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On this episode of Low Gravity Jonathan Calmus and Juan Camilo Gomez, Former Manager of the Mobility Office in Medellin, speak about the changes in mobility through the eyes of government and how they impact daily life. We explore taking integrative approaches to mobility and how the technology is a trigger for grass roots solutions from companies, governments and regular people.
To learn more about Juan Camilo check out his Linkedin.
To learn more about Cosmic and to become a Mobility Partner: https://cosmicgo.co/partners
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Low Gravity: A Cosmic Podcast
Episode 6 – Juan Camilo Gomez
Jonathan Calmus: Hello, hello, and welcome to another episode of Low Gravity, a Podcast on start-ups, the Tech Hustle and Shared Mobility. Today we’re joined by Juan Camilo Gomez. I met Juan Camilo recently. I met you recently through a mutual contact at Here Mobility, Jonathan who was actually also on the podcast recently as well. And we had met in Medellin with our other partner Jairo and hit it off really well.
It’s obvious Juan Camino that you are extremely knowledgeable about mobility and sustainability and everything like that. So maybe introduce yourself and give a little bit of background.
Juan Camilo Gomez: Okay. Thanks again for having me in this amazing space and well, just to talk about mobility, that’s what I really loved. So to talk about me, well let’s say that for almost the last fourteen, fifteen years I’ve been working about mobility and especially sustainability related to urban areas to cities especially to transformation, especially in the cities in terms of sustainability. And well at the beginning I was like the former coordinator of sustainable mobility of the Metro in Medellin.
This is the only Metro Company in Colombia. And well, I was in charge of how the different infrastructure projects, like massive transportation system in Metro, like cable cars, like Trans Way, like VRT systems. And at the end, that was like almost a year we have started to talk about Micro Mobility especially well the share biking models. The shared bicycle public models in cities and especially how, was it going to affect these massive transportation systems in the first and last mile. And after that I just went to the municipality of [inaudible 02: 19] like the, we can say like the General Manager for Sustainable Mobility for all the city.
And I was in charge for almost three years in the direction creation and development of different proposals for sustainability for the city. From the massive transportation system, the medium capacity system, and also the Micro Mobility, their workability and all these kinds of pedestrians and different issues that now are coming to us.
Jonathan Calmus: Yeah. So really interesting you were—and we’ll get to the rest of your story in a second. But you were basically in the centre of government at the time that the big pop of Micro Mobility happened because as you said, like Micro Mobility is not necessarily a new concept, it’s just a hot concept right now.
Juan Camilo Gomez: Yeah.
Jonathan Calmus: So what was the feedback of government and your peers at the time? You know, until now transit has been exclusively public transit. It’s always been these large RFPs from government and now all of a sudden these trailblazers, you know, Silicon Valley guys are coming in. What was the reaction at the time from the inside?
Juan Camilo Gomez: Well, you know, I think that it’s been difficult because normally from the public sector is very traditional the way that you look at the transportation solutions. So normally when you are on the public sector you want to be the owner of the solutions. Normally you want to be the owner of the solutions. You want to be the main investor. You want all the laws, all the regulatory and mandatory issues just in your hands. And now that this kind of different thing that this party inventor, this kind of guys that they just raise their hand and say,” hey, I have a new solution. I don’t depend from the government. I don’t depend from the public special issues. So if you are to pay for your mobility for your transportation, we are open.” And that changed a lot because I can say that when I was on the public sector, we were not even prepare to understand this kind of new Micro Mobility that was coming to the city, especially that was coming from the United States, from Europe and now to Latin American, especially Colombia.
Jonathan Calmus: And it happened at such a high speed as well. Like, normally public private partnerships and public sector takes so long for anything to happen. And being in the centre of it as Cosmic, you know, at the beginning of the boom in Latin America and specifically in Colombia. From the outside in, because obviously you’re talking from the opposite perspective. We had never seen any regulations move that fast even when they were talking about cryptocurrencies, even when they were talking about other really high impact or things that needed to get regulation. Nothing moved as fast as Micro Mobility in terms of regulation.
Juan Camilo Gomez: Yeah. I think that something happens in let’s say, in the five, six years, just before the beginning of this new moving of the Micro Mobility. I think that for example, developments like Uber, like Cabify. Now the traditional B2C concept The Street Hail despite the higher. Just changed the way that the government started to understand this kind of private mobility. So that give all the public sector the intention to, hey, we need to prepare for that. And once the Micro Mobility came, well at least in this kind of The Street Hail, were something more clear. And now especially to Micro Mobility, that affects especially the public space, that is the main issue I think all over the world.
