Trainspotting with the students of the ‘five feet distance’ society
Do you remember how you moved before Covid-19? 2020 was a year in which we had to adapt our movement behavior strongly. New mobility solutions suddenly came into the spotlight, others were avoided as much as possible. How was this before the pandemic? In the last months of 2020, Mpact’s youth community, A Tribe Called Transport, did a small survey with students between the ages of 18-25. We asked them how an efficient transport system looks like for them, and how new technologies can have an impact on the vision of efficient transportation. 326 students participated in this survey.
“Oh, take a carwash, hippie.” – Cars
We couldn’t help but ask about the impact of our friend COVID-19 on the mobility behavior of the students. 49,1% claim that coronavirus has had no impact on their vision of their mobility. However, when we look at the level of confidence in several transport modes, we can see that the bike (74,2%) and the car (as a driver, 53,7%) provide the most confidence after the Covid-19 breakout. These numbers are followed by the car (as a passenger, 49,4%) and public transport (35,3%). The figures also show that the questioned students don’t have a strong opinion on shared mobility and micro-mobility (e-scooters) solutions when it comes to the feeling of confidence.
“Oh darn! All this horsepower and no room to gallop!” – Bruce Almighty
In terms of frustrations and thresholds, ‘delays’ and ‘time-loss’ achieve the highest votes. These frustrations mostly appear during trips to class or leisure time trips. During these trips, the students often don’t feel safe as a cyclist. When we ask students about the trips they need a solution for the most, these trips achieved the highest scores:
- Trips from parental home to class (44,5%)
- Trips from parental home to student accommodation (40,2%)
- Leisure time trips (27%)
“The high price tag for buses and trains that are often 30 minutes or an hour late, is not exactly motivating to use these transport options on a daily basis, as a result I often skip classes because of this” (Student)
Of course, it doesn’t always have to be about frustrations and negative things. Despite the frustrations, students feel healthier when traveling without a car (58,6%) and find cycling (50,6%) and walking (42%) soothing. And although a trip is often seen as ‘time-loss’, students claim that the transport time can be used to read a book or to prepare for a class/exam (46%).
“I don’t care if it’s a car, I don’t care if it’s a Goddamn Batmobile. I don’t want to drive with him.” – Haggard: The Movie
32,5% find public transport cheaper than taking the car. When we look at the willingness to own a vehicle, we see that 72,1% of the responding students don’t find it necessary to own a car, while 70,6% of the students find it important to have a subscription for public transport.
“I’m just here for the gasoline.” – Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
Let’s be clear about one thing: students don’t have money. However, we dared to ask them for which solutions they are willing to pay more to remove their transport frustrations. The results show us that the solutions have most likely to do with public transport. Students want better bus and train connections, especially outside the peak hours. Also, here it is noticed that shared options are not considered as possible solutions.
In addition, 38.7% are willing to pay more for a subscription that gives access to several transport options. This reminds us of the concept of ‘Mobility as a Service’. This raises the question of what added value MaaS can have for the travel behavior of students. In our previous research, 73,2% of the participating youngsters (aged between 18-30 years) claimed to never hear of MaaS. Why is it that MaaS is still not well known by students? Is it because of their relationship with technology? The results of our current research show that 53,4% feel good about new technologies, but this doesn’t take into account that there are also some worries.
Autonomous Vehicles: “We’re in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they’re going to sit. “ – David Suzuki
Another technology that has a whole new growth within the mobility world is autonomous vehicles. In our previous research, we saw that young people had more feeling with autonomous vehicles than with MaaS.
Our current research shows that 55,5 % of the students would use autonomous vehicles for long rides. The preference for long rides is followed by the preference for using autonomous vehicles during leisure time.
The concerns with new technologies are also present with autonomous vehicles, but are less prominent. 36,5% of the responding students are convinced that autonomous vehicles will bring along more safety on the road. 34% claim that the concerns on 5G and autonomous vehicles are overrated.
27,3% also indicates that human errors on the road are more dangerous than the potential technological errors that could happen with autonomous vehicles.
It is also striking that 24,2% of the responding students are not convinced that the collective use of autonomous vehicles would add more value than private use. This is remarkable as the pilot projects in Europe with autonomous vehicles are focused on collective and shared use and not on private use.
Although coronavirus has had an impact on the student’s movement behavior, we see that the vision of transport and the mobility needs have remained mainly the same. Students also tend to have less private ownership when it comes to transport options but prefer to manage transport options more flexibly and efficiently. An example of this was their preference for access to all transport options via one subscription. It is also obvious that shared mobility still has a long way to go to become a fixed transport solution in the lives of students. This preference for the private use of transport use also counts for autonomous vehicles. When it comes to mobility solutions, the road to hell doesn’t always have to be paved with digital solutions: More buses and trains running outside peak hours, better connections, and one subscription that gives access to all transport options, would do wonders.
“Students want more on demand and tailored transport solutions. Public transport is and must stay the backbone of our transportation system. The results show that the students agree with this vision, but there is still a long way to go. Public transport will stay important, also after the corona pandemic. As Mpact, we support the call for more buses and trains running outside of peak hours with shared options as additional options to ensure first mile and last mile solutions. Unfortunately, the results show that shared mobility options are not considered as possible solutions yet with students. Mpact therefore opts to make shared solutions, such as Carpool, more well known to the students. Toward a further future, we are more likely to see autonomous transport as a collective transport option, so the transition from private to collective use should be more transparent, accessible and stronger. But we’re glad to see that only a few students see owning a car as a must.” (Angelo Meuleman, Mpact vzw)