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Towards a city without cars

Professor David Banister wants to integrate research on mobility in the solutions to global problems.
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Professor David Banister from the University of Oxford gave a lecture on the subject Planetary Boundaries and Low Carbon Urban Mobility in the Aalto University Summer School on Transportation.

The Aalto University Summer School of Transportation was organised for the tenth time this year.  The event brings together experts and students studying the field from all over the world.

Banister wants to challenge the traditional mindset and open a discussion on mobility as part of the solutions to global problems. According to him, researchers studying the field should look at things comprehensively from different perspectives.

He reminded his listeners that humanity is approaching the boundaries of ecological, economic and social sustainability. This has been proven by numerous studies.

‘I urge you to reflect on how the problems threatening global sustainability could be resolved. Mobility and transport are in many ways linked to the factors that threaten human well-being.‘

A challenge for urban planning

Banister conducts research on mobility in cities, in particular. He launched the idea of sustainable mobility (The Sustainable Mobility Paradigm) as early as in 2008.

It aims, for example, at shortening travel times to a reasonable level, reducing the need to travel, increasing walking and cycling, improving the quality and accessibility of urban spaces, promoting efficient use of infrastructures and facilitating transfers from one mode of transport to another.

‘We need to think about what cities are for and how mobility and transport can help support that.’

Emission reduction goals set major challenges for urban planning. For example, studies show that building more compact urban structures significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions per person. There are, however, certain obstacles and difficulties involved in more compact building.

‘In compact cities, the annual carbon dioxide emissions may be less than two tonnes per person. But it is not enough if we want to stop global warming to less than two degrees by 2050,’ Banister says.

Mobility as a Service

Banister presented the Shared Transport City vision. In a city that aims at low-carbon mobility, distances are short and the speed of traffic is slow. Passengers use their travel time for creative thinking.

In that city vision, cars are smaller than currently, they are shared rather than owned, and mobility is based largely on services. Public transport works efficiently. The city offers the possibility to use new kinds of electric vehicles.

Banister believes in mobility services. In the Mobility as a Service concept customers can book and pay their journeys on their smartphones. The service operator combines all existing transport services so that the customer can easily reach the desired destination.

Applications for services already exist, but according to Banister, they need to be made much more user-friendly than they are currently. Booking a journey must be as easy and simple as possible.

‘We strive to design cities in which residents do not need cars of their own. It may sound idealistic, but I think we will already see such cities in maybe 5-10 years’ time. There will be no cars, or at least not cars as we know them now,’ Banister says.

David Banister is Professor Emeritus of Transport Studies at Oxford University and he was Director of the Transport Studies Unit (2006-2015). His research expertise is in transport scenario building, sustainable cities, energy and environmental modelling, and he has published 23 books, and is working on the next three.

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