Urban Transformation

10 ways government leaders can improve transport mobility

A man rides his bicycle across the railway tracks at Ghaziabad train station in the outskirts of Delhi, India, June 28, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton - RC1CA64A5400

Back on track ... can your government deliver smoother, smarter travel? Image: REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

John Moavenzadeh
Head of Mobility Industries and System Initiative, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum LLC
Scott Corwin
Managing Director; Chief Strategic and Commercialization Officer, Sustainability Practice, Deloitte
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How long did it take you to get to work today? Did your 20-mile commute take over an hour due to road congestion? Or did you drive 10 minutes from your house to a local railway station, take the commuter line 90 minutes into the city and walk another 5 minutes to a bus station, only to see your bus drive away as you approach?

Mobility – the movement of people and goods – is a fundamental human need, and a key enabler of economic and social prosperity. Every day, we travel alongside billions of other people on our transport systems. Similarly, the products we buy at our local shop arrive on the shelves alongside tons of other goods and cargo moving around the planet. Mobility can be amazing, but it can also be challenging – like when we are unexpectedly late for work, or when the perfect birthday present arrives a day too late.

Challenges extend past minor inconveniences and include truly crucial issues. In the United States, the poorest third of households spend about 16% of their income on transport, while the richest third spend about half that amount. In addition to the financial burden of transport, a rise in delivery vehicles is causing congestion on our roads. Between 2005 and 2015, as customers developed the habit of buying single items online for home delivery, the global number of parcels grew by 128%.

Globally, a large and growing shortfall in infrastructure spending means roads, bridges, railways and other critical assets are being pushed to – and sometimes beyond – their literal breaking points.

Commuters at Paris's Saint-Lazare railway station.
With rising demand, transport systems struggle to keep up Image: Reuters/Stephane Mahe

We feel the strain of this as we sit in vehicles on clogged streets, or in airports overwhelmed with passengers. Over a million people are killed each year on the world’s roads – with 90% of those in low or middle-income countries. Our planet feels the impact of our CO2 emissions and the consumption of limited resources.

And all the while, the world’s population continues to grow, and is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. By then, an estimated two-thirds of people will live in cities – a figure 60% higher than the number that do today. Forty-one “mega cities” will have at least 10 million residents. These demographic and social trends will place additional pressure on an already strained transport system.

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The problems we face, therefore, are only going to get worse. What can we do as our commutes get longer and the air around us gets harder to breathe? What principles should we encourage our governments and private sector leaders to follow as they face these growing and costly challenges?

A lot of people have been mulling over these questions, and the result is a collection of ideas on how cities and countries can improve their transport systems to cope with rising demand, especially those that face limited investment capital and sufficient space to modernize outdated transport networks.

Together these ideas outline the key elements required for a seamless integrated mobility system, or a SIMSystem, which will bring together different transport options across digital platforms, geographical boundaries and functional regulations.

What is a SIMsystem?

 The many components of a SIMSystem.

A SIMSystem promotes interoperability between modes of transport to avoid potentially uncoordinated or conflicting investments, assets, standards, rules and technologies. The principles drafted below can guide government and private sector leaders to collaborate effectively in overcoming the complex obstacles we will undoubtedly face.

The principles of a SIMSystem

1. User-centred: The system is designed and operated to meet the collective and individual needs of all the users it serves.

2. Designed to be adaptable: It will adapt to the capabilities and conditions of the place it is deployed in, to the behaviours and needs of its users, and to improvements in technology.

3. Open standards and protocols: The private sector will need to play a leading role in establishing open standards and protocols for the creation of mobility-related data exchanges and application programming interfaces.

4. Public-private collaboration: Governments should act as conveners to increase collaboration within and between governments and the private sector, which will enable a SIMSystem to operate across transport types, geographies and functionalities.

5. Participation and value: Maintaining the ability for the private sector to derive value from their products, services and intellectual property will encourage broad-based participation and enable the full realization of a SIMsystem.

6. Agile governance: Governments should reduce institutional complexity and create more focused governance models, to facilitate agile coordination with the private sector and other governments.

7. Funding and financing: Governments should create innovative funding instruments and business models that enable private-sector actors to underwrite the cost of a SIMSystem and share in the monetary benefits.

8. Performance measurement: Standardized performance indicators should be established to measure the impact of a SIMSystem on accessibility, affordability, sustainability, safety, efficiency and integration.

9. Learning and improvement: An international public-private coalition should be formed and tasked with the frequent sharing of knowledge and best practices across geographies.

10. Scaling and growth: A public-private working group of leaders should be established to define and address fundamental framing decisions and enable SIMSystem pilots in various geographies.

To take the principles off the screen and into reality, the World Economic Forum aims to collaborate with two government entities representing cities, states, regions or countries – one from an urban area, and another that will highlight the challenges of rural areas.

More information on the SIMSystem programme, a collaboration between the Forum and Deloitte Consulting LLP, and on benefits for participating governments and application instructions, can be found here.

Governments who wish to join the project are encouraged to apply by 4 May 2018 via this portal.

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