mobility app on the scooter
mobility app on the scooter

Sustainable Commutes: How Integrated MaaS Solutions Can Make a Difference

Now that the worst of the global pandemic is over, many of us have returned to commuting on a daily basis. But how often do we actively think about our commute and what negative effects our transport mode of choice has on the planet? The environmental cost and the number of greenhouse gasses caused by our commute might be higher than we think. 

According to the European Environment Agency, transport is responsible for ¼ of all European greenhouse gas emissions. Clearly, mobility is one of the biggest challenges we have to tackle if we’re serious about fighting climate change. The situation calls for a shift in both mindsets and legislation that prioritizes sustainable transport over gas- and diesel-powered personal vehicles. 

Commuting and greenhouse gas emissions

Sustainable transport can be an effective tool for reducing the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging healthier lifestyles. 52% of work-related trips in Europe are taken in cars. Climate Neutral Group research shows that traveling by car is the most environmentally damaging way to get to work every day and produces 91% of all commuting emissions, totaling 2.4 MtCO2. 

This problem can only be solved through reducing our emissions. This is when the mobility services come in handy to assist in encouraging a greener lifestyle for the better of our environment. 

Replacing car trips with bike rides, walks or a combination of more active mobility modes is better for one’s health as well. For example, a generation ago, 70% of British children used to get to school by walking or biking, which made them more mentally alert and less overweight. Today, the vast majority of kids in Britain are driven to school each day by their parents. 

 Replacing car trips can reduce emissions

10 of New York City’s Central Parks would have to grow for a year to absorb the emissions created in a single day of commuting by car in Switzerland. Utilizing mobility services helps to create a sustainable commuting lifestyle that doesn’t harm the environment. For instance, switching from a car to public transport or micromobility would save approximately 1667 MtCO2 for commuters in Switzerland.  

In addition to being sustainable, Mobility-as-a-Service systems offer numerous other benefits, such as a variety of transport modes to choose from and affordable options that are available to everyone. MaaS is also a data-based solution, meaning it can be improved and optimized over time and allow us to measure its effectiveness; this provides us with an opportunity to build even better systems in the future. 

The shift to sustainable mobility is possible

Changing to sustainable mobility alternatives brings the EU closer to accomplishing the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Deploying MaaS apps and platforms can help us get on the right track to creating more environmentally friendly cities and reducing the number of privately owned cars on the streets. 

At Trafi, we’re working towards making positive change happen. Our product for businesses incorporates shared, smart and low-emission transportation options and encourages users to consider sustainable mobility solutions for their daily commute. Promoting greener mobility is a priority that everyone should be taking into consideration as we move towards an emissions-free and healthier future for our planet. 

Climate Action and Net-Zero Ambition: Best Practices for SMEs?

This is a joint publication by Cathleen Berger (Climatiq), Chris Hartgerink (Liberate Science), Indré Blauzdžiūnaitė (Trafi), Vineeta Greenwood (Wholegrain Digital).

We all know that climate action is urgent. We also know that the private sector is responsible for the lion’s share of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is why we feel the need to do our part: assume responsibility, reduce and mitigate our impact, and accelerate global climate action.

Yet, we find ourselves at a conundrum. Though part of the private sector, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are neither required nor necessarily supported in their sustainability journeys.

Achieving Net Zero: Challenges for SMEs

There are three primary challenges faced by SMEs:

  • Lack of scope 3 guidance. Understanding an organisation’s environmental impact generally requires a solid assessment of the amount and the activities that generate emissions. There are direct and indirect emissions (scope 1 and 2) as well as emissions that are accumulated across an organisation’s supply chain (scope 3). Scope 1 and 2 are comparatively straightforward to calculate. However, between 80-99% of overall organisational emissions tend to fall within scope 3. As of now, SMEs are not required to account for their scope 3 emissions — which unfortunately translates into a lack of guidance for how to do so, even voluntarily.
  • Lack of clarity and methodologies for digital products. There is significant growth and investments to boost digitisation of products and services, both public and private. To little surprise, the emissions related to the tech and startup sector are noticeably rising. The biggest share of tech-related emissions come from data storage and operations as well as the use of those digital products by end users. Scope 3 Standard of the GHG protocol, the main guideline for scope 3 calculations, does not specify methodologies for digital activities. The situation gets even more complex when it comes to data collection – today, 60% of cloud-based operations are managed by three leading service providers and none of them are openly sharing emissions from networking, memory, compute, data storage, or the lifecycle emissions of servers. 
  • Lack of net-zero targets applicable to SMEs. Science Based Targets (SBTs), the initiative helping companies to set the goals for carbon reduction, launched a simplified guideline for SMEs in 2020. Ironically enough, the simplification merely cuts away the main “polluter”  — scope 3 emissions. In other words, 90% of the footprint of digital SMEs don’t have to be reduced, thus there’s no way for the majority of startups to become net-zero. 

One thing should be clear: To meet global targets of staying within the 1.5°C global warming threshold, we need everyone. Including small and medium enterprises.

