Many consider the already started digital age as the next Industrial Revolution. But considering all the impacts that the digital technologies and solutions might have on almost all the existing aspect and processes of the society, being the industrial, social, cultural, economical or political layers of the society, the understanding of Industrial Revolution appears to be too reductive.

New concepts have then arisen to formalize this global and fast-developing trend.

In 2018, the world leaders gathered in Davos for the World Economic Forum have formalized and debated on a new concept, called the Society 5.0. It conceptualizes what the digital age is bringing to the society, mainly by using digital technologies and data to “identify a variety of needs and challenges scattered across society and the scenarios to solve them”. The goal of these new technologies is ultimately to bring solutions for better human life.

The prerequisite to these ambitions would be to lay a strong technological base as a foundation to any larger project. The understanding of “technological” should not be here limited to the infrastructure point of view of the technology, but also and mainly to an overall mindset, innovation and involvement coming from users, from businesses and/ or from the political sector.

We found interesting to study the impacts that such revolution could have on an important aspect of most people’s life, being the mobility, based on a concrete case study. We propose to quickly present the geographical area of study and why we believe the Digital transformation could help not only solving existing problems, but also bring additional unexpected solutions and services to citizens and administrations to help building a better life with better experiences. Finally, we will try to propose some tangible solutions that could already be applied in line with the revolution of the Society 5.0.

Presentation

The area of study will focus on Divonne-les-Bains (Divonne), a city located in France in the department of Ain, on the Swiss border and few kilometers away from Geneva.

Geographically, Divonne is located in the district of Pays de Gex, a small area surrounded by Jura mountains on one side, and by Switzerland on the other side. Historically, this district has always been interdependent with the neighboring Switzerland, as due to the Jura mountains the only possible connections and socio-economic relations were with Switzerland.

Quick facts

Divonne is a relatively small city (around 9’500 inhabitants) which is facing a fast population growth for few decades, mainly due to the proximity of Switzerland (Geneva, Nyon, Lausanne…) and its economic activity. In 20 years, the population has been multiplied by 58% and has been multiplied by 6 in 60 years. On the last 20 years, the compound annual growth of the population (CAGR) has been 2.5%, compared to a much lower 0.5% at France level.

These few figures are presented as an introduction to the challenges that the city is facing, focusing on the mobility challenges.

A large part of the mobility is made by workers, commuting from home to their workplace daily.

Official statistics published by the French Statistics Agency (INSEE) indicates that 75% of the active population is working outside of Divonne. Based on various official sources, both French and Swiss, we estimate the number of cross-border commuters to 61% of the active populations (equally split between the Canton of Geneva and Canton of Vaud).

Another important statistic to properly analyze the topic of Smart Mobility, is to analyze the way of transportation used by the population. 80% of the active population are using light vehicles (cars…) on their daily work mobility, whereas only 6% are using the public transportation. These statistics are based on a 2015 census and we can legitimately consider that the rate of public transportation’s use has slightly increased since then due to the launch in 2016 of a short partial BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) from Divonne to the nearest railway station of Coppet in Switzerland (20 minutes journey), directly connecting by train Geneva (40 minutes from Divonne to Geneva city Center) and the main economical centers of Canton of Vaud (30 minutes to Nyon, and 60 minutes to Lausanne).

In 2015, 93% of households owned a car, including 47% owning at least 2 cars, higher than at France level, being respectively 81% and 35%.

Moreover, focusing on the daily working commuters, no data has been found on the number of passengers by car, but based on our personal experience and observations, we can estimate that around 70% of these cars are occupied by 1 person only (the driver).

Other important statistics should be presented, to be able to better apprehend the potential for the digital transformation of the city.

In 2015, Divonne was ranked 9th in France in terms of median disposable household income, with 41’977€ annual (3’498€ per month), what makes it one of the richest cities in France, thanks to the higher salaries in Switzerland. This is more than twice the average amount at France level (20’150€).

In terms of age, 60% of the population is aged below 45 years old. We can consider this population as either fully digitally enabled, or (for the youngest) fully digitally enable within few years, with direct access to internet and using a smartphone or tablet.

Finally, the 2019 development plan of the city ambitions to reach 100% of households connected or at least eligible to the internet fiber by mid-2020.

Tourism

In addition to the daily routine, Divonne is considered as a local touristic place, welcoming many visitors. Divonne is classified as a Spa town (the only one of the Department of Ain), offering many leisure activities such as golf, spa, wellness, shopping, hiking on surrounding Jura mountains, sailing on the lake, sport activities, horse races, Casino…

Even if the tourism was considered at a national level until the 1960’s – the town being famous in France for its Spa – it has more and more become a short stay proximity tourism (from the Greater Geneva region) and a place appreciated by many wealthy guests owning a secondary residence in the city (from the Middle East, ex-USSR…).

