New transport technologies must promote equity and inclusion to deliver just transition to net zero, says report

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Embracing new technologies will play a key role in decarbonising transport and help towns and cities to achieve net zero emissions – but steps must also be taken to ensure that the way new technologies are applied does not marginalise some groups or reinforce existing inequalities.

That’s the key message of a new report co-authored by the Urban Transport Group and Arup. 

The report - Equitable Future Mobility: Ensuring a just transition to net zero transport –considers measures to improve the availability, accessibility, affordability and acceptability of mobility services, collectively known as the Four A's (see Notes to editors). 

It highlights both UK and international case studies of where transport authorities and operators are striving to meet the Four A’s. These include: 

  • mobile apps which enable disabled train passengers to book assistance on their journeys via their phones;  
  • the placement of new mobility services such as e-scooter docks in areas underserved by existing transport; 
  • responsive transport services allowing for safer travel for women at night; and
  • drivers being paid ‘mobility credits’ to use on car-sharing, public transport and electric vehicle hire schemes as an incentive to scrap their personal vehicles.

It also provides a framework for better decision making in the delivery of future mobility, aimed at helping transport authorities, operators and stakeholders to consider aspects of social inclusion whilst also addressing wider environmental and economic policy goals (see Notes to editors).

Laura Shoaf, Chair of the Urban Transport Group, and Chief Executive at West Midlands Combined Authority, said:

“From e-scooters to payment apps, new technologies and business models are revolutionising the way we travel. But we need to ensure that the benefits that flow from new technologies are harnessed in a way that meets the diverse nature of the people and places we serve - for example, not excluding those without smart phones or pricing out those on low incomes from certain transport options.

“This report is intended to get the transport sector thinking about how we go beyond a focus on the default male commuter when we are thinking about the role and benefits of new technologies to consider multiple aspects of people’s identity (such as gender, race, income and geography) which will ultimately benefit all users.”  

Natalie Gravett, Transport Planner/Modeller at Arup, said:

“It is crucial that we quickly introduce new technology and services to decarbonise transport. However, this urgency cannot distract from a just transition. Equally as important is creating a universal transport system that improves experience, attracts new passengers, extends accessibility, and delivers wider benefits for all the communities it serves.

“Everyone should have the ability to choose low-carbon modes and access the full range of opportunities, but there are still many groups marginalised by our transport systems. Our report sets out recommendations for embedding fairness in decision making throughout the design and delivery of transport services.”

 

The report states: “Harnessing the opportunities presented by technology and emerging modes of mobility can improve the convenience, speed, and level of service with which people can plan, book, pay for, and undertake trips. However, if the design and governance of future mobility is left to a narrow group of technology enthusiasts, there is a risk that services will be designed for some user groups and marginalise others.”

Future mobility is considered as new modes of transport, but also new business models and supporting technology that enhance existing modes, improve the user experience and better connect people and places.

 

Notes to editors

Download the report

 

The Four A’s 

The report uses the Four A’s Assessment Framework as a lens to explore various national and international case studies for introducing future mobility. The framework helps ensure transport is:  

  • Available: Socially inclusive mobility should be within easy reach of where people live and enable them to access the places they want to go, at times and frequencies that correspond to patterns of family, social and working life. Services should take account of differing levels of digital literacy and access to devices. People also need to be aware that these services are available for them to use. 
  • Accessible: As far it is safe and possible to do so, everyone regardless of ability, age or dexterity (for example), is able to use and understand the service, vehicles or infrastructure without unreasonable difficulty. 
  • Affordable: People should not be ‘priced out’ of using services and see their mobility restricted as a result. It should also be easy for people to find and access a range of transport options that meet their needs and offer the best value. 
  • Acceptable: People should feel that transport services and infrastructure are equipped to meet their needs as well as welcoming, safe and convenient. It should be designed to make for an attractive user experience. 

A Checklist for Equitable Future Mobility 

This checklist can be used to assess the role of future mobility in creating a more equitable travel experience and informing discussions about future policy, infrastructure and services. It is hoped that this checklist will enable authorities to set clear aspirations and work together with future mobility providers to facilitate the shift towards low-carbon transport options, whilst reducing inequality. 

  • Fair Governance and Funding - Delivering fair and inclusive transport services must start at the top. Transport authorities should set out a strategy and policy direction for equitable mobility to establish the ground rules for future mobility services and operators. 
  • Collaborative Ways of Working - Seeking the views of a more diverse range of users can bring new innovative ideas and allow informed and improved decision making to ensure transport works for everyone. Designing for marginalised groups and those that face multiple levels of social exclusion will benefit all users. 
  • Inclusive Infrastructure - Decisions around infrastructure investment must influence positive changes to transport choices and create inclusive and liveable environments. Re-allocating road space can deliver priority for public transport and active mobility that enables faster, more attractive journeys and improves reliability. 
  • Representative Data - To transition to a low-carbon equitable transport system, a wide range of data across all user groups is required to inform decision making. When developing data collection strategies, care must be taken to avoid any unintended biases. 
  • Open to All - By making each part of the transport system inclusive (e.g. journey planning, wayfinding, ticketing, access, egress), users can be more comfortable with their mobility choices and options.