Cities are the drivers of change. If there is one aspect where cities haven’t driven much change over the past five decades, though, it is our transport systems.

In this age of population boom and rapid development, we need a radical transformation in urban mobility now more than ever. Can cities step in and ignite this change?

Multinational professional services firm Arup discusses this in detail in their paper, Rethinking Urban Mobility.

Here, we’re going to boil this paper down to the key points.

Transportation timeline in UK. Source: Arup

What role should cities play in shaping change?

City leaders will be determining who exactly gets to operate their mobility systems in the city and on what terms. Therefore, it is the role of the cities to strike a balance between innovation and maintaining their priorities.

Holding in their hands the power to police and regulate, they should also ensure that regulation will not get in the way of innovation or the other way around.

In their hands is also the ability to moderate the market. Cities have to make sure that the prices of mobility systems are sound for both commercial organisations and consumers.

At the same time, it is also their responsibility to develop the public space to one which encourages active transport. Public transport is a crucial aspect of social and economic mobility. Both public and private entities must work together to ensure that transport provides equity, privacy, and safety for all. They should also be promoting sustainable modes of transport and reduce environmental impact.

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With all these, we can see how critical it is for cities to be on the move when it comes to pushing growth in our transport systems.

How will demand-responsive transport impact urban systems?

Arup identified shared mobility or demand-responsive transport (DRT) as an excellent way to augment the existing transport system. By adding in DRT to the mix of our existing mobility system, transportation will become more dynamic.

With access to vehicles they can call by demand, consumers will be less inclined to acquire private vehicles. Needless to say, this will decongest our roads and improve the quality of air.

Arup stressed that DRT isn’t meant to replace the existing transport systems. Instead, it is intended to complement it.

The existence of DRT will facilitate the multimodality of transport — consumers can seamlessly travel from one mode of transport to another as they need to and according to their preference instead of being bound by their vehicles.

Source: Arup

Do the economic fundamentals of urban transport systems still add up? 

The transformation of urban transport means that cities will have to redefine income models to cope with the disruptions. Arup mentions that cities will also have to balance this economic sustainability with the environmental impact, the accessibility of transport, and the public good.

A huge part of accomplishing this would be closely working with public and private sectors, enabling them to form collaborations. At the same time, cities should also take advantage of the Big Data to maximize the efficiency of the transport systems and improve the experience of the users.

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On the whole, cities will have to perform multiple balancing acts in order to pave the way for progressive mobility.  This is the pain brought upon by the birth of new transport they have to shoulder.

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