That was the case with Rick and Linda SantAngelos’ 2011 Nissan Leaf after 90,000 miles: it had only 30 to 35 miles of range left on a battery originally EPA-rated at 73 miles of range.

    That made their early Leaf all but unusable, as Rick recounted in a post we published in late March.

    At that point, Nissan Leaf Customer Support had told them that the battery condition was normal and to be expected, and that the car wasn’t worth enough that they should spend more than $8,000 on a new battery.”

    1. One of the big reasons that phones last only 2-3 times is that people discharge the cells too deeply. A rule of thumb is charge at ~33%.

      Lithium Ion lifetime limitations aside, there are other battery technologies showing promise: lithium-sulfur, aluminum-graphite (a while away), solid state batteries (still lithium ion, but safer due to solid electrolyte – Also results in slower dendrite formation, which is a leading cause of both faults and capacity reduction). There’s also a lot of promise from sodium ion and magnesium ion based batteries.

      The point is that there’s a lot of money being spent on replacement battery technologies. I’d advise buying stock in anybody that makes magnesium ion or (shorter term) lithium-sulfur batteries.

      $8000 for a new battery sounds like a lot of money. I wonder if there are after market alternatives. I also wonder if that $8k is substantially offset by lower running costs?

      1. I’d advise against buying stock on anything related to new battery technologies. There is always something promising that’s just on the horizon, yet there has been only commercial failure and bankruptcy over the last decade. So we are still left with slowly improving Li-ion.

        1. That’s why I’m not a certified financial adviser 😉

          In all seriousness though, I imagine that magnesium-ion will be commercialised within the next 2-4 years. Lithium Sulfur is probably going to be DOA, with no hope of commercialisation before 2020 – Just enough time to be eclipsed by magnesium, which doesn’t wear as quickly.

    2. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Some dude in 1977.

      It is hard to make predictions looking at how things are today. You may as well point at the Wright Flyer and predict airplanes are just a toy.

      Battery prices have halved every several years for the past several decades with no signs of this pattern changing. Range and battery lifespan are also increasing, so your point on battery price is irrelevant.

    3. That Leaf battery which degraded bad is first generation Lithium battery.

      The newer Leaf Battery has improved chemistry that will deal better with high heat and has less degradation.

      The latest Tesla battery shows no sign of significant degradation after 100000 km. It has better active cooling, improved chemistry and better battery management software.

      The technology will improve over time.

    4. This shows you not understanding Li-ion battery technology. Its the stresses involved during the charging stages that decrease the life of the battery. E.g. leaving your phone continually connected is putting stress on the battery which causes it to breakdown. Car companies have software specifically to stop this.

      An example is the Tesla’s which data shows the cars lose less than 15% of their battery life over a 250’000km range. E.g. less than 15% of battery loss over the life of the vehicle. This would be less than efficiency loss of a gasloine car over same period. The only car that hasn’t has had battery loss problems has been the Nissan Leaf, all others are trending pretty well. (There has been a highly published case of a Chevrolet Bolt losing little to no range over 300’000 miles, could be a outlier though?)

      1. Not everyone wants to spend a minimum of 120K on the base model Telsa.

        Tesla has better battery longevity because they have a massive very oversized very expensive battery, so it almost never gets deep cycled.

        It will be interesting to see how the Model 3 with it’s more modest battery goes – that’s assuming Telsa can figure out how to manufacture batteries for it before going bankrupt.

        1. “Tesla has better battery longevity because … it almost never gets deep cycled.”

          That’s the secret sauce of any EV right there. You put in a big enough battery with enough capacity and a proper Battery Management System (BMS) so you don’t deep cycle it every time you take it out on the road or recharge it.

          As a result the battery can last with useful range, nearly as long as the lifetime of the vehicle its in.

          As for expensive.
          Presently a 75 kWhr battery pack like the Model 3 LR has, has a pack level cost below $US140 per kWHr, or about $15,000 in $NZ for 75kWHr [enough for over 400 km of real world driving], thats right now, as a worst case cost.

