Shaping the future of urban mobility with Urban arrow
Innovation Director at INFO and visiting professor TU Delft
Read more by Iskander Smit
In order to innovate successfully, we shouldn’t only focus on the many innovations happening in transportation. When it comes to optimizing urban mobility, having an optimal design of the city is just as important. Therefore, we’d benefit from a government that, in addition to facilitating flexible and local transport innovations, also makes clear choices based on an overarching vision of the future.
Discussing the future of urban mobility
In July 2020, Urban Arrow initiated a meeting with nine mobility experts to discuss the future of urban mobility. Being a ‘Smart Urban Mobility’ brand, Urban Arrow aims to make cities more livable. Because this can only be achieved by collaborating with different thinkers, entrepreneurs and governments, I received an invitation to share ideas and insights during a meeting in Circl Amsterdam, together with experts from Amsterdam Smart City, Pon, Rijkswaterstaat, NS, Cargoroo, Knowledge Center ‘Creating’ and HvA.
The session provided interesting insights into the future of urban mobility, mobility in future cities and the necessary preconditions to achieve such developments. This blog summarizes the main ideas and shared insights from this meeting, as reported in the Urban Arrow publication.
7 predictions about the way urban mobility will change in the future
In 10 to 20 years…
- … we’ve focused smarter urban mobility on individual needs and relevant transport (Justien Marseille, Futurist, associated with Knowledge Center ‘Creating 010’)
- … mobility has moved from cars to walking and cycling, providing us with a larger shared space (Iskander Smit, Innovation Director INFO)
- … there won’t be a single car left in the city (Jelle Maijer, Founder Cargoroo and Jorrit Kreek, Founder Urban Arrow)
- … everything we need, is within a 15-minute walk or cycle from home (Walther Ploos van Amstel, Lector City Logistics HvA)
- … mobility has stayed the same, with hopefully an actual shift to flexible and sustainable shared transport (Joost van der Made, Mobility Strategy, Concept Design & Innovation NS)
- … the transition to multimodal transport will only have taken place when fair payment is made for the use of transport per kilometer (Raymond Gense, Director Public Affairs & Future Technology Pon)
- … transport hasn’t necessarily become more efficient because the parallel worlds and systems of urban mobility work alongside or even collide with each other (Rick Lindeman, Project Leader Bicycle Rijkswaterstaat and Leonie van den Beuken, Program Director Amsterdam Smart City)
Shared vision of the future
- Collaboration between government and industry is very important, because they complement each other; one provides access and control, the other (more) money and speed.
- When it comes to being solution-oriented, it’s important to first ask yourself whether you’re solving the right problem. When we better map the real needs of the traveler, we’ll probably arrive at better solutions.
- Combining different datasets not only provides valuable insights into travel behavior, but could also provide better insight into the real needs of the traveler.
- When you step out of your own bubble (and transportation paradigm), you learn new things. That’s why cooperation between different municipalities and between transporters is so important.
- Timely, Flexible and Affordable are the three most important factors for appealing transport and they aren’t always compatible. Therefore, it’s an important challenge for the future of urban mobility to connect these elements better.
- When you’re going to experiment, local and iterative testing is the most efficient, because it’s easier to finance and you can adapt faster. That’s another reason why municipalities should cooperate better.
- Human beings are emotional beings, so even with all the theory and data in the world, you can only achieve behavioral change through experimentation.
Shared vision of the future
Our contributions during the session in Circl produced a shared vision of the future to improve our urban mobility:
In twenty years’ time, our urban transport is much smarter, meaning more individual and more relevant, because we use more (electric) shared transport and fewer cars. Large vehicles are banned from the city and are only welcome in mobility hubs on the outskirts of the city. The cities themselves are also becoming smarter, because they’re becoming compacter and more complete. The latter because important facilities, such as education and care, are being decentralized. As a result, the citizens travel shorter distances to find everything they need.
Still, urban mobility will change more slowly than expected. Firstly, because people don’t like change and don’t always act rationally (but emotionally). Especially when we have to start paying a fair price for our transport kilometers. Secondly, because many transport innovations ultimately fail.
In order to innovate more effectively, it’s important that we map out the real needs of travelers – for example by collecting and combining more data about travel (and other) behavior. And by talking to the traveler to find out the underlying reasons for his trips. The different transport worlds should also step out of their own bubble – and transport paradigm – more often, so that they inspire each other and become more complementary to one another.
When looking at the urge to constantly renew our transport systems, it’s important to consider that not all transport hypes – such as MaaS for example – lead to more efficient transport. Quite the contrary, a surplus of means of transport actually affects both the quality of life and the sustainability of the city negatively.
Optimizing urban mobility isn’t only about optimizing our means of transport, but just as much about optimizing urban design. In other words; mobility should be the means, never the end.
For that reason, the government has an important role in facilitating the future of urban mobility. First of all by launching transport pilots together with the industry, which should take place locally and iteratively, consequently completing the process of trial and error faster and cheaper. It’s also critical to establish the success factors – which do not always concern transport movements – in advance and to substantiate them properly. Secondly, the role of the government is especially important in formulating an overarching vision of the future, in which all forms of transport and urban design are included. Based on this vision, the government can (and must) make hard choices between the many possibilities of innovative forms of urban mobility.
It was inspiring to participate in the session and hopefully in this way contribute to the realization of a more sustainable and livable urban environment. If you have any questions about the ideas and insights discussed in this blog, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This meeting was organized by Urban Arrow and facilitated by Forward Workshops: a collaboration between brand strategist Wouter Boon and industrial designer Chris Weel.
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