In the beginning of June 2021, the first batch of interviews for the CATAPULT-project were performed in Austria. 9 men and women aged 65 or older were interviewed about their mobility behaviour and ways of local travelling. The purpose of the interviews is to collect data and explore the needs and requirements of older people towards an inclusive and demand-oriented transport system in urban areas.
The respondents were asked about how they transport themselves today, which obstacles may occur and what their needs are. The preferred means of daily transportation differed a lot between walking, cycling, public transport and cars. However, the barriers and needs were consistent over the interviews. The barriers included among else; heavily trafficked streets, lack of weather protection at bus stops, the need for a place to sit while waiting, the need for elevators or escalators instead of steep stairs.
The respondents often use the digital display at stops to inform themselves about the approaching vehicles and sometimes look at timetables. Some of them like to ask bus drivers or other people regarding information when they need it. The participants also rely on street maps and information found online. To get tickets they go to a counter, use vendors, or buy tickets online. None of the participants use their smartphone to buy tickets. Some are open to it but do not know how or need help with it, and some don’t like having digital tickets at all.
Low-floor vehicles are important to many of the respondents, especially when they carry luggage. In the vehicles there must be enough space and places to sit down but most of the participants said they are already satisfied with the situation today. Only few of the participants need help from others when travelling and this often concerns carrying luggage when there are stairs to take. The vehicles must ride in relatively high frequencies to be attractive.
Jannik Rieß from Factum was one of the organizers of the interviews and works in the CATAPULT-consortium.
“Many of the elderly that we have interviewed so far describe that they believe they would miss the presence of a driver. That they would like someone there that is responsible and can give them information or intervene if it’s needed. They also only see autonomous shuttles as an advantage if they’d be implemented as an on-demand solution or in rural areas. Also, access to these shuttles must be simple and should not solely require online or smartphone use.”
“The input and information we get from these interviews are very valuable in our proceeding work. We have to think of solutions that can meet up for these needs. And work on information and knowledge transfer both to decision makers on the needs of the inhabitants. But also, to inform about possibilities with autonomous vehicles and how they can serve the public space. There seems to be a lot of hesitation about this new technology and if it is truly a step in the right direction.”
More interviews will be carried out. When the interviews are done the transcripts will be analyzed to derive common needs and requirements of older people. After that the significance of the results of the qualitative interviews will be quantified in a quantitative survey.