Not especially in Latin America. But in Latin America it’s more difficult because their public space is not well organized. So when you found a solution like this in the public space just beside the guy that is selling some specific fruit for example, It’s just crazy. It’s a lot of people, a lot of things just around. And I think that was like preparation for that coming from The Street Hail platforms like Uber, Cabify, lyft this kind of things just give us a measures of what’s going to happen in the future.
Jonathan Calmus: This is a good segue into Ride Hailing and stuff like that because I love this story. Maybe it’s just because I’m a cowboy myself, but I love the Uber story in Colombia it’s so fun. They exited, they got a lot of pressure from the unions. They got a lot of pressure from government. They exited Colombia and then they came back less than a month later and we wrote their… talk a little bit about that. It’s a really good….
Juan Camilo Gomez: yeah. Yeah. That was really, really funny and we can say that it’s funny because it is. Because they just create like a huge drama all around the country. If you was going to hire a car I’m telling you, “hey guys, we’re going to miss you. We are leaving Colombia.” with all the publicity and the government in television, they say, “hey, we are very sad we are going to miss Colombia.” And just a month after they came with a new proposal, totally legal because it’s legal.
Jonathan Calmus: It is. According to the law…
Juan Camilo Gomez: Yeah, it is. According to them—according to the local law it is total legal and now for example, the other actors like the traditional taxi companies, they are like, what happened here?
Jonathan Calmus: They don’t know how to respond.
Juan Camilo Gomez: Yeah. And the government doesn’t know what to say because it’s totally legal what they are doing. And that was like I said a super funniest strategy and I think super intelligent. A strategy just to create like a huge, huge…
Jonathan Calmus: Huge buzz, huge attention.
Juan Camilo Gomez: Huge attention and a super marketing strategy and now they are conquering again the market. So, yeah, it’s crazy.
Jonathan Calmus: Yeah. Totally. Let me just tell everyone who listening what they did. So they exited the market. They made announcements like Juan Camilo is saying. And the law was structured in a way that said taxis is essentially a public service and therefore it has to be regulated has such. Uber came back, I think they took twenty days to just rewrite their contract. And when you’re using an Uber you’re renting a car that comes with a free driver. You’re no longer using a transportation method, you’re renting a vehicle and then that vehicle comes with a free driver. And I think it’s such a funny, funny way to put it and such a like middle finger to the…
Juan Camilo Gomez: Yeah. But I think that—-as I was talking about at the beginning. Like four years ago they just came with this new idea of the private hire, this retailing. Now they get again in the innovation loop, they understood that, okay guys, we need to adapt, we need to stay in different countries. And I think that what they are doing right now in Colombia, they are going to replicate in every city that they already are working on the world. So it’s interested because Colombia is like a, I say it’s just like a funny laboratory
Jonathan Calmus: It’s like a pioneer.
Juan Camilo Gomez: It’s like a funny laboratory but it’s a pioneer. And I think—when I was on the municipality in charge of the mobility issues and I was the authority, I always was saying to the mayor, “mayor, we need to change. It’s not about to stop Uber, it’s about to change the way that we are moving and I mean that we need to be more flexible with the traditional transportation systems and let them even get open to new opportunities. So I think it’s really interesting right now what is happening.
Jonathan Calmus: I agree. I think it’s also perfect timing. I mean, it’s hard to ignore we’re doing this remotely because we’re both in quarantine right now so we have to kind of address that. More and more and more it’s becoming very evident that the Gig Economy that Crowdsourced vehicles, Crowdsourced Ride Hailing the shared economy, all of these themes are becoming more important. Because now that people are losing their jobs they’re looking to alternative sources of income. And when you guys were talking about mobility and how it played into a civil planning and urban planning, did the concept of this is actually a fuel for stimulating the local economy come up or was that less important?
Juan Camilo Gomez: No, I think it is even, I can tell because my study for my last master degree was dedicated to Micro Mobility, especially the non-motorized ones. So like a workability, like bicycle. And the interesting thing especially for example in Colombia and Latin America was that in urban planning no one was talking about this kind of solution, this kind of a approach to new markets.
And what’s very interesting, because what people is always looking is the solution from one origin to one destination. And when you can find that in a simple way or even in a connected way for example Metro plus a bicycle, plus a scooter, plus a good network just for pedestrians. This becomes into a new development and even not only urban economical development. Because just around this kind of urban development appears new stores, appear activities, appears new behaviours.
Jonathan Calmus: Offices. Yeah. Absolutely.
