• Mobility is an important driver of inclusion, research shows.
  • Several cities have implemented transport schemes to improve universal access for residents of all abilities.
  • Greater use of bikes and public transport helps relieve congestion and reduce exhaust emissions.
  • Affordable transport options like self-driving buses, bike-sharing and carpooling schemes can help tackle challenges like pollution and crowded roads.

The daily commute has become a thing of the past for many people as remote working, online shopping and virtual social interaction have been forced upon millions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But keeping city centres accessible is an important driver of inclusion, according to new research.

A co-authored report by the World Economic Forum,​​ Boston Consulting Group and University of St. Gallen highlights how greater mobility helps break down barriers, promoting integration among a diverse range of people.

So, how can policymakers make it easier for people to commute to and from city centers, without jumping in private cars?

a chart showing how cars still dominate the global daily commute
Cars still dominate the global daily commute.
Image: Statista

Here are a few ways cities are making the daily commute less of a challenge.

1. An online booking system for trains in Beijing, China

As one of Asia’s bustling megacities, China’s capital is home to 13.2 billion public transport trips each year. With so much demand, just queuing for a ticket can take more than 20 minutes, forcing some commuters to drive rather than take the train.

But help is at hand in the form of an online booking platform that gives travelers fast-lane access to trains. The system could reduce ticket waiting times by up to 80% and shorten standard queues by 40%, according to the report.

2. An on-demand service for the disabled community in Los Angeles, CA

The City of Los Angeles is a large urban sprawling metropolis that is highly dependent on car transport. Individuals that are disabled in LA are often left with few options to travel to work, access healthcare or go to school.

In August 2021, Hyundai launched EnableLA, a new universal mobility service to assist people with mobility barriers. It’s helped bring a safe transportation to people with disabilities, who were also made more vulnerable as a result of COVID-19. The pilot program uses modified wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) equipped with UV-free antimicrobial lighting for improved sanitation, which are driven by trained first-aiders. Mobility schemes like this help drive inclusion in urban areas, as the report notes.

“Under our vision toward Human-Centered Mobility, we want to make our services more accessible and inclusive to better ensure universal access for everyone and ultimately help achieve freedom of mobility for all” shared Youngcho Chi, President and Chief Innovation Officer of Hyundai Motor Group.

3. A bike-to-work scheme in Chicago, US

The Windy City has extended its Divvy bike-sharing scheme to low-income residents, the latest part of a plan to install docking stations throughout Chicago. Researchers at Maryland University and Boston College found low-income workers were the most heavily reliant on using the scheme.

Payments vary, but the Divvy for Everyone (D4E) tariff costs as little as $0.05 per minute for an unlimited number of trips lasting a maximum of 45 minutes. The scheme also has a $5 yearly fee. The latest additions to the scheme include some new electric-assisted bicycles capable of speeds of around 30 kilometers per hour. These are fitted with motors to power riders up hills and help them reach more neighborhoods throughout the city.

To encourage more trips by bike, plans are in place to build new cycle lanes throughout the city as part of a $17 million city infrastructure program.

4. An affordable rideshare app in Berlin, Germany

A free-to-download app is behind the successful rollout of a ride-sharing scheme that has been operating in eastern Berlin since 2018.

Passengers book rides via the app, which bundles the individual routes of up to six people who are travelling in a similar direction. The service - called Berlkönig - doesn’t drive door-to-door, instead pre-booked passengers board a minivan from various points near to a start location and are taken to a destination point, allowing short detours to accommodate different routes.

What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve the future of cities?

Cities represent humanity’s greatest achievements – and greatest challenges. From inequality to air pollution, poorly designed cities are feeling the strain as 68% of the world’s population is predicted to live in urban areas by 2050.

The World Economic Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of Urban Transformation supports a number of projects designed to make cities cleaner and more inclusive, and to improve citizens’ quality of life:

  • Creating a net zero carbon future for cities
    The Forum’s Net Zero Carbon Cities programme brings together businesses from 10 sectors, with city, regional and national government leaders who are implementing a toolbox of solutions to accelerate progress towards a net-zero future.
  • Helping citizens stay healthy
    The Forum is working with cities around the world to create innovative urban partnerships, to help residents find a renewed focus on their physical and mental health.
  • Developing smart city governance
    Cities, local governments, companies, start-ups, research institutions and non-profit organizations are testing and implementing global norms and policy standards to ensure that data is used safely and ethically.
  • Closing the global infrastructure investment gap
    Development banks, governments and businesses are finding new ways to work together to mobilize private sector capital for infrastructure financing.

Contact us for more information on how to get involved.

The wheelchair-friendly scheme offers an affordable alternative to the city’s existing taxi and fixed-route transport network, helping Berlin residents share vehicles to move around, which reduces congestion and exhaust emissions.

The report shows how safe, accessible and affordable, sustainably-minded transport systems like these help drive diversity and inclusion. Promoting greater mobility for older residents, people with disabilities, low-income households and others, helps ensure social equality, boost economic growth and fight climate change.