BETTER CHOICES: Mobility in an Age of Turbulence

Draft for comment: From advanced working draft of forthcoming book, “BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Mobility to your City”.  Latest working drafts currently at available at https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/better-choices/ and https ://www.facebook.com/NewMobilityAgenda/
Comments most welcome to the author at BetterChoices@ecoplan.org

Let’s first step back to consider the principal dynamics of the broader context – and specifically the high level of activity and innovation concerning ways in which climate and environment issues, new mobility patterns, unserved needs, economic realities, technologies, legislation, interest groups, political pressures, and yet more are going through a raging process of adaptation and change, which is often proving quite painful. If we put it all together we can see that this is a sector and a time in which the term “creative destruction” has real meaning.

1.  Mobility in an Age of Turbulence

What are some of the high points of the chaotic environment that we need to keep in mind in order to not lose sight of reality?  Here is a shortlist of the author’s observations.

  1. CLIMATE: The reality and severity of global warming, climate modification is now full upon us and it is no longer a matter of speculation on the part of some dissident scientists. The implications of this are so great an extensive that it gives highest priority for public policy at all levels.
  2. TRANSPORT: Twenty percent of our planet’s climate challenge is a function of our often inefficient, under-performing transport systems, with all the macro trends going in the wrong direction.
  3. NEAR-TERM: Yet despite the importance of the transport sector as a heavy and to a large extent unnecessary polluter, strategic consideration of how the sector can reduce its impactsdirectly and significantly, and for the most part through the reduction of unnecessary traffic, the sector is poorly represented in international climate conferences.  The missing link: strategy and action.
  4. ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN: The growing pressures to cut back public spending and services opens up new opportunities for frugal mobility modeswhich do not require like the heavy-handed, high cost old mobility approaches large and continuing expenditures of scarce taxpayer contributions which at the end of the day are doing nothing to alleviate either the mobility challenges or harsh environmental impacts..
  5. VULNERABLE POPULATIONS: The public resource squeeze, along with increased incomediscrepancies, are  leaving ever- larger vulnerable populations under-served
  6. CAR LITE: Dysfunctional and in fact if you look at it closely enough unnecessary dependence on privatecars, cars which of course have an important role to play, but far less and quite differently than in the 20th century model.
  7. INDUSTRY TRENDS: The steady shrinking of the world auto industryin terms of the number of major players – is leading them to actively explore new business areas, including provision of mobility services. In fact it can be observed that the traditional automobile and transport providers are, after initial lag, several steps in front of most government organizations when it comes to preparing for what is sure to be a radically different future.
  8. MARKET SATURATION: The effective end of growth of demand for new cars in saturated mature automotive markets. It is in these markets where the traditional industrial suppliers are getting most attention to new product and services in a changing mobility environment
  9. BOOMING MARKETS: As opposed to that, the continuing acceleration of the industry and market in what used to be thought of as the developing economies.
  10. PUBLIC TRANSPORT: The continuing inability of traditional public transportforms (fixed routes, scheduled)  to meet a significant part of the mobility requirements of 21st century lifestyles and population distribution.  The services offered by the traditional suppliers no longer correspond with the service pattern and requirements of cities
  11. CAR CONSTRAINTS: Increasingly aggressive (and successful) city policies for environmental, space and efficiencyconsiderations to limit car use within the city limits.
  12. DEAD VEHICLES: The slow but sure progress of understanding and examples of more rational public policies concerning parking, and in particular in urban centers and other areas in which the sheer space considerations and inefficiency of traditional parking strategies is finally starting to give way to more carefully thought-out and effective public policies
  13. URBAN RENAISSANCE: The reshaping of cities and neighborhoods at the leading edge to render them agreeable and efficient places to live, work and get around in, without the heavy 20th century requirement (dream?) of a car in every driveway.
  14. LIVING WITHOUT A CAR 1: The increasing number of households who are learning to live comfortably without cars, or with fewer cars than in the past. [1]
  15. LIVING WITHOUT A CAR 2: Culture changes in many places where ownershipof a car is seen by a growing slice of the population, as just not as important as it was in the past.
  16. SHARED TRANSPORT: New forms of IT-based intermediate public transportare exploding (DRT, Kutsuplus, etc.)
  17. TAXI RENAISSANCE: Battle lines are forming up sharply between alternative taxi forms (Uber, Lyft, etc.)
  18. “BETTER THAN CAR” The rapidly growing range of new mobility options which in many cases combine to provide more efficient and economic transportation than the individual motor car. Specifically, we are now looking at “better than car” transportation systems, with the car being replaced not by one or two options, but a rich and coordinated array of alternative, complementary mobility services, available to be picked and chosen by each citizen according to their own preferences.

# # #

This is the new and very different world within which the mobility sector has to make its way in the coming years. As will be seen in the pages that follow we are optimistic that even with all of these pressures and difficulties, the New Mobility sector, in all of its increasing number of variations and parts, is going to do very well in the years immediately ahead.

# # #

About the author:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Britton is an American political scientist and sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest book, "BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City" focuses on the subject of environment, equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions. A pre-publication edition of Better Choices is currently undergoing an international peer review during Sept.- Oct. 2017, with the goal of publication in English and Chinese editions by end-year. If you wish to participate drop a line to BetterChoices@ecoplan.org .

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