With the proximity of Switzerland and with the proximity of the Geneva International Airport (15 minutes by car), Divonne is also developing as a business accomodation hub (easy accessibility thanks to the direct access through the highway), with regular shuttles from Divonne hotels to the airport.

Moreover, Divonne is an important place for shopping, attracting many Swiss visitors, especially on Saturdays and Sundays, interested by a large choice of shops with relatively cheaper products than in Switzerland.

Finally, Divonne is also famous locally for its Sunday morning market, attracting up to 10’000 visitors in summer, with an estimated 60% coming from Switzerland (mainly by car).

Transit city

Divonne being located on the Swiss border, with a direct access to the Lausanne-Geneva A1 highway, it is also a transit city for commuters from other French cities working in Switzerland. No accurate data exist on these private vehicles transiting through Divonne every day and any accurate estimation would be difficult without proper data recording (cf. further in the study).

Urban sprawl

With a quick development and fast population growth, with a relatively rich population in need of comfortable living spaces (individual houses with garden, private parking, large apartments…), the city is facing an important urban sprawl, which is another important aspect when analyzing the mobility. We can easily state that the different city districts are almost not connected to any kind public transportation (except for the city center for inter-cities), making the car the only possible way of transportation, even if soft transportation means are encouraged, with very well-developed network of bike lanes and sidewalks.

With this short presentation, we have quickly presented the situation of Divonne, stating some of the key aspects of the city’s socio-economic activity, in regards of the mobility.

Key aspects should be considered as priority to understand the mobility and its evolution over the last years:

  • Fast growing population of Divonne and all the region, people commuting for work mainly by cars, with very few carpooling, creating more and more traffic jams on roads;
  • Relatively rich population, with several cars by households;
  • Urban sprawl with very weak intracity public transportation network, so most of the journeys are made by car (soft transportation networks are mostly used for leisure or short journeys);
  • Transit city between France and Switzerland for commuters,
  • Tourism city with visitors coming by car during the week-ends;
  • Inter-cities public transportation difficult to put in place due to the different stakeholders, different regulations and lack of ownership between French and Swiss authorities.
  • But population with high digitally enabled rate…

Issues, challenges and opportunities

Most of the people living in Divonne have started complaining about the traffic increase in the city over the last decade.

Traffic jams have now become a daily routine for commuters working in Switzerland, whereas 10 years ago it was very unusual.

On a normal day, we estimate the time increase for a journey from Divonne to Geneva at an average of 50% (from 30 minutes to 45 minutes), with high probability of additional congestions due to frequent road accidents on the A1 highway.

The two pictures below are comparing the journey with no traffic (figure 1) and during the morning rush hour (figure 2), traveling on the highway A1.

Figure 1- Distance and travel time from Divonne to the Place des Nations in Geneva (no traffic)

Figure 2- Distance and travel time from Divonne to the Place des Nations in Geneva (morning rush-hour)

We can clearly see the bottle necks, highlighted in red and orange. Bottle necks are located from the border crossing point to the highway entrance around Chavannes-de-Bogis, with dense traffic all along the highway.

On the next figures, we are presenting the same route but starting upstream Divonne on the A1, with the traffic coming from Nyon and Gland.

On the figure 3, the normal journey from Gland to Geneva with no traffic.

Figure 3- Distance and travel time from Gland to the Place des Nations in Geneva (no traffic)

On the figure 4, the same route during the morning rush hour, we can identify the bottlenecks and high traffic areas. Red bottlenecks are located at the highway entrance points (1 from Nyon and 1 from Divonne). We can see here that the impact from traffic is even more important, with a journey time increased up to 3 times (25 to 75 minutes)!

Figure 4- Distance and travel time from Gland to the Place des Nations in Geneva (morning rush-hour)

Leman Express project – multimodal transportation

As mentioned above, in 2016 a partial BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) portion has been built from Divonne to Coppet railway station, allowing public transportation to avoid traffic jam through dedicated routes. The journey time from Divonne to Geneva railway station has reached an amazing 36 minutes, with buses leaving Divonne every hour.

Figure 5- Journey from Divonne to Geneva by Public transportation (BRT + Rail)

The buses are operated by the Swiss public company TPN (stands for Transports publics de la région nyonnaise – Public transportation if the Nyon region). This is a particularity of Divonne and its region, where public transportation in France are provided by a Swiss public company.