Best Practices for SME: 4 Examples for Climate Action

As we are continuing to explore the space of scope 3 calculations and reduction, we are stepping up and assuming responsibility as stewards in SMEs. We got together to share best practices, learn from each other, and collaborate to drive change. Practical steps may differ but the direction is very much the same. With this, we hope to pave a way for other SMEs as well.

To illustrate this is how we tackle these challenges in our respective organisations:

  • Climatiq: Est. 2021 | Employees: 10 | Headquarter: Berlin, Germany

Climatiq has applied to become a certified B Corporation. In doing so, we are committed to report on all 3 scopes of our emissions publicly and continuously (building on our own science-based backend solution for carbon intelligence). While as an SME we may not get net-zero certified, we will continuously monitor and apply best practices for reduction. 

  • Liberate Science: Est. 2019 | Employees: 2 | Headquarter: Berlin, Germany

    Despite only a handful of people in our organization, we estimated our emissions for our first operating year within a matter of hours, with the help of a climate impact expert. The knowhow and thinking about sustainability is business-efficient, once it is available. We need to do more to make that knowledge available to SMEs.
  • Trafi:  Est. 2014 | Employees: 100 | Headquarter: Vilnius, Lithuania

    Besides calculating our digital footprint and removing the emissions that cannot be reduced, Trafi scales the transparency and detail on companies’ scope 3 emissions, with the focus on commuting. We help organisations to view, track and report the impact of their employees’ travel and, most importantly, incentivize sustainable commuting. 
  • Wholegrain Digital. Est: 2007 | Employees: 20 | Location: London, UK

    Wholegrain Digital is a certified B Corp, 1% for the planet member, has a Green Handshake policy and aims to be one of the UK’s most sustainable businesses. We estimate our scope 3 emissions and reduce them through innovative initiatives and we offset our CO2 emissions as well. We share our impact and ethics reports. Beyond Scope 3, we also estimate, reduce and offset our client’s digital emissions through championing the creation of low carbon web products. Our Website Carbon calculator project is a part of our knowledge sharing practice that helps others to also measure and reduce their own digital carbon footprint.

Join us and spread the word

The EU Taxonomy will only start applying to SMEs by 2025, though mandatory corporate sustainability reporting currently remains the sole responsibility of larger companies. We want to encourage more SMEs and digital companies to start embarking on this journey now and to hear from those who already did. By 2025, the climate clock will only have four years left. Time’s ticking.

Are you a small or medium sized company committed to climate action? We’d love to hear from you! We welcome additional signatories and invite you to share your experiences with us through this form

We will follow up with all of you and plan to convene a few best practice sharing sessions in the coming months.

We’re carbon neutral

We’ve joined the global movement to fight climate change and become carbon neutral: As of today, we have officially achieved climate neutrality!

Today, only large corporations are required to report on their emissions and overarching sustainability strategy. But as a digital SaaS company, we also have an important role to play – our data storage and IT operations also consume energy. If more digital SMEs were to report on their emissions, it would encourage action across the industry.

Martynas Gudonavičius, CEO of Trafi

Our journey to becoming carbon neutral has followed three steps: calculation, reduction and offsetting. 

Calculating our footprint was done in collaboration with South Pole, a leading global climate solutions provider. South Pole helped calculate our footprint across all aspects of the business, including indirect emissions that come from our users.

We emitted a total of 615 tons of CO2 in 2020, which is the equivalent of what approximately 134 passenger vehicles emit annually.

The calculations helped to identify which business areas across our four offices in Vilnius, Berlin, London and Paris were causing the most pollution and to raise goals for reduction. 

The planet, people and profit are at the heart of our sustainability strategy, and we actively make holistic improvements based on these three P’s, or ESGs, as they’re known in the sustainability sector. 

To focus on the planet, we switched to remote-first operations a year ago. Our HQ in Vilnius is now used only for in-person meetings when necessary, which reduces the environmental impact caused by daily operations and employee commutes. We also opened a new sustainability department to lead the strategy, reach ESG targets and engage in global sustainability initiatives. 

We also take the health of our employees seriously. We prove it by prioritizing the well-being and mental health of our people, promoting diversity, and encouraging participation in social volunteering projects for local NGOs. We’ve also signed a partnership with Mindletic, a wellbeing program for employees.

To offset our remaining emissions, we partnered with Patch, a platform designed to help companies reduce their footprint, to create a unique, diverse portfolio of carbon investment and credits.

100% of our emissions have been offset with credits from certified projects supporting reforestation, forestry and access to water supply. Aside from traditional projects, we’re also investing in innovative carbon removal initiatives. We recently invested in a pioneering kelp ocean carbon project that harnesses the power of the ocean to capture and sequester CO2 and sink it deep into the ocean.

Working hand in hand with sustainability pioneers like Patch will help pave a new road for green tech. We’re already using Patch’s API to offset our operational footprint, and we’ll be able to calculate the emissions of each trip and allow our clients to offset them in real-time in the near future.

