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.
Which public sectors benefit from urban mobility planning?
Optimized roads lead to reduced air and noise pollutants. Moreover, planning for future mobility can help decarbonise transportation and thus reduce carbon emissions.
Urban mobility planning can help city planners improve road safety and reduce accident hotspots. In effect, this reduces the resources required by law enforcement agencies to respond to accidents.
Less congestion in urban areas means less air pollutants and as a result, less risk to public health. Moreover, health services, such as doctors, ambulances, or pharmacy deliveries can reduce their time stuck in traffic.
Effective planning ensures infrastructure is upgraded to meet future capacity before it’s too late. Using urban mobility planning tools can also help in the design and development of new infrastructure projects by modeling different outcomes on traffic.
Trade and Commerce
As traffic flow improves with effective urban mobility planning, so does the flow of goods traveling through a city. Furthermore, shops and businesses become more accessible, making urban mobility planning an economic-benefit.
With the use of professional road infrastructure modeling, transportation agencies can manage current transportation needs and plan for future challenges.
Examples of urban mobility planning solutions
FAQs about urban mobility planning
What is mobility planning?
Mobility planning is the strategic approach to optimizing transportation methods within cities. The goal of an urban mobility plan is to reduce congestion and pollution whilst providing the urban population with affordable and accessible mobility solutions.
What is the future of mobility?
The future of mobility will include the integration of digital technologies to improve modes of transportation. It will also incorporate low-carbon technology to help offset the environmental impacts of current transportation models.
What is new urban mobility?
New urban mobility focuses on sustainable transport rather than petroleum-powered vehicles. This includes the rise of e-scooters, electric vehicles, bicycles, and a decrease in the use of vehicles that produce high emissions. New urban mobility also incorporates strategic aspects of the digital space to make transportation more efficient.
What are the trends in mobility?
Some of the most popular trends in mobility include the use of environmentally friendly urban mobility solutions, creating a more digitally connected transit system, and an increase in autonomous and personalized transportation options.
What is a sustainable urban mobility plan?
A sustainable urban mobility plan aims to improve the quality of life for inhabitants of densely populated cities or cities experiencing tremendous growth. It would provide efficient mobility options for inhabitants without raising costs or travel times. Sustainable urban mobility would use the software to analyze existing shortcomings in infrastructure and determine ways to address challenges. Such a plan would help solve urban transport problems while attaining local and high-level environmental, social, and economic objectives.