We’re very excited to announce the launch of our Mobility Impact Series!
The words “sustainability” and “mobility” are often mentioned in the same breath. As an industry, mobility is defined by innovations that claim to be based on the common goal of creating a more sustainable and healthier future for our cities and our planet.
But these “green” future visions often leave watchers of the mobility space scratching their heads: what does the term sustainable mobility really mean, anyway?
At Trafi, we’ve been helping cities build and enhance their mobility systems for over 10 years. We’re often approached about the sustainable impact of shared mobility, which is why we’ve decided to delve deeper into the topic with our new Mobility Impact Series.
In upcoming articles, we’ll be discussing “car-topias”, pedestrian-friendly cities, travel patterns and a variety of other subjects. Stay tuned to our LinkedIn channel and check our blog regularly for updates.
Without further ado, read on to learn more the roots of car-centric societies – and why the mobility landscape today is in need of an update.
We’re suffering from an acute car problem
If anyone still has doubts about cars being a hurdle on the road to sustainable mobility, there are numerous shocking statistics in circulation that could change their mind, as seen below.
There are plenty more:
There are already 1.4 billion automobiles on the planet today, and forecasts suggest this number will climb to 2 billion in 2030.
Road accidents cause 1.3 million deaths and 50 million serious injuries per year – more than the entire population of Spain.
Road transport accounts for 11.9% of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more than the emissions caused by airplanes and buildings combined.
The world’s parking lots take up a total space of 161 billion square meters, which is equivalent to the size of Beijing.
These numbers aren’t new – scientists, activists and some industry players mention them frequently. However, sustainable mobility is rarely considered in its historical context. Seven decades ago, car manufacturers were selling the cutting-edge dream of a convenient, liberating and comfortable life, finally available to the middle classes for the reasonable price of one automobile; today, digital mobility innovators are disrupting old mobility habits with promises of greener, safer, friendlier cities.
In essence, the core of their sales strategies are very similar: new, exciting mobility solutions have the power to transform our lives for the better. A myriad of solutions on the market today are aimed at improving bits and pieces of the system, but rarely tackle the root of the issue itself. Which of these promises are truly constructive waypoints on the road to liveable cities, and which are just bells and whistles distracting from bigger issues at hand?
Small thinking, big changes
Back when the VW Lemon (recognizable as the VW Beetle today) hit the American market in 1960, the advertising campaign surrounding its launch caused an incredible stir. “Think small”, the campaign’s slogan, was revolutionary, changing advertising forever and helping the tiny and somewhat odd-looking VW Lemon cruise its way into the luxury car market in the US – and permanently changing the way people perceived cars in the process.
A tiny car that caused a huge change
Up until that point, cars were shiny, large, and loud; the compact, rounder Lemon offered a stark contrast to American muscle cars and appealed to an entirely new segment of car owners. It made simpler cars fashionable, democratizing cars and making them accessible to everyone.
Of course, advertising agencies aren’t the only ones responsible for societies and cities designed around cars. The entire urban planning system in the US encouraged car ownership and viewed automobiles as a convenient, modern transport solution. In the meantime, however, the American transit system was being rebuilt with the goal of linking suburbs to city centers, rather than linking suburbs with other suburbs or more rural areas.
Add cheap gasoline, large investments in highways and a whole range of car-friendly consumer services like drive-in cinemas and drive-through restaurants to the mix, and you end up with an obvious conclusion: cars were practically destined to become the ultimate symbols of a comfortable, modern, convenience-driven lifestyle. The rest, as they say, was history.
The American dream on wheels
Next stop: “Carification”
Between the end of WWII and 1955, the number of cars on US roads doubled from 25 million to over 50 million. The trend quickly shifted to Europe, where new industry needs and a changing economy led to skyrocketing mass production of individual vehicles. During the decade of 1950 to 1960, European car manufacturers launched some of their now-legendary models – Citroen’s 2CV stayed in production until 1990! – and the streets of the continent were quickly filled with motorized status symbols.
Transport demand is expected to grow all across the world in the coming decades as the global population increases, incomes rise, and more people can afford cars. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that global transport (measured in passenger kilometers) will double and car ownership rates will increase by 60%.
Even as everyone from impassioned teenagers to conservative politicians is demanding more sustainable solutions, further construction on the “car-topia” we’re living in continues unchecked. Hollow value propositions promote electrification and autonomous technology as the path to a better, sustainable future, without telling consumers and investors what that means in explicit terms.
Car density per 1000 Europeans over the years
We believe MaaS works – but we can’t change the industry alone
At Trafi, we believe in cities without privately owned cars. We have a different approach to mobility, and we think that genuinely effective and accessible mobility should be viewed as a service and a system that gets its strength from a diverse group of collaborators, leaders and city planners. The good news is that there are plenty of cities who have also pledged to work towards more cohesive and comprehensive mobility services for their citizens, and many have already implemented groundbreaking strategies – Berlin, Zurich, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris come to mind, but the market for Mobility-as-a-Service is growing in Latin America and Asia as well.
This vitally important shift to sustainable mobility – one based on concrete data rather than shiny new technology – simply can’t be achieved without the help of multiple mobility actors and particularly without the collaboration of the private and public mobility sectors. Governments, corporations, innovators and architects, and to a lesser degree consumers all have an important role to play. If we unite under the banner of protecting our planet, our cities and the people living in them, sustainable travel habits and a new way of thinking about mobility will become the norm.
Learn about how the Trafi MaaS Suite is enabling global sustainable solutions here .