SE Vehicles

There's more to personal transportation than making cars (electric)

Apr 17, 2016

The gap between the car industry's 'transportation-as-a-product' business model and transportation-as-a-(community)service will narrow. Reduce footprint will be key. Here are some conclusions from 'City Of The Future - Technology & Mobility', which was issued last year by the Center For City Solutions & Applied Research. Much of what is stated is a confirmation of what I have been blogging.

When adjusted for population growth, VMT (vehicle miles traveled) is down 7.29 percent. We drive significantly less as a nation than we did 10 years ago, and that number is only likely to decline more. As more working adults choose to live in high-density and walkable areas where driving is not a necessity, and more modal options enter the transportation marketplace, single-occupancy vehicles will become less central to the American dream.

VMT pilot programs will successfully demonstrate the plausibility of paid road models. Given the insolvency of the nation’s Highway Trust Fund, policy makers are looking to alternate methods of paying for transportation infrastructure. VMT fees, also called mileage-based-user fees, are gaining traction as a plausible mechanism to replace the struggling gas tax.

Public-private-partnerships will become commonplace for mobility projects. Public-private partnerships constitute contractual arrangements between public agencies (federal, state or local) and private sector entities, with the overall objective of delivering a service or facility for the general public.... Because public dollars for transportation projects are declining, cities are turning to private and NGO partners for help with funding public works projects.

There will be more modal and transit options available to citizens. Many cities are embarking on building new transit options, with bus-rapid- transit (BRT), streetcar and bicycle-share systems gaining momentum and support.

Transportation access will be made seamless with the use of apps and the integration of fare payment systems. The way we access information about and use transit will change dramatically by 2020. There is a new demand for seamlessness in travel. For this reason, cities are starting to think regionally about transportation, and integrating their payment systems to allow riders to have one card that can be used to access all of a region’s varying transportation systems.

Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) will be mainstream modes of personal and freight transportation in cities of all sizes, all over the world, and their business models will expand to freight and other services.

By 2020 * fully autonomous cars should be available and wealthy consumers will have the ability to purchase these vehicles for their personal and everyday use. We will also see companies in the transportation and freight industries considering the opportunity to purchase these vehicles as part of service fleets.

Monetizing 'time saved'. Today, nearly all transportation infrastructure is paid for by some combination of federal, state and local government dollars. Transportation projects, therefore, are given broad leeway to include indirect, public goods such as ‘travel time saved’ as a benefit in their project justifications.

Cities will see a reduction in single occupancy vehicles, enabling cities to redevelop more densely, or to sprawl further. By now, it should be clear how many mobility trends will support and even accelerate the current declines in auto-ownership. This is not to say people won’t still own and drive cars – even in 2030 a majority of Americans will. However, even small reductions in single-occupancy vehicle use can have dramatic effects. In many U.S. cities more than 40 percent of all land is occupied by roads or parking.

Public transit will begin to go driverless. Although it is relatively easy to envision a small fleet of driverless cars that are always on call, mingling with traditional traffic, the potential of autonomous vehicle technology in cities will be transformative across all modes.

Public and private companies will coordinate to create more comprehensive mobility systems in cities. Transportation network companies and app-based mobility services have become very popular in recent years, and we can only assume that technology will continue to revolutionize the way we think about transportation. Cities should embrace new actors in the transportation marketplace and figure out context sensitive solutions to make them work with existing providers.

Much of the change in transportation preferences can be attributed to a behavioral evolution. Travelers no longer think of themselves as users of a network, and instead have adopted an app-oriented mindset. They want to be able to know instantly, with the touch of their fingers or otherwise very little action on their part, how to get from Point A to Point B.

Ralph Panhuyzen,

* 2020 is generally considered on the very optimistic side

PS (update April 23): Even Elon Musk thinks so...
It is hard to imagine Tesla owners sharing their costly, posh, full-size saloon cars with anyone else. What's even more of a problem, Teslas are too big and heavy to be considered flexible and maneuverable transport modes in modern day traffic, particularly in cities. Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk is working on a self-driving vehicle he says could replace buses and other public transport in order to reduce traffic in cities. “We have an idea for something which is not exactly a bus but would solve the density problem for inner city situations,” Musk said Thursday at a transport conference in Norway. “Autonomous vehicles are key,” he said of the project, declining to disclose more. “I don’t want to talk too much about it. I have to be careful what I say.”

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