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The future of integrated public-private mobility services through city partnerships

06 December 2017

Three new mobility services can improve the movement of urban inhabitants, according to research conducted by the Coalition for Urban Transitions & McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, in an initiative to support decision makers in ensuring that city action is linked to broader economic planning.

According to the study, integrating electric, on-demand minibuses, subsidised shared rides, and trip-planning and ticketing apps into the mass transit systems of London, Mexico City and San Francisco could make public transport more affordable, accessible and sustainable. Partnerships that let cities take advantage of new mobility services should make urban transportation more accessible, affordable, and efficient. Ride-hailing systems, car- and bicycle-sharing networks, trip-planning apps, and other innovative, technologically sophisticated mobility services are winning users in cities around the world.

The positive reception these services have received suggests that city dwellers need convenient, flexible transport options at a range of prices—and that existing private and public mobility services offer fewer options than people might like. Public transit is indispensable for moving people around quickly, preventing traffic congestion and accidents, limiting pollution, and freeing land for uses more valuable than parking space and roadways.

But the challenges facing public-transit systems are well known: rising costs, funding constraints, increases in ridership, and aging infrastructure, among others. Private transportation services have long complemented public-transit systems—informal minibus services are ubiquitous in the cities of developing countries—but can exacerbate other urban challenges such as safety and environmental quality.

As new mobility services proliferate, cities have opportunities to combine them with public-transit systems in ways that will improve the lives of city residents. Yet it isn’t obvious how cities can ensure that these services will properly meet their residents’ needs. The right mobility formula depends on a complex set of considerations affecting passengers (access, convenience, cost), transit agencies (finance, regulation), and cities as a whole (employment, environmental impact).

So cities around the world have begun to integrate new private mobility services into their transportation systems through partnerships. While it’s too soon to tell whether these partnerships are succeeding, they do point toward possibilities that other cities may wish to consider. A new report from the Coalition for Urban Transitions,1Connected urban growth: Public-private collaborations for transforming urban mobility, aims to help cities evaluate these options. The report summarizes the development of new mobility partnerships, identifies potential applications for new mobility services in public-transit systems, and models the economic and environmental impact of those applications. The findings suggest that cities and their residents stand to benefit greatly from the features new mobility services have introduced into urban transportation systems.

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