In mid-March, when the pandemic provoked the massive migration of office employees to their apartments, about three quarters of Portuguese companies didn’t have any smart-working policies implemented or even defined. The data revealed by Diogo Santos, one of Deloitte’s partner, shows that the business and industrial sector was not ready for confinement. “And yet, the capacity for adaptation was remarkable” affirms the specialist, this Tuesday’s PMS guest interviewee debating on “New Ways of Mobility Services”.
In the meantime, smart-working and social distancing became the “norm”, but at the same time, provoked huge impacts in mobility with changes not only in the traffic flux, now diluted during the day, but mainly in the way urban trips are made. Before, the decision was focused in the relation between cost, convenience and environmental impact. “Today, what statistics show is that there are new variables – perception of risk and health safety”.
This change made people available to pay more or to give up on comfort in order to minimize health risks, according to the responsible for mobility sector at Deloitte. This is now the dominant logic and public transportation was the first to suffer with this change. And it’s not only because the available capacity was reduced, but also because of the investment in cleaning, material and safety measures.
“All of those are added costs over a system that it’s already under pressure” explains Diogo Santos, reminding that the economic model, based on the big scale, is immediately suffering from “any reduction” of demand.
If today, metro, train and buses mainly serve population that doesn’t’ have an alternative, surely this scenario, in a medium and long term, will become unsustainable, warns the specialist: “It’s not financially viable and there isn’t even the physical space, dimension or city that can survive with public transportation serving only the disadvantaged and the rest using individual transportation” defends Diogo Santos. That is why it is urgent to find amongst operators, State and users, a balance in the financing in order to secure sustainability of the system.
Public transportation is not the only mobility sector that is deeply affected by the pandemic crisis. Shared mobility solutions also suffered a “strong hit”. Car-sharing or car-pooling are not among the most popular choices: “By looking at the data on demand in Europe, more than 50% of the population foresees that in the next three months it will avoid these kinds of services”.
Assuming that Covid-19 will continue to condition mobility, Diogo Santos sees only one solution: “Individually they won’t have the scale to survive, but through a process of consolidation they could actually face this fall on demand”. Although capacity for adaptation will be easier and faster than for public transportation: “If there is a sector that has been innovating and presenting new business solutions, it was this one”. But the model will have to be rethought and adapted to the pandemic demands: “The perception of safety in mobility is, at this time, a key area of innovation and determinant to attract the passengers that public transportation lost”.
At the same time, micro-mobility services will also have to use the innovation card. The advantage is that scooters and particularly bicycles have already their survival “guaranteed”. The challenge – concludes Diogo Santos – it’s to find “creative ways” to overcome the obstacles created by the Covid-19 pandemic in order to keep on growing: “It’s a matter of keeping their drive for innovation in order to conquer the trust of users and increase its demand”.