Mobility is the lifeblood of our cities

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

by: Sacha Oerlemans

Mobility is the lifeblood of our cities and essential for urban life. Mobility is what keeps our urban centres functioning. Yet, our desire for mobility has consequences. Cities can be noisy, congested, and prone to smog. No one can escape airborne pollution. And far too many urban residents spend hours stuck in traffic.

Mobility is a critical economic factor, both in its own right and as the means of providing the goods and services that are the foundation of economic life.

Mobility matters to people, whether this is getting to work or school with ease, visiting friends and relatives, or simply exploring one’s surroundings.

In relatively few places, however, does the reality of what is available match the public’s aspirations for safe, clean, reliable, and affordable ways to get from A to B—and back again.

Accelerated local uptake is globally relevant

Adding together the figures cited at the end of each future state description (described in more detail in following blogs) results in a total of approximately 50 metropolitan areas that could be early contenders to “make the leap” to one of the three future states we have described . They represent nearly 500 million people based on today’s population.

50 metropolitan areas have the highest potential to accelerate

What, then, will be the three future states of urban mobility? The 'An integrated perspective on the future of mobility' seeks to answer that question. To do so, it explores how a number of existing social, economic, and technological trends will work together to disrupt mobility at the local level.

Costs and benefits

The individual traveler is at the heart of this evolution, so consumers will need to be open to adopting new technologies and services.


Today, a small number of cities, such as Amsterdam, Singapore, and Stockholm, are singled out as having effective mobility. With varying degrees of emphasis, they have efficient public transit, encourage cycling and walking, and have managed to limit congestion and pollution. By 2030, we expect a number of additional systems to be at the leading edge of the next phase of advanced mobility.

In broad terms, the best will combine shared mobility, autonomy, and electrification with integrated energy systems, public transport, and infrastructure. In specific terms, cities will navigate these possibilities differently. Local conditions—such as population density, wealth, the state of road and public-transit infrastructure, pollution and congestion levels, and local governance capabilities—will determine what changes occur, and how quickly.

For the near future in cities leading the advance, we envision three mobility trajectories, with trends such as sharing, autonomous driving, and electrification all moving forward at a different pace. Each is suited to a specific type of metropolitan area, whether it be a dense developed city, a suburban sprawl, or an emerging metropolis.

The three mobility trajectories are:

  • Clean and Shared
  • Private Autonomy
  • Seamless Mobility

Each to be covered in more detail in the following blogs. Knowing that the societal benefits are highest in the trajectory 'Seamless Mobilty'.

Societal benefits highest in seamless mobility

From 'An integrated perspective on the future of mobility' by McKinsey & Company and Bloomberg New Energy Finance - October 2016