          Its believed the actual cost for Tesla batteries is actually now below $100USD per kWHr at the pack level – and dropping still. Others like LG are pretty close to that sort of pack cost too, so thats not unique to Tesla.

          When you add in factors like lower maintenance and fuel costs, that initially higher price for the better EV with a better battery adds up pretty quickly to tip the balance in the EVs favour.

          Its clear batteries aren’t the main reason for the hundred thousand dollar cost of A Tesla.
          Other factors are. But then high end BMWs and Mercs using regular fossil fuelled engines don’t come dime a dozen either for similar reasons.

          Any TaaS system that’s also an EV will be using battery packs with sizes similar to those in the Model 3 for all day running without the need for excessively frequent recharging. And that won’t cost a fortune or lose range like the Leaf does as a result.

          The Leaf is an EV done cheap, and it shows.

        2. “The Leaf is an EV done cheap, and it shows.”
          Shame it’s so expensive then!

          Li-Ion prices have been stuck at US$140/kWH for a while, and now that factory overcapacity is less of a problem i wouldn’t expect them to get that much cheaper.

          Battery price/capacity improvements tend to be linear, not exponential within the same battery chemistry. It’s only when you have new chemistry breakthroughs that you get exponential growth. I’m sure something better will replace Li-Ion in my lifetime, but i wouldn’t want to do any transport planning expecting it to happen withing the next decade. For now plan on ever decreasing improvements (as a percentage) to Li-Ion.

          As for the cost of the model 3 battery pack, how you can be claiming US$100/kWhr actual cost, when the actual reality right now is they are unable to produce any. Lets talk about actual costs when they have figured out how to manufacture the things. And don’t forget about the looming Cobalt shortage.

          An EV that costs the same as a Leaf, but with performance and degradation of a Tesla will indeed be a great vehicle, where do i buy one?

    5. Your comments re: LiON batteries as they apply for EVs are well out of date with current reality.

      Nearly all Nissan Leafs have had well known problems with their batteries because they never had a[ny] proper battery management system that managed to keep the batteries in their optimal thermal zone during charging or use, so they typically cooked themselves to death and lost range very quickly as a result. Later Leafs are a little bit better but not much I gather.

      Biggest killers of any LiON battery like your phone is as Jon_K said – regular deep discharging, and also too much heating of the batteries during charging.

      Basically a mobile battery only lasts 3 years because the phone itself is considered obsolete by the manufacturers by then. They could make long lasting batteries, but who wants an old clunker 3 year old phone when the features are so inferior? Nope Apple and Co want you to but a new one not extend the life of the old ones.

      Modern EVs with proper battery management systems will last easily 300 thousand ks and 15 years before needing a new battery. So your assertion of 16 new batteries needed in an EVs lifetime are bunk.

      *Any* vehicle petrol/diesel or EV with 1 million kms on it is pretty crapped out, and who wants to pay to ride on one of those?

      Certainly not fare paying Aucklanders which is why the old dunger buses that used to be around are now banned from being used under the PTOM/new network.
      Those old buses just become Rail Bus replacements for trains during those rail outages…

      I expect that under any TaaS model the same would apply with newer being common – especially as more advance automation arrives in the newer models only – making the economics of a newer vehicle compelling over the older ones which need drivers.

      But I still think driven and/or driver-less Buses will be the main event for TaaS for some time to come.

  3. I think you make really interesting points about downsides to small sharing vehicles. It sounds a bit like a matatu in Africa or the airport shuttle. You stop and wait for people and it can be stressful when you have an appointment at the other end but on the other hand it is cheap and convenient. It is also a more chatty sort of operation which is fine but maybe not for everyone or every day. (I may be wrong – it may be that having a barbershop atmosphere on wheels turns out to be terrific). In combination with cycle lanes, the buses – oh my God how much do I love the transit lanes and on time buses to Three Kings – and cheap independent pods to fill in the gaps and for those appointments they could be great.