Martynas, CEO of Trafi

Additionally, we’re expanding our product portfolio to focus on combatting emissions in the private sector. With our new company mobility budget tool – basically, a future-oriented alternative to the company car – we want to tackle sustainable mobility at the often-overlooked corporate level. Companies of all sizes can now use our corporate mobility platform to address emissions caused by commutes, track their environmental impact, and gain valuable insights that will allow them to set sustainability goals more effectively.

We’re proud to officially be carbon neutral, and we’ll continue to find ways to reduce our environmental impact in the coming months!

For more information about our sustainability strategy, check out our new webpage here.


Trafi Talks with Daniel Reck

Daniel Reck is a researcher at ETH Zurich. His work aims to advance our understanding of emerging transport modes (shared e-scooters and e-bikes, carsharing and ridehailing) and their integration with public transport (Mobility-as-a-Service, mobility hubs) to inform policymaking that creates more efficient, sustainable and equitable cities.

As part of our Trafi Talks series, we sat down with Daniel to talk about three topics he’s explored at length throughout his career (and taken from the publication he co-authored, MaaS Bundle Design):

  • MaaS bundle design
  • Behavioral change and MaaS adoption
  • Sustainable mobility 

Let’s jump right into it!

What are the key components of a successful mobility bundle design?

D: That depends on how you define success. Success could mean a behavioral shift towards more sustainable transport modes, but it could also mean commercial success. Identifying what success means in your organization and then following a goal-oriented bundle design process is probably the most crucial part of mobility bundle design. In my experience, a very simple truth holds for mobility bundle design: input is strongly related to output. For example, if you include lots of free e-scooter minutes in our bundle, you will incentivize lots of e-scooter usage. In turn, if you include subsidized public transport season tickets in your bundle, you will incentivize public transport use. Simplicity is also key to attracting and retaining customers.

A very simple truth holds for mobility bundle design: input is strongly related to output.

In our recent paper on MaaS bundle design, we synthesize 10 design dimensions for mobility bundles to assist researchers and practitioners in designing future trials and products. These design dimensions include, for example, which transport modes to include, which metrics to employ to measure consumption and budgets, the type and granularity of discounts, and further details such as subscription cycle lengths and roll-over options. We describe each design dimension in detail with practical examples from the case studies we have worked on, and further review the scope and gaps in the academic literature on the topic.

Another key influencer for successful MaaS adoption is very human: willingness to pay. How can we encourage users to do just that?

D: This is simple: if MaaS provides added value to users, willingness to pay will follow. How can MaaS provide added value? First, simplify their lives: one app for intermodal trip planning, booking and payment, instead of many. The Trafi-powered implementations in Switzerland (Yumuv) and Berlin (Jelbi) are great examples here: users can plan, book and pay for a trip with several different modes all in one app.

Second, financial incentives: MaaS bundles can offer discounts. One example are the Yumuv bundles in Switzerland. There, bundle users pay no unlocking fee for shared mobility services. This is valuable and users are likely to be willing to pay for it. Maximizing willingness to pay is complex, though, as demand for mobility is highly individual. Our studies in Switzerland have shown that including additional services can sometimes even decrease willingness to pay if users see no added value but have the feeling that they pay for it.

In general, who should be encouraging a mental and behavioral shift towards shared mobility, and how should they be doing it?

D: First, let’s clarify that shared mobility is not always good, and shouldn’t be a goal in itself. Research has shown that life-cycle CO2 emissions of shared micromobility services, for example, are worse than those of personal e-scooters and e-bikes due to lower lifetime expectancies and operational services (rebalancing, recharging).

“Efficient public transport systems will always be the backbone of sustainable urban transport.

I think a lot of people want to travel more sustainably, they just need the right tools to do so. Intermodal MaaS apps can be of great use here. Reliable, efficient public transport systems will always be the backbone of sustainable urban transport. However, we also need more awareness of the true costs of private car rides. In Switzerland, for example, TCS (Touring Club Suisse) calculated that fuel costs only make up 15% of the total costs per kilometer of private car rides. When comparing the car with other transport modes, many just consider fuel costs. This is obviously a skewed comparison that calls for correction.

Finally, employers have an important role to play. In Germany, for example, many employers provide their employees with company cars. What if, for example, they would provide their employees with MaaS bundles that include public transport season tickets instead?

Imagine a city with a perfectly functional mobility ecosystem. Walk us through this vision of perfection. 

D: In my view, five defining characteristics of functional mobility ecosystems are accessibility, efficiency, equity, sustainability and safety.

First, transport is about providing accessibility. In a perfectly functional mobility ecosystem, accessibility should be high, and it should be high not only for some, but for all.

Second, efficiency relates to how much space an average person needs to move from A to B, and how much transport is required overall. In this aspect, many cities, and cars in cities, are terribly inefficient. Micromobility and public transport are already much better. Increasing efficiency means decreasing the space required for transport. In today’s cities (and much more so in future cities), we are running out of space so we need to increase their efficiency. One way to do so in transport is reducing the number of cars. Did you know that in some cities, 20-30% of the total space is occupied by streets and parking spots?

