IAA Voices Conference Special: Interview Via

Jan Lüdtke is Via's Managing Director in Germany and as such responsible for the German, Austrian and Swiss markets. Together with his team, he is responsible for new and existing customer business, as well as for Via's strategic orientation in these markets. Jan’s previous endeavors included working for the public transport startup Moovit, where he was responsible for partnerships in the DACH region, as well as the digital agencies Razorfish and KKLD* where he supervised different projects and marketing campaigns for clients such as BMW, Audi, Panasonic and Bayer Healthcare. Jan holds a Bachelors degree in Business Administration and a M.Sc. degree in Marketing.

Jan Lüdtke, Via

Imagine you are in a time machine and on your way "back to the future". In which year would you like to get off and why?

From a professional and mobility perspective, I’d probably get off in 1993 and become an advocate against the privatization of public mobility in Germany and spending cuts in budgets of public transit agencies all over Germany. Our society has since then acknowledged the need for, and importance of public transportation. As a society, we have come to realize that public transportation is essential for tackling many of the global and local issues we face today. These include climate change, the energy crisis, air pollution, housing shortages, and inadequate living conditions in large cities. We are still experiencing the negative effects of this political and societal decision, but we are on our way to recovery by increasing public spending on public mobility, and by slowly redesigning and (re-)building attractive public transit networks again.

If you had one superpower that would help you professionally, what would it be?

That’s an interesting question. It’s a pretty generic answer to what super powers one might want, but reading peoples’ minds and therefore really understanding people’s needs is the superpower that would help me most professionally. The problem that lies at the core of designing public mobility solutions is to understand peoples’ needs and to design public mobility options in a way that makes them a true alternative to the private car. But there are so many reasons people still choose this mode of transport, and not all of them are inherently logical. It’s clear that public transit must be affordable, barrier-free, usable for families, be convenient for certain essential trips such as doctors appointments and grocery shopping etc. but that is sometimes not enough. Really understanding the appeal of the private car and offering a public transport system that matches those needs is what I want to aim for professionally.

What trend are you currently following professionally with great interest?

One trend that I of course follow with great interest is the digitalization of our transport networks. There are so many cool new things that technology enables us to do, from IoT to dynamic shuttle systems, to new ways of thinking about tariffs and fare systems. It’s definitely an exciting time to be active in the mobility space.

I also closely follow the political discussions around how public transport is going to be funded and organized in the future. I remain positive that we can spearhead mobility innovations in Germany, if we are willing to find pragmatic solutions to funding such innovations. We will be able to realize their potential, if we find ways for local authorities and operators to provide new mobility solutions long-term, independent of project based funding that is limited in time.

What is/was the biggest game changer for you in the logistics or transport industry in the past ten years?

Innovating the public transport industry this decade and creating a new category for flexible transportation (i.e. transit tech), has introduced more convenient, affordable and accessible transportation services for residents of both cities and more rural areas. Flexible transportation has provided people who do not own a car a greater access to education, healthcare and employment opportunities, while those who do own a car have more sustainable mobility options that enable them to leave their single-occupancy cars behind.  The positive impact that these new services have beyond just increasing convenience of transport, is fascinating to watch.

What innovation do you currently see internationally as a blueprint on the road to climate neutrality?

Transportation is the #1 cause of GHG emissions in the US, and it's 20% of GHG emissions in Europe. So it's important to remember that any time we replace a private vehicle trip with a shared trip, and especially a public transport trip, that's a step in the right direction on the sustainability journey. Currently, digitized demand-responsive microtransit services which are deeply integrated in existing public transit networks are delivering just on that goal: replacing private vehicle trips with shared rides and improving the overall quality of public transit. One of these successful services that can be viewed internationally as a blueprint is MainzRIDER, a service of Mainzer Mobilität: The MainzRIDER supplements the existing public transport services of the city of Mainz at times and places that are poorly or insufficiently covered by regular services and offers intermodal trip proposals in which MainzRIDER works as a feeder to fixed-line transit options.

What are your hopes for the IAA TRANSPORTATION?

Bringing together all the different minds in the industry to create change. In these challenging times for transportation, with gas prices rising, it is wonderful to facilitate a conversation and share innovative approaches. I am also looking forward to seeing what OEMs do to solve the need for larger fleets that are both electric and barrier free.

What are you particularly looking forward to at the IAA Conference?

I look forward to learning more about what's next in the industry and forming new connections for collaboration and idea exchange.