According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “the urban population in 2014 accounted for 54% of the total global population, up from 34% in 1960, and continues to grow.” This means that people are, for the foreseeable future, continuing to migrate into cities, adding pressure to housing, services and infrastructure like roads and transit. For a more visual representation, UNICEF has published a site that offers the prediction that by 2030, places like the U.S., Mexico, Canada, the U.K. and Spain will all have populations with over 80% in urban centres. Nations such as France, Brazil and Australia will be over 90% urban!
Cities, more than any other entity, are at the forefront of coping with these massive, growing pressures. Many exemplars of urban adaptation are making their successes known, however. Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is leading the way with an effort known as Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS). As explained: “MaaS integrates multi-modal transport services, including buses, taxis, rail and metro, offering compelling on-demand services, resulting in transportation modal shifts.” Execution of the concept has immediate effects. Up to 2.3 billion car rides in urban centres are expected to be replaced by MaaS usage each year by 2023, a mere four years away.
Given that cities around the world are keen on becoming “smart”, and given that a rich selection of mobility options in urban centres is critical to that goal, it comes as no surprise that many have already mapped out what steps are required to support the change. In short, there are three broad elements to account for: infrastructure, data and incentives.