Global urban transport networks are close to breaking point in megacities, and many new mobility modes designed to fix fundamental issues and improve quality of life are creating new problems, according to a new report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
The report, titled ‘Solving the Mobility Challenges in Megacities’, reveals that as long as mobility-related issues such as traffic congestion and air pollution persist, urban mobility will continue to deteriorate. Crucially, this applies to many cities around the world — and Riyadh is among those implicated.
At present, the population of Riyadh is approximately 4.9 million, which equates to around one million cars on the roads daily. The city presently struggles with congestion and is ranked amongst the most polluted cities in the world. These factors, together with the high reliance on cars and a market projected to grow faster than the rest of the world, underscore the need for mobility challenge solutions.
Among the key drivers for Riyadh’s expected market expansion are seven million potential new women drivers by 2025, the 35 percent of inhabitants currently under the age of 18 who will obtain drivers’ licenses in the near future, and an estimated population of more than eight million people by 2030.
“Urbanization is growing exponentially. While traditional modes of transport — metros, trams, and buses — can be further enhanced, new mobility ecosystem solutions present a viable avenue to sustainability,” said Giovanni Moscatelli, managing director and partner, BCG Middle East. “E-scooters, ride-hailing, and other emerging mobility modes such as AVs, robo-shuttles, and MaaS can be essential components in the urban transport system of the future, gradually replacing automobiles.”
BCG has found that creating an effective, integrated urban mobility system starts with understanding customers’ expectations. Residents want mobility solutions that enable them to be productive and multitask during their journeys.
Furthermore, they want environmentally sustainable solutions and the independence to travel when they want without rigid schedules. As such, Riyadh stands to benefit from mobility system improvements.
“System-level change is essential. Addressing urban mobility requires an understanding of what consumers truly want from their transportation system, and public and private operators in the fragmented mobility ecosystem working together effectively. Therefore, cities need an orchestrator to bring order to the transportation chaos.” said Ingmar Schaefer, project leader, BCG Middle East.
The key to solving the urban challenge is a transport network ecosystem with an orchestrator at its center. Orchestrators can impose order by making decisions regarding the roles of every player, establishing rules, identifying an optimal mix of different mobility modes, creating an overarching vision, and setting target KPIs such as travel times, emissions, and safety levels.
An orchestrator could take the form of a public-private partnership or a municipality department that contracts out orchestrator services to the private sector.
In any case, orchestrators will own or direct two key elements of the urban transport system. The first is an integrated mobility management system that consolidates data from the city’s transport infrastructure and all public and private travel modes.
The second is a digital customer interface that combines all transport options, including vehicle fleets, trains, and buses. Control over these elements will enable the orchestrator to optimize the city’s transport system, help meet consumers’ mobility requirements, and make transformative system-level transport network changes to cross-modal bundling, seamless connectivity, enhanced traffic management, and cross-modal optimization.