Carpooling routes in the Plaine de l’Ain Industrial Park

An employment zone disconnected from the urban fabric and beset by accessibility and recruitment problems

September 2023

Forum Vies Mobiles

In the Plaine de l’Ain Industrial Park (PIPA), the largest in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, the lack of an alternative to the private car has created problems of accessibility and recruitment in an area between the very rural and the peri-urban. Car-sharing has been considered as a solution to this challenge since 2007, and was reinvested when the Communauté de communes de la Plaine de l’Ain took over responsibility for mobility, in the form of car-sharing routes.

People interviewed :

The issue of accessibility and recruitment in a business park « disconnected from the urban fabric ».

The Plaine de l’Ain Industrial Park (PIPA) is the largest industrial park in the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region. It is home to 180 companies and 8,200 employees 1, covering an area of more than 1,000 hectares. The main sectors of activity are industry, services and logistics. In addition to the Park’s activities, the area includes the Bugey Nuclear Power Plant (CNPE), which employs 2,000 people every day, and up to 4,000 at certain times of the year.

The Syndicat mixte du Parc industriel de la Plaine de l’Ain is the Park’s owner and manager. It is responsible for maintaining the infrastructure (roads, lighting), coordinating activities between the various companies and developing the Park (encouraging new companies to set up there, offering services to employees). Governance of the Syndicat Mixte is shared between the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region, the Communauté de communes de la Plaine de l’Ain, the Département de l’Ain and the Métropole de Lyon.

The Park is located 35 km north-east of Lyon, within the territory of the Plaine de l’Ain Community of Municipalities (CCPA). It is an economic zone « disconnected from the urban fabric », located several kilometres from several small towns in the Ain and Isère departments. The towns of Meximieux and Ambérieu are served by train and linked to Lyon, but there are no transport links to the Park’s station. Before 2022, the Park will not be served by any public transport. The CNPE is served by home-to-work shuttles, reserved for EDF employees.

The lack of public transport services and the Park’s remoteness from the main residential towns mean that it is highly dependent on the car. 16% of the population is in fuel poverty linked to transport, and up to 30% of the under-30s 2. The lack of alternatives to the private car also cuts across issues of access to housing: « Mobility is the tree that hides the forest. The real issue is that on minimum wage, you can’t find accommodation nearby », explains Mathilde Remuaux, mobility officer at the CCPA. The attractiveness of the Lyon metropolitan area has spread to the neighbouring department of Ain, driving up rents in the area and turning the region into a « dormitory for the metropolitan area ». Park employees, particularly those on the lowest salaries, are forced to live further away, as the surrounding area is becoming unaffordable. As a result, the cost of the long distances involved makes the Park’s lowest-paid jobs unattractive.

The Plaine de l’Ain Industrial Park is an emblematic example of an area where car-sharing has great potential. Employees travel long distances between home and work, mostly by car, and the energy vulnerability associated with transport for some employees makes them particularly sensitive to the economic argument for car sharing.

Successful initial efforts to develop carpooling between 2008 and 2012

Before 2019, the Communauté de communes de la plaine de l’Ain did not have any real leverage to exercise mobility powers, so it was the Syndicat mixte du Parc that began working on the issue of mobility and accessibility to the Park. In 2007, an inter-company travel plan (Plan de déplacement inter-entreprise - PDIE) was drawn up, and the mobility survey involved in its preparation revealed that 92% of Park employees travel to work alone by car. The average distance between home and work for Park employees (round trip) is 48 km 3.

In 2008, a car-sharing platform was set up on a website. Communication and coordination was provided by a project manager shared between the Syndicat mixte and the CCPA. The results are promising and the modal share of carpooling has tripled (reaching 23% in spring 2009 according to the mobility questionnaire). The systematic promotion and communication of the scheme to park employees lost momentum from 2012 onwards, as the person dedicated to this at the CCPA was given other tasks.

Mobilisation of the CCPA to relaunch the car-sharing initiative

With the introduction of the LOM, the CCPA’s technical staff were mobilised to raise awareness among elected representatives of the need to take on mobility responsibilities, and « to show them what the remit covered, apart from trams, metros and trains », as Mathilde Remuaux describes. In the end, the local authority did not take on the responsibility, and it was the Region that became the local AOM. Nevertheless, the CCPA signed a delegation agreement with the Region for shared mobility, cycling and public transport services.

