RAC Foundation, 16 July 2019
The Royal Automobile Club
The fourth evidence session covered both the context in which the shared mobility inquiry sits and the policy options which could be deployed to accelerate sharing and other wider initiatives which they might connect to.
Discussion pointed to a clear need to articulate why a step change in sharing of vehicles was important. The arguments about low levels of use of vehicles are important, but of themselves are not new and have not previously stimulated policy shifts. There remains an inherent convenience in the current model of ownership and use and so a reason to act differently needs clear elaboration. It was felt helpful to frame the arguments around what would need to be true to create the conditions where greater sharing will work. Whilst several participants pointed to the potential for more effective shared freight services and to look at the potential for cross overs with personal mobility this would not be addressed by the inquiry.
The discussion around the climate change imperative was seen to be central to the case for change, although that should be seen within a wider discussion of co-benefits of sharing. Of particular importance was the discussion on the need to address the size of the future vehicle fleet to deal with embodied emissions and of the potential need for greater in-use sharing to fairly rapidly accelerate carbon reduction trajectories. The argument that we need a smaller fleet is new and will need clear elaboration.
It was noted on several occasions that there are a range of attitudinal barriers which mean that a need to change should not be confused with a capacity or willingness to change. It was also pointed out however that, whilst there are lots of times and places where sharing is not happening, it is not new and it is widespread across a range of activities, workplaces, communities and households. Sharing occurs in public transport and car rental (average occupancy estimated to be 2.3) and so the recommendations from the Commission should not start from a position that sharing is somehow unusual. The discussion could focus on what would need to change for increases in sharing to be achievable. Attitudes to ownership and use are on the move and we must avoid assuming things cannot change.
There was widespread agreement that, whilst some interventions might be specific to sharing cars, reducing single occupancy car use requires a well functioning set of options including bus, rail, bike and walk. The division between “sustainable modes” and “cars” is sometimes not helpful and it would be better to set out policies which encourage low carbon mobility systems to be used in the most effective ways. This means having different policies in different places and at different times of day. There was widespread agreement that there are not many ‘universal’ policy prescriptions here beyond national taxation. The Commission’s report could usefully identify a few different use cases and that this should go beyond the stereotyped urban-rural divide. The Department for Transport’s Regulatory Review is looking at how different modes are defined and treated across the transport system and the Commission’s work can help inform the review. This may include helping define what kinds of outcomes are being sought and, therefore, what regulatory reform is aiming to achieve.
Discussion around the insurance market suggested a period of substantial change around models of use, greater connectivity and electrification as well as a shift to increasingly automated vehicles. Of particular relevance to the shared mobility inquiry is the need for clarity over responsibility for insurance. Personal insurance does not cover assets used for commercial purposes and commercial insurance is generally too onerous for individuals. Consumers might assume that the platforms provide all the cover they need but platforms do not always see this as their responsibility (see image below from Lloyd’s Sharing risks, sharing rewards: Who should bear the risk in the sharing economy? report). Research suggests that, in the UK, people are more willing to use shared assets than to put assets into the shared market currently.
In the second half of the discussion, all of the policy proposals which have been put to the Commission were outlined and then debated under the umbrella headings of infrastructure, incentives and penalties and integration.
The infrastructure discussion pointed to the need to allocate space to the most efficient modes. In city centres this would mean maintaining bus lanes. HOV lanes were seen to be difficult to deliver given the space constraints on urban networks and operationally difficult on motorways. However, there was potential in creating opportunities for sharing around longer-distance trips on the inter-urban network. This would need to be facilitated by Highways England, in conjunction with local authorities, and this has not traditionally been seen to be part of their remit. This would also act as a potential interchange point for accessing urban areas by non-car based modes. It was noted that design of such spaces would be important – both in terms of location, cost and how they worked for users (lighting, supervised spaces).
The creation of mobility hubs where different transport modes can interchange (including car clubs and shared ride hailing), and where there are EV charge points and other facilities, would seem to be an important component in a more multi-modal and shared system. Planning guidance on how to incentivise mobility hub provision alongside housing was urgently needed as well as more flexible application of Section 106 agreement funding as the best options are evolving quickly.
The discussion on incentives and penalties had, as a recurring theme, the macro environment in which the shared mobility initiatives would play out. The data shows that lower per mile driving costs reduces sharing whilst higher costs incentivises sharing. In a future where electrification and greater fuel efficiency lower the per-mile driving costs then there will be a headwind which is working against sharing. This inquiry is not about resolving the future of motoring costs but it should not shy away from identifying the contradiction which this holds and the implications for carbon trajectories.
