Interview with mobility professor Cathy Macharis about post-corona mobility, the role of ridesharing and what superpower she would like!
If we are allowed to travel again, where will you go first?
"Not that far. I do not feel I am locked in Belgium. I am enjoying nature in our country and that will stay after this crisis. I feel locked because I can't freely do all the activities I would like to do. But the travelling, I do not miss that per se."
What superpower would you like to have?
"The superpower to stop the climate crisis. To absorb all excessive CO2 emissions so we can start again with a clean slate. To preserve biodiversity and nature for my children and the people after us."
Which celebrity or famous person (dead or alive) would you like to have coffee (or beer) with? And why?
"With Ghandi. It will be rather a tea then;-)!
I would like to talk to him about active nonviolence, revolution, patience and perseverance. Even now we need a revolution, a complete about-turn, but one in which we can get as many people as possible to join us for a climate-neutral society. And that requires patience, but we don't have that much time left, so we also need action. I find that a difficult balance.
So yes, a cup of tea with Ghandi would be helpful."
With the COVID vaccine in the picture, we all feel that there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel. How do you expect mobility to resume? Will we go back to the days before the COVID vaccines or will there be a major shift in our mobility behavior?
"I am sure, part of the gains and lessons we have learned in mobility will stay. Teleworking and teleconferencing, have had a huge impact on the way we work, but also on commuting. And already, I see companies releasing office space because they know they will never go back to a regime where every employee has to be there every day of the week.
We also saw a huge increase in biking. For Brussels we speak of an increase of 60%. Also that will stay on a higher level. Certainly if policy is following by investing in secure bike lanes. For public transport, the covid crisis has been a nightmare. However, I think if the health risk is gone, people will return. You see it already now in the data of the public transport operators. Once people return they keep using it. The same happened after the attacks in 2016.
All in all, I think covid has created some changes in life that will last."
Where do you think the biggest challenges for mobility will lie in the coming years?
"The biggest challenge will come from shifting from having a car to seeing mobility as a service. We will have to start sharing vehicles much more to make mobility sustainable. It will allow to have less cars, more space in the cities, and a shift to the more environmental modes when it is possible.
Sharing trips is part of that transition. It is a big challenge, because it needs trust. Trust that you will always find a good way to go to your destination. Trust on other people also. This transition towards sharing is very important, also in the light of autonomous vehicles. If these will not be shared, we missed the huge opportunity to go towards a sustainable mobility system."
What trends or evolutions in mobility are you most looking forward to?
"I look forward to a calmer although active mobility, so more place and attention for walking and biking. Lower speed limits. Cities will become more livable places.
If I can further dream on what could be a reality: Cars will be shared, and public transport will be a reliable backbone for the whole mobility system. In the long term, shared, connected, and electric autonomous vehicles will allow for even less cars. They will also connect for the longer distances to the railway system."
What role do you see for jive, or ridesharing in general, in the mobility landscape?
"I see ridesharing as an important piece of the puzzle. As I said, sharing will be key. Car sharing as well as ride sharing. And certainly a ridesharing in the original non-commercial sense. It will be also an important stepstone towards mobility as a service by giving trust to people that they will always find a way to get to their destination.
If there are so many options, why would you still have your own car?"
Do you have any final comments, remarks or thoughts you'd like to share with us or our friends? Or promote your new book?
"Thanks! yes good idea! Indeed, I wrote a book on the future of the mobility system. It is written in Dutch and really to be read by everyone;-)! I promise it will not be boring!
And yes, we can reach the climate goals: just read the book and you will see how!"
This was the first of a series of interviews. Each month we will ask someone to share their tougts on (shared) mobility.
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