  4. 20 seater driverless vehicles running the suburban back streets and stopping at predefined stops, to drop you to your nearest transport hub/corridor. I would get rid of at least one of my cars.

      1. Safety and social health. For some people, the driver saying a few friendly words brings their social contact up to just healthy levels. If we ignore these benefits of actual people in actual jobs, we end up paying in other ways.

  5. My number one criterion for deciding if a transport strategy is good or bad is: does it work for the children to travel independently of their parents? Say, for a 9-year-old or a 13-year-old…

    I encourage children to walk, to cycle, to take the bus independently of me. But there’s no way in hell I’ll be letting them share a car with strangers. In a bus there are public eyes, but not in a small car.

    If we put any money into this concept, it will be taking that money from progressing better public transport. Sorry – it’s a hands-down fail, IMO.

    1. What if you can choose not to share? What if there is a camera in the car? What about family and friends statistically being a greater danger to children than strangers? I understand your point, but safety concerns sound like concern trolling. In a driverless bus or train there may not be public eyes anyway.

      1. Not concern trolling. It’s about where we put our funds. It should always be into a transport strategy that works for kids. What sort of choices would a parent have to not send a child off in a share car if the funds have been put into that and not into a different strategy?

        Some parents are happy to put their children in a taxi somewhere. Many are not. Car share has less security than a taxi where the taxi driver is regulated and has a reputation to uphold.

        To me this is just people going off on the next coolest technology thing without having to properly change from a car mentality and without having to think through the social disadvantages.

  6. Since cars were invented occupancy rates have had a lower bound of 1.0. Driverless cars will remove that lower bound. We need to get building more roads now to cope.

    1. Yes I agree. New roads that are designed for driverless vehicles only. Current roads and their traffic that is influence by humans, wont work for driverless vehicles, as tests have found in New York city. Driverless vehicles can not cope with spontaneous actions of humans.

    2. There are pretty big debates about this, some reckon driverless cars may even decrease this number to below 1. This is definitely plausible as you could possibly have empty cars driving around to pick up passengers.

      1. It’s going to solve the parking problem, right? Now during the AM and PM peak you have a car dropping you off and then driving off somewhere to park. But wait, now we have double the amount of traffic during rush hour. Oops!

  7. A driver only occupies one seat presently, so increasing the average vehicle from a four passenger to a five passenger capacity hardly seems worth getting excited about, especially as you point out that the current four passenger capacity is very rarely even 25% occupied. Properly connecting the public transport and improving cycling facilities must still be the focus for investment and are the only real solution to city congestion. An EV with a decent range will be perfect for out of town but realistically replacing polluting cars with non polluting cars may increase our smugness but is unlikely to reduce our road rage, and stress probably reduces our lifespan by at least as much as dirty air. Trains and trams are exciting, new bike paths are exciting, actually sharing mobility is exciting, but their is no reason we can’t already share our mobility, AI won’t save us from our selfish selves.

  8. Systems like those in many Philippines cities provide a good balance between a shared last/first mile journey and maintaining anonymity. They have modified motorbikes that take more passengers using side-car type thingies, but in many cases these motorbikes run a set route between the main public transport routes (which are run by converted old WW2 jeeps) and another point perhaps at the end of a collector road, so at most people have to walk 100-200m to catch the motorbike (which will often wait for more passengers before leaving and never has to wait long).

    So no one sees where anyone else lives, but no one has to walk far either. Maybe we could learn from developing countries where private cars have never really been a thing? Their transport systems seem to be primitive versions of what we are aspiring to.

  9. The best case model is TaaS shuttle will complement Rapid Transit. It will be used for the feeder service for last leg.

    At the moment without autonomous driving, such TaaS service may run a loss which requires public subsidiary.

    However, if such shuttle service encourages more people to take rapid transit via transfer, the rapid transit’s ridership increases and fare box recovery could improves. The cost saving from Rapid Transit which offset the public subsidiary to shuttle.

