Spearheading the Freedom of Movement in Oslo
Oslo has been making major headlines in recent months, from being named the 2019 European Green Capital, to announcing the downtown core will be car free by 2019, to making all public transit fossil free by 2020.
However, flying beneath the public and media radar at least for the time being, is perhaps the city’s most transformative movement… freedom of movement when it comes to public transit.
Ruter, the manager of public transit for Oslo and neighboring Akershus is currently transitioning from the role of transport service provider, to becoming a mobility service provider. So, in addition to overseeing public transportation, integrating with complementary services such as public bikes and car sharing. A combined mobility model tied to the concept of using the right service at the right time and place.
It’s a radical departure from how most other public transit systems are currently managed. As Frode Hvattum, Ruter’s chief of strategy explains:
“We realized that we shouldn’t just focus on the bus. Because you don’t want to take a bus, you just want to get from A to B. So, what if riders don’t have to think about that movement and we can make it as seamless as possible?”
One real world example of providing this ‘seamless service’, which ties in with current rider data collection trials that are using Bluetooth e-beacons and other data collection technologies, is a scenario where a customer voluntarily allows Ruter to collect data on his or her movement. As a result, “we know that you get on bus 71 at a certain station every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. But your regular bus that arrives at 9 o’clock is delayed, so we can tell you to take another bus instead. Or if we’re tied in with our calendar and we know you’re going to a concert and there’s a traffic jam in a certain spot along the way, we can give you other options, such as using your bike or taking the metro and walking.”
Ultimately, this data collection is about having a better understanding of commuter habits and how best they can be served within a multi-modal framework.
Of course, data collection and analysis is just one of several Ruter pilots underway, all tied to improving the overall rider experience while at the same time, catering to the city’s commitment to be a world leader when it comes to sustainability.
The city received its first six electric buses last year, which are now undergoing trials and an additional 70 electric buses have been ordered that will be on the roads of Oslo by the spring of 2019. Included in the mix will be 10 driverless buses which should be up and running by December of this year, tied to yet another pilot program.
With Oslo forging ahead on so many fronts, Hvattum says that even in the company of other Nordic capitals that are involved with COPA – a knowledge and best practices sharing organization “we are the most technology optimistic.”
In addition to having fewer legal hoops to jump through before implementing such services as driverless buses compared to other capitals, Hvattum says they benefit from a CEO “who is extremely visionary. I don’t know of anyone who is so far out there” in terms of embracing new technology.
Because of this, he says perceptions of what Ruter is up to vary considerably.
“Some people think we’re too optimistic about making new technology work and that maybe we forget that we’re a public service entity. Others think we’re visionary and inspiring. I guess we’ll see if we succeed over time with all of this.”
Regardless of how it all plays out, one thing is for certain… Oslo will continue to capture the imagination of onlookers with its new freedom of movement approach to public transit.
I love my city because I can go skiing in the winter and swimming in the summer.
Everyone can live more sustainably by thinking before doing and trying new things.
Every city should work activity toward contributing to the sustainability development goals.
The future of urban transit is simplified for the user, but more complex to organise and operate well.