„mobisaar – mobility for everyone“ goes into regular operation
The project „mobisaar – Mobility for everyone“ has passed the acid test. The Saarland Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor, Energy and Transport has granted follow-up funding following a decision by the Saarland state parliament! For mobisaar, this means that regular operations will start in 2021.
„mobisaar – Mobility for everyone“ is a research project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research from November 2015 until December 31, 2020. The aim of the project is to improve participation for people with mobility issues and older people. Essential to this are services provided by mobisaar pilots, supported by a software system. Mobisaar enables social participation of mobility-impaired and elderly people in Saarland’s public transport system. Its core is, and remains, the free accompaniment by mobisaar pilots.
Minister Anke Rehlinger: „We want to make it easier for Saarlanders to access public transport – this especially applies to older people with limited mobility. We want to enable them to enjoy self-determined and barrier-free mobility. This only works if we create attractive offers. Mobisaar is precisely such an offer to remain mobile and independent in old age. To be able to continue the project, I campaigned during the budget discussions for the state to assume the uncovered costs for a period of three years. I am very pleased that this has worked out and that we have thus been able to secure the project.“
„This is great news for everyone involved, and we would like to express our sincere thanks to the Ministry of Economics, Labor, Energy, and Transport for its financial support,“ explains Elke Schmidt, Managing Director of Saarländische Nahverkehrs-Service GmbH (SNS GmbH) and network coordinator of the mobisaar project. „The follow-up funding from 01.01.2021 enables our public transport customers to continue to utilize the mobisaar service, a service that is so important for them. This is a strong signal and means a great deal of security in the pandemic-related challenging times. SNS GmbH will continue mobisaar unchanged with our mobisaar service hotline from 2021. Other mobisaar partners are B2M Software GmbH/urban mobility innovations, responsible for the technical implementation of our booking software, the DFKI for the passenger app and mobisaarWorld, and the „sponsors“ for our mobisaar pilots – the Employment and Qualification Society in the Saarlouis district, the Gemeinnützige Kommunale Gesellschaft für Beschäftigung und Qualifizierung St. Ingbert, the DIAKONISCHES WERK AN DER SAAR and Neue Arbeit Saar,“ Elke Schmidt continues.
„Especially in the difficult time of the Corona pandemic, in which the pilots maintain their service under difficult conditions, the importance of the mobisaar project becomes apparent for us as a social carrier. In the spring lockdown and during the suspensions of the escorts, the stop services were gladly used and the pilots were often the only contact to the outside as continuous contact persons. In this sense, it is all the more gratifying in the outlook for the coming years that a good and meaningful structure, such as mobisaar, can be continued after the expiration of the federal project with state funds,“ explains Monika Steffen-Rettenmaier, Managing Director of Neue Arbeit Saar GmbH.
„mobisaar is a real-life example of how a socio-technical system brings direct added value to the daily routines of a large number of citizens. We are happy to be part of this dedicated project and to be part of the mobisaar partners in regular operation from 2021,“ adds Dr. Manuel Görtz. He is the Director of Analytic Products and Project Manager of mobisaar at B2M Software GmbH/urban mobility innovations. B2M has developed mobisaar’s technical backbone and the pilot app. Via the pilot app, the mobisaar pilots receive their orders directly on their cell phones. The software backend is where all the data comes together: Information systems for timetables, routes, delays, geo-information, and information on the condition of stops. The backend is accessed by mobisaar’s service hotline, which is located at SNS as well as the passenger website. The system is compliant with data protections.
The service is currently available with more than 60 full-time pilots in Saarbrücken, the Saarpfalz, Neunkirchen, and Saarlouis districts. By now, mobisaar is the third-largest transportation assistance service in Germany and the only one that also covers rural areas to a greater extent. The pilot network is supported by volunteer pilots, especially in rural areas. The service can be used free of charge on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. On request, Mobisaar provides a door-to-door service, helping citizens get on and off buses, trains, and regional trains, or provide assistance at ticket machines.
Mobisaar has been closely accompanied by other partners from research and practice over the past 5 years.
„Even before the shutdown caused by Corona, the project proved that it contributes to the self-determined mobility of people who are dependent on public transportation and cannot rely on a car from family, friends or neighbours. The fact that such a project has made it into regular operation shows once again what persuasive power it possesses,“ says a pleased Prof. Dr. Bieber, since mid-March 2020 Saarland Commissioner for the Interests of People with Disabilities, previously Managing Director of the Institute for Social Research and Social Economy (iso) e.V. and until his departure mobisaar’s project manager.
For Prof. Dr. Bieber and Dr. Jan Alexandersson, Research Fellow and Head of the Competence Center AAL at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) on the campus of Saarland University, however, the exciting journey began earlier. With MOBIA (2011-2014), initial experience was gained within the city of Saarbrücken with a support service for older people that combined technical components and personal services. The consortium coordinator in this project was Saarbahn GmbH.
