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June 17, 2021

Defining Urban Mobility

Reshaping how we travel for a more sustainable future.

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With increasing city-based populations occurring in countries such as the US (89% of the US population is projected to live in urban areas by 2050), access to urban services is in higher demand, placing further strain on our Public Transport systems. Based on this trend, it is clear that a reshaping of urban mobility is in need to combat the growing population, and here we walk you through just what this entails.

What is urban mobility?

According to The World Bank, urban mobility was traditionally about “moving people from one location to another location within or between urban areas”. This notion was based on two principles: people needed to access housing, jobs and other urban services such as education and entertainment, and they displayed a preference for motorised mobility due to its cost efficiency. 

But in recent years, there has been a shift in these perspectives in the minds of Transit Agencies and local governments who now recognise that online services limit a person’s need for transport. 

“Urban mobility is no longer just about moving people around by motorised vehicles. What people really need is the accessibility to various urban services.” - The World Bank, 2015

This is where advancements in urban mobility, such as Demand-Responsive Transport and microtransit, have the potential to lead, reshaping the way we travel as we know it. But before we delve into the future of urban mobility, it’s important to understand why it’s so significant to the functioning of society, and how making it sustainable could have an impact on transit. 

Why is urban mobility important?  

First and foremost, urban mobility is crucial to the functioning of our society. It’s the gateway to our everyday lives, allowing us to access housing, jobs and urban services. And although online services have reduced some of the necessity placed on transport within the urban mobility landscape, it hasn’t completely eradicated it­­­—it has simply challenged it to evolve with the new demands.

Urban mobility supports population growth, allowing increasing communities to continue to access services in an efficient and timely manner. Traffic congestion and an increased demand on Public Transport are some of the key implications of an expanding population, ones that can be remedied by an alteration of urban mobility as it currently stands, moving towards new means of supplying transport that extend beyond traditional modes, such as private car ownership and Public Transport.

Urban development requires sustainable and efficient mobility options and services that are constantly evolving in line with society. And this can’t be executed without a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan.

What’s a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan?

According to Eltis, a Europe-based observatory on urban mobility, a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan is “a strategic plan designed to satisfy the mobility needs of people and businesses in cities and their surroundings for a better quality of life”. 

There are a number of criteria that Eltis illustrates as essential to developing such a plan, and these all enable the provision of urban mobility options that promote access to safe and efficient modes of transport, are cost effective and improve the impact of transport on the environment. 

What are the major trends in urban mobility?  

We’ve arrived at an age when tech is starting to meet the futuristic dreams we had around transport. E-vehicles or self-driving cars have become a reality, and advanced communications have even offered us the opportunity to communicate between cars. But the major trends surrounding urban mobility, at least in the near future, are focused towards Demand-Responsive Transport and microtransit.

While transport is looking to become more electric, the issue of traffic congestion as a result of the growing population still remains. We simply don’t have enough infrastructure to support the number of vehicles on our roads. According to BMW, “up to 40% of total inner-city traffic is accounted for by those searching for a parking space”.

Demand-Responsive Transport and microtransit technologies have the potential to remedy this issue by tackling the problem at its source. Both of these models rely on a shared transit model, which significantly reduces the number of cars travelling on our roads.  

When it comes to Demand-Responsive Transport, passengers have the opportunity to book their trip via a software platform that supports dynamic routing. This means that as soon as a new passenger registers, the journey is recalculated to provide the most efficient means of getting each traveller to their destination. It’s removing the fixed-route model of traditional Public Transport to prevent unnecessary stops and long transit times.

Microtransit goes one step further. While it does adopt the same ridesharing model as Demand-Responsive Transport, it exists as a middle ground between private car ownership and Public Transport. Microtransit offers the same on-demand technology, but with fewer passengers onboard—allowing each one to take advantage of this cost-effective and more environmentally friendly mode of transport without being crammed into uncomfortable Public Transit.

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What is the future of urban mobility?

With the United Nations predicting that 68% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050, urban mobility as we know it will be in need of a drastic change. 

According to Forbes, much of the future of urban mobility is already underway in our cities, with options such as ridesharing and electric scooters existing within our road infrastructure. But they predict that commuters will be looking towards a more varied transit experience found in multimodal transport.

“The fact is that in today’s world, it’s no longer about the underlying physical vehicle. Instead, it’s primarily about overall access and availability, with people seeking a more efficient and integrated experience”­.

Multimodal transport allows travellers the opportunity to utilise a number of traditional transit modes, such as buses, trams, trains, ferries or cars, within a single trip, calculating the most optimal route for the commuter. MaaS also extends from this model, consolidating cabs, ridehailing services, buses, trains, and car or bike rentals to create a seamless transit experience all through the one App. 

With a number of potential pathways available, urban mobility is in for a significant overhaul in the years to come.

To get a jumpstart on the future of transport, check out Liftango’s Demand-Responsive Transport solutions.

About the Author

Cassie Holland

Cassie Holland


Cassie has forged a career out of her passion for the written word and love of hearing people's stories. She utilises her writing and editing skills to craft pieces that tell a story.