Future Mobility These 3 things threaten mobility systems
As the world reels from the coronavirus epidemic, the way people move has been severely impacted. From essential travel to shared mobility and leisure trips, everything has been changed. It can all be summed up with three overarching themes: societal threats, economic threats, and climate threats.
No one could have predicted the ways a pandemic would affect how people interact and move in such a profound way. For mobility, it's a dynamic shift that dramatically realigns the core values in travel. Yet while the coronavirus pandemic has certainly exposed issues with mobility systems, the threats could very well have simply been accelerated into view.
Answers may not be available for these three threats, but it helps to understand where the needs for change in mobility solutions lie.
Almost unbelievably, society changed in a matter of a few weeks. The World Economic Forum details that nearly 90 percent of the world's population is impacted by international and domestic travel restrictions. People simply aren't able or willing to travel as they previously did. It's the same whether they own a vehicle or participate in alternative mobility options. Many mobility options like Lyft or Uber, not to mention public transit, have been extremely limited.
Still, a staggering number of people are required to move, including low-income grocery workers as much as the CEO attempting to restart their manufacturing business. Access to safe travel options has been limited to those with the money to do as they wish, while others who must rely on public or shared mobility are left behind.
A widening in the socio-economic gap is evident. Ensuring equitable access to mobility is crucial to keeping society moving as a single body rather than fragmented.
Beyond the simple movement of people, there has been a serious impact on the economy as it relates to mobility. Goods and services require movement; otherwise, industry shuts down. For example, Mexico's car assembly plants have already experienced disruptions in parts supplies. Uber has redirected their business model to deliver groceries, meals, and essential items rather than transporting people, but at a fraction of the business volume.
Demand for mobility options has fallen off a cliff, threatening businesses of all kinds. It's especially true for services that are centered around shared mobility – in the pandemic, safe practices don't allow room for sharing a ride or touching common surfaces. Employers are losing revenue and demand isn't there for employees to perform their duties.
Inevitably, companies will close permanently, and previously sought-after mobility disruptors will need to restructure to remain viable.
A factor that has been targeted for decades already is the effect mobility has on the environment. No question, aging vehicles contribute to smog, as well as reduced air and water quality. Several news sources including BBC have reported that the water in the Venice canals is cleaner, Delhi's skies are clearer, and wildlife is seeping into cityscapes—all within the past few months under lockdown.
Now that it's indisputable that reducing emissions can clean up the planet, the need for multimodality and clean mobility options can proceed in with scientific and anecdotal evidence. Encouraging non-motorized transportation and shared mobility will be key, although how they intertwine with societal threats will need to be explored.