Sustainable Mobility in Smart Cities: The Key Role of Gamified Motivational Systems for Citizens' Engagement and Behavior Change

Sustainable Mobility in Smart Cities: The Key Role of Gamified Motivational Systems for Citizens' Engagement and Behavior Change

Annapaola Marconi (Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Italy) and Enrica Loria (Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1614-0.ch008


MaaS, with its user-centric vision aiming at more flexible, personalized, and on-demand mobility services, has a perspective to address the key sustainability challenges of the mobility of the future: transport solutions that are integrated, inclusive, and time-efficient, while containing the economic, social, and environmental costs. Civic engagement is a key success factor towards this objective: to fully embrace MaaS transformation, citizens need to feel part of the process. Gamification proved to be effective to raise citizens' awareness, encourage their participation, and promote a gradual but profound behavior change. These characteristics can be exploited by MaaS solutions to attract users and encourage the acceptance of tailored mobility plans. The chapter presents two successful cases of gamified systems aiming at promoting a more sustainable mobility, Play&Go and Kids Go Green; investigates the potential of gamified systems, in combination with MaaS solutions, in terms of citizens' engagement and behavior change; and discusses current limitations and future challenges.
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Within a Smart City, mobility plays a fundamental role: the way in which citizens experience the city, access its core services and participate in the city life strongly depends on its mobility organization and efficiency (Vesco, 2015). In this context, the challenge that cities are facing is very ambitious: on the one hand, administrators must guarantee to their citizens the right to mobility and to easily access local services, on the other hand they need to minimize the economic, social and environmental cost of the mobility system.

Dealing with this challenge requires a holistic approach that allows to efficiently harness existing mobility resources while integrating and promoting emerging mobility services to enable an integrated, efficient and sustainable mobility ecosystem. To this end, cities are planning and implementing interventions at the level of infrastructures, services and mobility policies.

The inadequacy of traditional transportation models is proven by the proliferation of alternative, social and grassroots initiatives aiming at a more flexible, customized and collective way of organizing transport (e.g., car pooling, ride and park sharing services, flexi-buses). Some of these attempts have become popular (e.g., Uber, BlaBlaCar, FlixBus), even though, in most cases, these are isolated solutions targeting specific mobility target groups and are not part of the city mobility eco-system, which is still mainly based on traditional public and private transport facilities.

An attempt of re-thinking the way mobility is managed and offered is represented by the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) paradigm. MaaS solutions (e.g., MaaS Global: aim at arranging the most suitable transport solution for their customers thanks to cost effective integrated offer of different multi-modal means of transportation. MaaS also foresees radical changes in the business landscape, with a new generation of mobility operators emerging as key actors to manage the increased flexibility and dynamism offered by this new concept of mobility. The MaaS paradigm aims at changing mobility habits by empowering the users in finding customized answers to their own specific mobility needs (Jittrapirom et al., 2017). Today, the user has to plan the route from source to destination (i.e. use Google maps), select the mobility modes (e.g. bus, train, car etc.) for the various trip legs and acquire the resources needed (reservations/tickets etc.). With MaaS, mobility will become a service: the user will get from a single mobility operator the best “all-inclusive” solution according to his preferences and to the current availability and traffic/environmental conditions; the user will buy a single ticket for the whole trip, with the mobility operator taking care of re-routing the user in real time to different modes in case of delays, changed conditions or new better traveling options.

MaaS essential characteristic is its user-centric vision, with mobility services that are flexible, personalized and on-demand. By enabling seamless multi-modal travels with accessible and affordable costs, MaaS can play a key role in shifting the interest of end-users from private car to alternative transport modes (Chowdhury and Ceder, 2016; CIVITAS, 2016; König et al., 2016). MaaS has thus the potential to contribute towards the strategic goals of Smart Cities: a more efficient, sustainable and accessible mobility (Jittrapirom et al., 2017).

Availability of real-time mobility information and interoperable inter-modal solutions (e.g., for travel planning, booking and ticketing) are certainly key ingredients offered by the MaaS paradigm; but another very important aspect of MaaS, as a socio-technical phenomenon, is users’ acceptance and adoption (Giesecke et al., 2016; König et al., 2016). Innovative infrastructures, applications and services are liable to fail if they are not combined with actions aimed at making citizens aware and involved in this process and to influence their mobility habits in a gradual but profound way (Vesco, 2015).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Persuasive Technology: The technology designed with the underlying motive of modifying a certain attitude of behavior, exploiting psychological and sociological theories, such as persuasion and social influence.

Gamification: The employment of game-like elements in contexts other than games, generally, to pursue a certain goal (e.g., a positive behavioral change).

Participation: This is a measure to evaluate the response of users (or players) to the system in question. By analyzing the intensity and the commitment of participants, a hint on the goodness of the system’s design can be grasped.

Sustainable Mobility: Moving in a sustainable way refers to the choice of preferring ecological transportation means (e.g., walking or biking) and public transportation to reduce CO 2 emissions.

Game Mechanics: This term refers to the ensemble of rules that regulates players activities, and that define the allowed actions. Game mechanics are built over game elements.

Game Elements: These are the atoms of games and build the foundations of the game itself. Examples of game elements are points, badges, challenges, and leaderboards.

Smart City: An urban environment that employs technology with the main motive of enhancing citizens’ quality of life. It widely employs sensors to gather and analyze data, to handle the city’s resources efficiently.

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