Cities and transport: local, reinvented

Today's cities must take up the challenge of mobility, a sector currently undergoing major changes. A focus on emerging uses with Virginie Alonzi, prospective director at Bouygues Construction.

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As an urban developer, Bouygues Construction is involved in a variety of projects in which transport is a key factor: urban projects with LinkCity, serviced property projects, infrastructure projects (bridges, tunnels, roads, railways, etc.), schemes to install charging stations for electric vehicles and smart city projects with Bouygues Energies & Services. In late 2017, Bouygues Construction embarked upon a collaborative and forward-looking initiative to identify new trends and help develop innovative solutions to meet emerging needs.

Virginie ALONZI, Head of Prospective at Bouygues Construction, tells us more about the results of this work.

What changes is the world of transport currently facing?

Cities today have to contend with many challenges. Transport is one of them. The world of transport is changing fast and various factors affect our daily lives. Firstly, the legacy of a Fordist city organised by function, along with demographic growth, has encouraged the dispersion of housing and employment, and resulted in urban sprawl. Digital technology has changed the way we consume, train, work, play, live and travel… and transport is no exception.

There are a lot of changes afoot, not to mention evolving lifestyles, increasing urbanisation, the arrival of new players and more, all of which raise questions about our transport needs. Alongside these factors, there is growing awareness of the problems associated with certain means of transport in terms of congestion, noise, pollution, and environmental and health impacts. Cities and regions must face up to these negative side effects while providing a less stressful and polluted living environment to meet the expectations of city dwellers and the environmental challenges. There are many issues surrounding transport: social and community aspects, environmental and economic considerations, as well as technological (not to mention political). The world of mobility is changing and is no longer confined to transport.

What role does mobility play in our daily lives?

It is omnipresent; you could say that mobility now shapes our lifestyles. It is so prominent that it raises questions about other issues: an aging population, health, town planning, inclusiveness, time management, etc. Acting on our mobility influences quality of life and the wellbeing of citizens, but it also affects the future of the planet.

Can you tell us more about Bouygues Construction’s approach to future mobility?

For some months we have been running an open and collaborative initiative on the movement of goods and people with a view to producing a joint vision between stakeholders and users to see what mobility could ideally look like by 2030. We have studied mobility supply and demand from the perspective of citizens’ uses and aspirations. Mobility operators, local authorities, institutions, companies, start-ups, sociologists, real estate players, and other experts contributed to this discussion by sharing their visions and debating their ideas with a sociological approach combining expert presentations and foresight workshops. We also drew support from the Observatoire des Usages Emergents de la Ville (OUEV), which surveyed a sample of 4,000 people, representative of the French population and 3,000 Europeans, to understand how representations of the city are changing and how new mobility practices are emerging.

For these reasons, as both a stakeholder in the territory and in terms of urban planning, we wanted to collectively generate some ideas to improve inhabitants’ quality of life while trying to reduce our environmental impact by focusing on uses. It is our belief that the building of the city and its new forms of mobility will depend on usage.

So how can we rethink urban and regional planning to reduce unwanted travel and promote sustainable mobility for all?

We have explored urban scenarios through 5 themes that can be seen as “tensions” currently running through the debates on future mobility: Mobility in the suburbs: for some years now, new offers have been proliferating in the heart of cities and towns: shared bikes and scooters, car-sharing, car-pooling, etc. These new forms of mobility further strengthen a well-developed public transport system and facilitate the daily life of already highly mobile city dwellers. So what solutions can be devised for less densely populated areas: should existing ones be adapted or new models invented, and above all how? The role of data in mobility services: many public players have launched Open Data initiatives in recent years, while the digital giants have successfully created highly customised services in the field of mobility using our personal data. What new governance and regulation of data can be invented, and what role can the private sector play? What do we mean by ” general interest data ” and what services can we envisage using data? The arrival of the autonomous vehicle: beyond the technical debate, how can autonomous vehicles be made to serve the city and its challenges? Are autonomous vehicles the way to calm public spaces and improve wellbeing in the city? What does it depend upon?

Reducing transport or how urban stakeholders can introduce local services in and around buildings (housing, offices, etc.): shared fleets, workspaces, concierge services, etc. In other words, how can planners become local players?

The transport of goods remains crucial, as does the movement of people. Its exponential growth in recent years with the rise of e-commerce raises questions. What kind of regional governance might exist around logistics and what role might planners play?

“Taking action on mobility concerns not only quality of life and the wellbeing of citizens, but also of the future of the planet.”

Virginie Alonzi, Bouygues Construction

Collaborative workshops?

We have identified 3 proposals to rethink mobility:

A few words to sum up…

Reducing our unwanted travel, consuming locally, taking advantage of local services in our neighbourhood, favouring soft transport, working remotely… these practices are transforming our mobility patterns as we strive to live more local lives. This strong desire for a more local approach challenges our practices and invites us to rethink our lifestyles, regional development and planning, and services in order to meet society’s new expectations. Mobility hubs may be a possible answer: a tight network of places where the mobility offer is concentrated, but also bringing together everyday resources and amenities. As pointed out by Bruno Marzloff, sociologist and expert on mobility issues, who sponsored our initiative: “today, local living is the fundamental pivot of our urban lives”.

Planning infrastructure for the long term. There will be an increasing need to design buildings and infrastructure that are resilient to crises, uncertainties and changes in use.


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