We welcome the publication of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP)’s Urban Mobility Playbook, December 2021. This is the first major report of its kind since “Better Mobility in Urban Areas” was published by the organisation twenty years ago. This is not to overlook the plethora of publications regularly issued by UITP, as well as the ongoing advocacy work by this global champion of sustainable urban mobility. Indeed, we were honoured to become the first micromobility provider to have joined the organisation in November 2021. We are not surprised, therefore, that the challenges, suggestions and case studies featured in the Playbook align with many of our own visions for urban mobility, multimodality and creating cities for living.
Aim of the Urban Mobility Playbook
The aim of the Urban Mobility Playbook is fundamentally to provide a tool for city administrations, national and urban policy makers, and support their moves towards tackling the climate crisis, congestion, pollution, urban sprawl, inequitable transport access and societal changes. All of these and many other factors, if addressed urgently and strategically, will lead to “better sustainable urban mobility”.
The Playbook recognises that changes in urban mobility have been substantial over the last couple of decades but that, in order to hit the Sustainable Development Goals, they aren’t fast enough. We believe that international collaboration, as exemplified in this Playbook, can only serve to speed things up, because as the UITP states: “Moving towards sustainable cities is a huge collective effort that can only be achieved with strong political leadership and courage.”
De-incentivising an over-dependence on cars
The Playbook doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to car usage and the need for a modal shift. This aligns with Voi’s vision to decarbonise towns and cities, and make room for shared and active forms of transport. Indeed, in our article on Debunking myths about sustainable transport and micromobility, we showed how 15.4% of our global users are choosing to leave the car at home in favour of a scooter ride. In the UK, this figure is as high as 39%. The Playbook also creates a link between an over-dependence on cars and many other current urban issues of concern. The obvious ones are congestion, pollution and road dangers, but also health problems and social exclusion.
The three main changes in urban mobility
The Urban Mobility Playbook focuses on three main changes that have occurred in urban mobility over the last twenty years. They categorise these into societal, technological and economic. Societal changes include an awareness and desire to address the climate crisis, but also the growth of e-commerce and fast delivery services of everything and anything, which have led to more motorised traffic on our streets.
Technological changes have also been vast over the last two decades but, when it comes to cities, the growth of the smart city concept is one that stands out in the Playbook. At Voi, we have been proud to be leading in an industry that combines sustainable with smart, and we foresee many more rapid, positive developments in this area. Thirdly, economic changes, from fluctuating fuel prices to diverse levels of infrastructure financing, have had a massive impact on urban mobility and its ability to develop sustainably.
The main challenges facing sustainable urban mobility
The UITP is not burying its head in the sand about any of the challenges facing the transport sector when it comes to overhauling it in a way that is sustainable and sensible. They cover the gamut from global to citywide challenges, governance to societal.
The global challenges include climate change and COVID, with citywide challenges of urban growth, sprawl, congestion and pollution heading to the top of the list. When it comes to pollution, for example, the Playbook reminds the reader that “stationary or near stationary cars with engines running give out the highest levels of exhaust emissions” and that “the transport sector needs to find sustainable solutions that will not displace the source of pollution, decreasing pollution at the local level but increasing it overall.”
Another citywide challenge is that of a scarcity of urban space and, in particular, green space. It highlights how “parked cars take up valuable space. On average, they are parked 95% of the day. In central London, around 14% of road space is used for on-street parking”. This is why, for example, we included an urgent change in mindset about urban parking as part of Voi’s regulatory recommendations in the UK, on the anniversary of our first year of operations in the country.
“Councils and e-scooter operators should work together to find alternative parking solutions to pavement parking. As more urban space is freed up due to fewer cars on the roads, this should give rise to on-street scooter parking and parklets to minimise disruption to pedestrians.” Voi – One year in the UK report
Our advocating for regulatory change aligns with the Playbook’s addressing of governance challenges in driving sustainable urban mobility. The UITP addresses problems associated with “siloed decision making” and a ‘lack of strategic vision with regards to urban mobility.” At Voi, we believe that we can support public sector decision-making in this area with private sector expertise and data, sharing concepts such as the 15-minute city, one of our key drivers at Voi, explained eloquently by our Chief Operating Officer, Douglas Stark, at Web Summit in Lisbon, November 2021.
As Douglas says: “We don’t need to put up with this. We can live in an efficient city with quality of life, without the need for cars. This is a 15-minute city.” Reports such as the Urban Mobility Playbook are invaluable in supporting our vision for this change, as well as our ability to share influential data. The latter is particularly vital if we are to address the Playbook’s highlighting of the fact that “poor access and understanding of data to better understand mobility needs and solutions.”
Universal inclusion in urban mobility
Our user data also addresses the societal challenges discussed in the Playbook,, one of the most important being universal inclusion. As the Playbook states: “Put simply, universal inclusion means providing access to mobility for all of the population” as well as a ”safe, inclusive and multimodal experience,” especially for women. At Voi, we have rapidly growing experience in this area, including the creation of our Roadmap to inclusivity and equity in the micromobility sector, and our ongoing research into Gender equity in micromobility.
With an end goal of attaining sustainable urban mobility systems, we support the UITP’s solutions towards achieving this globally. We believe that, at Voi, we have already taken significant strides towards addressing and solving them, listed by UITP as threefold: first, design cities around mass public transport; second, optimise road and street management; and third, create innovative and efficient transport systems that are multimodal.
“The deployment of on-demand shared and micromobility services complementing conventional systems, such as mass public transport and taxis, offers a unique opportunity to satisfy different mobility needs, serve more people from the first mile to the last and for the entire day. Cities can move people more efficiently by reducing the reliance on personal motorised vehicles and using a variety of on-demand and shared mobility solutions adapted to the situation and in combination with performing mass public transport.” – UITP Urban Mobility Playbook
With our growing MaaS and PTA partnerships in the many towns and cities where we operate, creation of mobility hubs in leading cities such as Berlin, and integration into mobility apps in places like Zurich and Oxford, reimaginings of urban spaces in the likes of Liverpool and Stockholm, we support UITP’s vision of innovation, intermodality and inspired urban design to achieve hit that end goal right into the back of the net.