Figure 6- BRT Divonne-Coppet crossing the Swiss-French border

This particularity allows an end to end approach of the multimodality (instead of inter-modality), with transportation subscription cards (Unireso) allowing the use of different transportation means (bus, train, tram, boat…) from different providers (SBB-CFF, TPN, TPG).

Figure 7- Unireso multimodal subscription on bus (yellow) and train (red) routes

These new routes have been launched within a much wider project of the greater Geneva region, named the Leman Express. The picture below represents the networks and routes from main cities around Geneva. Divonne has been added on the map for information.

Figure 8- Leman Express, a transboundary regional network as of December 15th, 2019

Coppet is developing as a hub for multimodal transportation.

We have presented the connection between the Divonne BRT to Coppet with a journey time of 20 minutes.

The Public Authorities are currently increasing the frequency of trains circulating from Coppet to Geneva, with 1 train every 25 minutes as of June 2019, until they reach the targeted frequency of 1 train every 15 minutes as of December 2019 (during the morning rush hours). This increase in frequency is necessary to absorb the increase in passengers from 2’500 persons daily 10 years ago to 8’000 persons daily today.

But most of all, this increase in frequency is aimed at capturing additional passengers currently using individual cars, encouraging the multimodal transportation.

The city of Coppet is currently investing in new parking infrastructures, enabling the car-train multimodal transportation. A part of the available parking slots is reserved only to people living outside of Coppet and without a direct access to a bus stop (traffic from Divonne can be here partly concerned).

As of today, all these improvements in multimodal transportation have been made focusing on Geneva. But as mentioned above, a large part of the commuters from Divonne (transit + locals) are also traveling to Canton of Vaud (Nyon, Lausanne). The current developments are not well optimized for multimodal transportation from Divonne to Nyon (and Lausanne). It is planned and should be available in the next Leman 2030 project.

Future developments, data and the Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

The developments presented above are bringing a transportation revolution in the Greater Geneva region. But compared to transportation in other cities around the world, we must admit that it has come rather late, considering that some large cities have started investing in this revolution few decades ago.

But multimodal transportation being the infrastructure layer in the mobility (the legacy transportation system), the fast digitalization of the society must consider additional layers to this mobility revolution in Divonne (in general in the Greater Geneva region), namely the Data and Services layers.

We can define MaaS is the combination of the infrastructure, the data and the services layers. With the use of internet (smartphones, tablets, PC…), a user should be able to plan door to door journeys using multiple transportation modes (including cars, bus, trains, trams…), optimizing its customer experience through a single window approach, for example a smartphone application integrating time tables, availabilities of networks and means, real time traffic data, real time bus position through GPS localization, pricing of the different transportation means, including public and private transportation (carpooling, car sharing…).

Such applications currently don’t exist in Divonne, but it seems that projects are being developed in Annemasse (cf link below and source).

Similar projects should be launched in Divonne. As mentioned above, difficulties could arise from the transnational aspect of this mobility, requiring a strong cooperation between French and Swiss public authorities and a perfect understanding and definition of the data regulation/ governance of both legislations.

Such project should come from the operators such as the CFF, the TPN or the TPG (Geneva Public Transportation authority), as they are the owner of the infrastructure, have the R&D financing capacity and the need to widely develop it to their customers.

Divonne could participate as a partner on this project, proposing solutions and support, especially as a key associate on the expertise of the French regulation and on providing infrastructure solutions to the multimodal transportation (parking P+R, BRT routes…) to reduce the transit traffic and encourage the use of P+R (relay parking combining car, parking and bus).

As part of the MaaS, Divonne should invest in carpooling and carsharing solutions, that would work in parallel or integrated to the public transportation routes: carpooling from Divonne to Geneva airport, from Divonne to Plan-les-Ouates (a business district of Geneva distant from the railway station and not well deserved by public transportation) or even from Divonne to Coppet (considering the new parking slots that will be made available for multimodal passengers).

Already well-developed applications exist on the market, so investing doesn’t mean creating one from scratch. But building partnerships with such private companies and providing facilities to users. A good example of such solution has been launched in Geneva, and named “Hé!Léman”, where drivers can pick-up passengers on their way through signalization panels on the road. The passengers have beforehand sent an SMS to the system with their destination, so the panels can indicate it to drivers and find matches. In addition to the technical approach, the user experience, the value-added creation, it is important to wisely use the marketing in such project. Divonne could name this project Divonne -> Driv’On!