„After the funding expired, we then continued a MOBIA service initially on our own and then coordinated and further developed the mobisaar project together with our partners. We are pleased that mobisaar has successfully passed the acid test,“ says Saarbahn Managing Director Peter Edlinger.
„I am really pleased that after 10 years we have succeeded in taking the vision of public transport for everyone from idea to regular operations. The AAL projects MOBIA and mobisaar are successful examples of research and development of a socio-technical system. Together with relevant stakeholders, we have been able to develop a functioning format at different levels of society over a long period of time. We have achieved this through interdisciplinary, goal-oriented, and user-centered collaboration,“ explains Dr. Alexandersson. DFKI is responsible for the mobile passenger app, the web interface, and mobisaarWorld. MobisaarWorld is a crowdsourcing database for information on accessibility and equipment of Saarland stops (e.g. seating and roofing) that improves self-determined trip planning.
Mobisaar shouldn’t be viewed as a substitute for accessibility. For Jana Rößler, research associate and mobisaar project manager at the Institute for Social Science Research (ISO) mobisaar is therefore a „necessary addition to public transport. Just like the elevator at the train station, guide strips for the blind, acoustic announcements of departure times, or even seats at the stops: mobisaar is an important piece of the mosaic for barrier-free public transport, and everyone benefits from it.“
The Institute for Social Social Research (ISO) e.V. is an independent social science research institution founded in Saarbrücken in 1969. Its main focus in the project is to accompany the roll-out process of mobisaar by addressing the relevant stakeholders and organizing the process with the operational and strategic partners, to create a non-technical concept for the implementation of the project idea, to survey the requirements of passengers and pilots for the overall system in the context of user-centered design, and marketing. In addition, the institute will publish a final scientific publication on mobisaar.
The mobisaar customers must be able to rely on consistent, high quality booked accompaniment and spontaneous assistance. Therefore, all mobility pilots receive special training and further education. The basic training includes in particular the areas of public transport (trained by Saarbahn GmbH, Neunkircher Verkehrs GmbH and Kreisverkehrsbetriebe Saarlouis GmbH), communication, stress and conflict management (trained by miteinander leben lernen/MLL) and technology (trained by B2M Software GmbH). Additional qualifications are provided by cooperation partners such as the Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired for Saarland e.V., the Dementia Association Saarlouis e.V. and MLL. In this way, the pilots acquire the hard and soft skills necessary for their work.
Above all, there are regular team meetings and monitoring organized by the employment and qualification companies. These companies often supervise the mobisaar pilots over a long period of time. Transparent communication and trust-building are crucial for everyone involved. This is because the pilots take on a task with a high level of responsibility. Essential for their work is an understanding of the customers, safety in public transport, organizational talent, team skills, and experienced and professional handling of the hardware and software used.
For the partners who were responsible for supervising the volunteer pilots during the project, „the volunteer structure offers much potential – especially for a project like mobisaar. We hope that with the continuation of mobisaar, there will soon be opportunities to deploy motivated volunteer pilots again,“ is the statement of Ingrid Wacht, project manager mobisaar at Sozialverband VdK Saarland e.V. and Kristina Lemke, project manager mobisaar at LAG Pro Ehrenamt e.V.
For Julia Schweitzer, project manager in mobisaar from Ökumenische Bahnhofsmission Saarbrücken (sponsorship: Diakonie Saar and Caritasverband Saarbrücken und Umgebung e.V.) the transportation assistance service mobisaar „… meets a more than 100-year-old tradition of the Bahnhof’s mission in Germany. By contributing to the mobility of travelers, even beyond the borders of the Saarland, mobisaar connects people and enhances social well being.“
mobisaar – a distinguished project
“mobisaar – mobility for everyone” achieved a place among the ten best projects nationwide in 2019 as part of the newly awarded Federal Participation Prize. It is thus one of the projects that have been recognized by the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs as particularly exemplary. These are pioneering projects for inclusive mobility.
In 2013/14, MOBIA was a prize winner in the “Ausgezeichnete Orte im Land der Ideen” (~ Excellent Landmarks in the Land of Ideas) competition, and in 2015 it won the Robert Bosch Foundation’s “Deutschen Alterspreises” (~ German Ageing Award). In 2019, it was highlighted as a best-practice example among 165 alliances with 750 individual projects, together with four other projects:
B2M Software GmbH
German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence – DFKI GmbH
DIAKONISCHES WERK AN DER SAAR gGmbH/Bahnhofsmission
Institut für Sozialforschung und Sozialwirtschaft (ISO) e. V., Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft PRO EHRENAMT e. V
Neue Arbeit Saar gGmbH, Saarländische Nahverkehrs-Service GmbH (SNS)
Sozialverband VdK Saarland e. V.
Dr.-Ing. Jan Alexandersson
Head of Competence Center Ambient Assisted Living, DFKI
phone: +49 681 85775 5347
Project coordination mobisaar
phone: +49 6898 9095 421