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Shared-transportation options can help cities lessen congestion and improve air quality, says McKinsey

23 January 2019

Through seamless mobility, the use of connectivity, autonomy, and sharing technologies, cities can accommodate more traffic more efficiently, says a new McKinsey report.

'We have a vision for a future that addresses these challenges: seamless mobility. Leaders from both the public sector and the private sector will need to work together to achieve this future. To do so, they can use tools that optimise supply, optimise  demand, and improve sustainability, as well as a wide range of business models, innovations, and technologies,' says McKinsey.

In this approach, says the report, the boundaries among private, shared, and public transport are blurred, and travellers have a variety of clean, cheap, and flexible ways to get from point A to point B. Seamless mobility could be cleaner, more convenient, and more efficient than current options, accommodating up to 30 percent more traffic while cutting travel times by 10 percent. 

Encouraging people to shift to a widening array of shared-transportation options and moving some traffic to off-peak hours are also critical pieces of the puzzle. If people move away from driving themselves to using rail, bus, or autonomous shuttles, existing infrastructure can carry more passengers without increasing congestion—and maybe reducing it. Demand-optimization tools include the following:

  • Creating dedicated lanes for shared vehicles. If all the autonomous shuttles and buses that enter circulation travel in their own lanes, they will be faster, more attractive travel options. Cities such as Bogotá and Brussels have already found this to be the case with traditional buses
  • Scaling e-scooters and shared bicycles. By shortening the “last mile” journey from a person’s location to a rail station, these options make rail travel more attractive. They are already correlated with increased public-transit usage in Beijing, Melbourne, and New York.
  • Changing the terms of trade. Shared- and off-peak-transportation options become more attractive when individual, peak-load options are less enticing. For instance, limiting the number of robo-taxis and taxis, by way of a licensing system, increases wait times and would make users more likely to select shared, autonomous options. Congestion pricing, in which vehicles pay to enter busy urban areas at certain times, is another option. Such pricing has already succeeded at shifting traffic patterns in London, Milan, Singapore, and Stockholm.

The report has have identified five indicators to evaluate mobility systems: availability, affordability, efficiency, convenience, and sustainability. Seamless mobility improves all five. Cities have an opportunity to set the direction toward seamless mobility. In the report, we identify a set of tools and explore their effects on these five factors. This tool set allows cities, in partnership with the private sector, to take an active role in determining the future.

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