Figure 9- indicative visual for the Divonne carpooling app

Another idea would be to create an application for the city, providing various services to the citizens, promoting the city cultural agenda, informing of local activities, managing appointments, informing about the history of visited places… and including this carpooling option inside it as an additional brick (component). It would make the different digital projects of the city interconnected and interdependent for users, avoiding them to have multiple applications. This is another single window approach of the MaaS.

Carpooling services are currently based on a remuneration principle, where the user pays the driver for the journey (in the case of Hé! Léman, the journeys are financed by the public authorities for 1 year).

As presented above, few statistics and data are available on the number of cars transiting through Divonne daily, speaking both on the workers commuting and on tourists visiting the city during the week-ends.

All these data could be collected with sensors placed at strategic points of the city, cf picture 10.

Figure 10- Divonne and roads connections with Switzerland and France

On the picture above, 4 circles indicate the road connections between Divonne and its neighborhood. Red circles indicate the roads connections with French neighborhood (Gex, Grilly) with traffic flows being mainly transit (through Divonne to Switzerland and back) and blue circles are the roads connecting Divonne to Switzerland (transit and tourism).

Sensors could be placed on these 4 points could to record almost 100% of the entries and exits of cars to Divonne, providing real time and accurate traffic data.

This data could be used in different ways, to have a better understanding of the traffic and plan appropriate roads’ infrastructures (what are the impacts of the A1 traffic bottlenecks from Nyon on Divonne’s transport fluidity? Will a new road really solve the issues? What will be the impacts of further socio-economic developments on the mobility?)

Once enough data is gathered, properly manipulated and analyzed, artificial intelligent solution could propose predictive analysis to citizens (on the traffic predicted for the day for example) or to local businesses. Combining traffic data to weather forecasts, large events in the region (Geneva International Motor Show for instance), could help predicting the affluence for the day or days to come. Such data could be shared with the local businesses to plan their stock, adapt the resources (should the restaurant hire an additional waiter next Saturday? Should the seller of fresh fish bring more fish next Sunday on the market?). Sharing such data with commuters could also make sense, but already existing applications such as Waze, based on the collaborative data collection are already well enough accurate.

All these new highly valuable services should be part of the services that a city like Divonne should be able to provide to its citizens.

Conclusions and going further

We have seen that mobility is an important topic for Divonne. Many solutions are being developed, mainly traditional, by building a legacy system, but the digitalization and the MaaS are not yet there.

MaaS is providing tools for integrated mobility platforms. But what if MaaS could be also a tool within a wider digital tool? Cities are going digital, on all aspects of their environment. Mobility and Smart mobility are key pillars of it. What if MaaS could be combined to other digital tools proposed to the citizens, such as the e-government, e-commerce, bringing MaaS into one single window.

Considering the “additional brick” approach of the city application, it could be possible to combine not a remuneration through a direct fee, but a remuneration through an online wallet to be used in local stores (to support the city center shops suffering from the development of shopping malls). The use of blockchain and local cryptocurrencies could be a first step of the city in this technology and a way to secure the transactions.

Speaking about security, another aspect of the data and services layers are the security, confidentiality and ownership of the data, especially the personal data. It is also a critical strategy to put in place, will the data be owned by the local authorities, from the private service provider, will it be stored on an on-premise or on-cloud architecture…? Will the city pay for local servers, including the maintenance required? Will the city decide to go on a private cloud, owned by a GAFA, risking exposing the personal confidential data of its citizens?

Improving the efficiency of transportation in the city is also beneficial from an environment point of view, considering the potential reduction of cars on the road (use of public transportation, car sharing, carpooling…). Moreover, the construction sector being one of the biggest contributor to the pollution, new habits might avoid building new roads or new infrastructures.

The digitalization of services in cities, bringing the concepts of Smart Cities is booming. Currently, mainly large megalopolis have a strategy and the capacity to invest in such projects. But millions of smaller cities will follow the path and will start investing in new solutions and building themselves as a Smart City. All these cities will have to follow examples and apply the best solutions in terms of development costs (CAPEX), maintenance costs (OPEX) user experience, scalability, confidentiality of the data…

Relatively rich cities such as Divonne could take the lead of this revolution for small cities and invest in solutions that it could later remarket as a package to other cities. The city could also invest in data centers, that it will rent to other cities and position itself as a hub for secured data, thanks to a strong and successful experience with its own data.

Moreover, investing today in these solutions will bring to the citizens a new mentality adapted to the Society 5.0 and train people for new competences that are highly appreciated on the labor market.

As heard in some presentations from Chief Digital Officers of large companies, one should not have a digital strategy, but a strategy supported by the digital. Divonne should go this way.

 

Sources

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