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.
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.
Europe has been experimenting with and using different types of package pickup strategies. For example, in France, there are pick-up points at either post offices or neighborhood businesses, where packages are dropped for the neighborhood. Residents then pick them up at one centralized location. This reduces the vehicle miles traveled (VMTs) involved in going from house to house to house or building to building to building for individual deliveries.
A big assumption was that BRT would take root and work well in South Africa simply because it has been so successful across Latin America. Unfortunately, while yes, BRT has been very successful in Latin American cities, as with most things, there’s no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to transit.
There are several parts of the web where change needs to happen, and enlightened policy has the potential to facilitate change across that web. Shifting delivery times seems straightforward and simple, but moving an entire community and its supply chains to greater sustainability requires multiple interventions happening in parallel—with consumer behavior, with infrastructure, and with use of technology.
Adaptive cities are analytical. Their leaders set a balanced vision for the future of the community, and then collect and study data, continually look for patterns, and use that information and analysis to inform long-range planning and infrastructure investments to realize that vision.