By Jean-Baptiste Hamonic, Vice President of Sustainable Transport and Mobility
Diversified mobility needs in SQY
The agglomeration of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (SQY) is located in the outer suburbs of Île-de-France (Paris Region), about 30 kilometers southwest of Paris. SQY has nearly 230,000 inhabitants and more than 145,000 jobs for 17,000 companies.
As 60% of its area is covered with green and blue spaces, SQY offers a pleasant environment with a wide range of activities. Therefore, the attractiveness of SQY is high and some neighbourhoods are highly sought-after. At the same time, SQY counts 7 priority neighborhoods, with a population in need of a specific backing in terms of mobility. One of the most important criteria of differentiation is the rate of car ownership in such areas. As it is significantly lower, public transport is a key condition in finding a steady job.
SQY is the second largest economic hub of the Paris Region. It hosts major companies in sectors such as automotive, finance, aeronautics, and cyber security. These companies attract a population with higher socio-professional status, keen on new mobility services, and who are also frequently eligible to telework: for these professionals, public transport represents the best way to commute. However, a significant portion of the available jobs in SQY need some sort of physical presence in the company, sometimes at off-peak hours late at night, early in the morning, or during weekends, when public transport is less efficient. Even during the COVID-19 lockdown, the commuting flows decreased significantly, but never fell to zero. In partnership with the companies, SQY worked with Île-de-France Mobilités (the transport authority) so that some bus lines reaching active sites could be left unchanged, while the frequency of others could decrease. Thanks to Île-de-France Mobilités, not a single company in the area had difficulties making sure their employees could safely get to work during the lockdown in SQY.
Moreover, educational, sport, and cultural facilities attract a lot of visitors from France and abroad. The graduate schools and the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin, part of University Paris-Saclay, attract more than 17,000 students. With the French National Golf Course and the French National Velodrome, SQY is a favorite for events like the Ryder Cup in 2018, the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in 2015 and 2022, and the upcoming Olympic Games in 2024. Hence, SQY has many occasions to welcome huge groups of visitors and tourists from abroad, who may not be familiar with the French mobility system.
This diversity of needs in SQY brings the need for the area to develop a variety of mobility services to match these diverse mobility needs. As some of these needs may be contradictory, the policy of SQY is to answer each of them with a global perspective, and not one by one. That is why it has been necessary to define a mobility strategy and abide by it.
The needs and habits of displacement at the heart of the mobility policy of SQY
The mobility strategy of SQY is set in a guidance document called the “Plan Local de Déplacements” (PLD) adopted in 2014, which details the “Plan de Déplacements Urbains d’Île-de-France,” or the regional strategy.
Five guidelines of the PLD are devoted to different modes: increasing the attractiveness of public transport, promoting cycling and active modes, reducing car traffic, implementing a parking policy at scale and organising the flow of goods. Last but not least, the final guideline is transversal: it deals with communication – informing and training people on how to best use the mobility offerings available.
First, people must know something exists in order to use it. This obviously applies to new modes but also to traditional ones. Feedback that we often hear from forums organised at local companies is that some employees are not aware of the high-frequency bus line from their home or from the station they pass by every day. Some inhabitants are used to a line, and they do not want to try another one, even if it ultimately takes less time. It is a question of knowledge, but also of trust: reliability is a key performance indicator for all modes.
Second, some people are very at-ease with their usual mode, but they lose their way when there is a change. It is always surprising to notice that when the exit of the station they use every day is out of order or closed, some people are unable to transfer to another mode such as a bus, or to reach their final destination without help.
Third, we have to overcome mental blocks by proving that the mode in question is aligned with needs. For instance, some people would never consider carsharing, even if it is more efficient, faster and cheaper for them. Others will trust the train but not the bus, whereas for others, they could consider shifting from car to bus, but notto train.
This is why communication is key. It is not just about the production of informative physical or digital-based materials like maps, time schedules, guides, etc. Whether static or dynamic, information communicated must be carried out within a wider pattern of acceptance. In SQY, we share this responsibility with the operators, of course under the aegis of Île-de-France Mobilités. Such communication can mean advertising to promote a new service, a new offer, or events like the European Mobility Week, the Bicycle Day, forums at markets, or within specific companies. Finally, communicating well also means welcoming customers with a human presence. In SQY, the information office at the station of SQY-Montigny is often visited by new passengers or everyday commuters.
Of course, digital is a way to reach a large number of people. When Sqybus, one of our main bus operators started to inform its customers on Twitter when a bus service was unavailable, it was considered as a huge qualitative step for the bus network.
But a digital shift is not always easy, especially for public bodies. So, in terms of communication, the policy of SQY is to diversify the means in order to reach everyone. Another axis of this policy is to create digital or physical meeting points where people can find the information they need.
That is why the creation of a mobility center is an action of the PLD, though some services have already been active in SQY for a long time.
The Mobility Center of SQY, where all services meet
The Mobility Center will bring together the following elements:
The Vélostation and its various cycling services
The Vélostation of SQY, which offers a bike rental, repair workshop and secured parking, has been running since 2017. The fleet is currently made of 170 rental bikes split into 150 standard bikes, 10 electrically assisted cycles and 10 folding bikes. The bicycle rental is meant to develop the culture of the bicycle for easy trips (commuting, business trips, etc.). The rental period ranges from one day to one year for standard bikes. In 2019, almost 670 rental contracts (all terms) were signed.
