Four ways smart mobility will make our world a better place

It was about five years ago that our team noticed clients asking the same question again and again: “How can we build less parking?”  The answer seemed obvious, though not necessarily easy: reduce the number of cars on the road.

This was at the beginning of a shift in how people got around. Ride-hailing services were starting to take off, and bike-share programs and electric scooters were popping up in cities.

Since then we’ve partnered with organizations across the world to explore how smart mobility solutions could help reduce the use of single-occupancy, gas-powered transportation on their streets.

As these programs evolve it’s becoming clearer how smart mobility will make our world a better place.

  1. Reshaped cityscapes.

Imagine a community with far fewer parking lots or structures. How could that space be used differently? Perhaps it might be redesigned for recreation and greened with grass and trees. Or it might be reclaimed as residential space—a priority for cities around the world face rising costs and affordable housing shortages.

As transportation continues to evolve, our cities will look different and the ways we interact within those cities will change, too. If you look at some of the more densely populated city centers around the world—London, New York, Shanghai—you can begin to understand what happens when you reduce parking. Fractured streetscapes become more pedestrian-friendly and abundant common spaces provide opportunities for community and connection.

Smart mobility was one of many aspects considered as part of a recent Stantec city center master plan in Alabama.
  1. More inclusive communities.

The best approach to transportation challenges is a holistic one. Communities can achieve the greatest gains by considering the entire range of smart mobility options. Getting the mix right will mean helping everyone move about in the way that’s right for them.

This means implementing solutions that are accessible, autonomous, connected, electric, and shared. At Stantec, a we call this A2CES.

A big part of this is helping to promote universal design, assistive technology, equal access to mobility, and accessibility for people with physical and cognitive challenges, who might be able to work but are unable to drive.

Reducing parking needs can create opportunities for new green spaces, housing, or other community amenities.
  1. Safer, more pleasant journeys.

Research shows most automobile accidents are caused by human error. So, it stands to reason that having people take fewer car journeys—and removing the driver from the equation when possible—would reduce the risks to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, as well as freeing up time to do other things.

Programs evaluating these technologies are on the rise. Test beds such as Active-Aurora in Edmonton implement safety technology in on-road pilots to make sure connected, autonomous vehicles achieve their safety potential. And the City of Montreal recently deployed a low-speed autonomous shuttle pilot between the Olympic Stadium and Marché Maisonneuve, a collaborative effort from Transdev, EasyMile and Stantec.

Stantec engineers provided Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) work on a project to help Montreal launch its first electric AV shuttle.
  1. Preservation of the planet.

Connected, autonomous cars can take more direct routes and often run more efficiently than their traditional counterparts. Coupled with significant shifts in how we travel—particularly through the increased use of active transit, such as walking or cycling, and the implementation of electric and shared vehicles—will also reduce congestion and emissions.

Progress is being made in Dubai, for example, where they have announced a goal for 25% of all transportation trips to be smart and driverless by 2030. In Hawaii, Stantec recently created an A2CES framework with strategies that include an automated, carbon-free corridor and electrification to support a goal to achieve 100% renewable energy for transportation by 2040.

A Brave New World Awaits

Though the particulars of smart mobility are still coming together, and the reality will look different from place to place, it’s clear that the shift will change just about everything.

Communities are incubators for change, and smart mobility won’t just change the way we travel—it will change the way we live.

Rod Schebesch
 has spent his 27-year career delivering urban arterials, highways, freeways, interchanges, and light rail projects. He leads Stantec’s international Smart Mobility Program to facilitate the rapidly changing world of transportation.

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