The local authority was subsequently one of the 18 selected in the PenD Aura+ call for projects, a programme designed to offer solutions to areas on the outskirts of conurbations or in rural areas with no collective mobility solution, and to populations lacking mobility solutions adapted to their everyday needs: people looking for work, people in precarious situations, the elderly, young people, people without their own car. The programme is financed by Energy Savings Certificates (CEE), enabling the CCPA to revive the car-sharing movement. Following a benchmark of existing solutions, the choice was made to deploy carpooling lines operated by Ecov, which will be open from May 2020.

The aim of the project is to provide a solution to the recruitment problems faced by companies in the Park, which has a large number of vacancies. Guillemette de Lamartinie, Ecov project manager, describes the specific nature of the Plaine de l’Ain Covoit’ici lines: « When it comes to carpooling, there are the major general trends - optimising car use, reducing pollution - but on this network there is also the issue of access to employment and the social aspect ». The car-sharing routes are designed to improve access to the Park by providing an alternative to the private car for people who do not have access to a car and/or who are vulnerable in terms of energy consumption. The aim is also to « make the area attractive to residents of the nearby Lyon metropolitan area, particularly young people (trainees and work-study students). Although the region’s stations are well served by train, there is a missing link to the region’s main employment centre without a car » (Pend Aura report, June 2022).

The Covoit’ici scheme: four car-sharing routes linking the Park

The first two routes are run by the CCPA thanks to funding from the Pend Aura+ programme, followed by 2 additional routes to the south of the Park, linking two towns in the Communauté de communes Balcons du Dauphiné (CCBD), in the Isère département. These two lines are financed by the four partners (CCPA, CCBD, Syndicat mixte du PIPA and EDF).

In total, the Covoit’ici scheme has 14 stops: 4 terminuses at the main population centres (Meximieux, Ambérieu-en-Bugey, Tignieu-Jameyzieu and Montalieu-Vercieu), 20 - 30 km from the Park; 2 stops on the PIPA; 1 at the EDF power stations; the rest along the four lines.

This is the Ecov network with the longest opening hours, from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m., to match the 3-shift working patterns of some of the Park’s businesses. The departure guarantee is offered at peak times if a passenger is unable to find a driver after waiting 10 minutes. If the guarantee is activated, an on-call vehicle based in Ambérieu will pick up the passenger and take them to their destination.

The placement of the stops is a compromise in terms of the diversions required of the driver and passenger. There needs to be a sufficient driver flow to reach a certain critical mass, determined by Ecov at around fifteen vehicles per hour ready to take part in the service, which guarantees a 10-minute departure for the passenger. The stop must also be visible and safe, so that drivers can stop. The stop must also be close enough to residential areas so that passengers can get there on foot or by bike. A special effort has been made to ensure intermodality and comfort at the stops: « mobility hubs » have been designed at the termini of the northern lines, at Ambérieu and Meximieux stations, with the addition of automatic luggage storage, self-service bicycles, information terminals, etc. Efforts have also been made at the stops within the Park: self-service bicycles added by the local authority, shelters fitted out (seating, lighting). Finally, one of the stops on the line is located at the A42 motorway exit, where there is a car-sharing car park, so you can leave your car there.

You can use the service via a dedicated application or an SMS route. Passengers pay 50 centimes for each journey. The driver receives 50 centimes if he offers his journey on the line from the terminuses, even if there are no passengers to take on the line (free seat remuneration), plus 2 euros for each passenger transported.

The network is run on a regular basis by an Ecov community developer, who meets local players and helps them to become ambassadors for the service.

The budget for the Covoit’ici lines is €200,000 for 18 months, or €133,000 per year.

The number of journeys « on the up » by early 2023, despite low overall use of the service

Mathilde Remuaux from the CCPA reports that it has taken some time for Park employees to get to grips with how the routes work: « It’s a more complicated service to explain than a bus route. You have to fill in your bank card and use an application, even though there is also an SMS route. You also have to understand the different opening times of the line and the times covered by the guaranteed departures. Finally, « the guarantee timetables do not yet fully meet the needs » of some employees, particularly those working night shifts.

Two audits will be carried out in 2023 after the lines have been open for 3 years, one by Ecov and the other by Inddigo, a firm commissioned by the CCPA. Over the 22-month period analysed by this audit (June 2021 - March 2023), 6,753 journeys were completed, 77% of which were carpooled, i.e. picked up by a driver. On average, 276 journeys were carpooled per month over the period 4, or 14 journeys per day 5. This corresponds to around 0.1% of home-to-work journeys made in the Park each day. At the beginning of 2023 (January to March), the number of journeys was « on an upward slope, and the Carpooling Plan is very much part of this upswing », according to G. de Lamartinie. The service recorded an average of 922 journeys per month in the first quarter of 2023, i.e. 46 carpooling journeys per day and around 0.3% of daily home-work journeys. According to the audit carried out by Ecov, the service captures a 2.5% modal share within the radius of the departure and arrival stops 6. The cost per journey is estimated at around €40 for the period June 2021 - March 2023126 and around €12 for the period January - March 2023 7.

