This summer, we welcomed Milla Semisch, a third-year Environmental and Political Science student, as a research intern. Milla took Dr Susan Kenyon‘s Transport: Politics and Society module while studying at Canterbury Christ Church University in the UK.

Dr Kenyon presented Unwire as a case study on innovative ways to change travel behaviour, and Milla asked if she could come and work with us as an intern, to which we were delighted to agree.

Milla spent the first few weeks of her time with us talking to the team at Unwire and with our partners, as well as researching broader issues around MaaS and influences on travel behaviour.

Through Milla’s research, she explored and analysed travel behaviour and ways to encourage more people to adopt public transit. As a result, she has produced a well-researched paper with helpful information and recommendations for us to consider.

The report included an introduction from Dr Kenyon, who raised that changing travel behaviour is one of the world’s most significant environmental challenges. Whilst Milla’s research concentrated on the public transport situation in the UK, all her findings and conclusions can be transferable to other parts of the world, especially the US.

It is essential to be aware of the psychological, societal and cultural barriers when designing software for integrated transport systems so that they create sustainable solutions that are matched to people’s needs. Milla explored behavioural concepts which contributed to mobility-related social exclusion and examined how these impact excluded groups and ways to include them in public transport.

The groups she looked at were children and their families, women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ communities, people with physical and non-physical disabilities and older people. Whilst some of the reasons why people from these groups feel excluded from public transport need to be tackled by structural changes, there are many ways that digital solutions can help. For example, safety was an issue that most groups in the research were concerned about, and a function like See it Say it Unwire has within its app is a way to make them feel safer when travelling on public transport.

Equally, having the opportunity to change the language in a mobility app to cater to specific groups in a community, as you can with ours, would make navigating public transport information less confusing and intimidating.

For all groups having more practical information in the planning tool would help, such as live and static information about accessibility at stations, live crowd levels for people with travel anxiety, voice commands for visually impaired riders, the choice to switch to a simple interface for example for people with learning difficulties or older people.

Milla’s conclusion was very pertinent to how we work at Unwire, where we aim to put users’ needs at the centre of what we do. Milla found that “the emergence of new MaaS solutions are often driven by the development of new technologies, rather than human requirements. The question is, ‘what can we do with this technology? is prioritised before ‘What do people need from this technology?'”

Milla’s excellent research and findings have given us a lot to think about, but we are heartened to see that the way we approach developing our platform is already moving in the right direction to start to create change.