Urban Mobility Planning: Challenges & Solutions
Around 4.4 billion people - more than half of the world’s population - live in urban areas today. Cities are denser than ever before, yet urbanization continues to increase. By 2050, 58% of the world’s population will be living in cities, and by 2100 it will be 85%.
This global trend spells new challenges for urban mobility planning. With technological advancements, the way people and goods move around is changing. From e-scooters to ride-sharing apps, urban mobility planning is becoming more complex than ever.
So how can governments and city planners meet the demands of urbanization? In this article, we will cover the biggest urban mobility challenges and the solutions needed to overcome them.
What are the top urban mobility challenges?
Increasing urban populations
In 2007, the number of people who live in urban areas overtook the number residing in rural communities. With over 4 billion people - half of the world’s population - living in metropolitan areas, urban mobility is becoming a major challenge. As these cities turn into megacities that house over 10 million residents, the problems become harder to ignore.
The higher the population, the more significant the complexity and strain on the existing transportation infrastructure. Without impactful change, the increasing population poses a looming threat to urban mobility.
Climate change & decarbonization of mobility
More and more countries and cities are aiming to reduce their carbon emissions in order to tackle climate change. Some cities have introduced low carbon areas, where access is restricted to vehicles with high carbon emissions.
Low carbon mobility solutions like e-scooters, e-buses, and bike-sharing programs are also emerging to curb climate change and help decarbonize mobility solutions. Whilst these alternative mobility solutions are great at combating climate change, they add another layer of complexity when it comes to urban planning.
Demand for accessible mobility
Accessibility and quality of life are becoming more important than ever for urban populations. Therefore, urban mobility planning is not only about improving the overall capacity. Instead, it’s about finding solutions that are environmentally sustainable, improve social equity, and are economically viable for everyone.
Issues arise when urban mobility planning fails to offer the efficient alternatives needed to accommodate personal vehicle use. The more cars that are on the road, the more congestion that occurs, which causes major disruptions and delays in the lives of residents.
In some cities across the U.S., commuters waste an average of 199 hours a year stuck in traffic. These hours add up over time and lead to inflated vehicle emissions.
Congestion in cities leads to air and noise pollution, risking public health and reducing overall quality of life. Through effective urban mobility planning unnecessary traffic and congestion could be avoided.
One of the most complex urban mobility challenges is the aging infrastructure of many cities worldwide. The public transportation systems were built to accommodate much smaller populations and haven’t been updated accordingly over the years.
Aging infrastructure not only increases the risk of road accidents, however, it’s becoming more costly than ever to maintain old infrastructure.
Increasing online deliveries
The boom in online shopping has reduced the requirements for individual urban mobility, but it’s also increased the number of commercial deliveries. These urban freight operations are a major contributor to urban mobility congestion. As consumer demand for next-day delivery increases, it presents a challenge to last-mile delivery solutions.
How can we improve urban mobility planning?
Advancements in technology can address problems with urban mobility in the digital age. By adopting digital tools, urban mobility plans can become more effective in offering sustainable transportation that addresses the growing congestion problem.
Some of the ways that digital technology can improve urban mobility planning include:
User Experience: The ability for public infrastructure to process real time data on transportation needs. This not only decreases logistical issues, but it can also help inhabitants save time and money while drastically improving the overall user experience of public transportation options.
Efficiency: With technology such as AI-enabled infrastructure, individuals and businesses can map out efficient paths through urban areas and avoid congestion. Moreover, smart cameras can detect congestion hotspots and inefficiencies in transportation systems in general.
Safety: The process of integrating technology to transform densely populated urban areas into smart cities improves safety. Real time data communication supports the use of smart roads, smart cars, smart traffic lights, and more. This system is one that supports autonomous cars, which further reduces the risk of fatal accidents caused by human error.
Air taxis and other future innovations.
As inner-city populations proliferate, transit demands continue to grow. While several urban mobility solutions can be implemented within current systems, disruptive technologies of the future may create interesting opportunities.
Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft, for example, has become the newest interest as they are being dubbed ‘autonomous air taxis.’
Air taxis and other future innovations with similar technology have the potential to negate the problems we currently experience with land-side transport services. Future urban mobility solutions like these have the potential to revolutionize the way the public navigate densely populated megacities around the world.