Have you ever wondered what the difference is between intermodal & multimodal mobility?

Some tend to say it’s the same thing. Let’s have a close look at it:

Multimodal literally means more than one mode of transportation.

Different means can be walking, biking, driving by car or any other public transportation / mobility service. The accent here lays in the multitude of different transport modes, without stating or defining a specific time frame. Commonly, experts agree that multimodality refers to the use of different transport modes at different times of the day or the week, depending on the purpose of the trip or the destination. Multimodal trips may include transfers from one mode to another and thus occur in a coordinated way.

Whenever we talk about different transportation modes, we use to get from point A to point B, we talk about multimodality - irrespective of time, transfer or costs.

This leads us to our second keyword in this article…

Intermodality describes the chaining of transport modes within the same trip.

Locations where the different modal networks interconnect are called intermodal terminals or transfer points. The emphasis here is on the connectivity & the switch from one transportation mode to another. Besides the need for coordinated transport services, their cooperation must be assured to obtain seamless interchanges and consequently effective, smart & reliable travelling.

With the customer experience in mind, the idea of integration of all mobility solutions into one platform is gaining traction.

Today, technology is allowing us to create more personalized digital solutions to address the actual mobility needs of individuals. These needs did not arise yesterday and have existed as cities expanded while businesses prospered in geographic pockets within the city centers. Technology was just not able to offer real alternatives to meet all aspects of these mobility needs, at least until today.

In more and more cities, you can find kick scooters, bikes, electric scooters, shared cars and countless service providers. The extended offer of mobility solutions addresses a large part of the intermodality needs. Individuals can now combine the most efficient & cost adaptive transportation for their personal & flexible lifestyle.

A city can therefore be multimodal & intermodal but not intermodal without being multimodal!

There are two key requirements that I believe will impact how we see things develop over time.

Firstly, understanding people’s travel preferences (total travel time, walking time, number of transfers) based on the purpose of their travel (work, leisure), the distance (small, medium or long distance) and the time of the day (morning, afternoon or evening) is important to organize an entire network in an efficient & seamless manner with minimal effort for the commuter.

Secondly, mindset is an important factor and an obstacle in front of evolving mobility: some are already more open to the shared economy while others are still not quite as receptive.

The first point is a precondition to such a shift in mindset for people since they must first have the capability to choose between different travelling options & combine them within an intermodal mobility network before even talking about willingness. This is even more important considering that shared mobility has a considerable potential to fill the gap between public & individual transport options.

Mobility patterns are determined by local transport options as well as by personal routines.

Personally, I would push the definition even a bit further by adding a third element to the puzzle:

Future transportation will be multimodal, intermodal & unified.

Unified implies a complete integration of the user within the multitude of existing mobility networks. The conditions for the best user experience will be met when individuals no longer need to worry about transitioning between multimodal transports and when there won’t be any requires trade-offs between transport costs, duration and physically exhausting conditions.

Future mobility will be smart, smart enough to avoid bottlenecks at any given intermodal terminals by adapting each & everyone’s travel to current needs as well as general conditions in real-time.

The biggest challenge for smart mobility is nevertheless the user him or herself and the surrounding ecosystem:

-          Individuals need to be open and willing to change their mobility habits

-          The mobility service offer needs to be clear & understandable

-          User interface needs to be intuitive & attractive, especially the more transportation modes are included on a platform

-          Integration of mobility services needs to be inclusive & smooth and bridge the gap between transportation with digital solutions and those that are merely physical (for the time being)

-          Cost calculation needs to consider the trip from end-to-end and not segment by segment – pricing is a sensitive subject highly influencing user adoptability

-          One mobility representative grouping all existing services provides meaningful trust and stability for the user and enables smooth operations as well as service-based competition between providers. A lack of critical mass & activity hotspots does not serve global mobility; suburban and rural areas are often the first ones left out.

In my opinion, future mobility will be all about user needs enabling efficient, smooth & intuitive traveling. There is enough work to be done out there for all mobility providers, let’s just have our users’ best interests at heart – together we can transform mobility as we know.

Smart mobility is healthy, easy and green (sometimes even blue when you’re riding with Zify).