What “new mobilities” are good for your community?
This is an excerpt from âNew Mobilitiesâ by Todd Litman. Copyright 2021 Todd Litman. Reproduced with permission from Island Press, Washington, DC
Which new mobilities are good and which are bad for your community? Under what circumstances should they be mandated, encouraged, regulated, restricted or prohibited? These are complicated questions. New transport technologies and services can have many effects on users and communities. Therefore, we need a comprehensive analytical framework that takes into account various impacts and perspectives.
For example, some modes may seem beneficial for affluent travelers but undesirable for low-income travelers, especially if they replace more affordable modes or impose external costs, such as congestion, danger or pollution, on members. from the community. Decision-makers should take all of these impacts and perspectives into account when evaluating a transport policy or program.
Towards a more comprehensive assessment
Transportation planning decisions can have many impacts, including some benefits and costs that are generally overlooked or underestimated in conventional analysis. Conventional transportation valuation methods have been developed to answer relatively straightforward questions, such as whether the costs of a highway improvement will be reimbursed through savings in travel time and operating costs of vehicles. vehicles. This is sufficient for some decisions but unsuitable for comparing different modes or new technologies with different impacts. When people consider a new transportation option, they want the comfort, the types of trips and travelers it can serve, its direct and indirect costs, safety and security, its impact on non-users, that it supports or comes into conflict with the strategic objectives of a community and its risk of contagion.
For example, although every vehicle trip ends at a parking spot, until recently the parking costs, and therefore the parking cost savings of non-automobile modes, were overlooked in most evaluations. of transport projects. Likewise, conventional analysis assumes that everyone (at least, everyone that matters) has an automobile that would simply go unused if travelers switch to modes that do not require parking. In recent years, some professional organizations and government agencies have developed a more comprehensive analytical framework that takes into account additional impacts, and are therefore more suited to multimodal planning. For example, the UK’s Transport Analysis Guidance, the Australian Transport Assessment and Planning Guidelines, the New Zealand’s Economic Evaluation Manual, the European Union’s Guide to Cost-Benefit Analysis of Investment Projects and my Transportation report. Cost and Benefit Analysis provide detailed information on the costs and benefits of various modes of travel, as well as practical tips for using this information for multimodal analysis.
Some new mobilities are promoted with glamorous images of happy passengers traveling in sleek, fast and clean vehicles, but the reality can be very different.
A little skepticism is in order when evaluating new technologies and services. Some new mobilities are promoted with glamorous images of happy passengers traveling in sleek, fast and clean vehicles, but the reality can be very different. In practice, self-driving taxis, road tunnels, pneumatic tube transport and supersonic jets will often be less comfortable than common alternatives, and their door-to-door travel time savings modest. For example, passengers in an autonomous taxi may find garbage, stains and odors left behind by previous occupants; tunnel roads lack views and fresh air; pneumatic tube travel is likely to cause nausea for many people; and because of its high costs, supersonic jet travel will only pay off for travelers who value travel time savings in the thousands of dollars per hour. As a result, their user benefits, and therefore their footfall and future income, are likely to be lower, perhaps much lower, than optimists predict.
Some impacts are important but difficult to measure. For example, social equity is an important community goal, but there are many ways to define and measure it. It is usually best to identify specific equity goals, such as improving universal design (transportation facilities and services that accommodate needs – for example, facilities and vehicles with features to accommodate wheelchairs and hand carts, and signage adapted to people who cannot read), increasing affordability, improving mobility options for disadvantaged groups and reducing external costs (travel, risk, noise, air pollution) imposed disadvantaged groups. This analysis must take into account the indirect, cumulative and long-term impacts.
The impacts are usually compared to what would otherwise happen (what economists call ceteris paribus). What we assume to be the alternative may affect the results of the scan. For example, carsharing and carpooling tend to reduce the total number of vehicle trips if they help households reduce their number of vehicles, but can increase the total number of vehicle trips if they replace walking, cycling and public transport. The analysis of the benefits of electric vehicles depends on what type of vehicle we assume these motorists would otherwise use, and whether we consider the vehicle-induced trips that tend to result from their low operating costs.
Too often, transport policy and planning decisions are evaluated on the basis of incomplete and biased analyzes. For example, over the past half century, transportation funding has been allocated primarily on the basis of how spending can increase traffic speed and reduce congestion, ignoring other impacts and goals. This tended to encourage the expansion of highways and undervalue other modes and solutions for transportation demand management (TDM). Likewise, environmental studies, such as Project Drawdown, assess transport policies based solely on their impacts on reducing climate emissions. This type of evaluation tends to favor incentives for alternative fuel vehicles while underestimating vehicle trip reduction strategies that offer a wider range of benefits.
Described differently, a more comprehensive analysis identifies âwin-winâ transport solutions, that is, congestion reduction strategies that also contribute to reducing emissions, improving public health and improving public health. achieve social equity goals, called co-benefits. Road expansions can improve passenger comfort in automobiles and reduce congestion, at least for a few years until the induced trips fill the additional road capacity. More efficient and alternative fuel vehicles help save energy and reduce pollutant emissions but offer few other benefits, and by reducing the cost of driving, they tend to induce additional vehicle trips which make driving more difficult. ‘other transport problems. However, improving resource-efficient modes and implementing SLM incentives that reduce the total number of vehicle trips tend to help achieve a wide range of community goals.