Between 2017 and 2020, Mpact was a partner in the consortium of INCLUSION, a European project under the wings of the HORIZON 2020 research program. The aim of the project revolved around addressing a number of challenges related to the accessibility of public transport in the peri-urban and rural areas. INCLUSION aimed to realize this accessibility by researching the main mobility challenges. Based on a wide catalog of case studies, a series of recommendations and mobility solutions were presented to vulnerable target groups.

Mpact’s role in this project consisted of rolling out 2 experiments with a focus on multimodality, shared mobility, and customized transport. In addition, the impact of new technology on the accessibility of various transport options was also examined. In this article, we provide a brief overview of the experiments and insights that Mpact has acquired that can be inspiring for similar projects.

1. Mobitwin pilot lab

Mpact is the founder of the Less Mobile Stations (LMS) service where it provides door-to-door transport, provided by 2900 volunteer drivers, for 31,000 less mobile elderly people in Flanders. The members can call the station to book a trip at least two days in advance of travel. Within INCLUSION, Mpact developed the MobiTwin app to offer a digital version of the LMS service which matches trip requests for door-to-door transport (in real-time) for older persons and those with mobility impairments with trip offers from volunteer drivers.

The main objectives were to:

  •  introduce new technology (real-time MobiTwin app) to elderly and disabled target groups to make leisure and social activities more accessible, provide a service that is more responsive to user needs and provide for urgent trips;
  • make the workload more bearable for the employees of the Less Mobile Stations who are currently matching requested trips by calling volunteers (with the MobiTwin app, the matching happens automatically);
  • expand the LMS to more people with mobility issues (such as young people, or people in poverty) and increase the pool of volunteer drivers.

2. Olympus Mobility app pilot lab

The Olympus Mobility app is an already existing Mobility as a Service (MaaS) app that is provided by employers to be used by their employees. The app covers the whole of the Flanders region and integrates all public transport options and bike-sharing in one app. For the INCLUSION project, Mpact worked with the Olympus app developers to simplify the interface and introduce some new
functionalities/ features to allow its use by low income and migrant job seekers. The workplaces suited to migrant workers are often located in rural areas while many job seeking migrants live in the more urban areas. The PT journeys can be relatively
long and expensive. A specific feature introduced was a personal mobility budget of €30, provided automatically through the
app to approved migrant job seekers.

The main objective for this pilot was to improve access to job
opportunities for migrants through increased awareness and use of mobility solutions by (un)employed migrants (with low incomes).

More details about the pilot lab implementation and the lessons learned can be found on the website of the INCLUSION project.

Lessons Learned and opportunities for Mpact

  • Speed of Life

Transport poverty is often more than just the financial ability of a certain group to use several transport options. Transport poverty can also be related to a lack of capacity of providers to adapt their service to the speed of life of poorly served people. Let us explain the concept of speed of life with an example: Our pilot labs focused on two groups, elderly people and migrants. From our research, we can conclude that elderly people often don’t need the speed of new technology. Real-time information doesn’t add much value to their lives. They prefer the rest that comes with a life without much speed and rush (they have been there, done that). Migrants, on the other hand, have just moved to a whole new country, with a new language and culture. They have to start a whole new life from nothing with the pressure to integrate with the new society they are living in. They are the group that needs comprehensible and accessible real-time information at the right place and at the right time.

It’s important to do research on the living conditions of your target group and meanwhile keep an eye on the diversity within this diverse group.

  • Co-creation

Poorly served people are often seen as a complicated group that is hard to reach. There is still a long way to go to make the most of the transport options also accessible for these groups. Organizations often tend to make their product more “inclusive” by communicating more about inclusion. Although this is also important, it’s not the most relevant way to meet the mobility needs of your target group.

It’s important to invest more in participation and co-creation. Don’t communicate about your target group, communicating with them!

  • Co-operation with civil society organizations

Co-creation and engagement should not only aim at engagement with the target groups but also at co-operation with the civil society organizations who are involved with these groups and who often have a broad knowledge about the mobility needs of the poorly served people.

  • Non-technological solutions and comprehensible information

The term innovative solution is often, wrongly, linked to new technologies. However, innovation can also be related to a different way of thinking or a different way of presenting an already existing solution.

  • Keep an eye on the future generations

While creating non-technological solutions, we should also keep in mind that the next generation of elderly people will have more experience with technology. There is even a chance they will prefer new technologies over other solutions. It’s important to keep the current state of the target group and the possible future state in balance.

Mpact will certainly continue the involvement in projects that focus on inclusion and rolling out pilot labs by starting up new projects with local partners. By taking these lessons learned into account, we can continue to contribute to a more inclusive mobility system.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 770115.