Mobility as mirror of our (social) behavior
Innovation Director at INFO and visiting professor TU Delft
Read more by Iskander Smit
The real change that we will see in mobility will be a behavioral one; different uses of mobility, and embracing multimodality, supported by smart apps. The challenge is to stimulate and motivate people to change their (travel) behavior. According to most experts, the government has an important role in this: they have to encourage these changes through management. Not by being the executive party, but by creating frameworks with programs or rules. Or even through an overarching transport authority, which Suzanne Hiemstra-van Mastrigt of the TU Delft advocates. Joost van der Made (NS) would like the government to come up with a kind of Delta plan in which they can indicate which problems should be tackled first. Tarik Fawzi (Hely) would like a small percentage of public transportation expenditure to be allocated to boosting shared-transportation solutions.
New means of transportation
Nobody seems to see eye to eye when it comes to the future mobility landscape, we’ve heard everything between “nothing will change” and “a mix of new mobilities”. Some experts name new ways of powering vehicles and new vehicles altogether, like the Hyperloop, and transportation over water and through the air, like Suzanne Hiemstra – van Mastrigt predicts. Whatever it looks like the car will still be a part of it, Ronald de Jong (ANWB) emphasizes. According to Stephanie Hughes and Hans Stevens of De Verkeersonderneming, mobility will have an important societal role and will be linked to our health. They call this “mobility happiness” and think that this should be the main goal.
The deconstruction of infrastructure into mixable modalities seems to develop further. Here too, stimulating behavior is key. We have to make smart choices, and encourage sustainable options, as Wouter de Bruijne (ParkBee), among others, mentions. Martijn Lammers (Lightyear) describes how sustainable vehicles will become platforms in the MaaS mix. Who should take the lead in connecting all these services and developments remains an issue, though. There’s a lot of room for improvement in the
cooperation between the government, corporates, and consumers, says Erik Mink (Ministry of Infrastructure & Water Management). The government could have a stimulating role in this. Consider, for example, the new Merwede district in Utrecht, with its car-free streets that Niek Verlaan (Gemeente Utrecht) mentions.
But how much will actually change in 30 years? When we go back in time 30 years, we were already moving around by train and plane, were stuck in traffic, and even had high-speed trains. And yet, still a lot has changed when you look at initiatives like Greenwheels, Car2Go, and shared scooters. Moreover, in 1990, consumers didn’t have access to the internet, let alone owned a
smartphone. The introduction of this, especially the location determination and en-route data have been determining factors in the way that we view our mobility now. Artificial Intelligence will be a determining factor for the future.
Will we move around with the same intensity by 2050? Will our working from home evolve in virtual offices, and will meeting face-to-face become a luxury? Corona has shown us that big changes are possible. If these will prove to be structural is hard to predict. The developments following corona seem to speed things up and a test case for the future. In which climate change and the rise of sea levels will determine the layout of the land, as Toon Zijlstra (KiM) mentions.
Joost van der Made also thinks that sustainability is much more important for mobility needs than multimodality. We will make our behavioral choices differently and the mobility system has to make other mixes available to keep up.
One thing is for sure though, we will use digital resources. Whether as a digital assistant, a mobility coach, or more directional in assembling a mobility mix. Our very own “mobility buddy”, as Tania Rademaker (9292) calls it. Things will become more end-to-end, with the goal being an important part of the trip.
Three future dimensions
Is there one future that we should strive for? External factors can determine the speed of developments. At the same time, mobility is intertwined with everything we do, and with that not so much an external factor as an indicator and a determining factor for our future. When considering the experts’ visions, I distill three dimensions:
The stimulating role of the government is important in the relationship between them and service providers. The government has withdrawn too much and relied too much on the self-organizing capacity of the providers. The balance has to be recalibrated.
- Intelligent systems
The speed at which changes are implemented differs (strongly) between infrastructure and services. Therefore, the addition of intelligent systems and smart assistants will also have to take into account the relationship between the traveler and the mobility system. Is the traveler or the system in the lead?
- Mobility in society
The social role of mobility will only increase. The shift from efficiency to sustainability and achieving social goals does not make the current plans obsolete. However, the way they are arranged needs to be reconsidered. We must optimize the transportation system for end-to-end journeys in which the goal of the trip also plays an important part.
Then, “mobility happiness” means that mobility is a normal part of our day-to-day lives, a determining factor of the society in which we live and work. The real changes, however, will take place in the ‘software’ of our lives and society. The services instead of the infrastructure. The impact of intelligent assistants will become inevitable in our increasingly complex world. But with the correct (social) intentions. As it becomes clear from these interviews, mobility is an important indicator of social-economic developments.
With our mobility systems and the expected developments in flexibilization in the coming years, mobility will no longer be an infrastructural question but a question of behavior. Understanding behavior and the way in which we anticipate – and sometimes even direct – will shape our mobility in 2050.
Download the report
Mobility is a comprehensive subject that isn’t easy to oversee or to predict. To understand how mobility will develop towards 2050, we asked eleven experts from different levels of the industry to share their vision on mobility. You will see that there’s not just one answer to what mobility will look like in 2050. Participants to the report are KiM, ANWB, Hely, 9292, Ministerie van IenW, Parkbee, Gemeente Utrecht, De Verkeersonderneming, TU Delft, Lightyear en NS.
On June 25th 2020 we launched the report live with ANWB, Hely, NS and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water management You can watch the recording here:
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