We need to ensure that those with few alternatives don’t get left behind.

Third, equity in transport relates to situations when certain social groups benefit more from public investments than others. For example, higher income groups travel more regularly in airplanes and long-distance trains and thus over-proportionately benefit from investments in airports and long-distance train networks. With so many new mobility services entering our cities these days (e.g., shared e-scooters and bikes, carsharing and ridesourcing), we need to ensure that those with few alternatives also benefit from increasing accessibility and don’t get left behind.

Fourth, sustainability relates to total life-cycle emissions of the mobility ecosystem, which we should naturally aim to reduce. This includes CO2 emissions but also other emissions such as noise. And last but not least, safety is another very important characteristic of functional mobility ecosystems.

For further reading, you can find Daniel Reck’s papers on Mobility-as-a-Service and shared mobility on his personal website:

To find out more about how Trafi’s services are encouraging the shift to MaaS, check out our website or get in touch.

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Trafi Talks with Edeltraud Guenther: Building Sustainable Systems

At Trafi, we often like to talk about how MaaS systems can only be genuinely sustainable when they take environmental, social and governmental factors into consideration. We need to create MaaS systems that are balanced and serve a variety of needs, rather than simply being expensive and innovative solutions that are more inspiring to investors than to the actual end users who interact with them. 

Dr. Edeltraud Günther is a German economist and the director of the United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES). Her research focuses on ecological risk management and the high cost of systems that fail to take ecological and social concerns seriously. Since Dr. Günther is an expert on the subject of environmental economics, we were happy to get her opinion on how to build sustainable mobility systems that are both economically and ecologically viable.

Trafi: MaaS concepts are referred to as the key to sustainable mobility, but we have a long way to go until mobility-as-a-service concepts are truly sustainable. What kind of issues should be addressed by the MaaS industry to ensure we’re making the right steps towards creating a sustainable future?

Edeltraud: First of all, we should be thinking in services, not in products. A different management and organisational culture across the transport sector needs to be cultivated. MaaS essentially builds upon the idea that the industry boundaries between individual and public mobility should become blurred. The automotive industry and public transport will have to work closely with governments to turn MaaS into a sustainable business model innovation, based on decreasing current resource intensity of transport systems and infrastructures.

“MaaS essentially builds upon the idea that the industry boundaries between individual and public mobility should become blurred.”

Second of all, there should be informed decision-making. Proper data governance is needed. A lot of real-time data is available nowadays in the transport sector and by various industry branches, but free, open platform data sharing is not there yet, which makes interoperability and proper steering by the public sector highly difficult.

In providing a supportive regulatory framework, governments will have to create a level playing field for all transport operators and mobility service providers. This would be in line with the UN SDGs 11, 12, and 13. Calculating the true costs of transportation would entail the internalisation of all external costs and effects of various transport means. If this is not realised, private MaaS initiatives and the industry will have difficulties in achieving the mobility behaviour shift that is needed.

MaaS model implementation helps to achieve SDGs 11, 12 and 13.

T: For Trafi, cities play an essential role in implementing and orchestrating MaaS. The reason is simple – in order to change our current reliance on car-centricity, citizens need a better alternative. In this case, “better” means holistic and accessible, without leaving anyone behind. What are your thoughts about the role of a city in leading the urban mobility revolutions? 

E: There are three parts to this. 

  1. Providing infrastructure: City governments and municipalities are key in implementing sustainable transport and enhancing urban mobility options available to their citizens.
  2. Initiating a participatory process: If they want to make their transport systems and infrastructures more accessible, this can only be done in close consultation and participation with citizens.
  3. Setting standards: Cities should take a leading role and have to set standards for MaaS operators, enabling participation of citizens and considering the needs of individual citizens and diverse groups of society.
Involving citizens in decision-making is the key to innovation. The “Superblocks” project in Barcelona is a successful example of this.

T: One of the most-discussed topics in mobility is how to make MaaS profitable. This opens up a much broader discussion: what does it mean to be financially sustainable in the context of mobility?

E: This would mean calculating the true costs of transportation and applying the logic of least cost planning, including all steps of the life cycle and all actors.

Trafi’s note: Least-cost planning methodology is a relatively new type of logic employed by economists to make rational decisions about mobility and transport infrastructure. Based on the well-established concept of cost-benefit analysis, least-cost planning emphasizes that all of the costs that occur when planning and building new infrastructure – including time costs, environmental costs and social costs – should be on equal footing with financial costs. Part of this methodology includes considering every step of the life cycle.

T: Who ensures that competition between mobility players remains fair? 

E: Supranational organisations, states, and cities have to ensure fair competition.

In Europe, well-established public transport networks are seen as a public service that should be affordable to all citizens.

T: Is it the task of governments or companies to determine the social affordability of MaaS? 

