Megacities minus mega-traffic

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar

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Two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, according to the United Nations Population Fund. The number of megacities—i.e., those with more than 10 million inhabitants—is expected to rise to 41 by 2030, from 28 today, with most of the increase occurring in emerging economies.

Urbanization is particularly strong in China, where some 16 million rural Chinese migrate to cities every year. In addition, China also suffers from chronic air pollution, made worse by rising middle-class car ownership. With 154 million cars on the road in 2014, particulate-matter counts—a measure of air quality—regularly surpasses 500 micrograms per cubic meter, about 20 times the World Health Organization pollution guidelines.

China’s government is trying to improve the urban environment. Its six-year New Urbanization Plan includes plans for hundreds of new “eco-cities,” though existing eco-cities, such as Shenyang, Caofeidian, Nanning, Dongtan, Qingdao and Sino-Singapore Tianjin, have had mixed results.

“They’re making courageous attempts and are learning from success and failure,” says Victor Vergara, lead urban specialist at the World Bank. “If you have a situation where you have a greenfield and you have a lot of capital, you’re able to do things that otherwise couldn’t be done.”

But sometimes the cities don’t have the natural economic base to grow organically. You can’t invent a city. It has to emerge from a marketplace where people work and study and enjoy themselves.”

However, cities in emerging economies tend to grow haphazardly, with irregular settlements that don’t conform to (often unrealistic) zoning laws. Indeed, urban growth is so rapid that even cities with strong traditional institutions have a hard time keeping up, Mr. Vergara notes.

Despite these challenges, some cities are working to grow in ways that make them sustainable and pleasant places to live. That means rejecting the urban sprawl typical of U.S. and some Latin American cities, in favor of urban areas that are compact, walkable and well-served by public transport.

Such transit-oriented development prioritizes support for public transport over private cars. It aims to make the best use of land around transit nodes and stations, attracting more people and increasing land prices in the process. “It’s basically good urban planning, which puts long-term public interest before short-term private gain,” Mr. Vergara says.

One key to success is ensuring that schools, shops, health care, work, and other basic facilities are available locally. “The first thing is designing, or at least steering, their growth in ways that limit as much as possible the need for mobility,” Mr. Vergara says.

Cities have to be polycentric, with more than one area where services are available to citizens. They also have to have many neighborhood centers where people can walk to get their basic daily needs, like shopping.”

Walkable cities must also have good sidewalks and prioritize pedestrian safety, avoiding dangerous intersections and long waits when crossing broad avenues. And when longer journeys are necessary—for example, commuting across town for work—cities must ensure that good public transport is available, Mr. Vergara says.

In the past, you have had the whole thing upside down. You had roads that defined how cities grow, rather than cities that want to grow a certain way and have roads that enable that growth,” he adds.

As a result, some initiatives to limit car usage, such as car ownership quotas or odd- and even-license plates for driving on alternate days, have backfired. “In middle-income countries, people just buy a second car,” he says, and often one that’s older and pollutes more. A better way to discourage car use is by charging for driving on congested roads and through stricter parking policies.

Meanwhile, cities can make public transport more attractive: by subsidizing ticket prices; allowing single-ticket transfers between transport modes—such as from bus to metro—and reducing connection times; introducing more bus lanes to make bus journeys faster than by car; and by making buses and train cars more comfortable.

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And many cities are doing just that. Curitibia, in southern Brazil, first focused on rapid-transit bus services four decades ago, later upgrading with dedicated bus lanes, level boarding, free transfers and futuristic tube-like bus stops. Despite its high level of car ownership, 70% of the city’s commuters use the bus system.

In East Africa, Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam are adopting rapid-transit bus systems to improve service while shifting commuters away from unregulated, high-polluting minibuses.

“There are new ways of living that people have to understand to make large cities viable,” Mr. Vergara says. “Cities need to be both efficient and equitable in order to ensure shared prosperity and poverty reduction.”

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe. For more from Catherine Bolgar, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion.

 

Photos courtesy of iStock

Creating the Future of Mobility

By Neno

Recently, German Handelsblatt published an interesting photo gallery on the Future of Mobility as it’s shown by automotive innovators on this year’s L.A. Auto Show.

I found this an amazing perspective, and a pity it seems still somewhat far off from today’s real life vehicle innovation on the glossy stages of the motor show. Now we know innovation cycles are getting rapidly shorter; the future is accelerating and those mobility dreams of tomorrow might be already parking in front of our doors.

The innovation forefront of our vehicle manufacturers is creating fascinating designs of mobility solutions that are integrated into their urban, architectural and energy systems in surprisingly new ways:

  • Bio engineering and new intelligent materials will make our vehicles more personal and relevant for us. At the same time, we will have safe and seamless mobility experiences.
  • Our future mobility solutions will be modular and integrated with smart grids. This is how they will become lean and sustainable – in their production, in use and when they are withdrawn from service.
  • Wheel-less concepts might even take us off-road Kangaroo-like or swarm under ground like river fish. Can this go as far as for our roads to become playgrounds then?

The high performance, multifunctional and configurable vehicles so many people can afford today – are the result of at least 50 years of engineering of systems and processes.

  • For a vehicle to perform according to requirements, many thousands of variables and relationships between electrical, mechanical and software components need to be designed, tested and validated for faultless operation.
  • For a vehicle to get from the design office to the dealers showroom at the right time at right cost and right quality – cash flow management and production processes including supply chain must be excellent.

Obviously – to minimize cost, time and errors – most of these creative, procedural and administrative activities are being carried out virtually today. The boundaries today are the “vehicle” or “production plant” systems. These systems can be managed and their physical, logical and human interfaces to the external world are defined. It is common practice today to virtually validate the kinematic behavior of an opening car door, the mechatronic behavior of an electric window closing and the procedural behavior of an assembly line design.

When we think about new mobility experiences, their boundaries are being opened; physical interfaces will be arbitrary, human interaction unprecedented. It seems that the creators of these new experiences will have to be designers, architects and strategists with a “magic” imagination to create and communicate possible scenarios and behaviors. More than likely, they will use software tools to immersively navigate mobility concepts that don’t yet exist. Intelligent virtual universes will help them dynamically explore ideas in precise physical and logical conditions. Similar to how we can simulate how a cat sees our urban reality, the creators of tomorrow’s mobility solutions will be able to take any perspective they want to ensure we will like and value their invention. I can hardly wait for this new era of mobility experiences  :-)

Go innovators, go!!  :D


Neno HorvatNeno HORVAT is a member of the Transportation&Mobility Industry team.

How Social Innovation turns into Mobility for all

By Jacques

Last week I was at the French startup event LeWeb’12 to get some fresh ideas about digital marketing trends on the startup scene. The theme of this year was the IoT aka the “Internet of Things”, so you could find many connected devices : smartphones, thermostats, watches, drones, headsets, weight or blood trackers that were all mobile and connected things. So why not connect these geeky devices to more familiar transportation & mobility products? IF WE connect internet and transportation, can it offer innovative and profitable mobility concepts?

I was there in my reflexions when I saw the Renault booth at LeWeb and just decided to chat with them to share ideas. And since I had my smartphone with me, I used it to record this impromptu one shot video, so pardon its low quality.

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Getting people back to work thanks to the Mobility community

I met with Florent d’Yvoire, who is project manager on the Renault-MOBILIZ Social Business project to know more about mobility innovation. Our main discussion was about the Renault-MOBILIZ which I found very innovative but not on technology as we usually expect, but more on the business side: This project was born at the Corporate Social Responsibility department of Renault with a vision: looking for sustainable ways to help the poorest benefit from an affordable mobility, so that they can find work and get out of poverty. Beyond that, the innovation is also in the business model that is inspired by the microcredit concept developed by Muhammad Yunus so that it can ensure the financial viability of the project.

In this context the Renault-MOBILIZ program is looking for more connections within the transportation and mobility community of professionals: they are looking for partnerships with entreprises and citizens on providing products, services, and assistance in getting driver’s licenses. Dassault Systèmes can certainly help with its communication to transportation & mobility professionals. More to come on this…

A car-sharing pilot with electric cars

Renault also launched Twizyway, an innovative car-sharing concept in the Paris area with 50 Twizy. These 100% battery-driven cars are beautiful, fun and safe to drive. They are available all day and are tracked and booked via smartphone apps. People use these cars then leave them in the location of their convenience to ensure maximum flexibility for drivers. Customers just scan a QR Code on the windshield and go. So this is quite similar to the Autolib project deployed near there in Paris, but with less constraints at first glance.

Digital apps on the dashboard of your car

The final topic presented by Renault was the second edition of their “call for apps” that will be installed on the dashboard of future cars in a tablet called R-Link. New Zoe and Clio models will benefit from them , Renault was there to call for startups willing to develop new services on their infrastructure.

Renault’s motto is “Drive the change”, now you can see why!  What about you, how would you match internet and transportation yourself? Do you see the digitalization of the world as an opportunity for new mobilities?

Thanks for posting your view in the “comments” field below

Jacques

 

Jacques Bidault is Industry Marketing Director, Transportation and Mobility at Dassault Systèmes

 

 



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