The future of mobility is currently a hot topic at Deloitte.
"One of six themes within our wider Smart Cities activity, mobility is getting increased global interest across our firm, and not just from our technologists,” said Colin Mounstephen, who leads Deloitte’s strategy and operations team in Belfast.
Deloitte publishes a City Mobility Index, a study of 18 cities around the world. The study reviews things like: public transportation, road systems, cycling, and more, to give a snapshot of urban mobility and a city’s readiness for change.
Colin explains that the future of mobility goes beyond just how people get around. “Technology, politics and social inclusion are all deeply impacted by mobility in cities.”
Innovation and a city’s economic prosperity are intrinsically linked to how well its residents can move around. Transportation is also deeply rooted in the culture of the place. Amongst the champions are London, Singapore and Helsinki – noted to have some of the world’s best mobility systems.
But Colin notes that every city has the opportunity to improve. “A city’s openness to ride-sharing, support for autonomous vehicles, collaborations between industry and academia, and the percentage of electric vehicles can all quickly improve its mobility.”
The City Mobility index might come closer to home this year. “I am hopeful that Belfast could be in the next wave of cities to be studied,” said Colin.
I asked, who is positioned to gain financially from improved mobility in a city?
Colin said, “Both private and public organisations can be winners. Often the gut of a journey will be over mass transit, but the first and last mile might entail some form of private transportation.”
As any mobility expert agrees, the future is about multi-modal transport. You might cycle from your house to the city bike hub that’s closest to your work, and then jump on the bus for the last mile. Or, you might drive to a park-and-ride outside a city.
“We’ve found there are certainly opportunities for the private sector to fill in the gaps around main transport routes,” Colin told me. “But this doesn’t get the public sector off the hook, for example there needs to be a seamless multi-modal ticketing experience.”
Deloitte’s video, Ben’s Journey, describes a quite futuristic, multi-modal commute home. In the video Ben jumps into a car-sharing self-driving car, called a “Pod.” Meanwhile he gets his groceries and pays for everything without taking his phone out of his pocket.
It looks way more fun than sitting behind the wheel in a traffic jam on the Westlink.
Can you describe any local projects you’re working on?
“Deloitte has many clients in the field of mobility. We worked with Transport for London advising on ways to raise new revenue to help fund its massive infrastructure investment programme, and closer to home helping transportation companies with their data analytics to better make decisions for their customers and business,” Colin said.
“We also conducted our own research project internally. As one of Belfast’s larger employers, we took a staff survey about how they commute to work,” he said. “We had 180 responses within one hour – so it definitely caught people’s attention.”
When all 340 responses came in, “it showed that almost one-third of employees drive to work, which feels high considering we’re in the city centre,” he said.
Colin concluded, “There’s potential to change Belfast – a modal shift, but it means changing attitudes and behaviours.”
He pointed to the Glider bus and increased cycling as evidence that the city is moving in the right direction.