Interview Transcript

How are the public authorities or the cities thinking about organizing their cities?

I haven’t talked to many people, but the ones I’ve talked to just around here in Paris, I think, initially saw it as a threat, that they were going to lose control of what goes on in the transport system in the city. Now, they're seeing it more as an opportunity and saying “Look, the technology's now here, it's coming out, we can't resist it, so we're better getting on board with it, and starting to invest ourselves into how we do it.”

The counter-side of that is that private companies are having to smooch up a lot to the public authorities and say "Look, let us help you, we'll do this.” So there's this dance going on at the moment between the private companies and the public sector, at least in Paris, I'm not sure in other cities so much.

I mention, in my article, that Whim has been struggling a bit to get access to all the transport options from the City of Helsinki Transport Authority. I'm not sure what the latest is on that. I'm sure that Sampo [Sampo Hietanen, CEO of Whim] will touch on that in one of his presentations soon. But I feel there's a sort of dance going on at the moment between the private companies and the city authorities as to how they can work together. Because the city authorities recognize that the private companies are in the lead. They've invested in the technology. They came up with the idea. But they're also reluctant to let go of this responsibility.

Are they preferring certain methods or not? In terms of the transportation methods, you've got e-bikes, scooters, obviously Uber, Lyft and Mytaxi, or. Is there any preference from the authorities on different types of transport, between private companies?

I don’t know. I think that what we've seen. I'll give an example, in Paris again, the train company, the RATP, runs a lot of the trains in Paris. They're now trying to do a deal with one of the electrical bike companies so that they will have special bike stations next to the railway stations. So that when people get off the train, they can immediately get onto a bike and they can ride the last mile or the last kilometer, using a bicycle. That's a plan they want to put into place this year and next year. So it's a strategy that they're going to put into place and it's a partnership with a cycle company and the public authority on trains. The other thing is that in the second half of this year, they will make electrical bicycles available for people to rent on a monthly basis. So rather than just turning up and using the bicycle and then dropping it off at a station, you can actually rent your own electrical bicycle to go from your house to the station and back to your house when you come back in the evening. So they're trying to encourage people to use electrical bicycles.

So that's the city partnering with a private company?

Yes. For example, the Vélib' in Paris is managed by a private company. Previously, the contract was won by a company called JCDecaux. They make publicity at bus stations and billboards, things like that; so street furniture is their strength. They won the initial contract for the Vélib' in Paris, but they lost the second contract to another company, Smovengo. But it's been having some problems getting those bicycles out into the street. They had a severe delay when they first tried to renew their bicycle park but I think they're now caught up on that. The fact is that it’s a private company again. So what the City of Paris is doing is they're giving these contracts to private companies to run these sort of things.

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