« M covoit’: car-sharing services offered by the Syndicat mixte des mobilités de l’aire grenobloise (SMMAG) (Grenoble area joint transport authority)

septembre 2023

Forum Vies Mobiles

The Syndicat mixte des mobilités de l’aire grenobloise (SMMAG), the organising authority for mobility in the Grenoble metropolitan area and two neighbouring EPCIs, is developing several forms of car sharing in its area under a common brand, M covoit’. Each of these forms of carpooling is designed to target specific mobility practices and respond to identified issues.

People interviewed :

The « Grenoble Y »: a strong pull towards the conurbation, congestion and increased air pollution

The territory of the Grenoble area covered by SMMAG is marked by an aspiration towards the metropolis, in the direction of the valley, materialised by a number of structuring flows. This is known as the « Grenoble Y ». As a result, there is heavy congestion towards the Grenoble conurbation, as well as significant air pollution 1.

A mobility survey by Cerema (EMC2), carried out in 2020, provides a recent overview of mobility practices in the Greater Grenoble area, with a particular focus on practices in the heart of the metropolitan area, the rest of the metropolitan area and the rest of the Greater Grenoble area (including the Pays Voironnais CA, the Grésivaudan CC and other areas bordering the metropolitan area not currently included in the SMMAG). At this level, 53% of journeys are made by car, accounting for 90% of the region’s transport-related greenhouse gas emissions. Although car use has fallen by 7 points compared with the previous edition (2010), there are still major differences between the residents of Grenoble, who use the car for a quarter of their journeys, and those of the Grésivaudan and Voironnais regions, who use it for two-thirds of their journeys. The average vehicle occupancy rate has not changed between 2010 and 2020: it is 1.36 people per car, falling to 1.04 for work-related journeys and 1.13 for study-related journeys (AURG, 2020).

The Grenoble metropolitan area’s PDU emphasises the need for neighbouring areas to move towards the metropolitan area: in 2010, 236,000 journeys were made between the two areas every working day, 75% of which were made by people who did not live in the metropolitan area. Travel between the heart of the metropolitan area and the rest of the metropolitan area and the greater Grenoble region has a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions: it accounts for just 19% of journeys, but 52.9% of km travelled and 60% of greenhouse gas emissions. The modal share of the car is particularly high: 68% are car drivers, and 14% are passengers. The average length of a journey is 19 km. Finally, it should be noted that a third of journeys made by car within the metropolitan area are home-work journeys (PDU 2030).

The SMMAG, which came into being on 1 January 2020 as the successor to the Syndicat mixte des transports en commun (SMTC), was set up to reflect the reality of home-work journeys in the area, taking into account the aspiration of neighbouring areas to the Metropolis. The new Syndicat mixte includes two EPCIs bordering the Metropole: the Communauté de communes Le Grésivaudan and the Communauté d’agglomération du Pays Voironnais. The challenge is to think about mobility on the scale of the catchment area and to offer services adapted to these journeys. For the time being, SMMAG has compulsory powers relating to the coordination of services between member EPCIs, the development of a multimodal information system and coordinated pricing, and optional powers. The latter relate to shared mobility (car-pooling, car-sharing), transferred by the 3 members, and urban mobility, transferred by Métropole and Grésivaudan. SMMAG could expand through the transfer of new skills or the integration of new intercommunal bodies.

Prior to the creation of SMMAG, various car-sharing services already existed in the area and were developed within the communes and intercommunalities. The EPCI members wanted to harmonise these services and bring them together under a common brand name: M covoit’. The challenge is to be able to explain the service easily and communicate on common public policies throughout the area covered by SMMAG. Different levels of service have been decided on, with relevant traffic flows targeted at each level.

Targeting carpooling for the highest-emission journeys

In its PDU 2030, Grenoble Alpes Métropole defines the routes and areas to be targeted as a priority for developing carpooling, setting out different ambitions for increasing the modal share of carpooling. As a result, financial incentives are not offered for all journeys recorded in the SMMAG area, and efforts are concentrated on certain types of journey. Public car-sharing policies are mainly geared towards home-work journeys.