E: Public transport is seen – at least in Europe – as a ‘public service’ to be provided by the government, ensuring that it is also affordable to citizens. If MaaS becomes part of future public transport systems (as highly digitised public transport or “public transport 2.0”), then social affordability would apply to MaaS as well.

T: Why is it important to think about mobility from a resource efficiency perspective? Which SDGs should be targeted by the urban mobility transformation, and what efforts should be increased in order to achieve them? 

E: The current transport system is highly resource-intense, as the trend towards mass-motorisation and a rising number of motorised vehicles reflects. There is a high potential for sustainability thinking to change usage and consumption patterns, as reflected in SDG Goal 12 (sustainable production and consumption). However, other SDGs like 11 and 13 (sustainable cities and climate action) as well as 9 (innovation and job creation or economic growth) are also important and highlight the underlying importance of the Resource Nexus.

Occupancy rate in transport vehicles should increase to create truly equitable mobility. (Credit: Fabian Todorovic)

In the end, there are inter-goal tradeoffs between 9 and 11 and 12 and 13. MaaS as a business model innovation has the potential to solve these trade-offs. The Resource Nexus as advocated by UNU-FLORES provides a perspective for maximising the synergies and minimising the tradeoffs between the goals.

Great potential lies in increasing the occupancy rate of transport vehicles. This is where the potential with shared and pooled mobility lies. The concept of MaaS, which brings together shared/pooled mobility with established public transport, tackles exactly this.

Curious to know more about the future of sustainable mobility and how Trafi is helping to shape it? Read more on our blog or contact us for more information.

Trafi Talks with Andreas Knie: Changing the Mobility Narrative

For almost a decade, cars were seen as symbols of personal freedom and wealth. Thanks to powerful advertising campaigns from the automotive industry, owning a car quickly shifted from being something only attainable to the upper class to the norm in personal transportation. Affecting more than just middle class and wealthy individuals, national economies even became dependent on the automobile industry.

Today, privately owned cars are a global problem. The environmental crisis and a rapidly growing urban population are forcing us to rethink our car-centric narrative. In order to transform our approach to mobility, governmental action is as important as individual awareness.

Andreas Knie, a political scientist at the Berlin Science Center for Social Research, sat down with us to talk about shifting attitudes towards mobility – something we believe is essential to transforming our society.

A profile picture of professor Andreas Knie on a white background

Professor Knie, we’re here to talk about “shifting the mobility narrative”. What does that mean?

A new mobility narrative embraces the idea of a “good life”. That essentially means a life spent travelling less frequently and over shorter distances. We can build and redevelop our cities and suburban communities to create the prerequisites for that. Shifting the narrative also means refocusing the future of mobility on the development of a multi-faceted public transportation landscape. Private automobiles are simply not the technology we’ll need to support the ‘good life’ of the future.

How has sustainable urban mobility been achieved in this future scenario?

A future mobility scenario will include multiple options: all cars are shared cars to be combined with PT, cycling, walking and other mobility modes. This is not a scenario of scarcity, but one of abundance and a higher quality of life on a small planet. In cities, motorized transport will be slower, with 30 km/h being the standard speed. This will help us create multifunctional streets and city spaces. We will build our lives and cities more around bikes and public transport than around cars.

Which institutional changes have to be made to shift us towards sustainable mobility?

Two of the most important changes are actively dismantling car-centered infrastructure and increasing regulation. That includes both drastically reducing the amount of parking spots in cities and transforming roads for cars into ones used by cyclists, public transportation and micromobility. It also means making other transport modes faster while making cars slower. Most importantly, regulation should favor shared vehicles over private vehicles.

Ghent’s city center is car-free thanks to regulation.

How can the private sector collaborate with policy makers to encourage new regulation?

Regulating micromobility is necessary, but private car traffic needs to be regulated first. Private players should be more actively engaged in reducing the number of cars on the streets in cities. For example, shared mobility service providers should work together with municipalities to expand their service area beyond the city core.

Many mobility cultures are already changing.

Close cooperation between these MSPs is necessary to create and enhance a seamless user experience. Private sector players can also actively embrace broader sustainability goals by improving the sustainability of their vehicles (e.g., in the case of e-scooters). 

What about digital infrastructure – how can we ensure that the digital realm is inclusive and fair to all?

We need new regulation for the digital realm. It’s the new basic infrastructure of our world, and everybody needs to have equal access. Power should not, as it is currently, be concentrated in the hand of a few companies. Data monopolies need to be broken – public data trusts could be an option for the future. Private players should actively innovate towards minimizing the data footprint of individual users.

How can cities and companies help change behavior and attitudes towards mobility?

In many ways, the spread of digital technologies is already leading to a change in behavior. To steer these trends in the direction of sustainability, regulatory and political action is key. When space is redirected away from cars, individual behavior, as well as social norms relating to mobility, may change more quickly than expected. Many mobility cultures are already changing, but these changes are not yet obvious, as regulatory and spatial frameworks are still designed for cars. The key challenge is to increase public acceptability of policy measures that redistribute public space. Mobility service providers can play a key role in this: By increasing the availability of alternatives, policy measures to reduce car traffic seem more acceptable to users.

