Urban mobility challenges best tackled through “people first” approach, report says

Urban mobility is a key issue for smart city planners. How can we keep everyone moving and avoid traffic congestion?

Australian experts concluded recently that the answer lies in a new approach to urban transport that prioritises people rather than one particular mode of transport.

The Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) report warned that cars and trucks are “choking” cities and costing billions of dollars in traffic congestion.

It predicted that the cost of urban congestion in Australia’s major cities will increase four-fold in two decades, reaching A$53.3 billion (£25.2 billion) by 2031, unless there is a change of direction.

“The standard response to addressing urban mobility issues has been to increase road infrastructure. Unfortunately, this creates a vicious circle: more roads encourage urban ‘sprawl’, which increases the use of motorcars,” the report said. “Adding roads is not necessarily the solution for the urban mobility challenges of today.”

Identifying how new technology can help address these challenges, the report said:

“Promising developments are taking place in alternative fuels and new powertrains for vehicles; high-speed data transmission, digital sensors and data analytics. These developments may help to address traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, health and public safety concerns and social inequality, provided policy development is nimble enough to take advantage.”

“Australian cities are under pressure and we need to find a way of putting people first in urban transport and planning,” commented Australia’s Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb AC as the report was launched last week.

He highlighted the need for flexibility in planning approaches, to take advantage of new developments.

“New technology can be part of the solution but what we need is long-term, nimble policy development that incorporates the benefits of science and innovation as well as many other disciplines,” Professor Chubb said.

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