For journeys within the heart of the metropolitan area, the emphasis is on active modes (4% modal share in 2010) and increasing the use of public transport (modal share 17%). Car-pooling 2, which is on the decline (passenger modal share of 10% in 2010), should not be the subject of a special effort, but of « general encouragement ».

For journeys between the heart of the metropolitan area and the rest of the metropolitan area and the rest of the greater Grenoble region, the two major actions are to increase the use of public transport (which is on the increase, with a modal share of 14% in 2010), and to develop car-sharing. While the modal share of car passengers fell from 14% to 13% between 2002 and 2010, the ambition is to move from an occupancy rate of 1.06 to 1.4 for the home-work commute. There are many actions to be taken to achieve this (see figure 3). The main services developed by SMMAG (M covoit’ Lignes+ and RDV) are aimed primarily at this type of journey (see description of services below).

For journeys within the metropolitan area’s suburbs, the challenge is to contain the increase in car ownership among residents of these areas. The strongest ambition is for cycling, while a moderate ambition is for car sharing. This is the category of journeys where the modal share of car-sharing is the highest. It rose from 15% to 16% between 2002 and 2010. The M covoit’ Pouce service is designed for this type of journey.

The Carpooling Observatory reports on the effectiveness of SMMAG’s targeting: among the most carpooled journeys there are no internal journeys within the heart of the metropolitan area and only exchange journeys, a priority for the AOM 3.

M covoit’ services and their integration into the SMMAG mobility services package

The network described as structuring is M covoit’ Lignes +, spontaneous carpooling lines located on major routes with significant potential for finding a carpooler. They are aimed at exchange journeys for residents of the suburbs working in Grenoble or for residents of Grenoble and the metropolitan area working in business parks located on the outskirts, and for journeys within the Grésivaudan area. The terms of payment, opening hours and departure guarantee vary from route to route. The routes are developed and operated by Ecov.

The second service is M covoit’ RDV, or organised carpooling. It is being developed in partnership with Karos. « We work on destinations, on economic zones where there is significant potential. People all go to work in the same place, knowing that they live in both urban and rural areas, » explains Luc Rémond, SMMAG’s vice-president responsible for carpooling. In this case, the advantage of car sharing is that it responds to the dispersal of residential flows and builds on the potential generated by employment areas. The service is not being developed throughout the region by the local authority, nor in all business parks, because the local authority wishes to retain control over the financial incentives. Carpooling is paid at a rate of 2 euros per passenger up to 20 km, and 10 cents per km beyond that.

M covoit’ Pouce is the third service to be developed. It follows on from the Rezo Pouce stops, which were widely deployed before the SMMAG was set up (over 400 stops in the area). Organised hitchhiking stops, some of which are supplemented by illuminated push-button panels to display the destination, are proposed for less structured traffic, serving mountainous areas or less densely populated sectors. Although structurally a lightweight system, it nevertheless needs to be promoted by creating volunteer communities. The service is a way of working locally, at local authority level, to promote hitchhiking, which the local authority believes requires a real educational effort.

Alongside these services, a dedicated car-sharing lane has been trialled from 2020 on the A48, on a section that also includes a lane reserved for public transport and bus stops. The 8 km-long system is activated by AREA, the motorway operator, in the event of congestion: a white diamond displayed on an illuminated sign indicates that the left-hand lane has been switched to a reserved lane, and the speed limit for all lanes is then reduced to 50 km/h. The reserved lane is accessible to carpoolers, but also to drivers (self-propelled or not) of a Critair0 vehicle (100% electric or hydrogen) and taxis.

SMMAG is developing carpooling as part of an integrated approach to the other mobility services available in the area. The M route planner locates all the stops available in the area (public transport, car-pooling stops, car-pooling car parks). SMMAG also plans to integrate the various car-sharing services into the PASS’Mobilités, so that they can be used directly from the application. To date, several levels of integration have already been completed and are continuing.

