Friday, July 31, 2009

New Mobility Hubs: Connecting the dots

The next generation of urban transportation is about connecting the dots, bringing diverse innovations together in ways that work better for users than the single occupancy vehicle alone.
- Sue Zielinski reports from Ann Arbor MI USA.

Sue Zielinski introduces the New Mobility Hubs program, an initiative of City Connect, Ford Motor Company, the University of Michigan SMART project and local partners, with ongoing projects in N. America, Germany, India and South Africa.

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Recognizing that neither alternative fuels nor pricing alone will save the day in this rapidly urbanizing world, a groundswell of transportation innovation is arising worldwide. However these innovations are too rarely linked in way that can provide a convenient, practical, affordable door-to-door trip for the user. The next generation of urban transportation is about connecting the dots, bringing diverse innovations together in ways that work better for users than the single occupancy vehicle alone.

Connecting the Transport Dots Regionally and Globally

Imagine a day, when steps from your door, or even from inside your home or office, you could enter a vital network or grid of New Mobility Hubs, places near you that connect a whole range of transport amenities including buses, trains, streetcars, clean fuel taxis, auto rickshaws and car share or bike share vehicles, and in some cases, day care, satellite offices, cafes, shops and entertainment.

In more connected communities this is all brought together by a cell phone or pda that offers real-time information on arrival and departure times and availability, as well as access to other information. The pda also allows you to quickly and easily pay for these affordable modes and services with a single wave past the reader. You can transfer seamlessly from one mode of transportation to the other, informed of schedules and options all the way, using the best mode for the purpose, gaining access to car share at one hub, and dropping it off at another to pick up a waiting bus or train. It’s easy, it’s convenient, it’s affordable, and it’s 21st century.

For the user, hub networks connect an integrated set of services, products, and technologies door-to-door, addressing the “last mile” challenge. For the developer and operator, hub networks are scalable, starting by linking what exists and adding and enhancing as budget and will materializes. Since the key is connecting rather than competing interests, the process and the product includes rich and poor, a range of backgrounds and needs, and urban and suburban. For government leaders, this achieves social, environmental, and economic goals. For businesses in the emerging New Mobility Industry, this offers innovation opportunities that generate Open Source Transportation, spur Public Private Innovation, and supply the emerging market for sustainable urban transportation globally.

New Mobility Hub Networks exist or are being developed in Bremen, Toronto, Chennai, Cape Town, D.C., Atlanta, Ann Arbor and more.

Click here for more.

Susan Zielinski, Managing Director, SMART,,
Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility Research & Transformation,
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan USA

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  1. Richard Layman Washington, DCFriday, 31 July, 2009

    separately I have developed this concept as well. I call it the mobilityshed (or mobility shed), and similarly, look at a transit line as the "transitshed" (transit shed). I developed the terms based on Robert Cervero's use of the word "commutershed."

    But I was trying to figure out how to deal questions that grew out of plans by the Maryland commuter railroad system to close some extremely lightly used stations and the outcry against the closure, which included this policy suggestion "build more parking lots so people will drive to the station."

    The operative concept to pull it all together is by incorporating the transportation demand management planning method developed by the Travel Smart organization in Victoria, Australia.

    My only criticism of the "mobility hub" approach is that it seems overly focused on the modes, rather than a primary focus on optimal mobility. Mode considerations should be secondary to the overall objective and goal of transportation optimality.

    Richard Layman
    Washington, DC

  2. Kerry Wood Wellington, New ZealandMonday, 03 August, 2009


    One possibility to keep in mind is that the stations may really be worth closing.

    A suburban station will delay every train that calls by one an a half or two minutes: say 30 seconds each for braking, dwell time and acceleration. That doesn't matter for the people boarding but it slows everybody else, and if one stop is extremely lightly used, others are likely to be on the light side, at least. Every station slows every train, making the route less competitive, so all stations should justify their existence.

    Excess stops are also costly. A ninety second delay at one station becomes three minutes on the round trip. If there is a ten minute peak hour service, closing one station may save the capital and operating cost of one train, and closing three stations will almost certainly save one train.

    I commute daily by train, and the line I use has one place where there are three stops in 900 metres: two consecutive station spacings of 450 m. It is a single-track line and one extra stop between passing loops makes a mess of the timetable. The solution, almost unbelievably, is to operate a four-train timetable using three trains. The line has apparently worked like that for half a century.

    It is the same story with bus stops. Regulatory authorities like to make sure that passengers don't have to walk too far, and rarely seem to notice that the buses may be stopping too often. Some stops are in 'fixed' positions and individual spacings often up end up much shorter than the minimum. In this country it is not difficult to find stops spaced less than 150 m apart, when even the traditional 'four stops per mile' (400 m) is often too short.

    Of course, longer stop spacings make for longer walks -- too long for some people -- but the solution is not necessarily to delay everybody. One solution is simply public seating, so that slow walkers can take a rest. Other are cycle parking, 'hail-a-ride' on some buses, or expanded paratransit.

    Kerry Wood
    Wellington, New Zealand

  3. Simon Norton, Cambridge UKThursday, 06 August, 2009

    Here are some considerations that should be taken into account.

    1. Not all trains have to stop at every station. One has a choice between a skip
    stop system whereby different trains stop at different stations but take around
    the same time, and a system of fast and slow trains (in which some people might
    actually prefer the slow trains if they are less crowded).

    2. Smaller communities are often highly suitable for introducing carfree
    neighbourhoods or replacing car ownership by carshare because local journeys can
    be walked or cycled -- but only if they have good links to the outer world.

    3. Removing public transport links from smaller communities will make them
    adamantly opposed to restrictions on freedom of access by cars to city centres.

    4. For many smaller communities use of their local stations can be boosted by
    means of feeder buses. The potential for this depends on the exact nature of the
    local road network. Furthermore the feeder buses can provide an alternative to
    driving for additional traffic because passengers can change between them as
    well as to/from trains.

    5. It often makes sense to provide extra parking facilities at smaller rather
    than larger stations because
    (a) This reduces people's driving distance to the nearest station
    (b) Park & ride traffic is often itself a source of congestion.

    Simon Norton


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