    Also with TaaS, council can removes a large portion of Park and Ride Land. Those Land can be utilise better. For example Council who owns those Park and Ride Land can build a Mixed Used Building, and council collect Rent from it and use those revenues to fund the TaaS shuttle service.

    If most people uses the shuttle, the local Connector bus will be made redundant. The money saved from subsidising connection bus can be use to subsidise shuttle.

    There is also hidden benefits as more people are using Shuttle, there will more people use Rapid Transit, which frees up congestion at main corridor. Shuttle also have the convince that removes the secondary car ownership and it will save household capital cost and fuel cost. That cost saving would encourage people to spend a few extra dollars on shuttle trips.

    Regarding to congestion on local roads, the shuttle replaces private vehicle, which also replaces low utilising Buses. So the net effect will be natural.

    With autonomous vehicle coming in the future, the subsidiary cost will be less and less. So the net effect will actually saves the council money in long term.

  10. MaaS is Expedia for your daily commute using all available modes to provide various options and combinations at different price points and routes. It’s not here yet, but it is coming. It is going to happen, it is just a case of whether the government controls it, or the next Google.

    MaaS, Taas, Shared Mobility, whatever you want to call it has been talked about for years. It is pretty over-hyped atm and it is only now starting to get out of it’s infancy and will probably take another few decades to really gain any momentum. I think it will radically change the way we live and conduct business, but I also think PT will remain the essential backbone of any such system.

    All of this is coming from incredibly complex and powerful economic forces at work.

    We don’t all own our own plane or boat to travel overseas and the same thing is happening with cars.Car manufacturers are finally waking up to the fact they don’t sell cars, they sell mobility and mobility can be provided as a service, rather than a product. Owning a car is a hassle for most people, but it is more convenient than PT. Car manufacturers see a need and are trying to survive by filling that need with fleets of shared vehicles that people pay for by use. Fully autonomous cars, trucks,buses will happen. it is only a matter of time. This will bring marginal costs of transport to almost nothing.

    More and more companies are realising that things are moving away from product/consumer relationship to service/user relationship. They need to adapt or die. IBM is a great example of one company that made a successful shift from being a product company to a services company.

    The internet of things will increase the amount of data we have available about how we live and help us better understand when, where, how we want to transport ourselves and our goods. The internet brought the marginal cost of producing and distributing knowledge, music,film,tv,news,images to almost zero. IoT will help do similar things for other areas such as transport, dramatically improving logistics.

    Renewable energy is rapidly growing in size and effectiveness due to dropping costs of manufacture. We are seeing massive drops in the fixed costs of solar. The great thing about green energy is the low marginal costs(free sun) which are actually getting lower leading to cheaper electricity production as well as distributing power production potentially to every home and building in the world. It is fascinating what is happening in Germany with their electricity production as it is becoming decentralised and being owned in cooperatives. It is conceivable that marginal costs could approach zero. Coal/Gas/Nuclear power is dead and doesn’t know it yet, because these industries thrive on centralised control of power generation. Oil companies are in trouble, even if they are still drilling and building pipelines. When they can’t compete with green energy and electricity powered transport, they are done. So this really helps Autonomous EV’s, particularly in the case of MaaS rather than car ownership. In theory a driverless EV could approach zero fuel cost and zero labour cost.

    So we will end up with fleets of electric vehicles moving goods and people around far more efficiently than we do currently. Of course that doesn’t remove the physical constraints of limited road space, hence why the need for good PT as the backbone. AT needs to focus on building a good PT service, other companies will take care of the rest, because their survival depends on it.

    1. Do you really think it will be *radically* different?

      Has expedia and its ilk radically changed the way people fly, rent cars and stay in hotels? It’s made it a bit easier to compare options and get good deals, but fundamentally the activity is the same.