Eight e-scooter companies launched the Micro-Mobility for Europe (MMfE) coalition in March 2021.

What three words or phrases best describe sustainable mobility to you?

Cities without private cars; public transport reinvented; more mobility with fewer trips.

Curious to know more? Check out our newsroom for more sustainable mobility content or get in touch.

Pink profile of a person crossing street against a teal background
Pink profile of a person crossing street against a teal background

Dissecting Mobility’s Impact: The Environment

To understand mobility’s sustainable development, experts look to the UN’s ESG framework, which examines sustainable impact based on its relationship to environmental, social and governmental factors. Mobility’s impact on the environment is often dissected first, as its effects are very palpable. We’re all faced with the consequences of a changing climate on a daily basis – when we’re walking our dog on a tiny strip of a sidewalk next to a loud, busy street, when we go for a jog to get some “fresh air” and end up having to brush a thick layer of dust off our Nikes afterwards, or even when we reluctantly press play on the third podcast in a row while stuck in an hour-long traffic jam. These occurrences might still be mere annoyances to most of us, but when you put the real environmental impact of mobility in numbers, the results are shocking. 

Mobility‘s Footprint

Transport is accountable for over 16% of the world’s GHG and almost a quarter of Europe’s emissions. In 2019, transport in Europe emitted 1103 megatons of CO2. To offset that, we need to grow 165 million trees for ten years. 

CO2-polluted air causes tremendous health issues. In Europe alone, 1 out of 8 deaths are caused by polluted air. (Poor air quality causes strokes, lung cancer, asthma and heart disease.) A total of 630,000 premature deaths – almost the entire population of Las Vegas – were attributable to environmental factors in Europe in 2012, and if you’ve ever been to the streets of Delhi, Jakarta or Mexico City, you can imagine how their pollution problems dwarf those in Europe.

Breathing in isn’t the only way that our bodies can be harmed by pollution. Noise distractions cause another sizable chunk of our health issues. Noise is responsible for 72,000 hospital admissions and 16,600 premature deaths every year in Europe alone. Urbanites may think they’re used to high noise levels, but sometimes visualizing the damage done to our ears can help put it into perspective: This real-time noise map of Berlin points out the different noise levels across the city. Noise doesn’t only affect humans, either – all types of animals suffer from the effects of man-made noise. LIDO, the Listen to the Deep Ocean Environment project, is currently analyzing the effects of underwater noise on marine fauna. 

The negative effects of polluted air, emissions and noise are the most well-established examples of mobility’s impact on the environment. After all, they’re exactly the issues the industry is trying to help solve by providing viable alternatives to private cars. 

E-Cars to the Rescue?

One such alternative – and one frequently promoted as being sustainable – is making the switch from gas-powered to battery-powered vehicles. It’s true that EVs do check a lot of the sustainable mobility boxes: they’re cleaner, quieter and generally more eco-friendly than traditional cars. However, the reality is that e-cars and EVs in general have their own sustainability issues to deal with. For example: 

  • Pollution isn’t only caused by engines: dust from car breaks is as harmful to our immune system as diesel fumes.  
  • Waste management is a real problem: batteries pose a serious challenge to the world’s (ill-equipped) recycling infrastructure. The one million EVs sold around the world in 2017 will eventually create 250,000 tons of battery pack waste.
  • Manufacturing batteries is expensive: producing and transporting lithium-ion batteries is costly and often inefficient to boot.
  • Charging infrastructure is lacking: if we expect e-powered cars to truly replace all the gas-powered cars on the roads, charging station infrastructure will have to expand massively.

So while electric vehicles are definitely laying the groundwork for getting us closer to a fossil-free future on a global scale, they don’t necessarily tackle other environmental issues (and in some cases, they might even worsen them). Although e-cars don’t run on expendable resources, purchasing and driving a privately owned e-car doesn’t help to reduce the number of cars on the streets, which is still the ultimate goal of Mobility-as-a-Service. E-cars may simply not reduce mobility’s impact on the environment as much as they should.

Understanding the Big Picture

The “E” in ESGs often gets the most attention when discussing reducing urban car-centricity. After all, the climate crisis is an acute issue plaguing our modern world. The mobility industry has a huge role to play in either mitigating or unwittingly aggravating climate concerns. Nevertheless, by unintentionally ignoring social and governmental factors, we’re forgetting the big picture. 

As mobility is concerned with the movement of people, rather than goods, it’s distinctly different from the transportation industry. Mobility is innately social. And where there are people, there is also governance: creating sustainable MaaS solutions that work for the benefit of everyone couldn’t be remotely viable without governmental policy and involvement. All three criteria of the ESG framework are clearly intertwined with each other.

Tune in to our blog and social channels in the next couple of weeks as we explore the “S” and “G” of the ESGs in detail! Next time, we’ll be discussing the social factor. Because it’s people, after all, who are at the heart of every successful MaaS network.

Learn more about how Trafi is empowering cities with MaaS.

