To work, to school or in your spare time: the Swiss love to move around. About 21 percent of traffic is covered by public transport. About 60 percent of all trips are still made by car.
Despite the expansion of services and investments in infrastructure, the share of public transport in total traffic volume – the so-called modular zoning – has stagnated in the past 15 years.
According to federal estimates, transportation performance should increase by 11 percent by 2050, but the typical segmentation of public transportation will only increase to 24 percent over this period. Not enough to meet federal climate targets.
With the ÖV42 project, BLS, Schweizerische Südwestbahn AG (SOB), Postauto AG, the canton of St. Gallen and the Trogen-based climate cooperative 42hacks want to quickly and unconventionally develop and test ideas for getting more people off the streets to bring the railways.
The paradigm shift is being tested through several short-term, locally limited pilot tests. Public Transport 42 is a reference to the vision of doubling the share of public transportation in the model division.
“In the ÖV42 project, we do not rely on the current user behavior of public transport customers, but rather on the mobility behavior of non-customers,” says Pete Tenner, Economics Director of St. Gallen.
“This data-driven, unconventional approach is a great opportunity to change the paradigm divide thanks to innovative craftsmanship and combined forces,” adds Tinner. The canton of St. Gallen is financially supporting the project, as are the other partners. The total initial costs are approximately CHF 750,000.
“Our goal is to prove in the long term that new ways are needed to create more sustainable forms of mobility with lower CO2 emissions and win new customers for public transportation,” says Mark Stoffel, co-founder of 42hacks.
The three core elements of the project:
With the help of anonymized mobile phone data and artificial intelligence, the ÖV42 project’s traffic patterns are analyzed and various connections to public transportation and vehicle use are compiled.
This allows, among other things, to better understand the behavior of motorists in traffic. This is one of the primary keys to improving conditional division.
The software used is capable of analyzing traffic flows from trains, roads and non-motorized traffic to any desired destination down to the district level. Thus, AI shows where the potential for alternative forms of mobility for drivers is particularly great.
The database developed can facilitate planning activities for future investments and make a significant contribution to the entire Swiss public transport system.
“Artificial intelligence provides us with important insights into the movement behavior of populations. “The intelligence of the swarm of the citizens themselves is just as important,” says Mark Stoffel.
Using so-called “hackathons” — the new term “hack” and “marathon” describe occasions when concepts, solutions or tools are developed under time pressure — mixed teams get to the bottom of the question of how to increase the paradigm divide in favor of public transit.
“If we want to change traffic for the long term, we can only do so with strong partners from the private sector and the community,” says BLS CEO Daniel Schafer. Depending on the topic, specialists from public transport and tourism, employers or the general public are invited to the hackathon.
Based on the results of data analysis and hackathons, BLS, SOB and Postbus are jointly developing regional pilot tests. If successful, these experiments, which were conducted with minimal use of resources, could be replicated and expanded at other sites.
“Public transport is an excellent system. But we have to be ready in the public transport industry to become significantly more agile,” says Thomas Köchler, SOB Chairman, and adds that ÖV42 requires a willingness to take risks and the daring to try things: “We’re going to work on the learning process. This together.”
Experimental tests in eastern Switzerland
In eastern Switzerland, thanks to the partnership between SOB, Postbus and the canton of St. high market share.
All aspects are discussed: from schedule, show, ticket booking to the question of whether this provider is flexible or if it will travel on the classic course. This should also lead to a real test.
In eastern Switzerland there is also potential in the Flumserberg ski area. For high season, SOB and PostBus plan additional regional and national direct connections, along with ski pass and other services that make a car unnecessary. In addition, a project is being planned with a regional employer to better understand and navigate day-to-day work life. Details of these projects will be worked out in the coming weeks.
Experimental experiences in the Bern region
“Artificial intelligence has shown that a particularly large number of people drive between Ostermundigen and Burgdorf,” explains Daniel Schäfer. For this route, travelers have to change trains at Bern Wankdorf – and lose time as a result.
“A direct train can make public transportation more attractive. In particular, because the roads on this route are very congested during rush hour, ”says Schaefer. “With the so-called pop-up train, we now want to experiment if we can use a direct connection to get motorists excited about public transportation.”
The direct train runs from 31 October to 9 December 2022, Monday to Friday, twice in the morning and three times in the evening between Ostermundigen and Burgdorf with stops at Lyssach, Hindelbank, Schönbühl SBB and Zollikofen. Travel times are available in the online timetable.
Compared to previous connections, the time saved is up to ten minutes. Instead of getting stuck in traffic, commuters can use the train to work or grab a coffee, for example. The experiences with user behavior then flow into the development of new timeline offerings.
The pilot project “31 days” has already started in the Bern-Belp region. Ten voluntary test subjects give up their car for a month and rely on public transportation during this time. If they do not use their vehicle, participants are offered a GA Travel Card, e-(charge) bikes, Mybuxi shuttle bus services and a month’s Mobility subscription for free. If the offer is popular, new and innovative navigation subscriptions will be developed from it.