By 2030, 60 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, up from about 50 percent today. Planners and designers swiftly get transportation logistics, congestion, and air pollution, but when pushed to make urban life better for their citizens they often fail to deliver. Some urban areas already rank above average and offer integrated multi-model mobility options but these complex offerings to deploy. Mobility technologies exist (see below) that ease the pain when prioritizing mobility but this is not merely a “tech fix” situation for it requires collaborative stakeholder engagement and implementation planning as well.
Copenhagen has for a long time now housed parking lots full of bikes, their transport lanes throughout the city prefer pedal pushers, and when I was recently there nearly everyone told me they bike more than they use an automobile. London is building “cycle superhighways” and New York expects to have 1,800 miles of bike lanes by 2030. Thus, the challenge of bringing smart mobility solutions to urban dwellers doesn’t require fancy new technologies but instead lies in the requirement to establish collaborative planning processes that educate, iterate, and ultimately are built with flexibility in mind. When driven by the urban subculture it’s apparent. I just returned from Boulder, Colorado and when there I saw municipal bicycle storage options integrated with public transportation lines; a natural extension of the daily commuters lifestyle. Don’t think this is something we’re going to see in Atlanta, Georgia anytime soon!
Don’t get me wrong, municipalities are working hard to solve these mobility issues, this isn’t just about meeting citizen’s demands pushed at planners and designers. Heterogeneous trends in urban mobility have been slowly coming online and one of the most touted “technology” solutions is the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. The start of smart planning to better manage congestion but then that was taken the next step through innovative laws in states like California that now allow HOV access for electric or hydrogen vehicles too. Right on the heels of HOV lanes came congestion parking in major metros like New York City and the concept of peak demand parking sits at the bleeding edge of urban mobility, despite nobody having worked out the math just yet. In fact, new business models are continually trying to deal with the needs for increased data collection and logistical management analysis. This is clearly the direction smart cities are going but in my research this isn’t as far as it will go in the coming decades. What comes next will seem extreme but population growth and the demands of urbanization on cities will require ultra efficiency.
For a hint into the future just look at Singapore. Albeit they’re an island, but because of this they’ve been pushed to their mobility limits ahead of other major metros. They’ve opted to set aside cars all together and this isn’t solely because they can’t build more suburbs for their commuters and cars. They’re aware of the laden energy in costs in vehicle manufacturing and the significant potential to reduce CO2 by switching from gas powered automobiles to walking, biking, and electrified forms of mass transit. In fact, as the Singaporean government lowers their transport and mobility energy profile, they’re guaranteeing the citizens will be able to live healthier lifestyles. This effort paves the way for systemic shifts and opens the door for a sustainable mobility future; one inclusive of drone package delivery drops, self-service mail centers, automated vehicles (passenger, bus, tram, freight, and corporate fleet solutions), and allows for mobility as a service to flourish as well.
Cities wanting to establish integrated mobility plans and capture the full range of transportation and mobility solutions must take assessment of technology options, perform collaborative stakeholder analysis, and comprehensively implementation plans with a citizen centric approach. Here are a few places to start:
- SAMPLES OF URBAN MOBILITY “TECHNOLOGIES”
- Congestion Pricing – HOV driving lanes, street, & parking
- Urban Redesign – mobility optimization, curb, & intersection plans
- Coordinated Actions – private & public sector collaboration
- “Cycle Superhighways” – extra wide lanes dedicated to bicycles
- ABBREVIATED IMPLEMENTATION STEPS
- Establish population growth and transport demand metrics
- Conduct customer interviews to fit future needs
- Define the city and citizen archetypes
- Create intelligent city policies
- Engage private-sector mobility companies
- Educate citizens on multi-mode mobility values
- Leverage academic and startup incubators or accelerators
- Build neighborhood partnership test pilots
- Schedule citizen updates via engagement workshops
- Act boldly and prepared for agile adjustments
- KEY STAKEHOLDERS
- City Planners & Urban Designers
- Public Entities and Administrators
- Academic Institutions
- Accelerators and Incubators
- Technology Mobility Solution Providers