      1. Ok, maybe not radically in the sense of stuff getting moved from a-b by some sort of vehicle. I think more in the sense of people’s behaviour, not worrying about sorting out travel plans and that driving/owning a car will become a strange concept. Aggregate websites just destroy the profit margins of airlines and help bring down the price of air travel which in turn has dramatically increased the number of people who do travel. In the long run MaaS will bring down the overall cost of transport for people because of the move from products to a service and getting better usage out of vehicles. The trick is to avoid monopolies forming.

    2. Or you could be more cynical and say that any city which is successful in shifting to good PT and active mode networks will have fewer cars. The clever (as usual) response from the car industry to this major threat, is to position itself in the public imagination as being part of the green tech future.

      1. My thoughts on equity are providing for the poor. I would see these maxi-taxi like services as been great for people with life style blocks and whilst not helping people living in dense urban areas
        This could make equity worse not better

        1. Good point Waiukian. One of the reasons that I love the Vienna public transport system is that the yearly pass (about $720 per year) has put money back in everyone’s pocket. Research conducted by the transport operator has shown citizens spend up to five times less on transport and this includes families.

          While it is a transport system its aims are very diverse also embracing what they call climate protection.

          Vienna has a target of less than 20% of trips to be by car by 2025. In a city that is larger than Auckland they have 22% less cars.

          It is incomprehensible that AT thinks the answer is shuttles and increased park n ride. (It begs the question, what was the question?)

          It is only fair to acknowledge that AT does have extensive experience in operating shuttles having used these for staff to travel from one location to another. I am equally buoyed that if they require further information, Auckland Council are also experts operating them from the service centre in Takapuna to the city. *The service centre is 400m from a bus stop that offers a direct service to the city and terminates 20m from the Council building).

        2. Good points, Waiukuian and Taka-ite. Perhaps if AT’s strategy had been “PT isn’t working for our staff so we’ll improve it until it does” and not “PT doesn’t work so we’ll put in our own shuttles”, they’d be in a better position now to put in feeder PT instead of pseudo-PT that maintains many of the mindset problems of car dependency.

    3. It certainly is fascinating what is happening in Germany – fickle wind and solar generation causing headaches and relying on neighbouring countries transmission grids and coal plants to smooth things out.

      “German winds make Central Europe shiver: Junking nuclear power is creating problems for Germany’s neighbors.”

      “Europe’s most enthusiastic adopter of wind and solar power depends on the bloc’s most coal dependent nation to manage the network impacts of variable generation.”

      In NZ at least we have no neighbours, only ourselves to annoy, but hydro saves us being much less fickle than wind or solar (apart from dry years). I could see us needing some pumped hydro storage though if solar takes off big. Solar produces best in summer midday, but NZ peak usage is winter morning and evening. But if daytime solar can be used to pump water back uphill into our storage lakes…

      It’s why the last government did not want to subsidise solar PV or hotwater, it exacerbates the peakyness of usage, pushing greater costs onto the electricity system.

      Could EV MaaS solutions help acting as a large battery? Not if they are out driving all day and charging at night methinks.

      1. I know Belgium got burnt rather badly by subsidizing PV. Long storey short, a lot of people who could afford it adopted PV, but the scheme turned out to be more expensive than expected, so they had to increase the tax on electricity for everyone to recoup some of the cost. Oops. Note the regressive nature of this entire exercise.

        Of course, “stimulating PV” looks good on a politician’s CV, and you just have to find someone else to take the fall later. The tax is actually nicknamed after that person.

        Since you mention winter, there’s two ways to reduce how much energy we have to generate from non-renewable sources: (a) generate more with renewable sources, and (b) use less. The peak usage in winter I assume is heating, maybe insulation will be more effective than solar panels or windmills.

        1. The other thing with renewables: Location, location, location.

          Some parts of the country are better suited to wind (for example) than others, simply due to the lay of the land creating consistent wind patterns.

          Key example, though not a good place for a wind farm, Awatoto near Napier. In the morning, the wind blows from the sea 95% of the time and blows towards the sea in the afternoon. Not allowing for confirmation bias of course.

