Smart Transport

Net zero transport must be designed for the many, not the few

Rebecca Fuller

Author: Rebecca Fuller, assistant director at the Urban Transport Group (UTG)

Developing future mobility options that can attract new users and deliver a seamless travel experience – from e-bikes to Mobility as a Service (MaaS) – will be critical to decarbonising transport.

However, these options will never fulfil their true potential without being available, accessible, affordable and acceptable to as many different people as possible.  

These ‘Four As’ form the basis of our new report with Arup – Equitable Future Mobility: Ensuring a just transition to net zero transport.

In it, we use the lens of the Four A’s to consider the human dimensions of future mobility, exploring who is this service available to, where and when? Who can access it, what do they need to be able to do so? Who can afford it?

And finally, who would feel comfortable, safe and welcome to use the service? In each case, we need to understand who is included, but also who is left out and how any barriers they face can be overcome. 

Take an e-bike share scheme as an example – under ‘available’ we might ask where hire stations are located and who can reach them.

We know that too often these are concentrated in higher income neighbourhoods. What sort of journeys do the location of those pick up and drop off points facilitate? A simple commute from A to B or a more complex trip chain?  

Under ‘accessible’, we may look at whether the e-bike share fleet includes a variety of models and equipment – for example, cargo bikes, child seats and bikes adapted for different disabilities.

We could also consider whether it’s easy to understand how to use the service and whether a smart phone is required to access it.  

Moving onto ‘affordable’ we could assess the level of any membership fee for the e-bike share scheme and the hourly rate. Are some people priced out? Is a bank account needed to hire a bike?

Under ‘acceptability’ we could ask whether the marketing of the service reflects diversity and avoids stereotypes or whether the surrounding infrastructure makes for a safe and attractive cycling experience.

Do the e-bikes themselves offer comfort and safety for a range of ages, abilities and body shapes? 

Our report contains a list of prompts for each of the Four As to help assess the inclusivity of transport interventions.

Answering these questions requires an intersectional approach, considering a wide range of characteristics (e.g. income, disability, age, gender, location, skills) and how they might impact on each other to affect a person’s ability and desire to use a particular transport service.

The only way to understand these factors is to reach out to people with that lived experience and to ensure that we ask them, involve them, employ them as part of a diverse workforce and represent them in the data we collect.

And whilst we are beginning to see examples of how technology and new mobility services can be enhanced through consideration of the Four As, we cannot take it for granted that equitable outcomes will evolve naturally – in a rapidly evolving private market of new mobility services, there is always a danger that the bottom line will ultimately take precedence over a desire to serve the full diversity of people, places and journeys in our communities.

This is where locally accountable transport authorities have a vital role to play in ensuring that wider goals for people and place are protected and that a just transition to net zero is achieved.

To assist in this task, our report includes a checklist for equitable new mobility, outlining actions that can be taken to foster inclusivity and fairness in our future low carbon transport system.

To deliver net zero, the greenest transport options need to be available, accessible, affordable and acceptable to as many people as possible – not just the privileged few.

We hope our report will act as catalyst for collaboration between transport authorities, operators and users to deliver a swift but also a just transition.

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