Trends in Transport
Dockless bike-shares, e-scooter programs, Uber alternatives — there’s a new world of ways to get around town.
Bike-share programs go dockless
City-backed bike-share programs (like London’s Santander Cycles and New York’s Citi Bike) have become familiar urban fixtures over the past decade. And now, private enterprises are moving in on the concept with more flexible models that ditch docking and payment stations, allowing users to find and rent bikes through mobile apps and, at ride’s end, leave them wherever they choose. Two Chinese competitors, Ofo and Mobike, are ambitiously entering Asia, Europe and North America, with Spin and LimeBike also competing for U.S. market share. While many city dwellers have embraced the cheaper fares and more versatile approach of these models, others have found the invasion of bikes to be a nuisance; next time you’re in Singapore or Beijing, Paris or Milan, take a dockless bike for a spin and see for yourself.
E-scooter sharing programs rev up
Electric scooters combine the mobility of car travel with the emissions-free and easy-to-park benefits of biking, making them a happy medium for getting around town. Now, a crop of entrepreneurial companies are testing that idea by launching e-scooter sharing programs (much like bike-share programs or car-sharing models like Car2go) in major cities. Locals and travelers interested in taking the concept for a spin will find Gogoro’s unexpectedly high-tech rigs in Paris, Berlin and Japan; Piaggio’s three-wheeled e-scooters in Rome and Milan; and Felyx’s green machines in Amsterdam. Just download the app, use it to find and pay for a ride, and leave the wheels parked anywhere for the next rider to snag.
Southeast Asia embraces an Uber alternative
In Southeast Asia, a ride-hailing service called GrabTaxi has a growing lead on the global champion of the concept, Uber. Operating under a similar model, where users hail (and pay for) a ride through an app, GrabTaxi has also introduced smart safety features that make it prime for the market (where security has previously been a concern). Riders can digitally share their real-time trip with others, connect with a nearby police department, and more recently, travel knowing their ride is being monitored by an in-car CCTV camera.
Mellowcabs reinvents the pedicab
In Cape Town, a taxi service called Mellowcabs is optimizing the city’s “micro transport” — what transport gurus would call the “last mile” of a journey, or in other words, the two miles from the train station to your hotel. Designed to complement — not compete with — existing transit systems, the Mellowcabs carry both people and goods within a small urban radius of 3-4 kilometers. And yet they’re hard to miss. The rigs are a high-tech take on traditional pedicabs: small, three-wheeled carriages that trade pedal power for electric motors, feature on-board tablets and sport futuristic styling. Keeping with the tech-centered concept, individuals can locate, hail and pay for a ride all through a mobile app.
London welcomes smart buses
Introducing a bus system to run alongside London’s established and iconic double-decker red bus service might seem like a futile pursuit, yet if anyone were to succeed, it would be Citymapper, the popular public transit app based in England’s capital. In coordination with the city’s transport agency, the company launched its Citymapper Smartbus service last year, which currently operates along small, focused routes throughout the city, which the tech firm says, based on its data, fill gaps in transport. These smaller “smart” buses, which are green (not red), include screens with real-time route info and USB ports for charging devices on-board. The only thing that’s missing is the view from the upper deck.