        2. Spot on with insulation being the biggest thing we can do to reduce power use. It’s one of the reasons peak demand hasn’t gone up with population growth as insulation has improved in the last ten years.

        3. For houses, it’s definitely the best thing. For society in general, breaking our addiction to stuff would be pretty effective, and of course, swapping from cars to PT and active modes. 🙂

      2. Fair point. Germany is just having growing pains because of their centralised system, but they are the pioneers. There was an amusing article of cloudy/windless days causing all the coal plants to be turned on and then sunny/windy days causing negative power prices because of too much power being fed into the grid. My point was more about their decentralisation and localisation of power supply. Combined with increasingly cheaper powerbanks, most communities could be self sufficient most of the time on renewable energy. NZ is uniquely lucky that we have a massive hydro system that we could use as pumped stored hydro. Of course that causes other water supply issues.

        Some NZ researcher did some study suggesting a huge EV fleet in NZ could recharge overnight on cheap hydro/wind power and solar power would be stored during the day.

        1. Powerbanks are getting slowly cheaper, but they are still way too expensive. Add powerbanks to the cost of solar and you are paying too much for your power. The prices for Tesla Powerwalls i have seen work out at about US 30 cents per kwh over the life of the battery. That’s just for storage, you have the cost of solar to generate the power on top.

          Hence, no one has installed powerbanks, and hence Germany does not have decentralisation and localisation of power supply. Quite the opposite, they have a massive connected grid that cannot cope. Those articles I linked mention the problems of getting wind power from the north where it is generated to the south where it is consumed.

          The problem with solar in NZ is it generates during the day, but residential users want to consume their power (and charge their EVs) during the night. That requires a large centralised grid to give your solar generation to someone else, and then supply you with grid power at night.

          And right now there is no cheap hydro power at night due to a dry summer (following a dry winter). The standby coal/gas units are huntly are running which is very unusual for this time of year.

  11. A ten times increase in rapid pt with everyone sitting would need quite an increase in capacity costing big bucks
    A train every minute on the soutern line wow

  12. “According to Vienna’s public transport operator Wiener Linien, the use of private cars costs up to 15 times more than public transport. Current car use and ownership statistics demonstrate a trend away from the car.
    Costs are major criteria for modal choice. An owner of a Viennese annual public transport pass spends around €1 per day on transport, while running a standard private car with annual distance travelled of 10 000 km costs €4 500 for the year. ”

    I could not find the reference earlier. Vienna has hit on a formula that is totally transforming the city.

    So in 2014 the uptake of yearly passes was 538,000 and now it is 730,000. (cf the Hop Card at 1 million). So there has been over 10% compound growth.

    If Auckland could find the revenue (and we can) to introduce such a yearly pass, in a few short years our city could look completely different and we would be enjoying the benefits of less congestion, pollution, greenhouse gases, and the economic benefits of collective transport.

  13. The commenters on this thread so far don’t seem to appreciate the scale of the ITF proposal.

    They examined a number of scenarios, from partial (20%) replacement of private car journeys to complete replacement of all private car and bus journeys, retaining current rail, ferry and busways. Even 20% replacement showed significant reductions in congestion and CO2 emission.

    The complete replacement scenario requires about 23,000 taxis, 23,000 16-seat and 3,000 8-seat minibuses, a total fleet not much bigger than the annual increment in private cars on Auckland roads:
    The greater population density predicted for 2046 allows greater efficiency, with fleet size increase by then of only about 10%. Using battery-operated electric rather than petrol/diesel vehicles would increase those fleet numbers by about 2% to allow for charging time.

    The ITF modelling shows passenger prices 50-60% lower than current public transport fares for shared minibus (up to 400m walk to/from the ride) and about 200% of current public transport fares for shared taxi (door-to-door) service. And that’s without local government subsidy, and without the potential savings from driverless operation, if / when autonomous vehicles become available, that would decrease those prices by 50%.

