What is the future post corona? Everybody wants to know, but nobody knows.
A few days ago, I moderated a webinar in the digital version of ECOMM 2020, which was to be held in Cascais in Portugal. ECOMM is a European conference on mobility management, but has become broader over the years. Now it is very much about different ways of how we can have a more sustainable behavior that provides a sustainable transport system.
The webinar was the last in the line of 7 webinars, which aimed to sum up the 6 previously, and point forward to the topic: Redefining tomorrows mobility management. The six participants in the panel had moderated the previous webinars and came from: Germany, Finland, Hungary, Switzerland, Sweden and Portugal.
In the final discussion, several interesting things came up that relate to how we look at the future, and transport, partly related to the corona crisis.
In this post, I have combined these conclusions with other trends that I am experiencing are becoming clearer.
We have now lived in this strange reality for almost 5 months. In some areas, changes have taken place quickly, which would have taken years normally. And the longer the crisis goes on, the more habits and behaviors will settle.
The question is what this will mean. On May 1, I wrote a blog post with a similar focus, and most of what was written there has been reinforced since then. Then there were experts who thought the pandemic would be over by midsummer. Now, more and more people seem to mean that we have to live with it at least all year.
So, what will it look like in the future, if we continue to live with the pandemic for a time? And what about when it runs out? The longer it goes on, the more it affects our behaviors and habits. And the recession we are in affects this even more.
One of the big questions is how much of our travel will be replaced by digital communication. The fact that many business trips are replaced with digital meetings via Zoom and Teams is perhaps the most obvious. This reduces the need for air travel, and several airlines can certainly disappear, partly because this group of customers will not return.
What about our work trips? It’s probably harder to tell, but we will probably see more people working from home some day of the week. Our need to meet IRL is not going away.
Reduced travel can have positive consequences not only for the environment, but also for our cities. Investments in places, not only in large cities, but also in smaller towns can have positive consequences that include social inclusion, more pedestrian traffic, more beautiful design, etc.
But what happens to public transport? As long as the pandemic persists, it will be a challenge. We need more space in the vehicles, which could be provided by a higher frequency. But in reality it has often declined because revenues have fallen drastically. State intervention is required here.
And after the pandemic, another challenge awaits: How do we get back travelers who have become accustomed to other ways of travelling? This will require major action from all actors in the field of hygiene, etc.
Safe traffic will thus also have a broader meaning. It will not only be about road safety and security, but also about cleanliness and hygiene. How do we feel safe when we get on the bus, into a taxi, etc. Are we sure it is clean, without virus?
E-commerce has increased significantly during the pandemic. The increase had already begun earlier, and will certainly last, and this requires new, more sustainable solutions for logistics, both for the longer distances and the last mile. And this is likely to affect our today long supply chains, which will become less global and more regional.
The question is also what will happen to mobility as a whole. In recent years we have talked a lot about new mobility, smart mobility and so on. We were just about to see new mobility services coming and provide new opportunities. Shared mobility, mobility hubs, carpools, transportation as a service, had just begun to be introduced in an increasing number of cities. The question is, what happens now?
We will now see a great need for comprehensive solutions. We need to see mobility as a system where all actors need to work together. The transport system is a political issue and now there is a need for a clear direction, and then cooperation to get us there.
In order to steer in the right direction, we need good data. As more and more becomes connected, the possibility of this increases. Open data will play an increasing role here. Private operators will also need to contribute to this data to make the system work.
There are great opportunities to create a transport system that goes in a sustainable direction post corona. Taking advantage of the opportunities created, and solving the problems that have arisen, becomes a challenge. A challenge that we can solve together!
(If you want to listen to the webinar from ECOMM, you can find the link here. And the final discussion starts about 42 minutes in)