Juan Camilo Gomez: Yeah. And that’s the interesting part because normally here in Colombia and Latin America, the basic issue about, to think the city, to talk about urban planning was always, okay Massive transportation system that costs a lot, planning for cars so that means more space for highways. That means a lot of money as well and also housing. But when you have all these combined, that first for example, comes the housing, then the highways, then the massive transportation system. The solution is never concrete. So when you are capable to combine, for example, a share solution proposal like Micro Mobility with a sure solution proposal in terms of space. For example, Micro Mobility doesn’t need the same space of a highway related to cars.
So if you are able to create that with a new housing development in the city you will have all the solutions in related to mobility for these new people that is coming to the specific space. And you will now have like a delay of five, ten years in terms of mobility in terms of develop our massive transportation system or a super infrastructure related to cars. So this is very interesting because the economy starts in Inmediatly. They start in Inmediatly They don’t need to wait for the new highway for the new massive transportation system.
Jonathan Calmus: What is the solution to that? Because this is spoken about so much in Shared Mobility and Micro Mobility. How do you actually take a government funded or private partner sorry, public private partnership and then integrate it into the same system from a technical capacity? Obviously I understand it, but typically the problem is bureaucracy or industry. How do you dance around that topic? What do you actually do?
Juan Camilo Gomez: Well, I think that right now and I can say all the world in the last, let’s say five maximum ten years. They are just understanding that what happens. Fifty years ago, this kind of a ( PPP) private public projects can be done with some specific issues related with some clear specifications. And now they’re understanding that, for example, you can create like integration in first, integrations in productivity and also integration in terms of a space.
For example, we can say that here with Metro Medellin that is the main company with almost, let’s say sixty stations all over the territory with almost 4 million people living in there. So that means that now they are open, for example, to bring a space for bicycles, bring a space for a scooters, bring a space for cars, but not only the space.
The interesting part is that they are now open just to integrate the different first related to the final ride. So for example, if you want to go by Metro, your entire trip from the North to the South of the city, but the first stage of your ride it’s at least two kilometres by walking. Now you can do it in a bicycle, in a scooter. But even that fare is that— that doesn’t mean that is your own scooter or your own bicycle. That means that with this interesting new development of the floating mobility, the Dockless mobility, now you can find a scooter, just three steps away from your door from your house, and you can pay in the same application. That’s where the, I think the other interesting part to resolve that answer is not only the public private actuations, is the technology itself that is just shortening the space between the inequity of the different transportation systems. That means that if you are able to integrate in the same app, in the same payment method this kind of solution like bikes like scooters like, whatever you want with domestic transportation system, you are giving the person the total solution from the origin to the destination that I was just talking about a few minutes ago.
Jonathan Calmus: And theoretically you can give better and more efficient pricing as well because you’re bulking. You’re taking multiple modes of transportation, but you’re putting it into the same trip. Ultimately it is point a to point B with little micro point A’s and point B’s in between.
Juan Camilo Gomez: Yeah. I think that that takes us to this specific issue that is Multi-modality. Multi-modality I think that this is still one of the basis of sustainability all around the world. But Multi-modality must be seen in all different specifications related for example, in operation issues, Infor issues and even in the space issues. If Multi-modality is just understanding like that I think that we just can shorten the space between all these kinds of solutions just to give all the cities to give all the different populations a real solution of mobility, that must be totally aligned with the style of life.
Jonathan Calmus: What do you think is blocking that right now? In theory Multimodality is obviously the best case scenario. Means you get to configure the vehicles and the rental types according to the markets. But what’s preventing that? I mean it’s easier said than done. So why is there a struggle getting this to market? Because many, many huge companies are working on this and many governments are as well, but still has yet to reach the public.
Juan Camilo Gomez: No, I think that it’s in the hands of the public sector. I think that is more related to bureaucracy that we are just passing from the traditional planners that used to think that mobility is just highways are just this kind of infrastructure. And even that for example, infrastructure is in any one of development. I think that now we are changing that our new planners, our new mayors, our new governors are just changing the way that they understand the city. But at least I think that will take maybe four or five years to have a total change and let the bureaucracy just behind and integrate totally all these kind of bureaucracy and more related to the different solutions for mobility. But right now I think that it’s totally in hands of the public sector and that they need to understand where is the role of the paper that Micro Mobility, for example, of this new kind of mobility as a services play in the cities.
