GPSM: Could you briefly describe your consultancy and the main activities in the field of mobility and logistics?
Benjamin Häger: choice GmbH is an independent research and development organisation with comprehensive experiences in conceptualising innovative mobility services. Where mobility meets sustainable urban development, we focus on modern issues, e.g. bike and car sharing, e-mobility and smart forms of participative planning. In the projects, innovative technical solutions are flexibly combined with custom-made user applications. For instance, we create customised software solutions like online participation platforms or management tools to plan demand-orientated mobility infrastructure. Furthermore, our specific services cover analyses of traffic developments and mobility needs, cost-benefit analyses, development of sustainable co-modality concepts for urban and rural areas, business mobility including concepts for public and private enterprises, pilot studies to test the acceptance of new forms of mobility, analyses of customer satisfaction, management of research and implementation projects as well as quality management and project Evaluation.
GPSM: How do you define sustainability in your own work?
Benjamin Häger: Founded 15 years ago with a visionary concept for citizen-based car sharing, sharing economy and crowdsourcing are important elements of our philosophy and work. We believe in producing less and using better. That is why we concentrate on demand-oriented and participative planning of mobility services and infrastructure. By providing modern methods and technical tools we help our clients to involve people and professional partners in their planning process, e.g. to build charging stations for EVs or bike sharing spots exactly where they are needed. A so planned infrastructure guarantees a use at full capacity, minimal resource consumption and highest public acceptance, i.e. it is much more sustainable than conventionally planned infrastructure. As a matter of course, we promote zero- or low-emission forms of mobility, like cycling or e-mobility.
GPSM: What trends and developments are you facing in your work field?
Benjamin Häger: Against the background of megatrends like climate change, urbanization and digitalization, I see another trend, let us call it a cross-sectional or meta-trend: it is the ubiquitous interdependency and connectivity. Many trends and developments engage with each other and professional fields grow together, which requires solid interface competences and the capability to anticipate developments and to stay flexible. If we take e-mobility as an example: Recently used for car-sharing, this subject requires holistic knowhow in traffic planning, urban design, building services, charging technology, vehicles, parking space management, payment systems, business models, marketing etc. – and in about ten years the first automotive vehicles could drive through our smart cities and change the image once again. Besides, there is a very pleasing trend which is important to our organization. We experience a revival of the bike – as lifestyle object, pedelec or e-bike – or as a sustainable component in an integrated mobility system. The bike will play a very important role in intermodal mobility of the future.
GPSM: Which challenges or hurdles do you recognize while working towards sustainable mobility?
Benjamin Häger: Drivers of innovation always have to overcome a lot of hurdles – also or especially in the field of sustainable mobility and urban development where many players come together and try to defend their interests. The sheer newness of specific issues, e.g. integrating electric car-sharing in public transportation, and the complexity of recent technical questions, e.g. what EV-charging system or e-payment solution should be chosen and how could it be realized, can be big challenges, in particular for municipalities. They often appear not as innovative as they should be and neither are they well-educated in terms of the latest technical or juridical subjects – how could they?! But sometimes we recognize a lack of will, too. That is a great pity, because municipalities are key players for sustainable mobility.
GPSM: What are your next activities in international cooperation?
Benjamin Häger: choice is project leader and partner in several European research and development projects, e.g. eBRIDGE (concepts for electric fleets) or velocittà (optimising bike sharing marketing). Following this tradition we aim for leading further innovative projects in the field of sustainable mobility and city development. Furthermore, we wonder if our software Visioplaner also can be used in an international context, e.g. in Europe as a participatory planning platform for bicycle infrastructure, or as a provisional, easy-to-use tool to help providing basic services like drinking water access in developing countries. We are curious about upcoming opportunities.