CNPA - UTP: an alliance for new mobilities to come out of infancy

20 years of public policies on mobilities in a nutshell

For decades, private and public transport have formed an irreconcilable couple, an irreconcilable opposition.
The former were expanding spontaneously, allowing urban sprawl, eating all the space and generating pollution and congestion.        
It was then considered - not without reason - that it was imperative to organise the "modal shift" by taxing the car, making parking difficult and expensive and organising congestion. Conversely, public transport deserved to be massively subsidised and to be a priority in the allocation of state and local authority public speding as well as in the allocation of space. Through hard work, this dichotomous approach has finally achieved some success in major cities where the car has actually backed down.
However, due to the inability of these and other public policies (land and development) to contain urban land price growth and/or to match employment and residential location, urban sprawl has continued, mobility needs have increased, public transport has not been able to cover them, the number of vehicles per household has continued to increase and there are now two deadlocks.
The first one is about public transport and refers to a kind of law of diminishing returns. To meet the needs of increasingly remote peri-urbanization, less and less dense areas should be covered by extending bus, tram or metro lines and complementing star-shaped networks with suburban services.
The associated investment and operating costs are almost impossible for local authorities and public transport companies to cover: noting the difficulties in making these lines profitable without very significant increases in ticket and subscription prices and/or without subsidies, they are reluctant to take such initiatives. They can only observe that, despite all the efforts made, often with success, to limit the place of the car in urban centres or in the inner suburbs, congestion does not return because cars from faraway places are still there.
The second concerns the car. Indeed, in dense environments, congestion means the ability for the car to render its mobility service is increasingly difficult.
In addition, the growth of the stock of cars associated with urban sprawl and the multi-motorization of households that it imposes has been carried out under very strong budgetary constraints for the households concerned. They could only cope with it by drastically limiting the cost of their vehicles.
Since they cannot limit their automobile expenses by reducing their fuel and insurance expenses, the adjustment variables are the costs of equipment and maintenance-repair: the growth of the fleet has been achieved through a very clear ageing of the fleet, equipment that is mainly made up of older and older second-hand vehicles, longer holding times and an increasingly clear limitation of maintenance-repair expenses.
The businesses connected to the car thus derive an increasingly limited benefit from a "car-mobility" that remains ultra-dominant but is very constrained.
Researchers, elected officials, public transport managers and car professionals have long been aware of all this and the result has been a form of collective quest for alternatives that almost always consists in moving away from the dichotomous approach to organise a kind of halfway between individual and public transport.
Over the years, three mantras have emerged at the confluence of these concerns: inter-modality, car sharing and carpooling.
In all three cases, each of the two worlds recognizes that it is at an dead end and that the concerns raised by the other world are legitimate.
Similarly, everyone recognizes that they cannot claim to solve their problems alone and would benefit from allying themselves. On paper, this seems simple and it has now been at least ten years since a form of consensus emerged around the "new mobility". However, despite some emblematic successes such as Blablacar's in long-distance carpooling, making these ingenious formulas effective is infinitely problematic: whether they are carried by public authorities, public transport operators, associations, car manufacturers or start-ups, "failure stories" are much more numerous than "success stories".
Beyond their possible success with a few militant pioneers who will make it possible to post impressive growth for a while, the initiatives are running out and statistically as practically, they do not seem to be able to change real mobilities in any significant way.
However, in the face of the risk of discouragement that could grab everyone's attention in the face of this depressing observation and lead to discouragement, we have seen a different attitude develop.
It consists in accepting the difficulty and trying to learn from these multiple unconvincing experiences: rather than throwing the baby of the "good idea" out of the bathwater of the "bad realization" (1), the actors will then humbly ask themselves how to do a better job of transforming the essay.
They will then realize that, in wanting to create and occupy this famous interland on their own, they have been presumptuous and have failed to integrate the complexity of these mobility issues and the potential contributions of the other components of the system when it comes to identifying and addressing them.
Thus, the car-sharing players were willingly new entrants who did not think it was necessary to integrate the rental companies or to integrate the manufacturers or garage owners.
Similarly, some major public transport operators believed that they could develop global intermodal offers including carpooling. Symmetrically, some carpool start-ups may have dreamed that their apps would be enough to convince households and that they could "disrupt" the transport offer without integrating into the existing public and private ecosystem.
From all this, the actors of the French landscape seem to have come back and the partnership between the CNPA (French national council of automobile professional) of and the UTP (French union of public transportation and railway services) announced last week - partly as a result of the discussions that emerged from the Assises de la Mobilité (a focus group organised by the ministry of transportation to hear the stakeholders) - seems to us to embody this ambitious modesty.
The start-ups that have formed the Alliance des mobilités within the CNPA since May, chaired by Julien Honnart, from Klaxit (a start up developing services in home to office car-pooling), are no longer in the "story telling" and the sensational announcements concerning the number of people registered on their platforms and/or their fabulous growth.
Thus, commenting for the JDN on his company's takeover of IdVroom from SNCF, J. Honnart said: "Klaxit has five times fewer users than iDVroom, but we generate fifty times more carpooling".
He pointed to the heart of the problem, which still concerns "new mobility" in 2019, adding: "IDVroom is a gem that has never been able to blossom".
Following the example of what Klaxit does in cities or communities of municipalities that award it contracts, the CNPA-UTP partnership will seek to make effective the changes promised in a dialogue with the public authorities and other transport operators.
As Alliancy wrote in commenting on his remarks at the Alliance's presentation press conference: "It is a sign of his desire to move beyond the stage of ideation and to concretely move the lines of mobility".
The LOM (Loi d’orientation des mobilités – blueprint law for mobilities) and the obligation it will impose not only on the major cities but also on all territories to set up "mobility organising authorities" (AOM under the French revised law) will call for a very strong renewal of the doctrines and tools of public action in these matters. It will involve the creation of public-private ecosystems that can no longer be reduced to a combination of local authorities and public transport companies, but must include start-ups such as those of the Alliance, and also rental companies, body shops, garages and driving schools.
The CNPA has understood and promoted it and does not intend to pass its turn. That's good news.
(1) When we, the authors of the book on the Kwid, asked him about the origin of the idea of developing such a car, Carlos Ghosn referred to Tata's Nano and told us: "A good idea that was not properly implemented becomes a bad idea".
*          *          *, corrections by Géry Deffontaines

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