Readiness for the future of mobility is a hot topic as global cities continue to expand, infrastructure reforms itself and new models of sustainable transport lend unique challenges and opportunities. The pressure is building, with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimating that close to 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. How leaders and organisations respond to this will dictate the way in which societies operate and industries thrive.
To get an impression of our world’s current state, Deloitte have created their own City Mobility Index. Using in-depth research, the study measures the current transportation landscapes and infrastructure of cities around the world, as well as their readiness for the evolution ahead. You can read the full index here.
The New Zealand-specific results were formally presented by Deloitte Australia Partner and transport specialist, Liesbet Spanjaard, last month in Wellington, where she discussed what needs to be done and the way in which leaders must prepare for disruptive change.
So where to start in improving Auckland, and in turn New Zealand’s mobility? Liesbet has some suggestions, saying ‘the first thing is to continue on the investment in the infrastructure to tackle pressure on the networks. One of the key measures around performance and resilience in the Index looked at is congestion, for example, and that often becomes an ongoing issue, so investing effectively in infrastructure is critical.’
Congestion isn’t anything new to those living in New Zealand’s cities, but making practical steps towards tackling issues such as this can be tricky and should be considered carefully. Liesbet says that ‘it can be valuable to prioritise discussions around transport pricing and the levers you have at your disposal to manage demand, such as congestion charges. This can help people make an informed decision about how they want to move and what they most want to utilise. Whether you want to go down that path is another question.’
'One of the key measures around performance and resilience in the Index is congestion, for example, and that often becomes an ongoing issue, so investing effectively in infrastructure is critical.'
In her presentation, Liesbet also talked about the concept of a ‘bus stigma’ that stops people from using public transport and using cars instead. Auckland certainly sees some of this, with 83% of people in the City Mobility Index’s Auckland study using cars to make journeys. In contrast, just 8% use public transport. Compare that to Stockholm’s results, where 47% surveyed relied on buses and trains to travel.
To deal with this, Liesbet emphasised the importance of improving the system to break down that larger cultural stigma, stating, ‘if you need to be at a meeting, catch a plane or get home to pick up your children, the public transport needs to be reliable. That’s the most important thing that governments can do, by setting the right KPIs around designing a service that will meet the needs of the users. Then, once you move away from those concerns, I think the bus stigma starts to go down.’
Of course, transport only works so well as the infrastructure which it operates in, and when it comes to transforming city infrastructure, there’s plenty of pressure on those at the top. Not only that, but as Liesbet points out, the level of constant innovation and disruptive newcomers in the world of transport lends new challenges. She says that ‘what's really important is that leadership is prepared for the rapid pace of change with infrastructure plans and strategies.’ Instead of longer-term plans, leaders must adopt an agile approach to constantly adapt their future plans, all whilst working with clear goals in mind.
'What's really important is that leadership is prepared for the rapid pace of change with infrastructure plans and strategies.'
The City Mobility index brings together key metrics, but it also provides insight into the diversity of the cities surveyed. As Liesbet points out, all cities have evolved differently. Some cities may be better suited to ‘active transport’ in the form of bicycles, whilst other rely far more heavily on motorised vehicles, making shared eco-friendly goals near impossible to achieve. Instead, each city and country must set their own path, their own goals, harness their unique strengths in geography and culture, and build on their weak spots.
On her visit, Liesbet spoke about New Zealand’s unique strengths, saying, ‘New Zealand really stands out with its regulatory framework and the fact that it's not as prescriptive as other environments. That has helped drive opportunity for innovation here and has attracted a lot of interested parties in terms of their ability to test some of the new technologies.’
'New Zealand really stands out with its regulatory framework and the fact that it's not as prescriptive as other environments.'
The country’s size is beneficial too, with Liesbet praising the close links and communications between councils. As she points out, ‘with there being only one and a half degrees of separation between people in New Zealand, versus six degrees of separation in other countries, the ability to reach people and be able to talk to them quickly really supports the ability to take plans forward.’
Be open to change – be agile
As well as those in power, New Zealand’s industries will have to be open to change. Whether it’s scooters operated by apps or electric vehicles, how companies respond to a disruptive, changing landscape will define their future success. In the end, as with government and councils, the key is to be agile in their thinking. Liesbet says that ‘companies are starting to think about how they can stay relevant, and it might require thinking differently – and understanding that their customers might become different too.’