Other options for changing the incentives for sharing could come through workplaces, with the suggestion that commuting emissions be included within Scope 2 emissions for large companies and therefore part of their environmental objectives seen as potentially helpful in incentivising greater staff liftsharing. Examples from earlier in the inquiry have seen companies achieving 40% or more of their staff engaged in liftsharing arrangements with benefits for the staff and the businesses.
Mobility credits were also discussed. Several models could be imagined but the first wave of proposition is attached to the introduction of Low Emission Zones and a scrappage incentive. Those with an older vehicle who have held it for a period of time (i.e. not just bought to scrap) would receive credits for use on a mobility as a service type platform instead of a cash incentive. This option is being pursued in Coventry. The incentives could be income linked. Such models are also being considered as part of Section 106 agreements with new housing. Reduced vehicle ownership supported by some car access could provide overall social gains.
Whilst incentives to reduce vehicle ownership were generally welcomed, it was suggested that the discussion be tied up with what is being imagined in terms of vehicle charging and vehicle to grid relationships. If vehicles are going to form an important part of the future grid balancing arrangements then the size, scale and timing of vehicle fleet utilisation will become more important. This does not mean the fleet could not be smaller, but the thinking on scale and the relationship between incentives to not own or to not use vehicles should be aligned.
The development of low emission zones was introducing a principle of polluter pays over a much wider area than currently seen in central London. This may encourage sharing as well as the adoption of cleaner vehicles. Other examples of charging regimes were described which, for example, increased fees for ride hail companies in central areas during the day and the peaks but reduced fees for later night services and in less dense areas. The current UberPool offer of £5 for a pooled trip within zones 1 and 2 could compete with the existing public transport and cycle and walking offer. How to address the areas outside the already well serviced urban cores is an important issue to be addressed by the report. It is also important to seek to avoid abstraction of journeys from the most carbon efficient modes.
Integration was seen to be an important issue. It was felt that the bringing together of public sector fleets and services as part of a shared mobility offer had great potential and could be enacted early. These trials are within the control of the public sector. Cutting down on ‘grey fleet’ miles was important and the use of commercial car clubs which were made available to communities outside of business hours was seen to be an opportunity which could work in a range of contexts (e.g. successes in Highlands and Islands).
Integration between different commercial services was still seen to be problematic. In particular, the ability to share data across platforms meant that services could be developed in isolation. There are also important questions about what data people feel willing to share and for what purposes.
Resources were identified as a barrier to progress. There simply are not enough local authority staff available and with the necessary experience to accelerate progress, yet this could be addressed. There is lots of wastage however also in the system with many things being done differently in different places for nothing other than historic reasons. Data sharing which does exist is non-standardised and so it seems unlikely that the data that is provided is being used to the best effect. Clarity over what local variations are important should be addressed in the Regulatory Review. Clarity over what data is needed and why would also advance system integration discussions.
The approach to developing innovations was also discussed. The importance of launching good products that do not lose trust in the early period and then recognising the need to build long-term communities of users both meant that the typical three year innovation trial which UK Government tends to establish may be too short. Work on how to ensure that the three year cliff edge does not kill off innovations that are on the right trajectory is necessary. It was also noted that some innovations have strong positive externalities and yet these are often not recognised. For example, car club bays can be charged out to companies at far more than a residential parking permit, despite the vehicles providing service to more than one household.
Shared mobility is many things. There are many options and so the report will need to ensure that it has a clear policy message, strong arguments for action and clarity over what can be done now and what work is required to unlock the next raft of policies and innovations.
Commission on Travel Demand Shared Mobility Inquiry: Evidence Session 4
Future of mobility regulatory review
The future of mobility – insurance considerations
- Professor Greg Marsden, ITS, University of Leeds – Commission Co-Chair
- Professor Jillian Anable, ITS, University of Leeds – Commission Co-Chair
- Jonathan Bray, Urban Transport Group – Commissioner
- Elaine Seagriff, Jacobs – Commissioner
- Jay Parmar, BVRLA
- Richard Dilks, ComoUK
- Eleanor Chappell, Department for Transport
- Jo Bacon, Department for Transport
- Tracy Savill, Connecting Places Catapult
- Ellie Davies, Committee on Climate Change
- Laurenz Gerger, Association of British Insurers
- Paulius Mackela, London Councils
- Steve Gooding – RAC Foundation
- Ivo Wengraf – RAC Foundation
- James Lancaster, Enterprise Holdings
- Malcolm Wilkinson, Highways England
- Will Walker, Department for Transport
- Juhi Verma, Department for Transport
Banner photo credit: Christopher Burns on Unsplash