Cities across the globe are transforming under the pressures of population growth and demographic change. In the developing economies we will see hundreds of new million-plus cities in places that are not on the map today. Yvo de Boer, in his opening address, stressed that we have to choose what kind of cities we want, and plan for that future.
Transport is key to ensuring that people’s basic needs including health care and access to employment are met and the economy thrives. Effective transport is as important to the banana seller in Lagos as the commuter in Boston. For social policy to be effective, transport policies need to be part of an integrated framework to tackle poverty and improve wellbeing. Authorities that look at mobility in the city holistically are missing in many metropolises, that’s the real problem as Ramsekhar Manichikalapati from the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System stressed.
There are many examples that demonstrate how transport policy can be effective in achieving more equitable cities. To cite just one, adding four stops to a three-stop train line running between the central business district and the southern outskirts of Boston was transformational, providing the most densely populated and poorest regions of the city with a better link to labour markets that created around 1 300 new jobs.
In the developing world, absence of adequate public transport often leads to proliferation of informal, often unsafe and polluting collective transport options. Gradual replacement of these services with organized public transport is important but caution should be exercised as informal transport provision is a source of so many jobs.
As cities grow, residential and business areas often transform and migrate, accompanied by changing patterns of transport demand. These changes can be rapid and make public transport systems structured around historic centres of demand ill-adapted to serving new focal points of activity. Innovative technology, such as app-based mobility services can also disrupt patterns of transport demand. But technology also provides solutions and big data and real‑time traffic information can reveal the changes and transform the provision of mobility services.
Smart cards are creating new opportunities to plan and manage transport systems and can help to strike the balance between providing affordable services and attaining financial sustainability (for example in Bogota enabling subsidies to be targeted to those that need them most). Car sharing enabled by mobile applications provided by companies like Uber can also be part of enhancing public transport solutions through partnerships between private companies and local authorities. There are examples of public sector subsidising on-demand private transport services to provide cheaper, more sustainable links to public transport, potentially reducing the need for parking. Jo Bertram, gave the example of Florida, where Uber connects to public transport hubs with 3 dollar rides, supported by subsidies from the public transit authority. More solutions like this are needed to ensure that the benefits of the sharing economy are made available to all.
Jo was challenged to develop shared mobility systems first for the under-served fringes of cities rather than ‘cherry pick’ as Alain Flausch put it from the UITP perspective. She replied that it was probably too difficult to make thin markets the point of entry but after building a profitable business in larger urban centres Uber and other platforms are now innovating in smaller cities and extending into more peripheral areas. Alain noted that whilst conventional public transport operators are also exploring the potential for extending the reach of public transport in cooperation with shared mobility services into areas there simply is no substitute for high capacity mass transit as a way to move the very large numbers of people that need to journey in an out of cities every day.
Timothy Papandreou stressed the importance of innovation saying that the transport network in San Francisco has benefitted greatly from a change of government attitude to innovation from the culture of ‘no’ to the culture of ‘tell me more’. The city has already achieved a 50:50 private auto to transit modal share and to get to 60:40 its going to be through shared mobility. And he noted, don’t think autonomous vehicles equals cars; think autonomous platforms that apply equally to public transport, to waste transport, to all vehicles.
Scott Sedlik illustrated the power of effective data management platforms suggesting that providing car users with real-time information about parking spaces can reduce congestion in cities by up to 30%. But the full potential of access to vast amounts of real-time information can only be achieved if governments truly open up to innovation potential generated by the private sector.
Moscow and many of Russia’s major cities are similarly beginning to benefit now from adoption of best practice in traffic management policies Vice Minister Asaul outlined investments being made in all modes of transport and pilot projects for low carbon public transport systems supported by the Global Environment Facility and stressed the place of regulation and charging for on-street parking.
Innovation in transportation can transform cities, cutting congestion and pollution and making them more accessible. But as KL Thapar underlined, we have to make sure that investment in sustainable urban transport benefits everyone including the poor and doesn’t just result in gentrification. As Tim Papandreou echoed, we have to focus on how to make the transportation system work for everyone not just the elite.
Deputy Minister of Transport, Russian Federation
Regional General Manager for the UK, Ireland and Nordics, Uber
Director-General, Global Green Growth Institute
Secretary-General, International Association of Public Transport (UITP)
Chief Innovation Officer, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
General Manager, Global Public Sector & VP EMEA, INRIX, Inc.
Moderator, Broadcaster, Journalist and Businesswoman