A “better than car” mobility system

The idea here is to combine vision, policy, technology and entrepreneurial skills in such a way to create and make available to all a combined multi-level mobility how should I get there - smallsystem which for just about everybody should be more efficient than owning and driving a car in or into town.  Let us start with this as our goal and then see what is the work that must be done in order to turn it into a reality.

This is a strategy, well known in many leading cities by now, which has two principal legs: The first is to create a structure of pricing, available street and parking space, and conditions of transit which together impose on car owner-drivers the full cost of their use of scarce and valuable public space in the city.  Thus, because cars are notoriously space-inefficient, which becomes problematic when their numbers pass a certain threshold, the time comes when they have to pay their way.  Now this is not a matter of being anti-car, but rather one is being pro-cities and pro-people.  And for strategic reasons it is critically important to emphasize this positive aspect.

The other leg of the new policy paradigm includes of course more traditional forms of state-of-the-art public transport — but also greatly enhances the level of service offered by creating a bouquet of multiple, alternative mobility choices bringing together a multiplicity of new systems, each of which does a part of the job and which gained their full strength when combined with the other necessary supporting ingredients.  (We often refer to these as 1% solutions, giving indication of the number and variety of mobility options which need to be combined to make the overall approach work.)

As we start to fashion these various support system we do well to remember that the main reasons that people choose one form of transport over another is the relative advantages offered in terms of convenience, cost and conviviality.  Safety and reliability are also right there at the top of the list.

We often speak of a “bouquet” of mobility services, by which is meant that the “better than car” transport system is not a single mover, not even a multibillion-dollar Metro, but rather a strategic  combination of multiple and varied mobility options which link and overlap to provide high-quality and affordable transportation service for all.  Traditional public transit is a critical part of this integrated mobility package, as are bicycles, public and private, and agreeable and efficient walking.  But so too are the growing array of alternatives which include, among others, carsharing, ridesharing, taxi sharing, small bus services, demand responsive transit, affordable taxi-based transport for the elderly, handicapped and other fragile groups, and the long list gets longer every day.

It will come as no surprise in Finland that one of the key ways of tying all of these services together is through the abundance of information technology resources which are available to most, but not all, Finnish citizens, including Internet in all its variations but above all the communication system which the vast majority of people living in Helsinki have in their pocket, their mobile phone.

The second step to bridge all of this multitude of services is through a unified fare/payment policy which combines to make all of these individual modes part of what is seen and used as a single unified seamless system.  Or in other words, our “better than car” 21st century mobility alternative.

By now is a pretty well known strategy.  The real trick will be to create a unified policy framework to combine all the multiple components and choices needed to create our s1st century better-than-car system, with the concept of equity at its base.   That will keep us plenty busy.

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eb-abount the editor - 15mar13 - wider

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