“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” 

― Albert Einstein


This is the first in a series of blog posts on The Mobility Ecosystem: the changing landscape and need for fresh new ideas.

There is no one in our society who does not depend on and is impacted by mobility in its various forms. Moreover, mobility, its near-synonym transportation, and their associated agencies are increasingly responsible for helping to resolve an expanding number of issues—economic, societal, environmental, etc. While some are at the margin, others are at the core.

This narrative interweaves the perspectives and insights of multiple disciplines—engineering, economics, technology, natural, environmental and climate sciences, analytics, equity, anthropology, sociology, psychology, political science, business, philosophy, and history—and borrows from entire bodies of scholarship and discussions that I have sought to learn from, synthesize and build upon.

The primary reason for the title “The Mobility Ecosystem” is biomimicry, which is defined as the design and production of materials, structures, and systems that are modeled on biological entities and processes. The imitation of natural biological designs or processes in engineering or invention is not new. It has existed for thousands of years and has inspired airplanes from birds flying and roads from animal trails. Recently, Netherlands-based architecture firm GG-Loop along with engineering company Arup is developing ‘Mitosis’, a modular building system created by a parametric design tool following biophilic and user-centric design principles inspired by nature (Netherlands-based firm brings biophilic regenerative architecture to urban developments, 2020). The human society development has been largely inspired or driven by the natural world. We are continuing to learn from nature in creating and saving our world from human impacts.

A more thorough review of the increasingly rich, diverse mobility literature with citations, bibliography, notes, or epigraphs is beyond the scope of this blog and is intended for a longer future article.

Mobility is emerging as a human right, literally and figuratively, and an inherent part of freedom. Governments, city builders, and communities are faced with seemingly limitless possibilities which can be both liberating and paralyzing at times—a virtual smorgasbord.

Setting the Stage

There is general recognition that mobility, broadband, and cloud services are the 21st Century infrastructure. Infrastructure development (physical and digital) is a catalyst for economic development and jobs. There is a universal dislike of traffic congestion, fuels and technologies are changing, and personal vehicle ownership has begun to decline. These trends and others are part of what is emerging as transportation or mobility as a service, are changing our world, and collectively incorporate many of the aspects of this blog series.

It is impossible to identify a point in time when technology began to emerge. It pretty well parallels the evolution of humankind. While the real shift to digital technology began with the launch of the first personal computers in the 1970s, the fielding of the first Apple iPhone in 2007 was a dramatic advance in technology. With that event, the rate of change and demand for collaboration and technology increasingly accelerated, act synergistically, and offer the potential to improve safety, the economy, the environment, society, and people’s lives.

The Future of Transportation

The future of transportation may be reflected in the incoming Biden-Harris Administration priorities of defeating the COVID-19 Pandemic, economic recovery, racial equality, and climate change. Within those priorities are some likely Biden-Harris Administration transportation priorities as reflected by John Porcari, former Deputy Secretary of Transportation and member of the Biden-Harris Administration Transition Team.

  1. Safety
  2. Technology
  3. Climate Change
  4. Resilience
  5. Transit and passenger rail

Trends and issues on the horizon involve revisionist urban systems and identifying tangible, integrated solutions that exceed the status quo’s diminishing returns. The ability to envision and improve communities, public spaces, networks, and services is critical to influencing the path ahead.

FIGURE 1. A safe, seamless multimodal transportation or mobility system.

What’s needed? A truly safe, seamless, multimodal 21st century transportation system for the movement of people and goods (Figure 1).  The future is exciting, limitless, and rapidly changing. These are tenants for the mobility ecosystem.

  1. Safety: reduce crashes, fatalities, injuries, and property damage
  2. Mobility: reduce congestion, increase the capacity of existing infrastructure; connected and intermodal=one seamless transportation system
  3. Economy: improve access to jobs, products and services, origin, destination, transport
  4. Society: mobility is emerging as a human right; equity, social justice, equality, mobility for the under served
  5. Environment: environmental justice for all is emerging as a human right; improve air, land, and water
  6. Costs: reduce overall costs
  7. Time: reduce travel time
  8. Support: leverage advancing technologies, business intelligence/analysis, data, and decision-making systems

The above eight tenants and the contents of this blog do not supplant the process of good, sound planning, project development, design, construction, operations, and maintenance. At least until there is a better way, these tenants also do not supplant many other important elements such as a strong safety culture and program, annual needs assessment of infrastructure condition and their associated scope and cost, preserving the existing system, utilization of asset management tools, and monitoring and managing traffic speed and volume. It is the utility of all tools that will optimize outcomes in creating a better world for us and our posterity.

Literature Cited

Netherlands-based firm brings biophilic regenerative architecture to urban developments. (2020, November 16). Construction Canada. https://www.constructioncanada.net/netherlands-based-firm-brings-biophilic-regenerative-architecture-to-urban-developments/