Man walking a bike across a crosswalk
Man walking a bike across a crosswalk

The Rise of the Bike: How Bicycles are Winning Relevance in Mobility Systems

Arguably the most sustainable transport option available today – and not just because of the obvious fact that they don’t emit harmful pollutants – bicycles are relatively cheap to produce, take up minimal space in overcrowded cities, and even help their riders maintain an active lifestyle.

Bicycles, the underdogs of mobility, were sustainable before it was cool to be sustainable, and now that the world has begun to shift away from personal car usage and towards a multimodal, shared future, bikes are poised to become an integral component of any comprehensive MaaS system.

Why are bicycles here to stay?

  • Cities are incentivizing bike riding
  • Innovative business models are reinventing cycling
  • Bicycles complement a larger MaaS system

Cities and governments are encouraging bike riding

Since the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, bicycle usage has jumped significantly across Europe. In Germany, bicycle stores sold three times as many bikes in March and April compared to 2019, causing shortages throughout the country. (1) Authorities in Berlin responded quickly to this spike in consumer demand by building 27 kilometers of pop-up bike lanes, made possible by reduced automobile traffic. (2) In London, a city infamous for both its congestion issues and its willingness to tackle those problems, officials went even further by building 30 kilometers of permanent bike lanes and blocking some streets off to automobile traffic entirely. (3) While the changes implemented in Berlin and numerous other cities have been met with backlash, they were applauded by cyclists and experts who welcomed their swiftness and saw them as a win for sustainable mobility development (4).

The encouragement of bike riding isn’t just limited to infrastructure investments: back in April, the French government offered a bike repair subsidy to every citizen as a way of providing a socially distant alternative to subways and buses deemed unsafe. Considering 60% of journeys taken in France before the pandemic were less than five kilometers long, bicycles are a particularly well-suited option for French travelers (and are ripe for combining with other mobility types). (5) At the end of 2020, England also proposed an e-bike subsidy scheme for Q1 2021 that is set to reduce the costs of purchasing a new e-bike by up to 30%. (6)

New innovations are inspiring the next generation of cyclists

Even before the spread of the coronavirus, bicycles were beginning to undergo an image makeover. E-bikes – still a novel concept only a few years ago – saw sales skyrocket at the beginning of Europe’s lockdowns. In March, one in four Europeans were either already in possession of an e-bike or were interested in buying one in the coming year. (7) They made good on their promise, too: VanMoof, one of Europe’s trendiest e-bike brands, saw an increase of sales in all of their main markets compared to the same time period in 2019, including Germany (+226%), the UK (+184%), Holland (+140%), the US (+138%), and France (+92%). (8)

Of course, many consumers are understandably wary of spending over 1000€ on their own personal e-bike. But even the 2 out of 5 Europeans who cite the high price of personal e-bikes as a barrier to entry can make use of multiple dockless and free-floating bike sharing schemes that are sprouting up across Europe, Asia and the United States. (9) It’s not just the electrification and shareability of bikes that have made them seem more exciting recently, either: subscription-based bike rentals, in which riders pay a monthly fee in exchange for a personal bicycle and free maintenance, have already proven very successful. In Berlin, e-bike subscription company Dance raised 15€ million after only three months of testing their invite-only pilot project. (10) If the numbers are any indication, bikes are officially growing in popularity.

Bicycles are flexible additions to a comprehensive mobility system

Consumer preferences have changed since bicycles began to be taken seriously as commuting options in the early 1900s. Today, consumers are more likely to combine mobility types than ever before; as with many shared mobility options, bikes aren’t seen as standalone solutions, but as an additional choice consumers now have when planning their travel journey.

That makes the timing of Trafi’s brand-new bike routing technology all the more relevant. Cyclists using the Trafi white label app can benefit from exact arrival times, easily combine their bike trips with public transport options, and even compare a potential bike route with, say, a route taken on a kick-scooter or bus. This allows for an extremely convenient travel experience.

Bicycles, overlooked no more, are on the rise. Increased consumer demand, spurred by the coronavirus pandemic and boosted by government investments, is a testament to bicycles’ newfound popularity. By integrating bicycles into holistic, multimodal MaaS networks, cities and companies can do their part in ensuring their longevity. But considering how practical, sustainable and surprisingly innovative bikes are, we’re confident that they’re here to stay awhile.

To read more about Trafi bike routing, read our announcement here or contact us.

Introducing: The Mobility Impact Series

We’re very excited to announce the launch of our Mobility Impact Series! 

The words “sustainability” and “mobility” are often mentioned in the same breath. As an industry, mobility is defined by innovations that claim to be based on the common goal of creating a more sustainable and healthier future for our cities and our planet.

But these “green” future visions often leave watchers of the mobility space scratching their heads: what does the term sustainable mobility really mean, anyway?

At Trafi, we’ve been helping cities build and enhance their mobility systems for over 10 years. We’re often approached about the sustainable impact of shared mobility, which is why we’ve decided to delve deeper into the topic with our new Mobility Impact Series.

