Greg Lindsay's Blog

September 18, 2018  |  permalink

Alstom’s “Orchestrating Future Mobility”


(The French transport company Alstom has published an interview with me as part of its new whitepaper “Orchestrating Future Mobility.” Please find the interview republished below.)

“An advanced city is not a place where the poor move about in cars, rather it’s where even the rich use public transportation,” said Enrique Penalosa, the mayor of Bogota, Colombia, who has transformed the city’s transit system by introducing a bus rapid transit system and hundreds of kilometres of bike lanes, among other innovations.

However, as Mr Penalosa and others have found, creating a well-functioning public transport system that spans multiple modes is easier said than done. The key to bringing about true multimodal transport may be the advent of new business models, which are starting to appear in some cities, such as Helsinki. The Finnish capital aims to make it unnecessary for any city resident to own a private car by 2025.

As stated by consultancy Deloitte, “the goal is to make it so convenient for users to get around that they opt to give up their personal vehicles for city commuting, not because they’re forced to, but because the alternative is more appealing.”

The hope is that this will lead to cities that are less congested, less polluted, safer and easier to get around, as well as being more environmentally friendly, because there are fewer cars, being used more efficiently, while public transport becomes a more attractive option. Is this the likely future for cities? We asked Greg Lindsay, a senior fellow at NewCities, an international non-profit organisation dedicated to making cities more inclusive, connected, healthy and vibrant.

Multimodal transport needs to facilitate multiple layers of people moving at different velocities. You will always want heavy rail for the core trunk routes, but beyond this, there is much more flexibility to introduce measures such as dedicated bus lanes and bike lanes, along with more autonomous vehicles.

If you can create a smart city that helps people move across the city more fluently, it will bring people together, help them find and access the goods and services they need and encourage greater citizen participation by expanding the usable space of cities and connecting disconnected neighbourhoods to the rest of the city.

The biggest challenge of multimodal transport – and the key to its success – will be getting hold of the information needed to make the entire system run smoothly, policy makers should be thinking about how they can orchestrate the whole system and use their regulatory muscle to get vehicle makers to participate in this. There are competing apps out there, so you don’t have a unified system. It is possible to have a seamless system, but everyone seems determined to slug it out in their different silos.

It is crucial that public transport remains at the heart of city mobility, rather than having fleets of autonomous vehicles looking for passengers, which could make congestion even worse than it is today. Transit authorities need to embrace innovation if they want multimodality to be stronger than any single mode of transport. The municipal government has to retain authority through the public transit operator. You need an Authority that sees itself as a mobility manager rather than just a body that makes the trains run on time.

I don’t think the future is the car. Free-floating bike sharing could be part of a viable last-mile solution. As cities prepare for the future, they will need to identify transport solutions that fit their own unique set of needs. But whatever solutions emerge, a multimodal public transport system that allows people to move seamlessly from one form of transport to another will be at the heart of future mobility.

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the director of applied research at NewCities and director of strategy at its mobility offshoot CoMotion.  He is also a partner at FutureMap, a geo-strategic advisory firm based in Singapore, a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

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