City transport solutions: embracing the future of urban mobility

City dwellers accustomed to regular traffic jams and road rage may shudder at the prospect of the world's urban areas getting even more crowded. But developing effective city transport solutions to enable urban mobility is set to become a major challenge.

The world’s population is becoming increasingly city-based, with 50% – or 3.5 billion people – living in urban areas. By 2050, this figure is expected to reach 70% of the population (6.3 billion people). Today, 64% of all journeys taken are in cities and the travel within them is expected to triple by 2050. This means the average time an urban citizen spends in traffic jams will rise to more than 100 hours per year – three times more than today.

As a result, urban mobility is one of the toughest challenges that cities face. Being able to get around built-up areas quickly, conveniently and with little environmental impact is critical to their future.

We analysed transport systems in over 50 cities around the globe to identify existing best practice in urban mobility and found five key trends:

  1. The city transport solutions being developed in cities worldwide are multimodal solutions which seamlessly connect different modes of transport according to customers’ specific needs
  2. City mayors are leaning towards a ‘one-stop-shop’ to enable urban mobility, with public tenders focused on integrated urban solutions
  3. City governments are feeling increasing pressure to work on climate change-related issues and there is growing competition among global cities to be the greenest
  4. There is a move from single to multiple local strategies
  5. Urban growth is shifting to Asia. Chinese cities will contribute about 29% to the world’s GDP growth, and seven Chinese cities will make it into the top 25 in terms of GDP, by 2025.

So how can city leaders address these five trends as they plan the future of their transport networks? We suggest focusing on three key areas:

The future of urban mobility is networked

City transport solutions that enable seamless travelling across different modes of transport while integrating mobility, consumer and other city services is a model many cities are developing. The strategic imperative is to establish a networked multimodal urban mobility system, which focuses on the needs of the individual customer as a priority.

This enables citizens to make informed choices on how to get from A to B in the most efficient, cost effective or sustainable way. Then, when the system has been created, cities can introduce additional value-adding services. These may include smart-city services such as access to cultural locations, business- or location-based services such as coinless payment and smart-energy services that provide different energy offerings.

While this customer focus is convincing, the challenges of realising it are twofold. Firstly, a collaborative platform is needed to align the complex set of stakeholders – administration/city authorities, automotive manufacturers, public transport providers, banks and consumers/citizens – to a common business model. Secondly, cities must plan for a ‘big bang approach’; reaching out to a minimum of 40% of citizens in a limited time will create sufficient momentum for a sustainable solution. Once established, the dominant city platform will work as an equivalent to what Google offers on the internet for millions of city customers, with all the related risks and opportunities.

Investing in urban mobility for the future

While we see millions spent on future urban mobility systems, the bulk of this investment is focused around these three areas:

  1. The smart city hardware and software required for B2B partner equipment (including access, payment, connectivity) and public transport upgrades
  2. A web-based platform providing access to millions of consumers. Information, authentication and booking, together with real-time multimodal routing and location-based services, is a key value proposition
  3. The carrier media – the universal ‘key’ enabling access to all smart city services. Typically, there will be different media for various customer groups, ranging from simple paperback to near-field communication chips built into modern smartphones.

The investment required is usually within the range of two-digit euro million for a mid-size city. This is rather insignificant when compared to investment in infrastructure, where the spending is well into the billions, such as a new underground system. While investment financing in infrastructure is generally not sought after, smart city investments are attractive as their access to millions of consumers means the payback can be very promising.

Collaboration is vital to deliver urban mobility

Solving the issue of urban mobility requires more than vision alone. Stakeholders must collaborate and compete appropriately and never forget customers’ needs. Leading cities such as Hong Kong and Stuttgart rely on a highly integrated mobility system – with a smart card at its heart – and point the way to highly networked multimodal future.

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