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The Human Experience of urban mobility

The Human Experience of urban mobility

Navigating the 21st century urban jungle

How do people want to get around in modern cities?

It seems like a simple question. But for urban planners, transport providers and automakers, the answers are complex.

To understand why, start with the incredible growth that cities are experiencing.

Since 2007, over half of the world’s population has lived in a city. Now, in 2022, nearly 60% live in a city.

By 2050, urban populations are forecast to double: 7 in 10 people globally will live in a city at that point. If you find traffic jams annoying now, just imagine how long your commute could be ten or twenty years in the future.

Next, consider the urgent need to decarbonize transport, which generates around one-fifth of global emissions.

Many cities are already leading the charge here, but there is much more to be done, and cities around the world are making major investments in public transit, ride-sharing, space for cycling, micro-mobility services and other lower-carbon travel methods.

Finally, the needs, habits and preferences of city-dwellers are constantly changing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted transport use, and travel patterns in cities will continue to change in the long term as more people decide to work on a remote or hybrid basis, adapt to changing regulations and increasingly demand lower carbon methods of travel.

Bigger populations. More transport options. Changing behaviors and needs.

In such a dynamic environment, understanding how people want to move around cities really isn’t as easy as it seems.

Measuring experiences holistically

Despite the challenges, Buljan & Partners – an international Customer Experience consulting firm – decided this question was too important to leave unanswered. If planners lacked an objective understanding of city dwellers’ needs, attitudes and experiences, how could they hope to design successful urban mobility experiences for European cities?

Buljan&Partners set out to answer these questions in partnership with Motorpress Iberica – a leading publisher of automotive and lifestyle content. Together, they designed an ambitious research program to capture experiences from over 10,000 people across 50 European cities in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the UK.

This study is the first of its kind to collect feedback across the entire urban mobility journey: car owners described their experiences of buying, driving and owning their vehicles; users of other transport modes gave feedback on choosing, booking and travelling with methods such as public transport, e-scooters, private taxis, bicycle sharing, ride-sharing and more.

The result is the most comprehensive understanding of users’ and drivers’ experiences across the whole urban mobility spectrum. Crucially, the data maps the needs, preferences and experiences of users across the whole lifecycle of all modes of city transport. It identifies what’s important, what’s working well and where there are big gaps in service delivery.

For policymakers, it highlights important trends, reveals key citizen concerns and identifies why travelers may be slower to adopt public transit or new travel modes such as ride sharing or e-scooters.

For transport providers and automakers, it illuminates macro trends in behavior; shows how car brands and mobility services are perceived; and identifies opportunities for innovation in services, apps or safety provision.

The data also shows the relative performance of different transport modes and of different automotive brands.

So what can we learn from this ground-breaking study?

City dwellers and cars: Breaking up is hard to do

You’ll need to be a paying customer of Buljan to get full access to the data and reports, but we have been given a sneak peek at some of the more interesting findings.

  • In all countries, it turns out that drivers are happier with their cars than users of mobility services are with their modes of transport. There is a significant ‘experience gap’ to fill if planners want to nudge people out of their cars and onto buses, trams or ride-sharing services.
  • One-third of drivers can imagine themselves buying an electric or hybrid vehicle at some point over the next three years, although a small group – around 1 in 7 drivers – say they consider not owning a car in the future at all. This share increases among younger drivers, especially in the UK.
  • But many drivers will need much more convincing: some are very loyal to their auto brands and many regard public transport negatively. This is particularly acute in certain countries: in Italy, for example, 1 in 8 citizens feels active resentment towards bus and rail services – much more than in any other country.

Whereas car ownership experiences are largely positive – as measured by Net Promoter Score (NPS) – the same cannot be said of mobility services. In all markets except Spain, these services have negative NPS scores – meaning that mobility service providers have some serious work to do to reduce the number of unhappy customers, and generate more promoters.

  • Public transit services are the most used, and across all countries there is a desire among users to fix the basics: safety, hygiene, reliability and proximity. Spain is the only country that covers these basics and is actually providing an outstanding experience that other countries could learn from.
  • Newer mobility services are providing better experiences. Bicycle sharing in France and Italy is well regarded, as is peer-to-peer ride sharing in Germany. But there is still plenty of room to improve the availability of services and make them easier to book and use.

These insights only scrape the surface of what’s available in the full report – but even at this high level, there are some clear conclusions.

For urban planners, behavior change will take more than simply expanding transit capacity. People will need reassurance about service quality and availability in order to encourage them to take mass transit.

For automakers, acceptable customer experiences and strong levels of brand loyalty will help support the transition to electric vehicles and – perhaps – ride sharing, carpooling and even automated taxi services operated under their brands.

But the real innovation opportunity surely lies with mobility service providers. Low current levels of satisfaction and virtually no brand loyalty suggests a market opportunity ripe for disruption with superior technology, accessibility and service delivery.

How Forsta’s technology helped

Forsta is the leader in Experience & Research technology. Our software is used by 2,000 customers in 100 countries to conduct surveys, run online focus groups, manage feedback programs, visualize data and take actions to deliver outstanding experiences.

When Buljan needed a robust end-to-end technology platform, Forsta was the only sensible choice.

The survey design was particularly complex. Car drivers answered for one of hundreds of brand/model combinations, and mobility service users could have used any combination of up to 10 services. Feedback on importance and performance was captured across more than 20 experience ‘touchpoints’ for drivers and service users. There were rigorous quotas in place to gather over 10,000 interviews, ensure appropriate sample sizes in major cities, and – of course – all this needed to run concurrently in five different languages.

Forsta’s technology made all this a breeze with automatic questionnaire imports, batch updating of translations, direct integration with user panels, quota management, custom branding and responsive web design. But it didn’t end there.

Forsta Visualizations is a powerful reporting, analysis and storytelling platform designed specifically to work with the nuances of survey data and experience management programs.

In this case, the combination of feedback technology and data visualization allowed for dashboards to be designed and tested whilst fieldwork was on-going – ensuring much shorter time-to-insight once the data was complete. Custom branding, comprehensive analytics, creative designs and advanced user role management all made this the ideal platform to deliver results intuitively for Buljan’s customers.

Find out more about this ground-breaking study here

To learn about the Forsta technology used in this study, or to book a demo, head here.


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