Local Transport: Time is of the Essence

The use, provision and market for public and private transport is rapidly changing.

The advent of ride-sharing services, the introduction of demand-responsive services and the emergence of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles signal important shifts in patterns of mobility between and within our cities and town. Opportunities for more efficient and agile service deliveries using big data are significant as accessibility options are constantly increasing. New transport options can unlock areas of economic and social activity.

In Australia, delivering transport now and planning for the future has typically been led by State Governments, each one providing the infrastructure to connect commuters with key centres of economic and social activity.

Dr Natalie Pelham, Executive Director of Innovation, Research and Reform at Transport for NSW and Kerryn Wilmot, Principal Researcher of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS, spoke at the recent Cities Leadership Institute Boardroom Lunch and said there is a clear shift occurring that is influencing transport options, leadership and the operating environment.

In this changing transport paradigm, the primary factor determining an individual’s choice of transport mode is time; the mode that will move them from point A to point B in the least amount of time. This means ensuring public transport is the fastest mode of transport to ease road congestion. It also means that public transport must consistently deliver speed, so road users do not experience fluctuations in journey time.

Leveraging and aggregating local and state transit data onto a user friendly accessible platform creates the unique opportunity to inform commuters of the varying speeds of transport options in real time. This information integrated with a single payment system resets transport from a transactional system to an approach where mobility is a service (MAAS).

Both Dr Natalie Pelham and Kerryn Wilmot believe that local government has a critical leadership role in this new mobility paradigm. They argued that local government is part of the solution to facilitate speed particularly at the ‘first mile-last mile’ section of the journey. This may be simply by providing walkable safe paths to commuter hubs, connecting cycleways or an on-demand ride share service. By thinking about mobility “door to door” and supporting connectivity to multi modal options, local government can facilitate journey speed and ease local road congestion.

Local government also has the capacity to ease congestion by changing commuter demand and direction and create, facilitate and drive local jobs. All too often the commuter pattern is home to work in the central business district. By creating thriving local service – social centres the demand on the single transport line becomes a distributed demand network where all commuters can travel with speed.

How local government moves forward is critical. Technology can provide some of the answers as can a shift from a focus on transport to one of mobility. Where the local traffic committee is transformed to become the mobility committee. Where the local traffic management plan is replaced by an integrated mobility roadmap and where Council forms partnerships to collect and data to pilot new forms of services.

When it comes to transport, time is of the essence and the time is now for local government to make a move in the right direction.

The future of transport and local communities was the topic discussed at the Cities Leadership Institute Urban Leaders Boardroom Lunch in June 2018.

Esther Gachuhi Program Coordinator at Cities Leadership Institute

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