Shift: Changing Gears and Goals in Mobility
Mirko Vitali @ stock.adobe.com
Rebecca Solnit in Wanderlust: A History of Walking.
Rebecca Solnit in Wanderlust: A History of Walking.
Space is mobility, and just like architecture is the language of the city, different modes of transportation provide us with different tones and different structures to read a city. Any given mode of transportation has the power to completely change the way we perceive the route. A new sustainable mobility system will be, first and foremost, human-centered; doing so, we have to consider mobility habits as inseparable from urban planning and cultural patterns.
In this scenario, we consider mobility technologies for a connected, shared and autonomous world. With the goal to shift from chaotic traffic jams to rhythmic, intelligent, and ultimately pleasant journeys.
Most urban areas were planned at a time when the world dynamic and access to technology differed completely, therefore, for nowadays standards, the majority of human transportation is wildly inefficient and energy-consuming. Building change in urbanization and transportation is expensive and slow because it requires structural improvements towards characteristics that were not initially predicted. The higher the density of residents living in urban areas, the more opportunities that cities need to offer for people to walk and bike to work and run errands. Incentivizing these activities will help reduce reliance on personal cars. In turn, this will allow city administrators to commission new urban spaces for pedestrians and cyclists, emerging from the elimination of parking spots — both private lots and roadside. It is not that cities don not have enough space, it is that the space is poorly utilized and mismanaged in order to cope with the current and future needs of city life.
Yet, car ownership is still the only viable alternative for most of the Earth’s rural population. On the other hand, many countries are already focusing on public transport efficiency. Take Rwanda for example — until a few years ago, the entire system was exclusively reliant on cash. But in 2015, a small start-up introduced cashless payment cards, ubiquitous in other countries, but relatively unknown in Africa. The cards have helped streamline boarding, shortened the overall commute, and helped transport administrators develop more accurate timetables. They’ve managed to cut down on both payment fraud and service delays and are expanding to neighboring countries as well.
In terms of car ownership, there is an apparent shift towards shared vehicles that comes hand-in-hand with the dematerialization of things, gaining popularity as the internet continues to expand and gain more users. People want simplicity, not complications. Just as music-lovers want music and don not care about the medium of storage, people just need to get from place to place; the vehicle itself is becoming pretty irrelevant. The lines between private and public transport are beginning to blur as public transportation becomes more flexible, and technology methods like Multimodal Transportation Ticketing allow passengers to change freely between modes of transport with an automatic ticketing system.
These types of technologies are beginning to facilitate the lives of people in urban areas, improving service levels and helping convince people to think twice about using personal vehicles and instead, shift to more reliable, tailored, public transportation options and shared modes of transportation to help achieve the overall goal of reducing carbon emissions.
Networked cities and user access to data-heavy solutions can help passengers decide the most efficient method of transportation, taking into consideration any desired metrics, such as carbon emissions or the duration of the trip, thus reducing strain on the system. The tailored mobility packages of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) can generate efficient and optimized possibilities. However, these new systems are not without challenges. Workers employed by many of the gig economy companies work without benefits under shady contracts. Complaints and pressure from governments have caused some companies to begin to license and formally hire workers with more explicit contracts. Others have begun to offer new service opportunities themselves, helping improve the quality of public transportation through direct competition. Continued collaboration is necessary for both service providers and users to reap the benefits of these new opportunities.
Shifting Individual's Mindset
By combining every method of movement available, overcrowding will become less of an issue as users find alternative ways to get to their destinations. By relying on real-time information, trip planning, and booking in combination with solutions such as GPS, e-ticketing, and e-payments, synergies between the integrated platforms can be harnessed. Efficiencies from seamless transactions between users and providers of transportation services could allow users to go from a ride-sharing small-capacity vehicle to a public bus then to an electric scooter — all planned and organized through MaaS.
Conversely, the acceptance of MaaS will depend highly on citizen disposition to share data; optimization of the entire system depends on crunching and making sense of all the collected data. In parallel, active modes like walking and cycling promote health benefits and could be better integrated into daily commutes. A heavy emphasis on Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) methods will further reduce emissions, helping supplement motorized transportation options with carbon emission-free solutions.
Self-driving Vehicles would improve system efficiency and increase safety if accompanied by strong regulations, increased road-use fees, and the establishment of single-passenger bans in city centers. Otherwise, they could cause even more gridlock from high demand and low costs, especially compared to the similarly-priced, significantly less comfortable, public transportation options. If self-driven vehicles go unregulated, one could imagine the city streets being fully populated by ghost-cars, parking a car could end up being more difficult and expensive than leaving your autonomous car to cruise aimlessly around the city. In this scenario, inequality would only increase as wealthy citizens would be the only ones able to afford these first-generation AEV. An alternative option suggested by the Principles would be to ensure that all AEV are shared, and individuals could buy a seat in a shared car, expanding the reach to a larger portion of society.
As remote work and co-working spaces become popular, daily routes, become dynamic, ever-changing journeys. Research has shown that in typical households, men commonly take the same daily route, whereas women have dynamic needs, thus dynamic courses. Multimodal and on-demand modes allow for new routes and new ways of experiencing the same places. Micro-transport models, such as electric scooters and shared bikes, bring another, very important element to the game — joy. Commuting can, and should, be pleasurable; we spend so much of our lives doing so. How can we discover more joyful ways of experiencing the public sphere, thus garnering more enjoyment from experiencing life itself?