What Cities Want: The Mobility Solutions Of The Future
Since the year 2009 half the world’s population has been living in a city, as shown by statistics from the United Nations. And the trend is ongoing. By the year 2050 it is thought that the number of city dwellers will increase by 85 percent to reach 6.3 billion – that is, two thirds of the world population will then be living in cities. This means that cities will have to absorb the bulk of future population growth.
The challenges associated with this development are most evident in connection with infrastructure issues. Transport facilities, power and water supplies and waste disposal all have to keep up with the growth that is anticipated. But we often get the impression that cities are being driven by events – just responding to uncontrolled growth, rather than acting with foresight.
At the same time, urbanization does harbor opportunities for cities. For example, an attractive metropolis acts as a lure for business enterprises of both national and global significance. If companies choose a city as a location for their group headquarters, responsible for the coordination and integration of international production processes, that city will be making a notable contribution to the future shape of globalization. For “global cities” of this class it is an ongoing challenge to present an attractive prospect for companies, their employees and potential workers – and to continue to do so. Indices assessing the quality of life of a city reflect the global competition between cities in the attractiveness stakes. In this competition, mobility policies play a crucial role. Urban planners need to find solutions for traffic congestion, vehicular air pollution and problems associated with the massive use of public spaces for transport purposes, if their city is to continue to appeal.
Mobility is a decisive factor in the attractiveness of cities
In the light of these challenges to passenger transport, MAN and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have conducted a study entitled “What Cities Want”. The study investigates how cities plan to organize future mobility, and what challenges they are faced with. The authors of the study started by analyzing the drivers and influential factors that are significant for the shaping of mobility in cities. Based on Frederic Vester’s approach to system analysis, the complex interaction of different aspects was first examined. This was followed by a workshop involving some 20 representatives of different industries – finance, real estate, automotive, trend research, logistics and transport – where the initial findings were investigated in depth. Here it emerged that while each city is individual and unique, all of them are at the same time subject to the same “generic code”. Three controlling loops were identified which are of fundamental significance for urban development. These fall under the headings of industrial development and urbanization, environmental stress and climate change, and strategic implementation. Only when they succeed in systematically controlling the effects of their industrial development, keeping local environmental stress to a low level and at the same time meeting national and international climate targets, can cities aspire to a viable form of future mobility which will make a positive difference to their attractiveness as a location.
City strategies for urban and transport planning
On the basis of the “city” system model, a questionnaire was developed to inquire into strategies, drivers and obstacles for urban transport planning and mobility policy. The fifteen cities selected for the survey were Ahmedabad, Beirut, Bogotá, Copenhagen, Johannesburg, Istanbul, London, Los Angeles, Lyon, Melbourne, Munich, St. Petersburg, São Paulo, Shanghai and Singapore. These cover a wide range in terms of size, annual population growth rates and population density, the balance of the different modes of transport in transport overall and the degree of industrial development. The strategies chosen by a city for the planning of its future mobility will be significantly dependent on the already existing infrastructure, the quality of its municipal administration and the current state of its economy.
Heads of urban and transport planning departments in the various cities were selected as professionally qualified experts to consult. The study “What Cities Want” thus reflects the strategies which are being developed in cities by urban and transport planners, and implemented as a matter of political priority. In terms of transport planning, 14 out of the 15 cities are pursuing the objective of improving the quality of local public transport services, followed by the upgrading of the local public transport infrastructure and improved mobility for all their citizens. This should now have been achieved, seeing that most of the cities have already improved their road network, increased the capacity of their roads and for the most part have also introduced access restrictions. The principal objective of local public transport is seen as being that of highlighting alternatives to the passenger car and offering mobility services to all city dwellers. But at the same time those cities and regions which have low population density in certain areas are faced with a dilemma in keeping public transport services costeffective. Consequently, the majority of those interviewed are also aiming at an urban development which will be tailored to the needs of local public transport. In addition, almost all the participants want to encourage walking and cycling.
When it comes to the successful realization of the planned transport projects, the municipal budget, transport governance and economic development are the crucial factors. The influence of politics on transport planning and the realization of transport projects can be understood either in a positive or in a negative sense. Strong and consistent political leadership can be effective in shaping the future mobility of a city. Frequent changes in public transport strategy, on the other hand, are likely to hamper the development of futurecapable mobility solutions and prevent them focusing on clearly defined targets.
The financial situation of the cities, above all, explains the success of “Bus Rapid Transit” (BRT) solutions in recent decades. Systems of this kind have their own infrastructure, which gives the buses priority in road traffic. Their frequency is approximately the same as that of railbased systems, so that an appropriate level of capacity utilization can be achieved. In the selection of a transport strategy, it has emerged that the conventional city bus remains the basis today for any effective urban transport system. Railbased systems, by contrast – apart from the traveling time involved and the question of service quality – have the strongest influence on mobility patterns, while the environmental awareness of users hardly affects their choice of transport. This goes some way to explain the renaissance of the bicycle. With the low average speed of motorized transport and the lack of parking spaces for passenger vehicles, the bicycle frequently offers a speedier and cheaper alternative for door to door travel in the city.
Partnership of public and private players based on trust
The results of the questionnaire were discussed with urban and transport planners from the 15 cities in the course of a two day workshop. Here it was found that mobility forms an essential foundation for progress at local level – one that needs to be harmonized with the challenges of globally sustainable development. The proactive promotion of reliable transport systems – especially in local public transport, but also in smaller scale networks for pedestrians and bicycles – is an essential condition for making cities attractive and accessible and raising the quality of life. Cities must focus their development on these transport systems with a view to avoiding traffic queues and environmental pollution. This calls for a coordinated regional planning and transport policy, which should involve as many of the important players as possible. Both public and private sectors need an appropriate institutional framework if they are to develop a partnership based on trust, with a view to the realization and joint financing of the successful projects of the future.
In addition to this, the attitude and mobility habits of the population are another crucially important factor. Userfriendly information and communication systems, backed up by systematic mobility management, can contribute to maximizing the efficiency and capacity utilization of existing transport systems. Technological innovations on their own, however, will not resolve the problems of urban mobility. Mobility management and experimental approaches to a solution may help to bring about a change of perspective. In the interest of sustainable development, it is essential to keep open a wide range of options with a view to dealing with future processes of change.