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Planning for the Future of Urban Mobility

 

Planning for the Future of Urban Mobility 

Cities are places of exchange: exchange of goods, exchange of money, and exchange of ideas. All these require the movement of people and goods between and around the city. Along with a healthy exchange, the economy comes with people wanting to be in the same place at the same time, and congestion arises. This has been true for millennia, and the first urban congestion mitigations are thought to have been implemented in ancient Rome under Julius Caesar, who forbade the use of horse-drawn wagons between dawn and dusk. Over time, technological advances have enabled lower-cost and faster travel. This in turn has enabled companies to get goods to market faster, enabled people to travel within and between cities more effectively, and enabled congestion to increase.

As cities have grown, new transportation options have allowed people to live further from their work locations and to pay for a better quality of life. Many factors have contributed to the creation of urban environments where vehicle miles travelled per capita are now much higher than they were fifty years ago, including the suburbanisation of employment, the increasing affordability of cars, and infrastructure investment policies that have prioritised road building.

Government agencies and private companies worldwide have collaborated to reduce the congestion effects and environmental impacts associated with vehicle travel. Early efforts to reduce congestion often focused on increasing roadway capacity, while more recent approaches include incentivising mode shift to alternative transportation options and using market-based solutions such as road pricing, congestion pricing, dynamic tolling, and demand-based parking pricing.

We have broken down the approaches to transitioning to a less congested future into three different areas, where changes may enable reductions in congestion effects and environmental impacts:

  1. Land-use and infrastructure policy: planning for accessibility instead of mobility focuses on what people are trying to achieve (for example, a trip to the grocery store) instead of how they can get there (for example, driving). Designing cities of the future that enable their residents to achieve many of their trips without driving may increase quality of life and decrease the cost of living, while reducing the need to use land area for parking and road space. 
  2. Integrated transportation planning: improving access and connectivity to alternative transportation modes enables people to make the most appropriate choices for them at any given point in time. Integrated planning involves all aspects of the transportation ecosystem, including traveller information and payment systems, as well as the provision of infrastructure and services that provide access to public transport and intercity links.  
  3. Transition policies: incentivising the transition to electric vehicles, the transition to shared vehicle ownership, and the provision of first-mile and last-mile solutions that complement public transport and intercity links will enable the transition to urban environments with reduced congestion and decreased environmental impacts.  

 

The Key Challenge – effective planning for future mobility 

 

City and regional planning agencies make transportation demand forecasts for periods five to twenty years into the future and use these forecasts to make informed decisions on spending priorities. However, these models are only as useful as the assumptions that underpin them.

Transportation models of the mid-twentieth century were predicated on transportation demand remaining roughly constant. The suburbanisation of work locations, the increasing proportion of families with two (or more) cars, and the latent demand that would be served by new transportation infrastructure all acted to increase the number of cars on our roads.

Today’s transportation systems are facing similar transitions, with the current policies incentivising a shift to electric vehicles and companies investing in the near-term commercialisation of robotaxi services. The policy choices that governments make in the next few years may dramatically affect the shape of our cities in decades to come.

Questions for policy makers to consider include:

  • How will consumers and businesses respond to changes in the transportation ecosystem?

  • What regulatory policies should cities consider to ensure that changes in the transportation ecosystem align with social and environmental sustainability goals?

  • Should cities provide their own e-hailing services (for example, replace low-ridership bus routes with on-demand public transport), and how?

  • Can cities work with taxis and private hire services to improve overall accessibility to goods and services?

  • How can new forms of mobility be considered alongside public transport infrastructure investments?

  • What forms, locations, and availability of vehicle charging infrastructure are required in a city to enable the transition to electric and connected fleets?

 

The solution – scenario-based simulation 

 

Partnering with Immense, or simply using our platform, can help decision-makers, strategists, planners, operators and agencies to provide answers to these questions in a matter of hours. Authorities and organisations that develop efficient transportation networks and effective fleet utilisation systems will be positively positioned for growth in the coming years. Cities, public authorities and private fleet operators need to work collaboratively for a win-win plan for the future – how best to utilise limited funds to support growth, unlock potential, minimise congestion, and support a fair society.

Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed rapid changes in urban mobility in the form of Uber, Ola, Gett, FreeNow, Grab, Via. They have unlocked the potential of combining ride-hailing and ride-sharing with modern technology and smartphones.  

Aside from e-hailing, there are other modern mobility concepts such as vehicle sharing, (e.g. bike-sharing, car-sharing, e-scooters etc.) where vehicles can be rented for short periods, and ride-sharing/car-pooling (UberPool, ViaVan, Lyft), which allow journeys to be shared so more than one person can travel in a car or a bus (on-demand microtransit).  

Self-driving or autonomous vehicles will also have a disruptive impact on future mobility. Together with modern mobility concepts, they will be a catalyst for shifting choice away from private car ownership towards a service-led model, e.g. Zipster, Whim. 

These will need proper planning and assessments to make informed decisions, and city-wide simulation can help achieve this vision. A revolution in urban mobility is underway, and this future – the future that all cities need to anticipate and plan for – is more uncertain than ever. Therefore, testing various scenarios that consider new forms of mobility is inevitable to plan future growth and infrastructure for the resiliency and sustainability of our cities. Only then our cities can be truly called smart cities.

  

Talk to our expert, Shaleen Srivastava, our Chief Commercial Officer, to find out more about solution – scenario-based simulation. 

Shaleen is a specialist in smart cities, urban mobility, logistics and transportation planning, intelligent transportation systems, data analytics, business strategy and business planning. He also has vast experience in the evaluation and implementation of disruptive technologies. 

 

 

 

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