“Is being stuck in a traffic jam every morning and evening really the way we want to live, or are we going to do something about it?”

Like a lot of other people, Laurent Roux owns a car, but he rarely needs it. So he shares it with his neighbours. For the CEO of Verkehrsbetriebe Luzern (VBL), car sharing is an important piece of the puzzle along the way to achieving to sustainable mobility.

Text   Alexandra Stäuble


  • Sustainability

Laurent Roux, you gave up your personal car for a month in the autumn. How did you and your family come to take part in the challenge organised by Luzern Mobil?

Laurent Roux: On Instagram I saw that the transport association was getting together with the umbrella brand Luzern Mobil to organise a challenge. So I asked if my family and I could take part.

How did you get around during the 31-day period?

We generally travelled by bike. Apart from that, we mainly used public transport, which is something we do a lot of anyway. We also had the use of a cargo bike and an e-bike, which was great! We had a trailer, so it was very straightforward for us to transport almost anything. We actually used Mobility less during the Challenge because it was rather cumbersome with the child seats.

Is car sharing something you subscribe to, even though you have a car of your own?

Absolutely! We own a car that we share with two neighbours who don’t have one themselves. All it takes to book it is to simply send a request via WhatsApp. If they cover a lengthier distance, they refuel.

It’s exemplary.

Of course we’re sometimes glad of the car for swimming training or when we go on skiing holidays, for example. But for the rest of the time it’s standing around – a waste of resources.

Did you have a connection to Mobility before the Challenge?

I was a Mobility customer for a long time. We didn’t have a car of our own until our third child was born: before that we used Mobility instead. Then we bought a family car with a practical sliding door – the family classic (laughs).

This is the 31-Day Challenge

Sign up, hand over your car and experiment! Participants hand over their car over and in return they have various transport options available to them, depending on their needs: these include car sharing, cargo bikes, e-bikes, a GA travelcard and public transport credit. The first Challenge was held in the summer of 2023 in the canton of Bern with around 100 participants. Find out here how the participants fared. In autumn, the people of Lucerne gave up their privately owned cars for a month – and it was a resounding success: the Challenge is now set to enter its second round in Lucerne at the end of April, involving some 50 participants. Winterthur is aiming to attract even more participants: as many as 1,000 people are expected to give up the use of their cars in spring 2024. See here for full details of the 31-Day Challenge.

Laurent Roux poses in front of an electric bus from the VBL fleet.

What does your journey to work look like?

I live in the city of Lucerne. The number 7 bus stops virtually on my doorstep and takes me straight to the office. I do like going by bike, but I almost always take the bus. For me, the trip to work provides an important opportunity to communicate with my employees: at least twice a day I can say hello, thank somebody or exchange pleasantries.

Is line 7 popular among employees?

Somebody messed up on that one: after all, there’s a good chance I’ll get on (laughs). Just joking. I don’t think people see it as a punishment.

Berne, Lucerne, Winterthur to follow soon: how important are these Challenges for the cities?

It’s a great campaign because it demonstrates that everyone can critically question their travel habits at any time. It doesn’t mean you have to change radically from one day to the next, but it gives you the chance to try things out. It’s also vital to make use of campaigns like this to draw attention to the challenges of urban transport. If a bus gets stuck in the same traffic jam as the cars, it doesn’t exactly encourage people to switch to public transport.

The biggest problem is privately owned cars?

Absolutely. A car takes up an enormous amount of space, but it only carries 1.5 people on average. A car isn’t just inefficient, it’s a selfish means of transport, too.

Do you see any other option than to impose regulatory restrictions on private transport?

We have the choice. Do this many people really have to travel in their own car every day? If so, the entire system collapses – as we’re already seeing. Or do we reaffirm our commitment to attractive public transport and do everything in our power to ensure that it’s reliable to use? The latter option is more sustainable and fairer, and it improves the quality of life in our cities – so it’s in everyone’s interest.

Be absolutely honest: can you imagine things improving in the next ten years?

Is being stuck in a traffic jam every morning and evening really the way we want to live, or are we going to do something about it? Various solutions are being discussed and some have already been implemented: Mobility, road pricing, city tolls, transit slots, car-free areas, feeder services, time-based driving bans, no more transit traffic through the city, etc. There are good examples and initiatives in Switzerland, Europe and around the world that show how much the appeal of an area increases when there is less car access or none at all.

