“A masterclass”, some participants called it. Others said “it was the quickest and deepest update on taxi and PHV-matters I’ve ever had.” Some enjoyed the look into the future quite a few speakers gave. Others liked the technical updates or the regulatory discussion with top-regulators from New York, San Francisco, London, Brussels and Finland. Or a bit of skirmishing with the Uber and MyTaxi-representatives in the audience. Whatever they took home from the conference, all 75 participants enjoyed networking with colleagues and other stakeholders at Taxi & Mobility Update 2017, the annual international event for all stakeholders in the industry. Make sure you’re with us in a year’s time at Taxi & Mobility Update 2018 – again in the Heart of Europe: Brussels.
Thursday, May 4
Surender: ‘A paradigm shift in vehicle usage’
Moderator Richard Harris, a leading expert and thought leader in the intelligent transport sector and member in the ITS World Hall of Fame since 2015, made sure the conference ran smoothly and presenters stuck to their 15-minute deadlines (to create more space for discussion). Once or twice he could be heard muttering “You have 20 slides and 9 minutes left” or he ‘helped’ speakers along with good-natured comments on their time keeping.
It worked and the programme sped along. Particularly after the breathtaking keynote speech by Frost & Sullivan’s Shwetha Surender, who drew a clear overview of all mobility sectors and their future(s). “Unsure who wins. Autonomous transport and electromobility are two trends, together with integrated mobility. But there are different stakeholders, investors, solutions and various types of collaboration.”
The city in charge
Then it was time for the city: Ivo Cré (POLIS Network) outlined how cities not only play different mobility roles at the same time, but also pursue different goals in mobility – as does the European Union with different EU-programmes – trying to recognize improving integrated mobility with sustainability goals. Prof. Dr. Cathy Macharis continued Cre’s line by campaigning for a human and smart city in which cars should be replaced by shared, electric and connected mobility provided by different stakeholders. Taking over the baton from Macharis, Serge Metz described the new business model for the taxi and PHV industry: app-use (with more features), segmented and dedicated business units, ditching of formerly core activities (call centre, fitting equipment), partnerships with newcomers and large networks plus the need for stronger brand-related marketing activities.
Who’s in the driving seat? MaaS or public transport? Both?
What’s at stake in the public transport world, Kaan Yildizgoz wondered. Connectivity, Electromobility, Big Data, Open Data, the lack of the door-to-door connection in traditional public transport. To put all the pieces of the urban transport puzzle in place, different capacities and suppliers are needed, plus an efficient form of ticketing. Most important: the car of the future needs to be shared. That’s where Mobility as a Service plays a part, according to Sampo Hietanen. Linking various transport modes in a monthly subscription model (as Whim does in Helsinki) will make all the difference. This year MaaS-roll outs are expected in the West-Midlands and Amsterdam. Interesting point in Helsinki: with car usage going down, the amount of taxi trips is going up. Alwin Bakker showed that some forms of autonomous driving could be here in a few years (say 2030), whilst complete autonomy might take as long as 2075.
Do we need a new business model? If so, which one?
Herwig Kollar defended the current German legal structure for transporting people as it protects the interests of the taxi consumers. If innovation is needed, this could easily being done within the current legal framework. Tarek Mallah, from a constituency where Uber has taken over most of the black car industry, showed how his company offered its clients a number of services and several new business areas – particularly in the field of healt care and care for the elderly. The link between public transport and the taxi and PHV sector was provided by Michel Pêtre, who showed how the subsidized and shared taxis of Collecto provided a useful nightly service, replacing night buses, and how Splyt makes sharing taxis cheaper for everyone.
Tomorrow’s Mobility: different systems, different regulation?
The expected regulatory fireworks arrived in the shape of Pascal Smet: his latest Brussels taxi plan aims at one single taxi licence (no more limos), a level playing field for taxis and Uber & Co, plus all licences in the hands of drivers. No wonder that caused much discussion. The presentation by Finland’s Olli-Pekka Rantala was equally earth-shattering: a well-nigh full deregulation of the transport sector in the new Transport Code with Finland on its way to the digital future. Equally surprising were Dirk Ritter’s plans for a sizeable tariff hike in Hamburg in order to improve the quality of the taxi service. Although at the last minute Dirk Ritter could’t attend, we still show his presentation. Kate Toran showed the challenges of regulation for a taxi sector (1.800 taxis) at the local level, whereas the TNC’s (45.000 vehicles) is regulated at the state level. The biggest casualty: accessible services in the taxi area.
Since the start of Uber & Co in the city, Meera Joshi’s TLC has kept both taxis, FHV and TNC’s to the same strict regulations. Uber nestled itself in the black car sector (FHV’s), but did not get any favourable treatment from the city. Like in New York the difference in numbers between PHV and taxis in London is enormous (85.000 vs 22.500). Simon Buggey explained how Transport for London is trying to improve the quality of drivers by making reading and writing tests compulsory – also for taxi drivers.
By that time many different discussions were being waged: the bus trip to the official residence of Pascal Smet and the drinks and nibbles there helped in continuing discussions and networking.
Friday, May 5
In a way, Olga Petrik’s presentation was the centre-piece of the whole conference: ITF had researched and simulated the question how in a (theoretically) carless city like Lisbon the existing metro and a fleet of shared taxi buses could take care of all mobility needs of the city’s inhabitants (and more), leaving space for other city functions. Karsan’s Levent Erdogan explained how his JEST EV-midibus (shown outside the conference) could easily fill the car-void, as it has been doing as shared taxi (‘dolmus’) in Istanbul.
Michael Galvin explained how Addison Lee, owned by investors Carlyle Group, keep extending their area and size (20 acquisitions in 3 years). The company provides integrated services in a full mobility system, aiming at four forces: electric, shared, connected and autonomous. Personal customer focus remains important with 50% of jobs ordered by phone. According to Sonila Metushi a revolution is taking place in passenger and road transport. In the public transport sector it is the first and last mile which is often still missing. IRU’s UpTop network aims at creating worldwide links between accredited apps and improving taxi and PHV quality.
Matt Daus explained how over the past years TNC’s have made a sizeable dent in the taxi industry and that “a race to the bottom” is taking place. Medallions are losing their value, yet Uber is still to make money on its services (before it changes drivers for autonomous vehicles). Mergers and acquisitions are continuing in the sector, yet there are also many separate niches to be served. Unfortunately people with mobility handicaps suffer from a lack of accessibile vehicles and services.
Dr. James Cooper, introducing the Roundtable discussion at the end of Taxi & Mobility Update, pointed out that often the service level in the taxi and PHV sectors leaves much to be desired. Add to that so-called international apps, which don’t provide international coverage. There is room for the taxi in the mobility mix. “But ask yourself what your customer wants and be prepared to be an innovator.”
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