Event blog: The Future of Urban Mobility | IPT

I had the pleasure and great honour to be hosted as a speaker in one of the dinner discussion sessions organised by the Industry and Parliament Trust on the topic of The Future of Urban Mobility. The event took place on Monday 09 March, 2020 in the House of Commons, in London, and was chaired by Lilian Greenwood MP, Transport Select Committee and my co-guest speaker was Katy Taylor, Commercial and Customer Director, Go Ahead. Other attendees were members from the House of Commons, the House of Lords and representatives from a range of business sectors, providing an invaluable range of input on the topic.

Towards Intelligent Mobility Services

According to a Transport Systems Catapult report (2016), the global Intelligent Mobility industry market could reach the value of approximately £1.4 trillion by 2030, making it one of the most critical public and private sector growth areas. At the same time, modern technologies have opened new opportunities for creating and facilitating seamless mobility and movement.

For example, autonomous vehicles, mobile technologies and wireless communications, open data and the Internet of Things, overall, have allowed both passengers and vehicles to move and operate with greater situational and contextual awareness (e.g. regarding surrounding environments and population), contributing to the digital transformation of transport. Furthermore, increased data streaming and sharing mean that we can view mobility as a service where value and environmental benefit is generated through data exchange.

Urban Passenger and Eco-centric Mobility

It is important to ask ourselves what constitutes data in these contexts and how transport service sustainability can be generated? Some of my prior research in mobility at airports (e.g. Kefalidou etal., 2016), highlighted the role different emotions play in formulating positive or negative experiences for passengers and how fluid these can be depending on the mobility service provided throughout the passenger journey. Identifying passenger requirements for a seamless mobility journey is critical for designing usable and safe services that have higher chances of being adopted.

Passenger experience (PAX) is one type of mobility data that galvanises the action of movement – in other words, if passengers are happy and satisfied with a service then they are more likely to continue using this service in both the short- and long-term.

The early and safe adoption of innovative eco-friendly urban mobility services can depend on positive PAX and on how easy and feasible these services are to use. Of course, climate change has made eco-friendly mobility priorities even more critical. The recent March 2020 report by the Department for Transport on Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge, highlights priorities for urban mobility as raised within this event.  These priorities include accelerating modal shift to public and active transport to reduce private car trips and support wellbeing and healthy lifestyles by promoting cycling and walking for short journeys, reducing carbon emissions and facilitating green transport.

Challenges and Opportunities for Urban Mobility

Our discussion identified several challenges and opportunities for urban mobility. For example, streamlining different transport services for seamless door-to-door mobility and social inclusion can support enhanced PAX and passenger engagement with the service while reducing carbon emissions and improving  psychological wellbeing. Increasing fairness in mobility can help us manage better different passenger expectations and agency issues (e.g. identifying which organisations are responsible for mobility actions, outcomes and mitigations, especially in crisis contexts).

Urban mobility and the digital transformation of urban mobility offer opportunities for new modes of data curation and management, but also opportunities in training to reduce ‘digital naivety’ to enhance data privacy, security and safety. There was an overall agreement that performance metrics for mobility services need to be revisited to fit emerging contexts. Furthermore, new strategies are necessary to support risky yet feasible innovative urban mobility ideas that can be applied both on a research and operational level, minimising profit and value loss.

Finally, our discussion highlighted the need and opportunity to link both urban and rural mobility to provide a more ‘holistic’ innovation in travel. One way to do this is to understand multimodality - how cycle, pedestrian, train, bus and air routes connect - and how it applies to our everyday journeys. These need to be understood in the context of the traveller’s motivation i.e. whether they are travelling for leisure or business purposes or within crisis such as the one we are currently experiencing. Again, it is critical to establish the stakeholder needs (whether passengers, operators or policymakers) to design better ‘fit-for-purpose’ mobility services that are enjoyable, profitable and sustainable.

What next?

Next steps in synergising efforts between local/national government, operators and passengers can involve regional meetings with all stakeholders. They should take place periodically to ensure capturing emerging needs but also facilitating alignment of those needs across the different urban mobility portfolios and priorities.

As the 2019 report on Future of mobility: urban strategy’ highlights, we all need to capitalise on our mobility strengths, become more aware of the different travel modes and mobility opportunities around us, for example walking and cycling for short distances, and be able to plan our journeys better. This could include streamlining ticketing and time planning across the most important travel modes such as bus, trams and trains. Operators need to come together to help to formulate these strategies and offer a holistic approach for seamless mobility. We need to embrace and engage with new technologies like driverless cars, drones, mobile phones and the Internet, and e-bikes to reduce pollution, traffic, noise and increase wellbeing, safety, trust, physical activity, positive experiences and optimise movement.

Words by Dr. Genovefa Kefalidou, School of Informatics, University of Leicester, UK

Kefalidou, G., ... & Shaw, E. (2016). Passengers’ Requirements for developing a Passenger-Centred Infrastructure to Enhance Travel Experiences at Airports. In Conference Proceedings of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors.