Transportation of the future needs a new blueprint

Transportation Planning

The initial standstill brought on by the COVID pandemic is being followed by a period of transformation in how we work, live and move about. These subtle and not-so-subtle shifts haven’t affected everyone in the same way, requiring transportation planners to better understand the mobility needs across all segments of society. Here are some key macro trends that are changing the shape of mobility across the world.

Have Wifi, will work

When companies sent their staff to work from home last March, no one could have imagined that the seemingly temporary measure would have turned into a movement towards permanently flexible working policies across the world.

A year in lockdown has led many companies to rethink office space not because of the uncertainty over exactly when the pandemic will end, but because it became clear that the old ways of long hours at the office and frequent business travel needed a reset button. While people still need and want to collaborate in person, they are also capable of high productivity using nothing but an Internet connection.

This trend isn’t led by small, nimble businesses, but by large multinationals. Alan Jope, Chief Executive of Unilever, the third most valuable company on the London Stock Exchange, announced at the beginning of this year that his teams were never to return to their desks five days a week. According to his account, the pandemic response led to a realisation that the company was capable of adapting to changing circumstances faster than previously imagined. Governments are seizing the moment to address inequality in the workforce. In the UK, the government has recently called on employers to embrace flexible working policies as standard.

If it takes 66 days to form a new habit, many of us likely can no longer recall what it was like going to the office Monday to Friday. There are numerous predictions out there about the magnitude of this shift, but the general consensus indicates that somewhere between 25-30 percent of the workforce will be working from home multiple days every week. That is a quarter to a third of all rush hour traffic gone on most weekdays.

Questions transportation planners will need to find answers to include:

  • Will people travel to the office at different times of day?
  • What will it take to arrest the surge in private vehicular traffic and revitalise public transport
  • How can mobility services cater to the growing need for personalised, assuredly safe means of getting from A to B?

Business travel? Sometimes, maybe.

The airline industry suffered $710 bn year-on-year revenue loss in 2020, as air travel came to a halt.

When Bill Gates commented at the end of last year that over half of all business travel and over 30 percent of days at the office would go away, he prompted some strong reactions from the airline industry. The truth is, the longer businesses operate in lockdown and people find alternative ways to connect with customers – the less likely it is that people will travel the way they used to.

Those who believe that it’s only a matter of time until business travel goes ‘back to normal’, should consider the reasons people travel for business in the first place: connecting with customers and managing their supply chain. Now, consider this:

A global survey of executives by McKinsey published in October 2020 has found that companies are now three times more likely to conduct some 80 percent of their customer interactions digitally. A further 35 percent have found new ways to connect with their suppliers via digital platforms.

Green is the new black

After years of failing to arrest CO2 levels in urban areas across the world, cities have had enough. In Europe, the European Commission’s Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) concept has now been widely adopted as a key strategic tool for halting emissions and addressing the quality of life in our cities.

The plans are incredibly ambitious, yet we have no choice but to double down and meet them if we wish to arrest climate change:

  • 90 percent of emissions to be cut by 2050 through the introduction of smart and affordable transport system
  • Scheduled collective travel for journeys under 500 km to be carbon neutral, leading to 100 European cities to be climate neutral by 2030.

2030 is nine years away – half the horizon of most transportation plans.

Coming up with initiatives that will succeed in getting more people to walk and bike, or prompting them to choose public transit over cars will take a lot more varied and inclusive insights about how people travel than what has so far been the standard. The question is – can the industry tools and methods keep up?

Real-time travel information as the norm

Some transportation authorities have already seized the opportunity for reinvention under intense lockdown circumstances to give passengers greater control over their travel experiences.

The Land Transportation Authority of Singapore (LTA) worked with Teralytics in the midst of the pandemic to enable real-time monitoring of crowd levels at 178 metro stations across the country. Via an integration into LTA’s MyTransport.SG app, anyone wishing to travel on its services is now able to decide when and how to travel to ensure their journeys are both enjoyable and safe.

New modes of travel

While the automotive industry is furiously working to deliver electric vehicles as the new car standard, urban air taxis have gone from prototype to signing launch programmes around the world, with an eye already on the next generation of larger electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles. How can urban transportation plans make the most of this and other green mobility technologies?

For Teralytics’ analysis of how mobility is changing, see our dashboard for Germany and Italy here. If you’d like to find out how Teralytics can help you create sustainable transportation solutions through inclusive, up-to-date mobility insights, please get in touch.

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