Public transport is recovering in 2022 the passengers that were lost to the pandemic over the past two years – global user figures are between 70% and 90% in 2019 – and it is now re-establishing itself and helping more people tries to attract. Changes in habits and climate concern. Mohamed Mezghani (Sfax, Tunisia; 58 years old) is the Secretary General of the International Union of Public Transport (UITP), the most important organization in the region – bringing together 1,900 companies in a hundred countries and headquartered in Brussels. He believes that subways, trains and buses can face the future with optimism because it is clear that “cities cannot survive with so much traffic.”
ask. How has the pandemic affected public transport in the world?
answer. The pandemic shocked the region. The first impact was a massive drop in passengers of up to 90%. Public transport was not used for a crisis of this magnitude and its service had to be adapted: disinfection, distance on platforms, greater ventilation … At the same time, its essential role appeared: while the cities were closed, the doors were closed. Public transport remained open. Some governments – such as Germany – chose to financially support public transport, while others believed that it was to be supported through its own means, aiding the automobile industry or tourism. Later, studies have shown that the risk of infection in subways and buses is not that high and people began to return: between 70% and 90% pre-pandemic commuters on a daily basis, despite teleworking, and almost 100%. are weekends. This means people feel safer, and there is also a growing awareness of environmental issues and less car use.
P. There are people who are still afraid to use public transport. What can be done to use them again?
R. We must insist that people feel safe. I believe new practices, such as opening all subway doors at each station, whether there are people to board or not, or opening them at bus stops so that they are ventilated, can give more confidence. In addition, you have to look at studies, such as those done by Imperial College London on the use of the London Underground, which state that there is no added risk to using public transport. I think the fear will go away. Maybe there is a problem of masks, because many governments [como el español] They enforce their use on public transport, but nowhere else. The biggest impact is due to the fact that many people continue to telework and there are some who have returned to regular use of private cars, as seen in traffic congestion charges.
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P. How do you envision the future of this sector?
R. I am very optimistic for a number of factors. The first is to increase traffic congestion: our cities cannot avoid that much traffic, even if all cars are electric and zero emissions. Creating alternative solutions is essential and public transport is part of the solution. The second factor is the need to decarbonize our mobility, and this is helped by a growing awareness of the environmental consequences of our mobility. There are many young people who do not even have a driving license, they look for other ways to get around. And we see it in the growing offering of light motorcycles, shared bikes… people are not so interested in using a car anymore. In addition, governments have not suspended or canceled their investments in public transport. The key is political will.
P. How will digitization impact?
R. It is a fundamental tool as it makes public transport more efficient, makes maintenance less expensive and helps to personalize and improve customer relationships. It will help adapt mass transport to people’s needs by combining high-capacity public transport with new mobility services (shared motorcycles, bikes, scooters…). Digitization makes it possible to operate public transport from door to door and not just from station to station. With the new equipment we will find suitable means of commuting depending on the time of day or day of the week, and people will no longer need to own a vehicle. But to make this possible, public and private companies must collaborate Apps and tickets that allow travel in all modes of transport.
P. Do you think in 10 years we will see driverless buses or automatic shuttles?
R. Driverless buses will operate on protected infrastructure in corridors with separate bus lanes. They are already being used in workshops: when the bus arrives at the warehouse or terminal, it is automatically parked without a driver. If we do that successfully, we will optimize the space on that ship. Then we’ll see it in the special use lanes for buses. The significant challenge will be when we see that bus in the middle of traffic without a driver, and not only the buses, but the cars as well. [sin conductor], In this case, the technology still has to be developed to make this possible.
P. How does advertising influence that people give more importance to cars than public transport?
R. There are still people who think that having a car is worth more, but perhaps it is car manufacturers who continue to believe that people believe so. We must differentiate between those who can choose and those who have no choice. You don’t need a car when you live in a big city. I think we will be living more and more in cities where the use of cars is regulated. If we look at the periphery and rural areas, there will be people who will have no choice and will have to use their own car. We have to provide new mobility solutions so that even those who do not have a car can easily move in these areas. For example, on-demand transportation may be part of the solution. With regard to car advertising, of course there are people who still think that cars give you a very positive image, but we also see that the number of cars sold has declined over the past two years, and This means that the market is not the same as it is already. It was, and we have to provide, new mobility solutions.
P. There are environmental organizations that advocate banning certain car advertisements.
R. There are many messages that cars are like cigarettes and if we have banned tobacco advertising, we should ban car advertising. It may sound very extreme, but if something is bothering people, we shouldn’t brag about the benefits that cause discomfort. We should make people aware about the impact of their behavior while driving. People have to bear the consequences of their behaviour, inconvenience and inconvenience caused while driving. Also explain that impact, those consequences and accidents.
P. Will the transition from a traditional to an electric car help?
R. Cars are getting more and more expensive, especially with electrification, and that’s not going to encourage people to buy cars. And even if you have an electric car, if you get stuck, you’re going to get stuck. It doesn’t matter if you have a petrol, diesel or electric car if you are in the middle of a traffic jam […] We have to find a way to attract passengers and make them proud of public transport, just as they can be proud to own a great car, an SUV.
P. Will we see more transport on demand in less populated areas?
R. Yes, but the challenge of mobility on demand is the business model: We haven’t found a system that’s good for the operator and the user. One way to develop mobility on demand is to share cars, for example, from a less populated area to a train station. The authorities can subsidize this practice, and we must provide a regulatory framework that facilitates and integrates it into the public transport network.
P. What role will mobility as a service, i.e. a combination of public and private transport services, play in this sector?
R. Mobility as a Service is a classic concept: it integrates all public transport and on-demand mobility services into one Application, and makes it possible to book and pay for those services from one place. The key to success is collaboration between different operators and sharing of data in a reliable environment. The second condition is to ensure that the route the algorithm suggests always provides the most sustainable mobility service, not the most profitable for the operator.
P. Does public transport, like most services, have to be paid for after use?
R. There are more and more initiatives to pay at the end of the month, where the traveler receives a statement or invoice for all journeys. This makes it possible to adopt a charging system that benefits frequent users. Public transport has to evolve towards an approach that makes it easy to use. If you pay at the end of the month, there will be fewer hassles, you won’t have to worry about where to go to get tickets.
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