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Mobility in 2030 – how will the cities of the future change?

Traffic in the world’s cities could undergo radical change in the next ten years. Some experts believe that we will see travel behavior shifting as early as 2030 – with cars potentially no longer being the most important element in the urban mobility mix.

Using our spaces and resources to make towns and cities more agreeable places to live in is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. There is no doubt that during the coming decades, many of the world’s major cities are going to get crowded. Today more than half of the global human population lives in towns and cities, and the United Nations estimates that by 2050 this will rise to seven billion out of a total of ten billion. New urban conurbations of unprecedented size will arise. Currently there are more than 30 megacities with over ten million inhabitants, and more will soon pass this threshold. Yet times are changing: policy-makers and city planners are searching for new mobility concepts that should be greener and more sustainable. But what will conditions be like for the inhabitants, and what kind of mobility prospects will they have? The Kantar market research institute spent two years investigating the mobility behavior of inhabitants in 31 cities around the world and speaking with a range of experts. The results of the study “Mobility Futures” are surprising: there could be a shift in mobility in many urban centers by 2030. But what factors will determine the urban traffic of tomorrow?

Mobility transformation in 2030?

At present, cars are still the most popular mode of transport in urban areas, with statistics showing that they are used for 51 per cent of all journeys. Yet private car trips could gradually decline over the next ten years. Commuters in particular, who travel alone and thus account for 39 per cent of all car journeys, increasingly wish to walk, cycle or take a ride with someone else. In the future, people will make more use in particular of car-sharing schemes and therefore undertake fewer journeys in their own cars. Overall, 37 per cent of the motorists surveyed indicated a willingness to switch to other forms of transport. The consequence is that an initial mobility transformation could occur in 2030. Studies indicate that local public transport, bicycles and walking will then become more popular with city-dwellers, and their combined total will rise from today’s 45 per cent to 49 per cent, while cars will be used for only 46 per cent of all journeys.

 
How local public transport and car traffic are changing in major cities – Source: Kantar’s “Mobility Futures” study

A quantum jump for bicycles

People are increasingly combining different modes of transport. The growth of cycle paths and mobility-sharing schemes, pedestrian projects, new multimodal mobility apps and long-term investment in public transport all promote this trend. The remaining five per cent of trips will be made up by taxis, ride sharing/hailing and other means of transport such as ferries. Local public transport will expand by five per cent overall by 2030. Of its users, 43 per cent are willing to switch to alternatives. The great beneficiary here is the bicycle. According to forecasts, by 2030 conventional bicycles, cargo bikes and e-bikes will account for 18 per cent of the urban mobility mix. No other means of transport is enjoying that kind of growth.

 
Expected changes in city-dwellers’ preferences by 2030 – Source: Kantar’s “Mobility Futures” study

Rankings: where do the cities stand?

The Kantar study shows that cities such as Berlin, Auckland and Moscow are ready for future mobility that is more sustainable. They head the City Mobility Index that evaluates how easy it is for people to participate in urban life by using cost-effective and accessible options for efficient transportation. However, the study revealed that in Berlin, for example, a marked gap exists between the city administrators’ readiness to change and citizens’ level of trust. The study also ranked the major cities’ environmental credentials on the Green Commuter Index. This showed that Asian cities lead on climate-friendly commuting – with Tokyo in first place, followed by Beijing and Singapore. This is driven by the low proportion of people using cars, motorbikes, scooters, taxis or ride sharing/hailing, and the high proportion of pedestrians, cyclists and users of local public transport. This is somewhat surprising given the daily smog photos from the Chinese capital. In Europe, London is regarded as the most environmentally-friendly commuter city owing to its extensive urban rail and subway network. The Crossrail project now under construction is also Europe’s largest current infrastructure project.

„Cities are all different, which is why it is imperative to put the human at the center of the research to better understand and predict future mobility behavior, and identify future opportunities.“

Guillaume Saint, Global Automotive and Mobility Lead at Kantar

The study forecasts that up to 36.7 million inhabitants in the 31 cities investigated will alter their mobility behavior during the next ten years. The authors emphasize three trends in particular that will have a major influence on this process: “Mobility as a Service” (MaaS), mobility hubs and self-driving delivery vehicles functioning as mobile parcel stations to reduce unsuccessful delivery trips. According to Kantar’s investigations, the cities that are most open and best-prepared for new technologies are Amsterdam, London and Los Angeles. The authors based their conclusions on various factors such as digital payment infrastructure, openness to sharing schemes, and autonomous vehicles.

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Kantar is one of the world’s leading companies in data, insights and consulting, and is represented in more than 100 countries.