The word inter-modality is starting to spread also outside the micro-mobility industry. It is appearing always more frequently in online posts, podcasts, and articles dealing with the future of urban mobility and smart cities. But what do we mean when we talk about inter-modality? In this article, we are going to explain the meaning of a word which will become extremely important in the imminent future. 

Intermodality, explained

Combining different transport modes can help cut private vehicle use enabling cities to better cope with problems like traffic congestion, a lack of parking space and emissions. 

L. Gebhardt, D. Krajzewicz, R. Oostendorp, Intermodality – key to a more efficient urban transport system?, eceee summer studies procedings, 2017, pp. 759-769

Inter-modality is a term that comes from the goods’ transport sector. According to the Merriam-Webster vocabulary, the adjective intermodal refers to a type of transportation that involves more than one form of the carrier during a single journey.  

In the last years, however, there has been a growth of new policies and new visions about city centers and sustainability. As the authors of this paper claim, the term inter-modality is still open to different definitions. However, in 1997, the EU Commission defined inter-modality as an “essential component of the European Union’s Common Transport Policy for sustainable mobility”, placing a relevant attention to the need of integrating different means of transportation to reach different targets, such as reducing pollution and gas emission. From then, inter-modality has become an always more crucial concept in urban strategies. And, with this transition, we got used to applying this term to the mobility industry as well.

In the micro-mobility industry, by inter-modality we mean a similar thing to that of the former Merriam-Webster definition. What we refer to, though, is people, not goods. Thus, intermodal mobility is a way of traveling that combines different types of transportation, integrating smart long-distance vehicles with micro-mobility sustainable options. 

Nowadays, the word intermodality is part of a larger and essential vocabulary filled with words such as multimodality, smart cities, electrification, and many other terms. 

An Helbiz e-scooter sponsored in Milan

In our cities, between our cities 

In the cities of tomorrow, inter-modality is an essential element: with the need to preserve our city centers, it is crucial to seamlessly combine different methods of transport, providing travellers with smart travel solutions. Indeed, the integration between multiple mobility services is needed to promote a more sustainable way of living on our planet. However, intermodality is not only about city centers and urban mobility. We also need to create a sustainable inter urban mobility net, imagining a different way of connecting cities.

As this BBC article explains, private transportation is one of the major causes of pollution in our world. Thus, if we want to propose a solution to urban traffic with electric vehicles, we must also think of different ways to travel long distances, imagining new ways of promoting sustainable and shared solutions. Where shared e-scooters, e-bikes, and e-mopeds do not arrive, there come trains and buses. But how to make this idea reality?

An intermodal journey vs a monomodal one

You are a university student who lives in Milan. Your university is in the center of the city, and each day you use a shared service to reach your usual destination, combining it with public transportation. Now, let’s imagine your best friend lives in Rome – which is 574 kilometers distant from Milan – and every month you go there to pay her a visit. 

So, when you decide to go to Rome, you can either take your private car or choose another option. For instance, you could rent an e-scooter to reach the closest bus or train station, purchase a ticket and travel directly to Rome.

In the first case, you are opting for a monomodal method of transportation, which recent studies in the area define as more expansive and pollutive. 

On the other hand, if you decide to rent an e-scooter and take a bus, you will reduce your carbon footprint. In fact, combining private or shared vehicles with public transport halves emissions per distance. Most importantly, while taking a sustainable choice, with an intermodal travel you will also save time and effort.

A young student riding an Helbiz after travelling his way with Itabus

The need to enhance intermodality

Though many international boards are driving this way, we still need to walk a long way to make intermodality part of our everyday life. In Europe, for instance, private transport is still the privileged way to travel. That’s why new actions and ideas are needed.

At Helbiz, we try to combine our shared service with those of other companies that work in the same direction as ours, always thinking about how to give our users the most seamless travel experience possible. Hence, we know micro-mobility is essential to change the world of today and tomorrow, but we also understand the need to integrate our service with long-distance mobility providers. That’s why in the last years we have signed important partnerships with long-transportation companies, like Trenitalia, Ita Airways, and Itabus, pushing the boundaries of intermodality as far as we can. In this way, we continue to offer all Helbiz users the possibility to get discounted tickets for long-distance transportation and free rides on our vehicles. 

The future of micro-mobility

In this article, we have given you a brief definition of the term intermodality, trying to let you understand the benefits of this new transportation system. Now, you should be able to understand a new concept that will take over next years’ public debate. Are you ready to travel in a new way?


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