The SmartHubs project: time for a wrap-up!

In May 2021, Mpact and universities from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Italy launched the SmartHubs project. We aimed to study how mobility hubs could become game changers in urban transit. Now, three years later, we have reached the end of the project. Time for a wrap-up!

What did we want to do?

We wanted to understand whether co-designing hubs from the end-user’s perspective enables mobility hubs to become a game-changer toward inclusive, sustainable urban mobility and accessibility. That’s quite a mouthful. More concretely, we explored questions such as:

  • What should a mobility hub look like from the end user’s perspective?
  • How can mobility hubs accommodate the mobility needs of vulnerable users?
  • What are the most effective methods for co-creating hubs with future users, local mobility providers, and governments?

Already in the early stages of the project, the team agreed that hubs can significantly contribute to sustainable urban mobility and enhance accessibility if they:

  • offer seamless connections between public transport and shared mobility; 
  • provide digital solutions for planning, booking, and paying for multimodal travel;
  • involve end-users and stakeholders in the design of the hub.

If the aforementioned conditions are met, a hub can be considered a ‘smart’ mobility hub.

How ‘smart’ are mobility hubs today?

To measure how ‘smart’ current hubs are, we developed the SmartHubs Integration Ladder: a framework for scoring hubs regarding their levels of physical, digital, and democratic integration.

Analyzing over 150 hubs via our Open Data Platform, we found that there is still significant work to be done to transform mobility hubs into true game changers:

  • at 65% of the studied hubs, the modes of transport are not sufficiently well integrated, meaning that they are not situated adjacent to or within sight of each other, and that crossing barriers (such as roads) is necessary to switch between modes.
  • at 82% of the hubs, there is a lack of digital integration, meaning that information is dispersed across different platforms and that multiple apps are required when combining different modes of transport.
  • and at 92% of the mobility hubs we studied, stakeholders were not (sufficiently) involved in the design process, and the needs of (vulnerable) users were not taken into account.

In summary, hubs need to become smarter and significantly improve their physical, digital, and democratic integration to truly become game changers!

Presenting the insights of the SmartHubs project to our stakeholders in Brusssels.

Time for action!

To make hubs smarter, we have developed a series of easily applicable tools and deliverables to aid urban planners and policymakers engaged in hub design, among others:

We did not only develop tools and text: the SmartHubs team established Living Labs in Brussels, The Hague, Munich, and Eastern Austria. This allowed us to co-design mobility hubs customized to local needs. Working in collaboration with Mobilise-VUB, the Municipality of Anderlecht, and Brussels Mobility, Mpact played an active role in the Brussels Living Lab located at the Place du Conseil in Anderlecht, where we:

  • Tested a digital information kiosk with (vulnerable) end-users and gathered feedback to enhance the user experience.
  • Facilitated co-design workshops and conducted surveys to gain insights into the desired features for an ideal mobility hub at the Place du Conseil.
  • Showcased four models depicting potential designs for a mobility hub in Cureghem.
  • Organized a vote aboard the STIB’s Living Together Bus, allowing residents to choose their preferred mobility hub design!

The Brussels’ SmartHubs team testing the digital information kiosk with the inhabitants of Cureghem.

Now what?

While working on the project, both local and national media took notice of our activities in Brussels. Recently, insights from the SmartHubs project have been integrated into the Brussels-Capital Region’s vision note concerning the development of mobility hubs. The description of target groups, including vulnerable populations, is based on the work conducted within the SmartHubs project. Moreover, the vision note explicitly cites outputs from the SmartHubs project for the development of branding, wayfinding, participatory processes, and accompanying measures aimed at enhancing the accessibility of hubs and shared mobility. Moreover, the SmartHubs Living Lab at the Place du Conseil has been identified by the Brussels-Capital Region as a potential location for development into a mobility hub (see vision note p. 74)!

In recent years, an increasing number of public authorities have shown interest in the concept of mobility hubs and are actively implementing them. This is one of the measures they are taking to facilitate multimodality, reduce congestion and traffic jams, promote a modal shift towards sustainable travel modes, and, perhaps most importantly, reallocate space from parking to living areas. This trend is evident in cities such as Berlin, Vienna, Bremen, Munich, and Rotterdam, as well as in entire regions like Flanders. Even rural areas such as the provinces of Drenthe and Groningen have embraced the concept years ago and are developing it further. 

Stay tuned!

Mpact is proud of its contribution to the adoption of mobility hubs and in making them as accessible as possible through our projects in this area: SmartHubs, eHUBS, ShareDiMobiHub, SHARE-North Squared, and the recently initiated DREAMS project. This enables us to maintain our position as a frontrunner in the field of mobility hubs and to share our expertise with public and private partners seeking to develop smart mobility hubs.

Funded by the Brussels-Capital Region – Innoviris.