What cities want: exploring future strategies for urban mobility

Technical University of Munich tackles transport at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston

Munich, Singapore, Boston: three very different cities on three different continents with their own distinctive “urban identities.” Nevertheless, they face many of the same challenges, from affordable housing and environmental concerns to growing populations – and traffic congestion. Prof. Gebhard Wulfhorst, Chair of Urban Structure and Transport Planning at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), will focus on urban mobility solutions for the future at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston.

As the adage goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. “Mobility starts on foot,” explains Gebhard Wulfhorst. The TUM professor and urban structure and transport expert continues: "We understand mobility as a system. And this system is currently undergoing rapid change at both the local and global level.” New mobility services such as bike sharing are proliferating. And within a few years, self-driving cars might completely take over. In 2017, cities are home to half the human population, with two-thirds of people set to live in urban areas by 2050. So how will these new technologies change our cities – and us?

Universities, companies and municipalities across Europe are jointly pioneering approaches to ensure the city of the future is both mobile – and livable. Together with a panel of other European mobility experts, TUM’s Wulfhorst will focus on strategies to keep cities moving at this year’s annual meeting of AAAS in Boston, Massachusetts from February 16-20, 2017, which centers on the theme of “Serving Society Through Science Policy.”

Trailblazing urban mobility initiatives

The session will cover trends in urban mobility and show how technological research, innovative policies and cooperation can turn this challenge into a pivot point for constructive, locally appropriate change. Speakers will discuss trailblazing urban mobility initiatives of the EuroTech Universities Alliance, a strategic partnership of leading technical universities in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Representing TUM at the session, Wulfhorst will address “What Cities Want: Towards More Livable Urban Spaces by Transforming Urban Mobility.”

Understanding individual mobility behavior is a key research focus for the Chair of Urban Structure and Transport Planning. Wulfhorst stresses that a clear grasp of the factors influencing this behavior is a prerequisite for developing strategies for the future of urban mobility. “It is vital to target solutions that offer a tradeoff between individual needs and those of the mobility network at large,” he notes.

A Look at the Munich Metropolitan Area

This is just one of many findings from two recent studies in which TUM teamed up with municipalities and industry partners to look at local and global mobility issues. In the more recent study from 2015-16, "Living, Working and Mobility in the Munich Metropolitan Area," researchers cooperated with the TUM Chair of Urban Development to carry out a survey of more than 7,300 people living in and around Munich, the Bavarian capital and one of Germany’s key economic growth cities and regions. The data they collected will enable municipalities, companies and mobility service providers to gain insights into the factors behind residents' decisions on where to live and work – and how to get from place to place no matter what mix of transport modes they use.

Study experts also arrived at recommendations for action. A key point: The need for better links between cities and metropolitan regions in order to enhance their appeal as places to live and work and take some of the pressure off Munich. "If we want to develop integrated mobility concepts, then we need to balance the available modes of transport and the zoning of land for residential development," says Wulfhorst.

What Cities Want

In a 2013 study, "What Cities Want," researchers compared 15 metropolises around the world. It soon became clear among the international group of experts that, despite the differences between cities, regions and cultures, the same basic mechanisms were at work in urban regions everywhere – from London to São Paulo. "This provides a starting point for strategies to successfully implement new concepts," says Wulfhorst. A crucial prerequisite: Politicians, the general public and the business community have to work together on mutually beneficial solutions to disparate mobility needs.

To simplify infrastructure planning processes, researchers created The TUM Accessibility Atlas. Using a Geographical Information System (GIS), a project’s development potential can be graphically displayed. This provides a tool for stakeholders, traffic planners and urban planners to jointly develop ideas and present the possible impact in visual form.

Ultimately, Wulfhorst says, the goal of all urban and mobility planning in the future is clear: improving the quality of life through innovative mobility concepts. "We have our work cut out if we want to improve our urban quality of life. What do cities want? Exactly that – a city that makes life better.” It is incumbent on urban centers to work together with all local interest groups to develop sustainable mobility structures. With our research, we want to make a contribution to that dialog."

Contact:

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gebhard Wulfhorst
Technische Universität München
gebhard.wulfhorst[at]tum.de

Stefanie Reiffert
Technical University of Munich
Corporate Communications Center
Tel: +49 89 289 10519
E-Mail: stefanie.reiffert[at]tum.de