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What Cities Want: The Mobility Solutions Of The Future

Urban and transport planners from 15 cities throughout the world report in a study organized by Technische Universität München and MAN on how they want to shape passenger transport in the future. Beside priorities in urban and transport planning, the study focuses also on concrete measures already planned.

Executive Summary

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.