Growth in passenger use and modal shift from the car therefore remains difficult. The imbalance between drivers who are prepared to participate in the service ("trace" drivers via payment for free seats) and passengers making carpooling requests is significant: 140,000 trace drivers compared with 5,700 successful passenger requests 8. In the case of Plaine de l’Ain, the challenge of modal shift is also accompanied, right from the design stage of the service, by the social challenge of accessibility to the Park. The audit carried out over the 22 months that the lines have been in service shows that more than half of passenger requests have been made from stops located at the two stations (Meximieux and Ambérieu-en-Bugey), which seems to confirm the social purpose of the scheme. In fact, car ownership rates are lower in Meximieux and Ambérieu because of the TER service, and the poverty rate is fairly high in Ambérieu 9.

At the level of the Plaine de l’Ain community of municipalities, 3,200 journeys were recorded on the RPC in March 2023. Both routes and carpooling journeys planned via other RPC partner operators are listed. The main destination is Saint-Vulbas, where the majority of PIPA companies are located. Planned journeys are also organised on the Covoit’ici lines: colleagues pre-arrange their journeys by meeting at stops on the line to take advantage of the service’s incentives.

Raising awareness of the need to reduce the use of private cars in an area that is highly dependent on the car

Nadège Peteuil, from the Syndicat mixte du PIPA, works with companies in the Park and explains the difficulty of getting them interested in the issue of mobility. There are no parking or congestion problems hindering traffic in the Park. « The majority of companies are neither willing nor interested in implementing real mobility policies. The sustainable mobility package is still little known. There is no mobility survey, nor any company or inter-company PDM. One of the reasons for this is that companies have few administrative departments directly within the Park, while the majority of head offices are located in large conurbations, far removed from the Park’s issues. CSR policies - including policies to promote sustainable mobility - are decided at local level rather than at PIPA level.

The problems associated with mobility are seen above all by companies faced with recruitment difficulties; they therefore often delegate them to temporary employment agencies, which recruit 15% of the Park’s workforce (this rate can increase significantly depending on the company).

In addition to its ease of use within the Park, the private car has even become a recruitment standard: « Some companies refuse applicants who don’t have a driving licence; they require them to drive to the Park. We’d like to see the words ‘driving licence required’ removed from job advertisements. Some of the users of the Covoit’ici lines didn’t have a driving licence and were only able to accept a job at PIPA thanks to the presence of the line » reports G. de Lamartinie.

A major step forward in offering alternatives to the private car has been the introduction of two Transport on Demand (TOD) lines by the Region, from September 2022. These routes serve the PIPA, taking into account the staggered working hours of men and women: the chartered mini-buses make 14 return trips between 4am and 11pm, Monday to Saturday. Transport must be booked the day before and costs 2 euros per journey (or 40 euros for a monthly pass). Stops within the Park are made in front of the desired business. The Region spends between 280,000 and 350,000 euros each year on this new mobility service. After just a few months in service, ridership figures have exceeded initial expectations.

According to the local authority and Ecov, the TAD service complements the Covoit’ici service. Carpooling routes offer passengers great flexibility in terms of departure times, at times when there is the most traffic. The Dial-a-Ride service, on the other hand, has to be booked in advance (at least the day before noon), but it guarantees a service, even at off-peak times, when at least one booking has been made. For Ecov, « this mix - relying on free seats in circulation when they are available and using dedicated vehicles when the spontaneous offer is less effective - means that resources can be optimised in these areas where the conventional public transport offer is not adapted ».

  • 1 Data for 2022.

  • 2 PenD Aura final report, June 2022

  • 3 This information is taken from the ADEME report (2015), which details the experience of Plaine de l’Ain.

  • 4 Data taken from the audit carried out by Inddigo.

  • 5 Note that around 10% of journey requests involve more than one passenger.

  • 6 Several assumptions are made for each line: they are estimated on the basis of the number of people living within the radius of the departure stops and working within the radius of the destination stops. Depending on the assumption used, several catchment targets are set (between 3.5% and 9% catchment at maturity).

  • 7 Cost estimated on the basis of the monthly budget dedicated to the Covoit’ici lines and the average number of monthly journeys.

  • 8 Driver tracks have been recorded since the lines were set up (3 years) and passenger requests since the line was opened to passengers (2 and a half years).

  • 9 These data come from the audit carried out by Ecov in May 2023.


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