Jonathan Calmus: I think it’s a really good point. For a very long time, at least in Western culture because the economy and capitalism revolved around loans, specifically mortgages. For a long time cities were planned based on housing complexes. And in Spanish we call them “conjuntos” I think right? Like these private environments or gated communities or developments that you see many times when you’re driving down on the U S highways and freeways. And space is just becoming limited, especially in metropolitan cities. So the more vertical we become and the more we try to maximize space and efficiency and ultimately sustainability. I think the changing of the guards and all of the topics being spoken about at the same time, it’s kind of the perfect time for all of this to take place.
So you started your career in mobility and with the ambitions of hopefully planning a more sustainable world about ten years ago? It’s obviously that you’re very passionate and one would even say obsessed about this topic. When you started ten years ago did you imagine yourself having these types of conversations? Did you see this kind of weird futuristic world or were you thinking more traditionally?
Juan Camilo Gomez: No, I can say that I was more in the traditional specific criteria. Well I can say that ten years ago I was thinking only on the traditional transportation theory of say, our oldest cities in the world and then the main urban areas need much in transportation system. Well, we can say is very, very expensive. But in the long term it could be a cheaper for people. But now I can say that especially the world’s changing very fast. Now the innovation process is happening in just hours, in days and not like ten years ago that if you have an idea and you want to create something, you have like a specific path by path just to go to the new idea at the new innovation the articulation. And now that technology just allow us to have an entire toolkit to develop ideas, to develop solutions.
Even you can find money on the internet for example. If you have a good idea, you have a good date a good speech and you find the correct person you can find money even for this kind of idea. So I think that eventually that was changing during the years. And I can say that for example, in three years ago I wasn’t expecting Micro Mobility as a solution for example in the main cities of the world. I was thinking maybe the moment that this kind of bicycle share systems, public systems were the solution. But they are still were playing the same role over transportation systems. You must play, yeah…
Jonathan Calmus: Yeah. Which was partnerships and RFPs and the whole song and dance. Definitely.
Juan Camilo Gomez: Yeah. Yeah. But three years ago I can say I wasn’t even thinking about that Micro Mobility, that solution like the scooters, like the one wheeled solutions, electric solutions call a pier. And for example, in my experience I was in South Korea in 2015 and 2016 and that was the first time you know, South Korea is always like in the future in Architecture solution, in everything. And that was the first time I could see a one wheel electric vehicle just going around the city.
Jonathan Calmus: It’s kind of funny to see it, right?
Juan Camilo Gomez: Yeah. And one guy just over him and just going through the people. And what’s crazy because, Oh, you know, this is the future. But when it is yeah—when is this going to happen in Latin America? And let’s say just last year that was coming to us, especially in a specific solutions. But now I think that we are more prepared just to receive this kind of things. And maybe the next year we will find another solution, another specific development. And maybe right now that development, for example, now in times of this Corvid-19 people is thinking, is innovating about something different just to about or just to promote the social distancing for example, how would you be prepared to travel again in a massive transportation system if all the whole is insisting on social distancing? So I think that’s…
Jonathan Calmus: It’s crazy because you see these videos like Japan, even before all of this was always squishing people in. But I mean Trans Millennial, which is the system in Bogota and Metro, its nerve wracking. We had someone come and clean the office and it was obvious that she wasn’t very trained. She didn’t really understand why this was so serious. So we gave her gloves, we gave her a mask and, she went back on the public transit. But more and more this is going to be the narrative which is get individual vehicles, have more space, social distancing, etcetera.
Juan Camilo Gomez: This is not only going to be related to mobility. I think that in the future it is not only going to be the solution, the hardware itself like the scooter. I think that in the future it is going to be like a super app in your cell phone, in your pocket, just to let you do all that you really need in the city. For example, in the same app, in the same market that you can just have a coffee, send it to your home or to your office or that you can rent a scooter. That with the CO2 avoided while riding the scooter you can have like a specific coins, like environmental coins. Just to enjoy a coffee and a Starbucks later that day, or even that from the same application you can just start a ride on a scooter then just start the car or the sharing car that you will need, just to start in middle of your second part of the trip or ride and get, I don’t know, to a long distance. I think that is more related to how technology is going to shorten the distance between different needs in the city and the daily life. Maybe that’s something interesting to talk about.
Jonathan Calmus: Yeah, that is very interesting. Juan Camilo thank you so much for your time. I know you’re really busy especially now, so many calls and everything from the house. It was great talking to you.
Juan Camilo Gomez: okay.
Jonathan Calmus: And I’m looking forward to speaking more. Thank you.
Juan Camilo Gomez: Okay Jonathan, thank you so much for having me and it’s a pleasure for me. Thank you. Thank you.
If you’re interested in launching your own Micro Mobility fleet, go to www.cosmicgo.co