    Wait time and time taken in detour for other passengers is also modeled, and seems broadly acceptable compared with current public transport.

    A future with electric minibuses rather than noisy lumbering 50-seaters, no on-street parking, elimination of car exhaust pollution, and cheaper, equitable and sustainable public transport is certainly one I would vote for.

    1. Does the modelling take into account the congestion impacts of replacing buses with taxis? I can’t imagine Dom Rd flowing if each peak hour bus is replaced by 50 taxis.

      1. “Scenario 1” is the complete replacement of private cars and buses. The reported results from the model (compared with current state) show these changes:

        Vehicle-km  CO2 emissions  Congestion

        -51.4%      -54.4%      -49.1%

        Of course CO2 emissions would decrease much more if the shared mobility fleet were electric-powered.

        And note that a peak-hour bus is likely to be replaced by 3-4 minibuses, not 50 taxis.

        1. CO2 emissions of the existing setup would also decrease if regular cars and busses were replaced with electric busses. I don’t quite understand why electric vehicles and shared mobility often get bundled together, they are two quite different technologies to me.

          Why would it be economic to introduce battery electric technology to taxi-busses, but not to regular busses?

        2. Scenario 1 is some shared mobility utopia with 100% uptake. Should that not be compared to a mythical baseline where PT has 100% uptake?

          “Scenario 6 represents a more realistic scenario where a portion of private car users are attracted to the new shared mobility services. ”

          “Vehicle-km CO2 emissions Congestion
          -14.1 -14.7 -8.0”

          Basically, if you can get 20% of single-occupancy-drivers to carpool, then you get a 8% reduction in congestion.

          “And note that a peak-hour bus is likely to be replaced by 3-4 minibuses,”

          How about a peak hour double decker bus, as used on a number of routes? 100 seats.

          “If the user prefers a Taxi-Bus, they need to order the service 30 minutes in advance with information about the desired trip”

          So how many people are keen to have to order their commute 30 minutes in advance?

          Assuming everyone does, it seems best case is a 100 seat double decker being replaced by 6 full 16 seater taxis-busses. And a worst case of 25 half full 8 seater taxi-buses, plus some shared taxis. I’m gonna make the wild assumption here that double deckers with standing passengers offset double deckers that aren’t full. Are there actually any spare seats at peak hour since they introduced the double deckers to e.g. Mt Eden road?

          Taxi-Bus:”Minibuses with 8 and 16 seats. No standing places”
          “More specifically, the dispatcher finds the best match in Taxi-Bus service that warrants at least 50% occupancy (at least for some part of the trip) and an average distance-based occupancy rate greater than 25% of the vehicle capacity. If the user requests a Taxi-Bus but there is no designated stop within the acceptable distance and/or there are not enough users to share a bus and meet the minimum occupancy constraints, the user is upgraded to a Shared Taxi (at the price of a Taxi-Bus). “

        3. Scenario 1 is the only one examined where regular bus services are replaced by shared mobility — the question was about “replacing regular buses with taxis” and its effect on congestion. And yes, the dispatch strategy you quote is the one used in the simulation. But using that strategy, complete replacement of bus (and private car commuting) services showed a reduction in congestion of 49.1% as quoted above.

          Battery-electric buses don’t seem to have caught on, perhaps because their high capital cost makes it economically unviable to have the bus out of service for recharging at intervals of about 200km. A fleet of battery-electric minibuses that can be fully available during peak hours and have staggered availability between peaks seem more rational and effective. How full are the 100-seat double-deckers outside peak hours?

          The CO2 reduction of 54.4% quoted above was for internal combustion taxis and taxi-buses, but if they can be battery-electric then so much the better. And having had the experience of walking along Oxford Street in London, I’d much rather live alongside a fleet of electric minibuses than a fleet of diesel double-deckers.

        4. In these scenarios how much advance notice does the user have to give? I usually wander out the door at a similar time on my way to the train station, but sometimes there is congestion in the kitchen and I am a bit late so I just catch the next train.

