New mobility options can improve the livability of cities but without the right strategy could have the polar opposite effect, say authors Giel Mertens and Rolf Bastiaanssen of Bax & Company, and Nico Larco of the University of Oregon.
Cities are constantly looking to improve the quality of life for their citizens. New mobility options (technology-enabled, on-demand, shared transportation) have the potential to help cities reduce both carbon emissions and traffic congestion, improving livability.
Without the right strategy in place, though, new mobility could just as easily have the polar opposite effect, increasing carbon emissions and traffic. The right strategy touches on all aspects of public policy, which is in and of itself a significant hurdle for cities hoping to improve livability through new mobility.
While working with cities like Hannover, Almere, Varberg and Rotterdam, it became clear that there are two prevailing success factors in the process.
The first is a high-quality public-private collaboration so that the private market can effectively implement new mobility modes
Secondly, a solid understanding of the cascading impacts of new mobility deployment with accompanying city policy is crucial. It can guide deployment to help achieve community goals and ensure future-proof investments for public authorities
Luckily, there are already several successful examples of such collaborations in the US from which European cities can learn. As it stands, first implementations are happening in cities all over the world. However, without the right strategy in place, European cities are finding it difficult to understand their role as both incubator and regulator.
Cities need to set the right framework in which solution providers can deploy their shared vehicles.
Without the proper parameters, even the most promising mobility initiatives can fail before they have a chance to get off the ground. Recent examples in Amsterdam and Paris, for example, showed the potential drawbacks of the open market for private undocked shared bike or electric scooter companies.
The open market access increased pressure on public spaces and bike-sharing companies to be cost-competitive, leading to several bankrupt companies abandoning bikes throughout the city and, ultimately, the cities closing free market access for new players by introducing a permit-based system.
Many of the concepts (from e-scooters to shared mopeds) being tested in cities across Europe certainly have a lot of potential, but they also leave policy-makers facing new challenges when it comes to guaranteeing low costs, road safety and distribution of liabilities and responsibilities.
This is especially true for the interaction with private solution providers as the private market is able to be nimbler, test models more quickly, take more risk, and more (cost-) effectively implement mobility solutions than cities.
To successfully implement market-driven innovative solutions in urban environments, cities need to set the right framework in which solution providers can deploy their shared vehicles. This means both cities and private solution providers are aligned in terms of operating models, service areas, pricing and legal requirements, etc., and they have a clear understanding of each other’s motivations and overall goals.
Without the right strategy in place, European cities are finding it difficult to know their role as both incubator and regulator.
As cities are increasingly thinking proactively about their priorities, Seattle is just one example of how public authorities might approach mobility. The Seattle Department of Transportation has produced a playbook on new mobility that outlines many of the key considerations policy-makers should bear in mind when collaborating with the private market.
Meanwhile, public authorities in Europe are only now starting to test different collaboration models with private suppliers to implement shared mobility solutions.
To regulate and steer the deployment of the private market, cities have a number of instruments at their disposal, from permit structures to incentive systems that are currently being developed and tested.
It is worth remembering throughout the development and implementation process that mobility must always be considered as a means to guarantee the best possible quality of life for citizens.
That´s why their Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) must be flexible enough to incorporate future innovations while preventing ineffective investments.
A future-proof SUMP requires a collaboration between multidisciplinary, international experts on various topics (urban planning, future investment strategies, real estate evaluators, parking associations, economists, sociologists, etc.) and a clear understanding of private sector needs, public sector leverage points, and how deployment might have cascading effects on a range of community goals.
The Seattle Department of Transportation has produced a playbook on new mobility.
While this type of collaboration does not yet exist in the EU, cities in the US have already started (such as Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, and Los Angeles and San Francisco, California), enabling European cities to learn from their US counterparts.
This is what the partnership between Nico Larco and Bax & Company is all about – supporting European cities through state-of-the-art practices from the US so mobility can provide the citizens with the best possible quality of life.
Bax & Company is collaborating with international mobility expert Nico Larco (principal and partner of Larco/Knudson, Professor at University of Oregon and Director of the Urbanism Next Centre) to work with Rotterdam on their urban mobility innovation programme.
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