A slower but controlled development of carpooling encouraged by the local authority

Like other local authorities, SMMAG is seeing a real increase in the number of carpools in its area at the start of 2023. This is due to a number of factors: significant resources devoted to communication and promotion, the car-sharing bonus under the Car-Sharing Plan, and the inflationary economic climate. On M covoit’ Lignes+, around 700 journeys were recorded per month at the end of 2022, across the entire network. In February 2023, 1,500 journeys were recorded. M covoit’ RDV has been gradually rolled out in business parks since April 2022. The number of journeys reached 3,100 in February 2023. Planned carpooling is also developing well with other private operators in the area (not encouraged by the local authority), as shown by the general increase recorded on the RPC: from a maximum of 5,627 journeys in November 2022 to 8,819 in March 2023. Finally, on M covoit’ Pouce, journeys are not plotted and usage is more difficult to track. Some stops equipped with illuminated push-button panels can count the number of times the button is pressed (up to 1,300 per month at some stops), without knowing whether these requests are met.

With 230 encouraged journeys per working day recorded on average in February 2023, carpooling encouraged by SMMAG represents 0.04% of home-work journeys in the area and 0.5% of home-work journeys mainly targeted by SMMAG schemes. The concentration of incentives on the most emitting journeys (exchange journeys represent 19% of total journeys, but are responsible for 60% of emissions due to the distances travelled), enables the local authority to have a slightly greater impact if we look at the modal share per kilometre: in February 2023, carpooling accounted for around 0.71% of the km travelled for home-work journeys between the Metropole and the outlying EPCIs (Grésivaudan or Pays Voironnais) 4.

SMMAG’s budget for carpooling is €900,000 per year, although this may vary depending on the amount allocated to financial incentives. These cost 12,000 euros for the month of February 2023 between M covoit’ Lignes+ and RDV, for a total of 4,600 incentivised journeys. The local authority’s ambition is to reach 10,000 incentivised journeys per month by July, while remaining vigilant about controlling the budget for financial incentives. A real impact of the financial impact on the use of carpooling has been noted, which explains the local authority’s determination to provide incentives. The average cost of the incentives per passenger is €2.60 and the average cost per journey, including the costs of providing and operating the various services, is around €16.30 5 .

Thus, the development of intermediated car sharing, recorded by the RPC, appears to be much more measured than in other areas. The incentive is only offered for certain journeys: on the Lignes+ network and, in the case of planned carpooling, within the perimeter of the chosen activity zones. There is no financial incentive for journeys made outside the areas determined by the local authority. In February, half of the journeys recorded on the RPC were encouraged by the local authority, while the other half were not. The local authority is experimenting with its car-sharing policy in order to attract car users without competing with existing public transport. It is a sign of the local authority’s lack of direction that, according to the Carpooling Observatory, it does not record any journeys within Grenoble or the Metropolitan Area as being among the most frequently carpooled journeys. It also records only a small proportion of journeys of less than 10 km.

Finally, AREA carried out a review in 2021 of the reserved lane experiment 6. The compliance rate was 40%, the journey time was one minute shorter (over the 8 km of the lane) and users of the lane were going around 10 km/h faster than drivers in other lanes. However, the lack of fines and the fact that the scheme was introduced after the congestion had built up have limited its effectiveness: « At first, the lane was respected a little, but now it’s less and less. We’re going to launch an experiment in the summer of 2023 to enforce fines, » says Luc Rémond.

  • 1 Air pollution in the Grenoble conurbation is high due to road traffic and individual wood heating, and is exacerbated by its topography (mountainous area, unfavourable climate),

  • 2 The modal share of car-sharing is determined from the modal share of car passengers (PDU 2030 - the strategy).

  • 3 Reference months: November 2022 and February 2023.

  • 4 Of the 156,000 journeys between the metropolis and Grésivaudan or Pays Voironnais, 1 third are home-work commutes (EMC2), i.e. 46,800 daily journeys. The average distance of these commuter journeys by car is 19 km (PDU 2030). The average distance recorded on the RPC in February 2023 was 27.35 km. The ratio between the km travelled by incentivised carpooling (230*27.35) and these journeys (46,800*19), multiplied by 100, gives 0.71%.

  • 5 The cost per journey is estimated on the basis of the monthly budget for 2022 (€75,000), divided by the number of journeys encouraged in February 2023 (4,600).

  • 6 The results were presented during the webinar organised by France mobilité and Idealco « Inciter covoiturage par les infrastructures », broadcast on 15 November 2022.


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