José Viegas, Secretary-General of the International Transport Forum (ITF), ventilated his frustration atthe recent World Mobility Leadership Forum held in Detroit, USA, on 28-29 September: the most negative impacts of current urban mobility patterns stem from the extraordinarily inefficient use of the private car. While a car is one of the most capital-intensive investments households make, on average it is used 50 minutes out of 24 hours and carries 1.2 to 1.6 passengers. How can transport capacity be allocated more efficiently to reduce negative impacts without limiting the mobility of city dwellers?

Based on real mobility data from Lisbon, Portugal, ITF modellers replaced all scheduled buses and private cars in that city with shared taxis and on-demand 8- and 16-seater minibuses. The shared taxis offer door-to-door service and the minibuses a streetcorner-to-streetcorner service (max. 400m walk, no transfer needed, seating guaranteed). They are complemented by the existing high-capacity metro/subway.

 The simulation shows a dramatic improvement in urban mobility, but also the liveability of a city:

–  Only 3% of today’s number of vehicles needed to provide the same trips.

–  95% of current parking space parking no longer required and available for different uses.

–  Congestion disappears, with 23% to 37% fewer vehicle miles travelled.

–  Traffic CO2 emissions fall by 34%, without any new technology.

 There would also be knock-on effects:

–  Further reduction of vehicle miles travelled should be expected as walking and cycling conditions improve dramatically.

–  A further reduction of CO2 emissions as clean technologies are more quickly adopted due to quicker replacement of intensively used vehicles.

–  Much better and more equal access to jobs, health services and educational institutions.

 “The challenge will be to manage the transition. One way could be to limit the access of private cars to a city centre to two days per week. This would already lead to a palpable improvement, with 15% less congestion and CO2 emissions.” said Viegas.

 To further test the model, the ITF is preparing similar simulations for five more cities, among them Auckland (New Zealand), Dublin (Ireland) and Helsinki (Finland). Two more cities will be announced soon. Brussels anyone?

(photo: HYPE taxi at Paris refuelling station)