          Would I be guaranteed a vehicle that picks me up from the same place at a time that may differ each day for the same cost? Or would I find today I am going to need to take a 4-seater which will cost more as I was running a bit late?

          If there is any variability it will not be popular. Also I am not convinced people are going to get into small vehicles with strangers and no driver.

        5. You need to request the pick up 30 minutes in advance. It picks you up from the nearest street corner. I haven’t read it in depth so not sure what waiting time they allowed if any. I’d assume you have to upgrade to a taxi or wait 30 minutes for the next one.

          Train journeys wouldn’t be affected though, the taxi-busses are feeders to the train and BRT routes.

        6. I imagine the same thing I do would apply to many people catching the bus. I can’t imagine people would want to commit to a particular service 30 mins before. If you are having some drinks with friends you tend to leave when everything winds up, not at a predetermined time.

        7. Yeah same. And without the 30 minute pre book to allow route optimisation the occupancy of the shared taxi bus is going to be much lower so you need more of them. Suddenly the 8% congestion benefit disappears.

        8. This booking-30-minutes-in-advance thing would be a big step backwards. How exactly do real people-with-everyday-complications do this, as opposed to people-with-mobile-phones? Surely we don’t have to list all the situations that mean people don’t have phones with them? I don’t even own one.

    2. “A future with electric minibuses rather than noisy lumbering 50-seaters, no on-street parking, elimination of car exhaust pollution, and cheaper, equitable and sustainable public transport is certainly one I would vote for.”

      I can see the appeal, Ross. What would be your vision of how it would be implemented? Getting buy-in is always hard, particularly if people have to give up freedoms before the benefits become apparent. And can you see any downsides from a half-cooked approach to implementation?

      1. I’d suggest starting small, in a single area. The southern isthmus is apparently poorly served by public transport, so perhaps there, with an UberPOOL-type service within that geographic area or providing transport to/from rail stations at Avondale to Mt Eden or Penrose to Remuera. The initial fixed cost would be for a dispatcher service linked to AT Hop for payment. The diseconomies of (small) scale would require initial per-ride subsidy to make it cost-competitive with current services.

        If it works and is acceptable to the public we’d find out quite quickly. If it doesn’t, there’s not much sunk cost (well, not compared with the $11 million AT has already spent on planning trams).

        The major downside that I can foresee is that the operating cost for a minimal implementation would appear high; I expect it’s not until there are economies of large scale that the costs would fall. And of course AT is locked into contracts for buses that would run regardless of their occupancy, so even if shared-ride transport burgeoned it would have excess cost until those contracts and services were rationalised.

        1. So at what stage would there be priority given to shared vehicles over private cars? And would the removal of on-street parking happen because people aren’t using private cars anymore (so not at the trial stage) or to increase road capacity?

        2. The ITF modelling shows on-street parking vanishes as private car journeys diminish because there’s nothing to park — shared-mobility taxis and taxi-buses are either on the road or in one of their multiple distributed off-street depots (which may be equipped with EV charging points). The number and location of depots and of charging points is given in the models.

          I’d suggest giving priority to shared-mobility vehicles from the outset, permitting them to use the existing bus and T2/T3 lanes whether carrying a load of passengers or not (because we need them to be able to return quickly and efficiently from a drop-off to collect more passengers).

        3. Any area already blessed with a T2/T3 lane has congestion issues. This means the numbers of people moving along the road warrant a more efficient system than car, taxi or mini van can provide. I’m sure you’d agree that our road corridors already use too much land, and some needs to be reallocated to active modes. So the question is what makes the best use of the remaining land. Intuition about smaller vehicles not being the solution is supported by Dan’s analysis above.

          I thought the shared mobility idea would be for those less dense areas where numbers don’t support a frequent bus system. Applied to the congested areas it just undermines a timetabled, easily understood network of routes.

          The worthwhile concepts here are electric vehicles and perhaps minibuses for less dense areas.

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