The repair workshop has two main missions: guaranteeing the maintenance of the rental bikes and proposing a series of common repairs for the general public, companies, associations, or public structures.
Finally, parking includes two secured areas on both sides of SQY-Montigny train station, totaling 280 places. To be able to access these spots, you have to take out a one-day to one-year subscription via your Navigo pass. The prices are attractive to encourage the use of the bicycle (30€/year). These two locales offer additional services such as places for electrically assisted cycles, tire pumps, and double level racks with storage assistance for high racks. In 2019, the occupancy rates of these locals averaged 72%.
In addition to the Vélostation, the main stations of SQY are provided with secured parking (Véligo), and two additional areas are scheduled to be ready in 2022 at La Verrière.
The Vélostation is also a collection and repair point for the Véligo service implemented by Île-de-France Mobilités. This service offers the rental of electrically assisted cycles for a period of 6 months and that can be extended for 3 additional months.
The Mobility Center located in the SQY-Montigny station
This multimodal information point is located in the SQY-Montigny station. It has been running for a long time, and its main mission is to be a one-stop place for mobility information in SQY.
The Mobility Center helps to respond to visitors’ questions and informs them about all the modes of transport available in the area. It is also a place to promote intermodality, communicate on mobility-related activities, and events organised by the region. Finally, the office acts as a call-center to provide information on the SQY bus system.
The future “Mobibus” (mobile agency), which will circle around the territory and deliver the same services as those of the mobility center office
The mobile agency, or “Mobibus”, is an itinerant service to promote alternative mobility. It is not yet in action, but it was imagined as an extension of the mobility office to reach people who are not easily able to come to the SQY-Montigny station: people in priority neighborhoods, users of other stations, attendees of events in other areas, etc..
Therefore, the main missions of Mobibus are to provide information about mobility to the general public, to offer the same services as those provided at SQY’s multimodal information point, and to offer all the services provided at the Vélostation: mainly bicycle rentals and repairs.
Hence, the Mobibus will offer its services to users in strategic locations: stations, priority neighborhoods, markets, etc.
Bus stations certified by Île-de-France Mobilités to offer a standardized level of service
In Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, two bus stations in SQY-Montigny are certified by Île-de-France Mobilités: “Gare routière des Prés” and “Gare routière Delouvrier”, both located in Montigny-le-Bretonneux. The certification of other bus stations is the next step at La Verrière, Plaisir-Grignon Villepreux-les Clayes and Trappes, once work to refurbish them is completed.
This particular label is based on various criteria such as information in bus stations, waiting conditions, cleanliness, quality of the equipment (lifts, escalators, etc.), platform and road conditions, and the possibility of extension.
Currently, the stations are managed directly by SQY. The operating costs are balanced with fees paid by the bus operators and a subvention from Île-de-France Mobilités if the criteria are reached. The project of the mobility center is to hand this mission over directly to bus operators for a better integration.
Park & Ride certified by Île-de-France Mobilités to offer a standardized level of service
Parking lot services only include different ”Park & Rides” certified by Île-de-France Mobilités such as “Gare” and “Bertin” in Montigny-le-Bretonneux, and the “Park & Ride” in La Verrière. The latter is under construction and will start operating in December 2022.
Thereby, some criteria of quality include cleanliness, safety, travellers’ information, pricing and multimodality.
Currently, the Park & Rides are managed by a private operator appointed by a public service delegation, which receives the users’ fare revenue and a subvention from SQY to operate the lots.
Initially, the project of the mobility center would integrate the Park & Ride options, but under French law it is technically under a different domain. That is why SQY has launched a new bid to appoint a new public service delegation for parking services in 2022.
The Viago! app, digital twin of the Mobility Center
In an effort to diversify supporting information materials, SQY developed a digital twin of the mobility agency.
MaaS (Mobility as a Service) and other digital mobility services have become fundamental tools in order to both facilitate travellers’ experiences during their journeys and assist transport operators and public transport authorities in their monitoring and optimisation of the transport services provided.
With the new regional strategy on MaaS, local administrations such as SQY have an important role to play in collecting and sharing quality data regarding their local services, but also providing a more personalised experience, based on daily mobility habits of inhabitants and commuters, and using these tools as marketing and communication platforms for their territory. For almost 2 years, SQY has useda new multimodal calculator in order to reinforce multimodality, especially targeting solo drivers with solutions that mix cars with other transport modes.
Based on the framework provided by Île-de-France Mobilités, the regional PTA, this application will not only be the go-to digital platform for all mobility services provided both regionally and locally, it will also provide customers with targeted advice and communication.
The application will also benefit from a specific and local community management and thus, provide customers with a more personalised experience compared to other global solutions on the market.
A steady evolution
As a result, SQY is cooperating with Île-de-France Mobilités so that the mobility agency will be operational in 2022. Overall, as the needs of the public is at the heart of this project, and of SQY’s policies in general, its implementation should not be seen as a goal per se but as a way to constantly improve the systems in place to match commuters’ changing needs.
This project also has the potential to create a further and deeper link between citizens and administration: it will offer services and deliver information to citizens, but also inform the administration’s activities based on user feedback. As an innovative territory, SQY is aware that innovation is not only based on new technology, but also new ways of thinking and acting. Let us prove it with the mobility center in SQY!