Various means of transport are available in a city: car sharing, cargo bikes, regular bicycles, e-scooters, etc. People make their choice based on distance, passengers, weather, luggage or budget; people book and pay by means of a single app. What do you think of this as a future scenario?

We closely follow developments in this area. If people need five different accounts to get around, they’re not going to want to do it. I want an app that suggests the fastest and cheapest means of transport and automatically charges me for my journey using the means of payment I’ve set up on my account.

Do you see a standardised booking platform as a necessity for shared mobility to move forward?

Definitely. From the customer’s point of view, the current situation is not ideal. Fortunately, public transport is now so far advanced that you can travel anywhere in Switzerland with a swipe/slide.

The public transport providers in the cities of Zurich, Basel and Bern have invited tenders for the development of a mobility app. Why not Lucerne?

We maintain close dialogue with other cities and are looking carefully at this type of project in particular. Where it’s possible and makes sense, we join in. Often it’s a question of resources and financial means.

Do you see a disadvantage in not being involved in the development of the mobility app?

We engage in ongoing and transparent dialogue, whether within the association of public transport or in other bodies. As I see it, you don’t necessarily need ten representatives to be involved: this can lead to things getting bogged down. Ideally, two or three parties should be involved and if it works out, the others can jump on board.

Mobility is on course to switching its entire fleet to electric power by 2030. So it’s actively contributing to modern, sustainable travel. How do you assess the role of Mobility?

Mobility has a major role model function. It is visible to people and has a huge fleet throughout the whole of Switzerland. These are two important sources of leverage on the way to achieving this goal. I welcome the switch to electromobility.

When does VBL plan to go fully electric?

We’re financed by the canton of Lucerne, which is pursuing the Roadmap 2040. The last diesel vehicles are likely to be done away with around 2033. If things go as planned, VBL will be fossil-free closer to 2030 than 2040. But we’re having to constantly reassess the situation.

How do you view the role of the planned transit station? Could it be seen as a starting point for a thorough reconception and lasting promotion of shared mobility in and around Lucerne?

I strongly believe that this project will have a positive impact on public transport. It will result in an improvement in the service on certain lines. An hourly service to Bern or a half-hourly service to Zurich are no longer in keeping with the times. If it makes rail travel more attractive, it has the potential to encourage people to switch from travelling by car to using public transport.

How do you envisage the new transit station? What other means of transport will be available there apart from trains?

Ultimately it’ll be a big hub – a hub which you can get to without a car and which enables you to benefit from simple and efficient transfer options, such as from public transport to bicycle or from car sharing to rail travel.

What about the KKL visitors who often use the parking garage underneath the station?

Public transport should be so attractive that the vast majority of KKL visitors use it – without even giving it a second thought. Visitors have to know that they can rely on being able to get there punctually for the start of a concert without having to allow an hour to spare. And a hassle-free return trip has to be guaranteed, too – even if the concert overruns by ten minutes.

Does modern public transport need a 24-hour schedule?

It’s an important development and a matter of time as far as I’m concerned. Obviously you don’t need trains running every 15 minutes between Lucerne and Zurich in the middle of the night. If need be, demand could be regulated in future by means of on-demand services. There are various concepts that open up all kinds of possibilities.

Imagine you could make a wish: what should transportation be like in the city of Lucerne five years from now?

Public transport has to be effective. I firmly believe that this is the key point if we want to make significant progress in terms of sustainable mobility. We have to guide our customers to using the train – and vice versa. If we’re not reliable over the last few miles, this will impact negatively on the entire transport chain.

Who do we hold accountable for making this wish come true – the Lucerne municipal authority, the politicians in Bern or the people of Lucerne?

We’re all called upon to get involved here. We can elect politicians who have the courage to make certain decisions in favour of sustainable mobility and in support of cities that offer quality of living.

So it’s the people who have to take the first step rather than the politicians?

It will involve a joint effort. There are already a lot of people who are playing their part in the mobility transition, but it would be nice if even more people were bold enough to try out something new.

That brings us back to the campaign: a car-free month is a wonderful opportunity to try out new things and see what they do to you.

Absolutely. It helps people take a critical look at what they’re doing themselves. That’s definitely beneficial.

Once an active Mobility customer: Laurent Roux firmly believes that car sharing will contribute to the mobility revolution.

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