Urban mobility planning is a process that impacts how urban transport is managed. This, in turn, impacts the lives of citizens who live there. So far this has been a car-focussed endeavour, and we are realising that hasn’t been the optimum solution to the problem because it hasn’t been done in a sustainable way. Attempting solely to improve the flow of car-based traffic was the need of the hour as more and more people bought cars, but in the grand scheme of things, this has led to a variety of problems.
Un-Sustainable Issues of Urban Mobility
The European Commission supports local authorities all over the continent in the development of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans or “SUMPs”, to tackle some key issues, which are discussed here:
Increased transport demand
Managing transport is especially difficult in cities because they are home to a high concentration of people sharing some of the same resources. Not only will this group of people make use of a common pool of resources, they are likely to experience the effects of using those resources as well, and any unsustainability ultimately depletes resources faster, and has a harmful impact on larger groups of people. There has been a wave of increased traffic demand across major cities throughout Europe and in fact all over the world.
A characteristic of this increased demand is that it is highly variable over time, which leads to a continuing disparity between available resources and demand. There is a need to build cities in a sustainable way that accommodates peak traffic demand. Different governments deal with these challenges differently, with varying degrees of success.
One of the major concerns associated with Urban mobility and in fact mobility, in general, is the problem of emissions.
It is known that urban traffic is responsible for 40% of CO2 emissions and 72% of other emissions from road transport in the European Union. Road transport alone generates about 66% of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions (source-PDF). As you’d expect, this has an adverse effect on citizen health! For example, studies have shown that air pollution from road traffic can raise blood pressure.
Dependency on Oil
All transportation, at least in Europe, is heavily dependent on oil,
which accounts for 94% of fuel consumption by the sector. 84% of oil is sourced from unstable regions of the world, which naturally leads to concerns related to the security of supply. Not to mention, oil extraction and use still comes at a significant cost to the environment. (source).
Isolation of Infrastructure and Data
Traditional wisdom in Urban Development restricted infrastructure systems to “silos”, with limited communication and information sharing between government departments and civil societies, which could be detrimental not only for resource usage related optimisations, but also to access vital information when informed decisions need to be made in critical circumstances such as emergencies during which access to mobility related information is vital.
This can, to some extent, be cured by the “communication” aspect of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies), barring aside bureaucratic bollards.
Traditionally, ways of addressing issues outlined above include building capital-intensive infrastructure, while “smarter” methods such as making existing infrastructure more efficient continue to exist (Link opens PDF).
These intense problems that many urban areas are facing require a paradigm shift in the planning process. “Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning”, as an approach, is widely accepted as a solution to the issues listed above.