Towards networked, multimodal cities of 2050

Management consultancy Arthur D Little’s new global study of urban mobility assesses mobility maturity and performance of 66 cities worldwide and finds most falling well below best practice. This report highlights what is holding them back, showcases best practice and identifies three strategic imperatives for cities and three clusters of future business models for mobility suppliers that will enable cities to meet the urban mobility challenge.

Plotting the trend

The world’s population is increasingly city-based; 50 per cent or 3.5 billion people currently live in urban areas and by 2050 this is expected to reach 70 per cent of the population or 6.3 billion people.

Urban mobility is one of the toughest challenges that cities face; accordingly, we will see massive investment in the future. Today 64 per cent of all travel kilometers made are urban and the amount of travel within urban areas is expected to triple by 2050. Being able to get around urban areas quickly, conveniently and with little environmental impact is critical to their success.

Existing mobility systems are close to breakdown. By 2050 the average time an urban dweller spends in traffic jams will be 106 hours per year, three times more than today. Delivering urban mobility will require more and more resources. In 2050 urban mobility will:

  • Cost EUR 829 billion per year across the globe, over four times higher than in 1990
  • Use 17.3 per cent of the planet’s biocapacities, which is five times more than in 1990.

Where are we now?

Arthur D. Little assessed the mobility performance of 66 cities worldwide based on 11 criteria. Rated on a scale of 1-100 (with 100 representing the top performance) the average score was close to 65 (64.4 points). Which means that in average the 66 cities just achieve two thirds of the potential that could be reached today, applying best practice across all operations.

Only two cities (Hong Kong, Amsterdam) scored above 80 points, with just 15 per cent of cities scoring above 75 points.

What is holding back change?

There are clearly sufficient available solutions to meet todays’ challenges of urban mobility. Arthur D. Little identified 39 key technologies and 36 potential urban mobility business models. However, these solutions are not being applied comprehensively.

Why has the innovation potential not been unleashed? There is one key reason: The management of urban mobility operates globally in an environment which is hostile to innovation. Our urban management systems are overregulated, they do not allow market players to compete and they do not establish business models that bring demand and supply into a natural balance.

Three strategic imperatives for cities

To meet the urban mobility challenge, cities need to implement one of the following three strategies dependent on their location and maturity: 

  • Network the System: For high performing cities the next step must be to fully integrate the travel value chain, increasing convenience by aggressively extending public transport, implementing advanced traffic management systems and further reducing individual transport through greater taxation and road tolls.
  • Rethink the System: Cities in mature countries with a high proportion of motorized individual transport need to fundamentally redesign their mobility systems so that they become more public and sustainability orientated. This group contains the majority of cities in North America along with those in South-Western Europe.
  • Establish Sustainable Core: For cities in emerging countries the aim must be to establish a sustainable mobility core that can satisfy short term demand at a reasonable cost without creating motorized systems that need to be redesigned later. With access to new and emerging transport infrastructure and technologies these cities have the opportunity to become the testbed and breeding ground for tomorrow’s urban mobility systems.

Three future business models for mobility suppliers

Arthur D. Little has identified three long term sustainable business models for the evolving urban mobility ecosystem.

  • The Google of urban mobility: Built on a core asset of a user friendly customer interface, it provides a single point of access for multimodal mobility and supplementary services to end consumers on a large scale to drive uptake.
  • The Apple of urban mobility: At the core of this business model are integrated mobility services and solutions to the end consumer or cities. Integrated mobility services for end consumers provide a seamless, multimodal journey experience such as public transport interlinked with car and bike-sharing. Suppliers that target cities provide integrated, multimodal mobility solutions on a turnkey basis.
  • The Dell of urban mobility: This is a basic offering such as cars or bike sharing, without integration or networking. It can also include disruptive technological solutions such as transponders that make the Google and Apple models feasible.

Arthur D. Little’s contribution to shaping the future of urban mobility

The current disparate nature of urban mobility systems means that none of the individual stakeholders can create these models alone. Arthur D. Little specializes in linking strategy, technology and innovation, and aims to use its Future Lab as the platform to enable and facilitate an open dialogue between urban mobility stakeholders.

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