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Urban mobility: multimodal transportation

Urban mobility refers to a non-limiting system that fulfills the needs of each citizen to travel from one point to another. Over the course of time, transportation has changed drastically with development of technology. In the 1900s, horse carriages were soon to be replaced by motorcars. Soon enough, human-driven cars will be fully replaced by driverless ones that offer not only convenience, productivity and safety but also lower carbon footprint to the environment.

Beside the improvement of vehicles, there has been a great increase in private car purchase. Car companies have crafted a marketing strategy that encourage customers’ emotional attachment to their cars. However, using a 4-seat vehicle to transport one person has soon become inefficient, causing more congestion and air pollution in big cities. It is estimated that in by 2050, 66 percent of global population will be urban, which means the number of urban dwellers then will be the same as the number of earth dwellers now. Supposed private vehicle sales increase at the growth of urban population while policies and infrastructure does not change, it is inevitable that traffic congestion will be more problematic, and the privilege of personal mobility would be taken away. Even so, thanks to their convenience, cars will not be gone in the near time. Instead, these personal vehicles will have to integrate some mobility to establish an urban mobility platform in the future. Like how the food industry has started to raise human awareness on healthy lifestyles, government should start to educate individuals about the benefits and impacts of multimodal mobility that is faster, smarter, greener.

On the other hand, cities evolved differently across the world. While some expanded through urban sprawls and had population widely spread (Los Angeles), some restricted sprawls through policies or geographic conditions and had dense population (New York). Because of their forms, cities then have developed different personal mobility needs and public transportation network. Cars will be the most time-efficient in Los Angeles, whereas public transportation (trains and buses) will makes more sense in New York. Renovating existing cities’ infrastructure and changing zoning will cost much time and money. The increase in mobility technology (rideshares, compact green vehicles, bikeshares) has suggested that a framework for sustainable mobility architecture could be implemented. This framework should be able to adapt to diverse cities’ existing infrastructure and customized to the cities’ cultures and users’ experiences. It is important to deploy a framework that responds to users’ needs and perspectives, as when a system is newly in effect, cost and convenience will be a great burden to them.

CHIP mobility architecture (connected, heterogeneous, intelligent and personalized) is therefore recommended. The idea is CHIP would provide mobility by combining the physical infrastructure and digital communication to allow users to combine modes of travel for maximum efficiency. Prior to any trip, users already have an assumed mode of transportation and/or routes to take to the destination. Instead, another articulated approach is proposed. The full route is first divided into segments, allowing for a variety of combination of transportation methods. The users are then provided with detailed information regarding each transportation modes, such as estimate time of arrival, cost, comfort and convenience, carbon emissions, etc. They can finally make informed decisions based on these viable options and benefits. To prevent users from getting lost in a plethora of options and assist them to choose one faster, users’ priorities and habits are observed over time to optimize their experiences and personalize alternatives should any circumstance change. Artificial intelligence (AI) which operates as a human mind would be a great use to detect human behavioral pattern and synthesize its information.

Beside digital advancement and connectivity, the feasibility of CHIP mobility architecture or any future one depends heavily on physical infrastructure: pedestrian paths, biking, ride-sharing services, etc. Heterogeneous modes will eventually call for hubs to ease transitions across, as they are functioning as independent networks. By integrating sub-networks (hospitals, schools, convenience stores) into ride-sharing services (bikes, scooters, cars) will let users have access to these services within 5 minutes. Flexible pricing will give incentives to users to relocate the vehicles to locations with high demand and low supply. At M.I.T Media Lab, the new DNA of vehicles has been proposed with in-wheel motor technology incorporated to reduce standard vehicle sizes and introduce the front of the vehicle as a new way to enter and exit. Especially when the population is aging rapidly, this new way to enter and exit will enhance safety for elders and avoid more accidents.

In conclusion, advancing physical infrastructure and digital connectivity are the keys for urban mobility to succeed. While having autonomous vehicles and transportation options personalized is convenient, raising urban citizens’ awareness is as valuable to make sure that implemented mobility architecture work. As technologies evolve, policy makers should also be flexible to change as we transition into a future with multimodal mobility: a person can bike from her house to a grocery store and drive back with heavy groceries.

Works Cited

Sumantran, Venkat, et al. Faster, Smarter, Greener the Future of the Car and Urban Mobility. The MIT Press, 2017.

Mitchell, William John, et al. Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century. The MIT Press, 2015.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHSu4f4fcSI