In upcoming articles, we’ll be discussing “car-topias”, pedestrian-friendly cities, travel patterns and a variety of other subjects. Stay tuned to our LinkedIn channel and check our blog regularly for updates.

Without further ado, read on to learn more the roots of car-centric societies – and why the mobility landscape today is in need of an update.

We’re suffering from an acute car problem

If anyone still has doubts about cars being a hurdle on the road to sustainable mobility, there are numerous shocking statistics in circulation that could change their mind, as seen below.

There are plenty more:

  • There are already 1.4 billion automobiles on the planet today, and forecasts suggest this number will climb to 2 billion in 2030.
  • Road accidents cause 1.3 million deaths and 50 million serious injuries per year – more than the entire population of Spain.  
  • Road transport accounts for 11.9% of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more than the emissions caused by airplanes and buildings combined. 
  • The world’s parking lots take up a total space of 161 billion square meters, which is equivalent to the size of Beijing. 

These numbers aren’t new – scientists, activists and some industry players mention them frequently. However, sustainable mobility is rarely considered in its historical context. Seven decades ago, car manufacturers were selling the cutting-edge dream of a convenient, liberating and comfortable life, finally available to the middle classes for the reasonable price of one automobile; today, digital mobility innovators are disrupting old mobility habits with promises of greener, safer, friendlier cities. 

In essence, the core of their sales strategies are very similar: new, exciting mobility solutions have the power to transform our lives for the better. A myriad of solutions on the market today are aimed at improving bits and pieces of the system, but rarely tackle the root of the issue itself. Which of these promises are truly constructive waypoints on the road to liveable cities, and which are just bells and whistles distracting from bigger issues at hand?

Small thinking, big changes

Back when the VW Lemon (recognizable as the VW Beetle today) hit the American market in 1960, the advertising campaign surrounding its launch caused an incredible stir. “Think small”, the campaign’s slogan, was revolutionary, changing advertising forever and helping the tiny and somewhat odd-looking VW Lemon cruise its way into the luxury car market in the US – and permanently changing the way people perceived cars in the process. 

A tiny car that caused a huge change

Up until that point, cars were shiny, large, and loud; the compact, rounder Lemon offered a stark contrast to American muscle cars and appealed to an entirely new segment of car owners. It made simpler cars fashionable, democratizing cars and making them accessible to everyone. 

Of course, advertising agencies aren’t the only ones responsible for societies and cities designed around cars. The entire urban planning system in the US encouraged car ownership and viewed automobiles as a convenient, modern transport solution. In the meantime, however, the American transit system was being rebuilt with the goal of linking suburbs to city centers, rather than linking suburbs with other suburbs or more rural areas.

Add cheap gasoline, large investments in highways and a whole range of car-friendly consumer services like drive-in cinemas and drive-through restaurants to the mix, and you end up with an obvious conclusion: cars were practically destined to become the ultimate symbols of a comfortable, modern, convenience-driven lifestyle. The rest, as they say, was history. 

The American dream on wheels

Next stop: “Carification”

Between the end of WWII and 1955, the number of cars on US roads doubled from 25 million to over 50 million. The trend quickly shifted to Europe, where new industry needs and changing economy led to skyrocketing mass production of individual vehicles. During the decade of 1950 to 1960, European car manufacturers launched some of their now-legendary models – Citroen’s 2CV stayed in production until 1990! – and the streets of the continent were quickly filled with motorized status symbols.

Transport demand is expected to grow all across the world in the coming decades as the global population increases, incomes rise, and more people can afford cars.The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that global transport (measured in passenger kilometers) will double and car ownership rates will increase by 60%.

Even as everyone from impassioned teenagers to conservative politicians are demanding more sustainable solutions, further construction on the “car-topia” we’re living in continues unchecked. Hollow value propositions promote electrification and autonomous technology as the path to a better, sustainable future, without telling consumers and investors what that means in explicit terms. 

Car density per 1000 Europeans over the years

We believe MaaS works – but we can’t change the industry alone 

At Trafi, we believe in cities without privately owned cars. We have a different approach to mobility, and we think that genuinely effective and accessible mobility should be viewed as a service and a system that gets its strength from a diverse group of collaborators, leaders and city planners. The good news is that there are plenty of cities who have also pledged to work towards more cohesive and comprehensive mobility services for their citizens, and many have already implemented groundbreaking strategies – Berlin, Zurich, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris come to mind, but the market for Mobility-as-a-Service is growing in Latin America and Asia as well. 

This vitally important shift to sustainable mobility – one based on concrete data rather than shiny new technology – simply can’t be achieved without the help of multiple mobility actors and particularly without the collaboration of the private and public mobility sectors. Governments, corporations, innovators and architects, and to a lesser degree consumers all have an important role to play. If we unite under the banner of protecting our planet, our cities and the people living in them, sustainable travel habits and a new way of thinking about mobility will become the norm.

Learn about how the Trafi MaaS Suite is enabling global sustainable solutions here or contact us for more info.