Transportation is a city’s lifeblood. But you wouldn’t know that from a quick glance at many city streets and sidewalks today.
In many urban scenes, drivers and cyclists compete for road space, narrow streets are choked with delivery vans, commuters struggle to navigate disconnected public transit routes, and cars far outnumber places to park them.
To serve the needs of businesses, citizens and the environment, future-ready cities need to design transportation systems that improve quality of life, drive economic productivity and reduce environmental harm. To do that, planners must take a holistic approach to creating adaptable plans for sustainable initiatives.
In a recent research study—conducted by ThoughtLab and co-sponsored by Cognizant— we identified seven issues that cities face when it comes to meeting their transportation needs, as well as three approaches that can help local governments and their partners in the private sector create solutions. The research included a survey of 200 local officials from cities around the world. (For the full study on future-ready cities, see our ebook.)
External factors impacting urban mobility
We’ve identified four factors emanating from the social, economic and natural environments that expose the limits of today’s urban transportation systems.
- Urban population growth: While the pace of urban population growth varies widely across the world, the overall trend is unequivocal. Today, over 55% of the global population lives in cities, and this is slated to reach 60% by the decade’s end.
Unsurprisingly, then, most survey respondents expect to see an increase in the number of people commuting both within (61%) or to (69%) their city in the next five years, even as 32% see an increase in people working from home.
Population dynamics will result in a 94% increase in total motorized mobility in cities, according to the International Association of Urban Transport. This, in turn, will lead to a 26% increase in global carbon emissions from urban mobility.
- Changing commuter behavior: For years, city dwellers and local governments have explored new mobility modes, such as ride sharing and e-bicycles and scooters, to address transportation shortcomings such as congestion and pollution. While these innovations could theoretically offer benefits, like a reduced need for car ownership, they also come with a downside, such as difficult labor relations and, according to one study, greater congestion and a decline in public transit ridership.
As a result of the pandemic and other recent trends, city residents expect less congestion, according to 73% of city officials, and more environmentally friendly transportation options, according to 63% of respondents (see Figure 1). Forward-thinking local officials understand their cities must adapt to this new reality. Take the case of Dublin, which invested in cycling and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure during the pandemic that continues to be used today.
Higher citizen expectations post-Covid
Q: In your opinion, in which of the following areas have the pandemic and other recent trends increased citizen expectations?