The opportunity to do something different: Mobility hubs
Mobility hubs bring together various forms of transport and give rise to opportunities to re-energise our public spaces, towns, cities and regions. Encouraging healthier and more sustainable choices, mobility hubs provide an opportunity to generate economic and societal value for all our communities.
The global coronavirus pandemic has sparked much debate across the transport sector shining a light on the challenges of existing operating models for traditional transport services which can be commercially sustained and evolve to support decarbonisation. Disrupted and unpredictable passenger demand will continue to create further complications for future investment if we are to follow a traditional approach. The opportunity to do something different is both exciting and limitless.
Mobility hubs can play a critical role in tackling several key challenges faced today, including decarbonisation, congestion management, sustainable modal choice and an improved public transport offering. Regulators, Local Authorities and transport operators have an opportunity to create new transport ecosystems which put the customer at the heart of its design.
Developing a new and consistent approach to assessing the proposed investment, design, construction and operation of future transport services will help local authorities to create value for their towns, cities and regions, bringing to life the concept of mobility hubs.
We have developed a unique mobility toolkit which utilises several data sources to assess the viability of proposed mobility hubs, assessing the location, infrastructure requirements, size and mix of transport services to be co-located at each hub in detail.
Louise Clayton, Head of Transport Operations and Future Connectivity at Staffordshire County Council
“Mobility hubs provide a fantastic opportunity for us to solve many of the connectivity challenges faced by our residents and communities and to do so in a sustainable way, by bringing together a range of mobility modes that cater for all needs. The mobility toolkit is a vital tool that will help us match the needs of our communities to the range of services local mobility hubs can offer and will be used to identify the best locations for hubs and nodes. This is the start of a very exciting journey for Staffordshire.”
Understanding the user
At its core, the vision for a mobility hub is to create a transport system that can provide more sustainable choices and facilitate access to these services for everyone. We believe that the user is central to the design and delivery of mobility hubs and the subsequent services it’s intended to provide.
By understanding our users, their behaviors, cultures, communities and the contributing factors to daily decisions for work, socialising and travel, we’re able to design transport networks, services and public spaces which better service their needs. In conjunction with this, ensuring that we’re tackling broader societal transport objectives such as improved inclusivity, reducing carbon emissions as well as economic objectives regarding commercial viability for operators and affordability for the user.
Mobility hubs will bring together all of these components to provide the vehicle to unlocking a huge change in our approach to delivering infrastructure. Data plays a pivotal role in creating dynamic insights to enable a better understanding of the user which not only helps inform strategic investment planning for future services with Local Authorities and operators, but also supports the user led design of such services, critically propping up new commercial models which have financial longevity.
We advocate the use of renewable energy and sustainable design using, for example, solar panels, air filtration, rainwater harvesting, energy storage, green roofs and living walls and are aware that other environmental advantages are offered.
Covid 19 has offered a critical insight into the effects on improvements in air quality resulting from an uptake of more sustainable transport modes, such as cycling and a reduction in private car use. According to a new study recently accepted for publication in Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics (ACP), the first UK lockdown in 2020 resulted in 42% decrease in surface-level nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The critical piece of the puzzle is how can you achieve such isolated success when society is in a state of “norm”. We must use this insight to inform how we shape the future design of our transport networks, towns, cities and regions.
Mobility hubs provide an opportunity to encourage and facilitate the use of more sustainable modes of transport including shared services. Throughout the pandemic, private car use has presented a key risk to industry efforts to reduce carbon emissions and so by providing a mix of co-located transport services in the future, we can enhance our ability to shift user behaviour in favour of more sustainable modes and rebuild trust in more accessible public transport networks.
By co-locating transport services, we further stretch the opportunity to re design our public spaces to better meet the needs and connected local communities by including co working spaces, parcel locker/collection points and neighbourhood kitchens. These offer additional sources of revenue whilst also enhancing the local community. As other technologies develop, mobility hubs will be key locations for first and last mile journeys (for freight and personal mobility) using drones, autonomous robots and delivery pods.
Mobility hubs offer a resilient means of getting people where they want to go and providing additional services will mean they excel as a solution for current and future generations. By harnessing new technologies and the opportunities they present, mobility hubs can provide a bespoke solution to common challenges.
We recognise the importance of understanding users and communities when informing decision making, this is emphasised where demand for a service is unstable.
Fully integrated transport – including active travel, micro-mobility and mobility hubs - offer an opportunity for passengers and operators to engage with a range of innovative, data-driven, user led solutions. Changes in societal conditions and increasing awareness of individual user needs are leading to a better level of user requirements and solutions now, rightfully, need to be safe, sustainable, and inclusive as a standard.