Inclusive cities pursue transportation equity

In the global-local effort to shape sustainable, resilient, and inclusive cities, mobility systems are at stake. There is an urgent call for transportation equity, that means designing and delivering transport systems that are safe, accessible, reliable, and affordable for all, including the mobility-underprivileged communities.

Mobility is a critical success factor for socio-economic growth, but it is still far from being equitable in many places, points out a recent white paper by the World Economic Forum, BCG and the University of St Gallen.

The report analyzes three archetypical cities and their transportation ecosystems: the car-centric Chicago in the USA, the compact middleweight Berlin in Germany, and the high-density megacity Beijing in China. Researchers warn that the pure increase of mobility infrastructure does not always improve social inclusion, as in all investigated cities the best results came when considering both transportation supply and demand.

Accurate data collection is pivotal to better understand rider demand and the specific mobility challenges affecting minorities, disabled and economically disadvantaged people. Data-driven decisions allowed cities to pilot some simple but highly effective mobility initiatives.

In Chicago, adding first- and last-mile shuttles to and from local public transit stations increased the number of jobs accessible to underserved communities by up to 90%. A scaled-up metro pass reservation system in Beijing allows people to pre-book their slot on a train and bypass queues at the station to enter the train directly, resulting in commuting times to be decreased by 29%. In Berlin, a differentiated service level on public transit, like business-class carriages on trains, increased the share of public transit trips by 11% while at the same time generating 28% higher revenue for the operator.

Looking at the 15-minute city planning concept, cities strive to reduce traffic and make life easier for drivers (including parking search), at the same time they try to strengthen public transportation systems.

But the report also suggests that transportation equity eschews the cars/public transport binary perspective. Truly inclusive cities should consider innovative, multimodal transportation solutions, where scooters, bikes, and electric vehicles play a role and contribute to safe, accessible, reliable, and affordable mobility systems for all.

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