Every city has its problems with traffic congestion – the lost productivity, stress and frustration and of course the associated environmental and noise pollution.
Now, progress in transportation technologies, changes in lifestyle and mobility patterns and growing environmental concerns are driving fresh thinking around more efficient and more sustainable ways of moving both people and goods around urban areas.
Smart mobility encompasses a set of initiatives relying on information and communication technologies (ICTs) and big data to reduce congestion and carbon emissions while improving the quality of travel services.
On city streets, it translates to a new breed of electric cars and autonomous vehicles along with on-demand ride-sharing and taxi services. What’s more, these innovations and the travel patterns of the people who use them, are evolving more rapidly than regulations and transportation infrastructure currently in place in many global cities.
These modern forms of transport have big implications for the use of space in cities.
"With people sharing more and owning less, we’ll see less demand for private car parking in urban areas. As the way people travel continues to change, public parking spaces and other underutilised assets will need to be repurposed to meet the demands of urban living."
Alex Edds, Innovation Director at JLL UK
Mobility hubs - where different travel modes converge in one place - are likely to become prevalent in areas with a high concentration of workplaces, housing, and shopping, education or recreational facilities. Domestic car parks and garages, many of which have already been re-purpose for domestic storage needs, could become useful and potentially revenue generating assets for car-club vehicle storage, EV charging locations, communal storage or potentially even indoor farming.
That’s not to say that all existing infrastructure will become redundant in a new age of smart mobility.
“Making better use of existing infrastructure has a big role to play in alleviating mobility issues within urban areas, especially as urban density continues to grow. This is where smart solutions come in. Collecting and analysing data on how infrastructure is currently used will help to better manage peak demands exceeding capacities and enable seamless user mobility experience.”
Smart parking solutions, for example, use technology and analytics to optimise parking availability, helping drivers to find parking space more easily and parking owners to make it profitable.
Real estate developers will also need to pay close attention to the fast-evolving field of smart mobility, says Edds.
Firstly, buildings and their immediate environment will need to planned and constructed with smart mobility in mind to avoid costly physical adaptations in the coming years. This could involve safe spaces to pick up and drop off passengers away from the flow of traffic and on-site charging stations for electric vehicles.
“There is growing pressure on employers, forecourt owners, retailers and councils to cater to the new wave of electric vehicle drivers, and that’s only going to intensify as major car manufacturers launch more affordable and technologically-advanced models.”
Peter Sermon, Director – Energy and Infrastructure Advisory at JLL.
Secondly, the location and connections offered by multi-modal mobility stations will impact the value of a commercial, residential or industrial asset by making the travel experience more productive and attractive for the end-user. Therefore, property developers might look differently at location decisions for shopping centres or residential and office buildings.
Traditional real estate players could also find themselves in new partnerships with tech companies to maximise the value of their assets through the development and maintenance of the surrounding areas. Embedded technologies in transportation infrastructure such as traffic lights, roads and bridges, generate swathes of data used for traffic management and surface or structural maintenance.
Furthermore, public transport infrastructure, traditionally run by local authorities, could increasingly be provided by private sector companies offering car-sharing, scooter sharing, or bike sharing services. New partnerships could be set up to provide these in a way that best meets the needs of people living in urban areas today, for example between transport providers and local authorities to provide on-demand travel for residents of public housing. Companies could equally set up schemes with private transport companies to facilitate their employees’ commutes.
“Companies are placing more value on the availability and accessibility of transport to give their employees a better-quality commute – a big plus point when it comes to attracting and retaining a skilled workforce”
While some smart mobility solutions may take years to fully implement, the shift towards a more user-centred travel experience is already taking place. And as technology continues to develop, what’s new now will fast become the norm.