Global Mobility Research
Global Mobility Research
This Global Mobility Research article series features interviews with global transportation researchers from the Volvo Research and Educational Foundation’s Future Urban Transport Program. Each month we feature a leading thinker from this network of transportation professionals. Their research looks at how mobility systems are functioning, evolving, and working in cities around the world with an eye towards emerging technology, policy and collaborative solutions.
This series was made possible by the generous support of the Volvo Research and Education Foundation.
I spoke last week with Njogu Morgan, a post-doctoral researcher specializing in transportation equity in Africa, specifically South Africa, where he is based. As a historian, his research centers around how we can use historical context to better understand current transportation system inequities and access. He’s starting a new research network of emerging and developing scholars who are interested in mobility issues from a historical perspective.
“For a long time we’ve talked about how everybody’s moving to cities […] but I think the pandemic is making people rethink that a little bit if they can get broadband in a rural community.” – Rob McCann, Founder, Clearcable
I spoke last week with with Rob McCann, the Founder of Clearcable, an Ontario-based supplier of broadband connectivity. I discussed how the pandemic and stay-at-home orders have impacted the supply and demand of broadband among their clients throughout North America. My key take-aways from this discussion:
- Clearcable saw its broadband usage jump 25% immediately following the stay-at-home orders in March. His explanation of how Clearcable was able to absorb this instant demand spike is a clear example of the rewards of long-term infrastructure planning.
- I was intrigued by his explanation of how cities can derisk the economics of rural broadband connectivity by entering the market as Open Access networks or fully competitive ISPs.
- Rob believes the pandemic and work-from-home options have slowed urban migration trends and, indeed, presented broadband connectivity as an antidote to the rural-urban migration that has characterized so much of the discussion around urban sustainability over the last 20 years. Do you agree or disagree? Please add your comments below.
Laetitia Dablanc is a Director of Research at the University Gustave Eiffel/IFSTTAR and a member of MetroFreight, a VREF Center of excellence in urban freight research. I spoke to her recently about lessons learned from the COVID-19 lockdown in Paris.
My take aways from this 6-min video:
- She estimates that the lockdown resulted in a 30% reduction in VMT, but the effect were not lasting. Traffic is already back to pre-lockdown levels in Paris.
- The Parisian government rapidly deployed improvements in data management, traffic enforcement, bicycle lanes, and the subsidy for companies acquiring electric vehicles has been doubled – all in the last few months.
- The demand for bicycle delivery services (UberEats, etc.) has led to an expansion of gig-based jobs in this sector (and increased use of those new bike lanes!). Laetitia thinks freight companies have an opportunity here to attract these part-time, temporary workers to be full-time, longterm workers in freight if the right training programs can be established.
Kenya consistently ranks among the countries with the highest traffic fatalities in the world – #18, according to the World Health Organization, and some estimates put it even higher. One of the most alarming statistics is that 1 in 10 traffic fatalities in Kenya is a child.
I recently spoke with Dr. Anne Kamau, Research Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, about her research on transportation and children’s safety. Her research, funded by the Volvo Research and Education Foundations (VREF), is in collaboration with Dr. Regina Obilie Amoako-Sakyi at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana.
As I started to get into the background for this work, I found that a lot of the writing was heavily focused on technical and infrastructural issues, but didn’t focus on governance, leadership, or what it takes to facilitate transformative change. This question of governance in urban transport and mobility was strongly established in the original TUT-POL project. The expansion of this research into Sub-Saharan Africa allowed us to get an inside look at differences in the governance of urban transport in this region. It enabled us to explore what works and what doesn’t and helps explain why certain places are experiencing challenges and hopefully also shed light on how to solve those challenges.
Governance of Metropolitan Transport: Power, Leadership, and the Essential Art of Building Lasting Alliances
“This whole project started because I saw that almost all presentations at the Transportation Research Board (TRB, one of seven program units of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine) were about what to do to organize metropolitan transport. But there was very little about how to actually get things done. When I was visiting there, I actually asked the Chair of the TRB’s Executive Committee why, and his answer was ‘How is much more difficult than what.’ And he was right.”
During the Mobilize Summit, urban transport and development practitioners come together alongside world-class researchers to celebrate best practices and accelerate implementation of sustainable transport projects grounded in equity. All the panelists agreed about the need to help decision-makers trust and believe that change is possible. “For instance, everyone thought rampant bike theft in Medellín would be the inevitable downfall of our bike share program, but it just didn’t happen that way,” explained Lina. “Our early adopters were the ‘rock stars’ who helped change hearts and minds simply through their passionate embrace and adoption of cycling.”
I work to ensure that a more diverse point of view, especially the gender-specific, informs the planning, design, operations, and user experience of transport systems. Safe and reliable access to public transport is a key driver of so many issues we face as a society. Cities cannot aspire to being inclusive unless more attention is given to this aspect of sustainable transport.
On offer at this year’s MOBILIZE summit were several tools, resources, and case studies of projects whose leaders aim to re-humanize public roadways and disrupt the automobile-centric culture that dominates them in many places. What follows are a few key highlights focused on advancing universally accessible improvements to the built environment.
Implementing off hours delivery (OHD) across a region can be particularly advantageous. In São Paulo, shifting inner urban core deliveries to off-hours means carriers can use their trucks by day to do suburban or rural deliveries, and by night to complete inner city deliveries. This complementary pattern means carriers’ assets are in productive use around the clock, thereby lowering their costs overall. In fact, a major driver of this policy shift has been the carrier companies’ syndicate. They have been pressuring government and receivers to use OHD because it’s in their financial best interest, as our pilot has confirmed.