It doesn't take governments, city authorities or academics to tell us our cities are getting increasingly congested and, consequently, trickier to navigate. We are all witness to gridlocked roads, inefficient train timetabling, overcrowded subway systems and backed up buses. And we have all felt the frustration of not getting to where we need to be on time, constantly wishing there was a better way to get from A to B.
Statistics starkly reveal the escalation of gridlock and the toll it can take on our cities. Average car speeds in the world's most populous cities are agonisingly slow: New York City 11kmph, Paris 15kmph, London 16.2kmph, Moscow 18.1kmph and Los Angeles 20.5kmph. Bear in mind that the average walking pace is not much less at 5kmph!
Now is the time for city authorities, transport providers, commuters and businesses to work together if our cities are going to continue to thrive for the benefit of the wider community. We have to find new solutions to solve the ever-growing issue of urban congestion and pollution.
I recently spoke to Kat Hanna, working in Urban Change at Cushman & Wakefield, about ways in which we can reduce congestion and better design our cities. She said:
"Collaboration between developers, planners, architects and occupiers to create successful places requires a shared vision and strategy for sustainable and efficient mobility. We must ensure the right infrastructure is in place from the outset, whether dockless bikes or electric vehicle charging points. Flexibility matters too – and better use of transport demand data can minimise the risk of investing in obsolescing infrastructure.
"We need to use new levers to influence not just why end-users should travel to their destination, but how they do so. This includes working with retailers to offer rewards for those who arrive via active transport, or with office occupiers to promote agile working to smooth demand across transport networks.
"The result; healthier and happier citizens, high-quality places where people want to spend time and a city that is enjoyable and navigable in the immediate term, and sustainable and successful for the long term."
It is a complex problem for sure, and it will take innovative and at-times pioneering thinking, as well as brave decision-making to effectively tackle the issue. But that is the reality of where we are. We are at the Rubicon. The status quo is, quite simply, too damaging to our cities' future health – as well as our own – to be allowed to continue.
I have pinpointed five key drivers that all stakeholders in a city's transportation network must consider if we are all to effect lasting change. These are strategic drivers that should sit at the heart of any planning and reframing of public and shared transport offerings. They focus on:
1. Infrastructure planning that encourages and prioritises shared mobility services, from public transport to bikes, in favour of privately owned cars;
2. Encouraging the adoption of multi-modal shared transport services relies on the provision of accurate, high quality data;
3. Putting in place incentives to encourage public and private operators to provide socially equitable services;
4. Ensuring shared forms of transport are as convenient as the car;
5. Under-pinning a range of transport options with accurate, comprehensive passenger information which is accessible to all
I believe that if we begin by focusing on these key drivers, we will be able to reduce the damaging use of privately owned vehicles, reduce congestion and pollution and increase flow across cities by opening up interoperable public and private shared transportation services.