This paper opens a discussion on the transformational impact that the pandemic brought to the sector of mobility within the urban environment. The analysis focuses on the promotion of sustainability, the smart growth agenda, and the acceleration towards the smart city paradigm. The authors conceive the disruption caused by the pandemic as an opportunity for change towards sustainability, since the transport sector in many cities causes negative environmental and health costs.
The researchers collected 60 different initial policy responses related to urban mobility from 86 cities around the world. These are initial responses to the pandemic, since the analysis was conducted during the first eight months of 2020, and, thus, they reflect aspects of responsiveness, flexibility, and adaptability of the respective urban ecosystems.
The paper includes an analysis of the responses based on the challenge they aim to address, the exact principles of smart growth and sustainable mobility that they encapsulate, as well as the level of ICT penetration. The authors collect and classify policy interventions as an analytical tool to facilitate discussion about some predefined elements and compare policies across different places.
The aim is to discuss whether these policies are targeted towards smart growth and sustainable mobility, as well as whether they incorporate smart city technologies that create opportunities for efficiency, optimization, and intelligence.
The findings suggest that the COVID-19 crisis revealed significant opportunities for urban planning and mobility in cities. According to the authors, the actual long-lasting impact on mobility will depend on the preservation of healthy and sustainable alternative urban design and sustainable mobility strategies, and on the responsiveness of city authorities in the use of new technologies that allow them to create services and cooperation models that respond to the emerging reality and needs.
According to the findings, emerging strategies, although mainly temporary, are transformational, in line with the principles of smart growth and sustainable development. Most policy responses were proven to be organizational, involving new ways of operation and new services provision, thus increasing the flexibility of the transport ecosystem in each city as well as its resilience against the challenges of this crisis. Other popular types of policies identified in this paper are economic/financial and planning interventions, mostly in the sense of temporary, reversible adaptations of the urban space. According to the authors, although initial and, perhaps, short-term changes, they seem to be in line with smart growth and sustainable development objectives.
The research revealed that most policy responses adopted during the first months of the pandemic, however, fail to leverage advancements made in the field of smart cities, and to adopt off-the-shelf solutions such as monitoring, alerting, and operations management. The authors propose that smart city advancements could be further utilized in this context to address new needs that emerged in the urban mobility sector. The economic, social, and environmental benefits of public transport cannot be ignored, and therefore, its future should be re-examined in terms of the provided services and customer experience.
A question that remains unanswered is how means of public transportation can effectively adapt to the current situation. Cycling and walking solve local problems during confinements. According to the researchers, the future of urban sustainability depends on the recovery of mass transit ridership, and the complementary use of other sustainable means in order to avoid auto-dependence, congestion, and an increase in pollution.
You can find the paper here.