Influencing citizen behaviour for more livable cities

Originally published by Transport Network on Dec. 21, 2018

The world of mobility is changing – fast – with more ways to travel than ever before. With the introduction of micro-mobility such as dockless cycles and electric scooters, and ride-hailing services on a large scale, citizens no longer solely rely on personal cars and public transit to move around a city. This poses new challenges for local authorities that have to manage multiple forms of mobility dynamically and create systems that support consumer choice, reduce congestion and ultimately result in more livable, prosperous communities.

To achieve these goals, authorities need to find ways to respond to and influence citizen behaviour, but they also need the right infrastructure and systems to accomplish it. Councils need to determine the outcomes they want and then push and pull the right levers behind the scenes so that citizens and private companies take the desired actions.

One successful example is a pilot program with Lyft in the city of San Francisco. In August, Lyft announced that it would no longer allow pick-ups on Valencia Street, one of the busiest areas in the city. Riders who request a Lyft are instead directed to a side street to meet their ride, instead of blocking the kerb on the main street during the pick-up. As a result, average vehicle speed on Valencia increased, helping to speed the flow of traffic. This small behaviour shift for each individual, amplified across the thousands of people using Lyft in this area, has created a larger positive outcome for the city. As more companies and councils implement pilot programs like this one and eventually scale them to achieve city-wide goals, there is a need for better connection and coordination through one platform.

Another way that councils can shift citizen behaviour to yield optimal results is through the dynamic pricing of the kerbside. Consumers are naturally price sensitive, so changes in price can help to incentivise positive behaviours, whether parking in a less congested area, taking public transit instead of driving, or using a dockless cycle to travel into the city centre.

At the most simplistic level, a dynamic pricing model could be used to increase the cost of parking in a city centre during congested periods. This could cause some drivers to avoid that area and instead park outside of the city and then walk or take a dockless cycle to their destination, or avoid driving all together and rely on public transport for their journey.

However, there are more nuanced ways to use price changes to achieve certain outcomes. In a neighbourhood just outside of the city, authorities may want to lower parking prices to encourage drivers to park in less congested areas where parking is more readily available. Pricing of dockless cycle and other greener modes of mobility can also be lowered in this area to incentivise micro-mobility companies to increase supply, so they are readily available for people to ride their last mile into the city centre.

Authorities can determine the overall goals and then start to break down the city into more manageable zones to determine the desired outcomes for each area. With the overall goal of creating a more livable towns and cities, influencing how consumers behave through price changes and influencing supply can help provide more equitable access to different transportation modes, decrease vehicle congestion on high-traffic city streets, and have a positive environmental impact by reducing pollution and promoting low-emission forms of mobility.

The first step to bring this idea into reality is through a better understanding of mobility trends and a way to manage all forms of transportation in one place. A mobility platform is the solution, which allows councils to connect multiple mobility services (parking enforcement, parking machines, mobile cashless parking, digital permits, micro-mobility, ride-hailing services, and more) in a centralised place. Councils then have real-time access to data to help identify trends and make informed policy decisions. The platform can also house information about rates, rules and regulations, which can then be pushed out to all of the connected services.

With a more connected system, it becomes easier for councils to make adjustments, big and small, that will influence the decisions that citizens make on a daily basis about how to travel throughout the city. When councils have more control, they can manage a complex mobility ecosystem and ultimately, provide a positive experience for their citizens and promotes economic growth in a sustainable way.

by Adam Warnes, VP UK Operations