Piecing together resilient cities: Smart Mobility for Communities

This was published by UNDP with a series of other short opions from other experts.

Piecing together resilient cities: Smart Mobility for Communities

Mobility is becoming increasingly electrified, autonomous, and shared — what planners call the “three revolutions.” In the best case, transportation will revolve around autonomous transit and microtransit (shared electric scooters, bicycles, and other short range modes we haven’t yet imagined). It will have ride-hailing and a much smaller role for private, single-occupancy vehicles. The “three revolutions” will make travel radically safer, more equitable, decarbonized, more efficient, and cheaper. They will allow better use of land, as cities replace parking with other uses. In the worst case, the revolutions produce a host of problems. Swarms of empty autonomous vehicles would create even more traffic, suburban development would sprawl even further, and obesity rates would rise as fewer people walk.

Cities can start by reframing transportation infrastructure as moving people, not vehicles — configuring roads, sidewalks and paths to move the most people, most efficiently. That translates into supporting dense development around a robust network of car-free zones that allow people to get around on their own terms. Shared scooters and bicycles will provide convenient and fast (15 mph, 25 km/h) options for short trips. The humble bicycle lane will morph into a human-scaled mobility network that keeps bikes and electric scooters safe from conflicts with faster cars and slower pedestrians. People will use mass transit, including bus rapid transit, for longer trips, delivering the passenger-miles growing cities need to function. Transit will increasingly shift to autonomous operation as the technology matures, including first-mile/last-mile extensions that operate through flexible shuttles like ones being tested today in the Atlanta suburb of Chamblee, Georgia.

Streets are the lifeblood of the city; as a public good, they should work for every resident. Each community have an important role in creating the smart mobility future that works for them.