First-year criminology student Malika Soudani (24) remembers sitting in the bus during the pandemic on her way to the campus every morning. With all those other students and schoolchildren. “You were packed like sardines with no way out,” she chuckles. For that reason, the new Moves app is great for her, she says. “On a digital map, you can see exactly what your travel options are, which is no longer just the bus in my case. And Flytz provides a very good service. Recently, my rental scooter broke down in the middle of the Erasmusbrug. I couldn’t reach the rental company but managed to contact Flytz. Within twenty minutes, I had a new e-scooter.”
One app for all transport
Based on a personal budget, students can use the Moves app to plan, book, pay and use any form of transport. Since 19 April, three hundred Rotterdam students, including many EUR students, have been testing the app. During this pilot, which is only taking place in the Rotterdam region, the travel experience and behaviour of participating students are being studied. Students are given a travel budget rising to 150 euros, which is based on how much they travelled with their student public transport card. Participants may not use their normal public transport card during the test period.
The idea behind the app is simple. The app offers an alternative to both travel information website 9292 and the student public transport card. Everything a student needs to book a journey is contained in one app. Co-founder of Flytz and EUR alumnus Renske Wytzes explains: “So instead of a phone with lots of individual apps for different forms of transport and a public transport card, you only need one app. When planning a journey, a user has several alternatives, which enables them to plan the fastest, cheapest or most carbon-friendly journey. You can combine public transport with an e-scooter and a bike. Besides planning, you can also book your public transport tickets or other forms of transport in the app, and a barcode in the app gives you access to an e-scooter, hire car or bike.”
The pilot is being funded by the municipality of Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland Bereikbaar, Moves & Flytz. The Erasmus University is not financially involved in the pilot.
A promise made by the app is that because of the more diverse range of travel for students, they are less likely to use a car powered by fossil fuel. EUR programme manager for sustainability, Mariecke van der Glas, who helped Flytz recruit participants, is enthusiastic. “We want to make commuter travel more sustainable for the whole university and reduce our carbon emissions. It is therefore important to analyse the travel needs of students and see whether a more diverse range of travel options also reduces the number of car journeys. Students are responsible for a large part of our carbon footprint, so they are a very interesting group for sustainability policy.”
Second-year econometrics student Thamara Leuenberger (20) already chooses the app over her public transport card and 9292. “With this app, I can choose the fastest route but also take a scooter if the weather’s fine, and each form of transport connects perfectly with each other. A student public transport card alone doesn’t really reflect the travel behaviour of me and my housemates in Kralingen.”
She continues: “We don’t live very far from campus but use an e-scooter quite often. On the scooter, I can be on campus in five minutes, but it takes a quarter of an hour by tram or metro, because it’s quite a walk to the stop. With the app, you can easily combine the scooter with the train. That makes it very easy to plan. The app also shows you the carbon emissions of your journey and the number of calories you burn.”
Third-year Business Administration student Yousry Salem (24) also likes the app. “I’d often thought about a different public transport system myself, and I think it’s great that they’ve now found a new way to do it. I’ve often experienced a bus or metro train being cancelled. Now I can easily use an e-scooter, which is a great idea.”
Cars and bikes
The participants seem to use cars less. None of the three students use the shared car, which is included in the app. Soudani understands that: “I often see my friends using the car because they don’t stop and think. It’s just pure convenience for them. But with this app, it’s easier and cheaper to travel from A to B in a different way. So I think that students will drive less if this app becomes the norm.” It’s still unclear whether students are driving less, according to Flytz.
The fact that students Soudani, Leuenberger and Salem say they cycle less does not necessarily mean this is a trend, says Wytzes from Flytz. “Students have certainly not started to cycle less. Eighty-five percent of our participants had their own bike before the start of the test period. We also offer shared bikes in the app. We are currently studying the extent to which travel behaviour and thus the use of bikes are changing due to the pilot, but we will only be able to draw conclusions at the end of the pilot.”
Budget still too low
So the app is clearly a victory for the e-scooter in Rotterdam. However, the students do point out an issue. Salem notes: “If I used an e-scooter to travel to and from the university every day, I’d soon use up my budget of 150 euros.”
Leuenberger has the same problem. This month, she unexpectedly needed to go and from a hospital in Haarlem and quickly exceeded her budget of 150 euros. She explains: “The scheme is not optimal when you’re faced with unexpected costs. Fortunately, Flytz quickly offered me a solution to my problem and my budget was temporarily increased.”
Wytzes from Flytz understands the students’ problem. “One aim of the pilot is to study the travel behaviour of students. From the information we collect, we can determine whether a flexible budget or a fixed budget works better. At the same time, we want to ensure that transport becomes more affordable. Some regional public transport companies are still unwilling to offer the rates that now apply for the normal public transport card. That means that students use their budget more quickly. In general, they do stay within their budget. But I believe that the market will expand and that all the parties will see the potential and it will become cheaper for students.”
Correction: The first published version of this article stated that Flytz was the creator of the app. That is not the case. This company is the inventor and executor of the pilot.