Parking Areas As Part Of The Mobility Hubs Of The Future

In the planning and placement of networked mobility services, parking areas at railway stations are coming into focus. How can this potential be exploited? Together with Dr. Michael Seidl, Bruno Lochbrunner provides a look behind the scenes at Swiss Federal Railways (SBB).

The railway stations of today are gradually transforming into the mobility hubs of tomorrow. Although there have always been connections to local transport, taxis, long-distance buses or airports, the various transport and traffic offers are now much more integrated and increasingly thought, planned and implemented from the customer's point of view. Namely, from the perspective of the multimodal customer, who uses different mobility services and means of transport to get from A to B. He or she travels, for example, the first route to the airport: For example, he travels the first distance to the station by bicycle, takes the train from one major city to another and uses a taxi for the remaining distance.

Unused potential and additional services

When planning and placing networked mobility services, the parking areas of railway stations also come into focus. These parking areas - also called "Park and Rail" (P+Rail) areas - today primarily serve people who drive their cars to the nearest station and then cover most of their commuting distance by public transport, for example by train. There is still potential in these - sometimes large - areas at central, attractive locations directly at the station and often in the centres of municipalities - for customers, service providers and SBB.

In addition to basic services such as reservation options, simplified payment or a charging infrastructure for electric cars, various additional services could be offered while the vehicle is parked in the parking area: For example, cleaning, inspections and minor repairs or the delivery and depositing of purchases directly in the car. These are all services that can be offered by regional or national companies in cooperation with SBB and make travelling or commuting even easier, more personal, more connected and more efficient. In addition, "valet parking", the parking of the vehicle by professionals, could help to increase the capacities of P+Rail areas in the future and thus convince motorists to cover their commuting distance with combined mobility instead of relying solely on the car.

From parking space management to mobility space management

Ultimately, it is about offering different vehicles and services on these spaces and creating space for them - be it scooters, motorbikes, bicycles, vehicles with one or more wheels. The pure car parking management thus develops into an integrated mobility space management.

All of the above services must of course not only function on site with the right infrastructure. They should also be (digitally) easy to book by customers, or customers should be alerted to current information and offers at the right time. That is why we are working on further developing the SBB "P+Rail App" as a digital parking platform that will in future make it possible to find out about the various services and also book them directly.

Customer Centricity at its best

At SBB, we are still in the early stages of developing this topic further and want to develop the services and the SBB "P+Rail App" of the future together with the customers from the very beginning. Thus, the population interested in Smart Mobility was called upon to cast their vote on which services and infrastructures are expected from parking spaces in the future. In a public survey, rail enthusiasts as well as car lovers had the opportunity to give their thoughts, ideas and assessments on this topic. SBB is not tackling such a large-scale mammoth project alone, but in cooperation with creative start-ups and specialised companies, including Detecon Consulting. Among other things, the innovative railway company hopes that such new parking services will promote multimodal travel: those who today only drive their cars will be encouraged to leave them behind and switch to public transport in the future.

Whether and how many parking spaces will still be needed in the distant future due to the change in mobility use remains uncertain. According to the future scenarios we have worked out in the area of mobility and space use, we think that parking spaces will continue to be needed in Switzerland in the coming years and that demand will even increase. However, due to increasing car sharing (e.g. "Sharoo" or "Mobility"), the increased use of "ridehailing" services (for example "Uber") and new mobility solutions, we expect that demand will actually decrease in the long term. Until then, we will do everything we can to satisfy today's customers. SBB's current total of 584 P+Rail facilities with 26,810 parking spaces offer plenty of scope for smart ideas that are entirely in the interests of passengers.

Bruno M. Lochbrunner has worked for SBB since 1996 and is currently involved as an intrapreneur in the development of new mobility services and the further development of railway stations into mobility hubs, in particular with the optimisation of parking and the SBB P+Rail app.

Detecon is very pleased to be able to support SBB as one of our top clients in this exciting innovation environment. For the acceptance of future mobility solutions and ecosystems, we believe that it is crucial for success to create good added value, especially for existing modes of transport and broad sections of the population, which SBB is addressing and demonstrating impressively with its Smart Parking P+Rail project. New modes of transport and utilisation concepts will only gain widespread acceptance if they pay sufficient attention to people's basic need, namely to get from A to B easily and comfortably.