Multimodality As a Post-fossil Part of Urban Mobility?

Multimodality As a Post-fossil Part of Urban Mobility?


Sören Groth, Sören Groth


In my dissertation project, I understand constraints of electric mobility as being marginalized when they are understood as part of innovative mobility services.


A number of scientists refer to a transformation process of the fossil energy system which includes a transformation of common oil-based transportation systems as well. Simply put, our reliance on a fossil energy system can’t be sustained for the following reasons: 1. the long-term finiteness of fossil resources 2. the negative global and local impacts of emissions (e.g. greenhouse gases, particles, noise) on society and the environment due to fossil-based practices. In response to this, German policies prominently force a shift from a fossil engine to electronic gearing. Although electronic mobility may solve several problems (e.g. oil dependency, emissions, peak oil), it is not a universal solution for all fossil-based problems: First of all, there has been a shift from fossil resources to rare-earth elements as the exhaustible raw materials of choice. Furthermore, electric mobility is not climate-neutral when it is produced by coal-fired power stations. Also, local emissions as a consequence of car use are primarily generated in different ways by the interrelation of brakes, tires and street surfaces. In addition, there is still a gap between the individual necessity for long-distance trips and the battery performance of electric vehicles.

In my dissertation project, I understand constraints of electric mobility as being marginalized when they are understood as part of innovative mobility services. In fact, in the past years there has been a dynamic development of these services, such as sophisticated carsharing systems orbikesharing systems. In this context,the hegemony of the oil-based car is challenged by a multi-optional system that links new and old mobility services. A successive implementation of this idea enables the situational use of the most suitable means of transportation powered by a broad use of information and communication technologies, such as smartphone applications. In terms of the transformation process from fossil to post-fossil transportation systems, there is a terminological shift from a car-based monomodality to a situational multimodality. As a matter of fact,it can be observed that especially young adults have been tending towards a more multimodal behaviour in the past years, which is based on a complex interplay between changes in transportation systems, socio-economic changes as well as a lower emotionality with the private car.

In contrast to the great enthusiasm for developing innovative mobility services,one should keep in mind that the spatial implementation of these services isreduced to the western industrial countries. In these countries,well-functioning offers are constricted to the small scale of big, economically prosperous cities and are socially excluding due to their focus on typically young and urban smartphone users as the main target group. These central barriers relating to a broad implementation of innovative mobility services are the result of market-based players in a low, profitable context, while municipalities often act reluctantly. A general problem in this development might be due to a lack of information about the individual potential of multimodality. Indeed, there are plenty of studies about multimodal behaviour which correlate with socio-demographic factors, but individual reasons for specific forms of multimodality or monomodalityremain in a ‘black box’.

At this point, I tie in with my dissertation project: With the help of a household survey in the German city, Offenbach am Main in the Rhein-Main-Region, I aim at extending the so far behaviour-focused understanding of multimodality through the introduction o fthe following individual dimensions: 1. the individual access to different mobility resources and 2. attitudes and values towards different means of transportation and mobility services. The main aim is to contribute to a better understanding of the ‘black box’as it relates to specific multimodality or monomodalbehavior patterns. Furthermore, the findings of the statistical analyses of the household survey can be relevant for policy makers in transportation planning and in the reorganization of central planning instruments which in fact support car-friendly infrastructures.

By submitting this paper, I would be pleased to add a meaningful contribution to the Young Researchers` and Practitioners` Forum 2014 with the central topic `Stability and Change in Travel Behaviour and Transport Opportunities` and benefit from the constructive and comprehensive feedback for my further work.


Association for European Transport