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New transport technologies must promote equity and inclusion to deliver just transition to net zero, says report

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Embracing new technologies will play a key role in decarbonising transport and help towns and cities to achieve net zero emissions – but steps must also be taken to ensure that the way new technologies are applied does not marginalise some groups or reinforce existing inequalities.

That’s the key message of a new report co-authored by the Urban Transport Group and Arup.

The report – Equitable Future Mobility: Ensuring a just transition to net zero transport –considers measures to improve the availability, accessibility, affordability and acceptability of mobility services, collectively known as the Four A’s.

It highlights both UK and international case studies of where transport authorities and operators are striving to meet the Four A’s. These include:

  • mobile apps which enable disabled train passengers to book assistance on their journeys via their phones;
  • the placement of new mobility services such as e-scooter docks in areas underserved by existing transport;
  • responsive transport services allowing for safer travel for women at night; and
  • drivers being paid ‘mobility credits’ to use on car-sharing, public transport and electric vehicle hire schemes as an incentive to scrap their personal vehicles.

It also provides a framework for better decision making in the delivery of future mobility, aimed at helping transport authorities, operators and stakeholders to consider aspects of social inclusion whilst also addressing wider environmental and economic policy goals.

Laura Shoaf, Chair of the Urban Transport Group, and Chief Executive at West Midlands Combined Authority, said:

“From e-scooters to payment apps, new technologies and business models are revolutionising the way we travel. But we need to ensure that the benefits that flow from new technologies are harnessed in a way that meets the diverse nature of the people and places we serve – for example, not excluding those without smart phones or pricing out those on low incomes from certain transport options.

“This report is intended to get the transport sector thinking about how we go beyond a focus on the default male commuter when we are thinking about the role and benefits of new technologies to consider multiple aspects of people’s identity (such as gender, race, income and geography) which will ultimately benefit all users.”  

Natalie Gravett, Transport Planner/Modeller at Arup, said:

“It is crucial that we quickly introduce new technology and services to decarbonise transport. However, this urgency cannot distract from a just transition. Equally as important is creating a universal transport system that improves experience, attracts new passengers, extends accessibility, and delivers wider benefits for all the communities it serves.

“Everyone should have the ability to choose low-carbon modes and access the full range of opportunities, but there are still many groups marginalised by our transport systems. Our report sets out recommendations for embedding fairness in decision making throughout the design and delivery of transport services.”

The report states: “Harnessing the opportunities presented by technology and emerging modes of mobility can improve the convenience, speed, and level of service with which people can plan, book, pay for, and undertake trips. However, if the design and governance of future mobility is left to a narrow group of technology enthusiasts, there is a risk that services will be designed for some user groups and marginalise others.”

Future mobility is considered as new modes of transport, but also new business models and supporting technology that enhance existing modes, improve the user experience and better connect people and places.

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