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Rethinking Urban Mobility: The Networked Transport Revolution
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Rethinking Urban Mobility: The Networked Transport Revolution

Welcome the carless generation. The new wave of transporters. Yesterday’s kids are tomorrow’s decision ...

Rethinking Urban Mobility: The Networked Transport Revolution

Welcome the carless generation. The new wave of transporters. Yesterday’s kids are tomorrow’s decision makers, and they’re all connected, all the time. And as much as they love their iPads and their Galaxy Notes, they hate automobiles.

 

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Young adults are increasingly disinterested in car ownership. According to Fast Company, the rate of people aged 18 to 34 buying cars dropped by 30% between 2007 and 2011. Only 44% of teens get a driver’s license once they’re eligible at 16, and only 54% of them have a license before turning 18.

 

What gives? Cars used to be the ultimate expression of freedom, yet millennials view them as cumbersome and dated. Before instant messaging and social networks, a car was the only way to get out of the house to see friends. These days, friends are always nearby, just a notification away.

 

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Millennials are acutely aware of the gas engine’s ecological footprint, a fact that will grow in importance as the world starts to think more in terms of sustainability. Cars used to be fast, fun, and the ultimate liberator. Today, they are an expensive, polluting liability that’s more trouble than they’re worth, at least according to young adults.

 

Younger generations are turning to alternative urban transportation to get around at little cost. We’re not talking about bicycles and buses only: there’s a growing network of connected carsharing and alternative public transport taking hold in major cities.

 

Zipcar is the carsharing initiative that’s proven to be most popular. When you sign up for Zipcar, you pay $25 for a Zipcard. Then, whenever you need a car, whether for a couple of hours or the whole day, you book one via their smartphone app. There are Zipcars parked all over major cities, and once you’ve booked, you can just walk up and unlock your vehicle with your Zipcard. The cars are insured and come pre-filled with gas, so there’s no other obligation save returning it to where you got it once your time is up.

 

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On the other hand, some people don’t like to drive but need to get somewhere fast without paying a small fortune in taxi fare. Uber’s here for them, connecting people who need rides to those who offer them. You can join Uber as either a passenger or a driver, and use it to find or give someone a ride, as well as organize a rideshare.

 

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Helsinki’s “Kutsuplus” is also worth mentioning. Not quite Uber and not quite a public bus, Kutsuplus is an on-demand minibus network that’s a part of Helsinki’s own public transport system. You use the proprietary app to summon a Kutsuplus bus at the bus station you’re at, and it arrives shortly. If there are other people on the minibus, it devises the optimal route to get everyone to their destination in the least possible amount of time. In the end, you pay as if the minibus took the most direct route from where you got on to your destination.

 

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“Kutsuplus” is just one of the transportation solututions the City of Helsinki is planning that will likely make personal vehicles obsolete in the next 10 years. Its plan is to transform the current public transport system with a “comprehensive, point-to-point ‘mobility on demand’ system” that would make owning an automobile in Helsinki pointless. The system would bring together carsharing, new forms of public transportation like “Kutsuplus,” shared bikes, ferries, and any other available public transportation method, into a single, coherent transportation network. A Citymapper-style service would devise the quickest route from your location to your destination using any and all available transportation methods. The user engagement is minimal, while the city minimizes congestion and pollution.

 

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As electric car ownership becomes more common and urban centers realize the dangers of traffic congestion, it’s refreshing to see that so much effort has gone into imagining a carless, or at least a gasless, future. Denmark is building specialised overhead bicycle bridges, and Tesla’s Elon Musk wants to build a tube between Los Angeles and San Francisco that will reduce travel time between the two cities to 30 minutes using electrical motors and air pressure. It’s a bright and streamlined future for transport. Let’s hope it gets here in time.

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