How To Understand The Impact Мultimodality In Transportation Has On Cities Of All Sizes

How To Understand The Impact Мultimodality In Transportation Has On Cities Of All Sizes

Cities around the globe are growing and expanding at an unprecedented pace, and with urbanization on the rise, it’s clear we need new strategies and policies that help us move toward a more connected and sustainable future for mobility. Multimodality in transportation does far more than just make it easier to get around. By building the infrastructure needed to facilitate multimodal transport and by supporting the right services and initiatives, city planners and authorities can unlock a whole new realm of opportunities whether that’s the addition of new modes, building mobility hubs, pedestrian-friendly zones, and promoting greener, more active forms of travel that benefit the environment and citizens. Streets can become people-oriented, serving communities and citizens instead of cars, further contributing to the creation of urban environments that are smart, sustainable, and a better place to live. In this article, we’ll take a look at what multimodality in transportation is, why is it a good investment, and what issues it can help solve for cities of all sizes. 

What is Multimodal Transportation and Why is it a Good Investment for Cities 

A robust multimodal system can serve communities by providing safe, equitable, comfortable, convenient, and accessible transportation for residents of cities as well as those living in suburban areas. This means incorporating various modes of transport including all types of mass transit and electric micromobility solutions in the form of shared or privately owned scooters, mopeds, and bikes. Other methods consist of regular car use, emerging trends such as minimobility, and other forms of active transport like walking and biking. The majority of cities in the U.S. are heavily dependent on car usage for daily travel and most communities and infrastructure have been built accordingly to cater to this demand. Data shows us that an estimated 20% – 40% of residents within a community are typically unable to drive due to factors such as finances, age restrictions, or disabilities. This brings up another difficult matter as most public transit systems in America are underfunded and are generally considered to be unreliable by local populations, along with being inefficient, time-consuming, and unpleasant to use. Residents of cities whose mass transit networks are not adequately developed or well-funded often find it difficult to rely on this option alone for reaching important societal facilities and destinations such as healthcare, education, and workplaces. 

Decades-long dependency on cars has contributed to a significant amount of the noise and air pollution we see today in cities, along with more traffic congestion, increased emissions, and human casualties from road accidents and pollution-related diseases. Funds accumulated from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law stand as an example of this as they are often used to further reinforce car usage through highway expansion and the building of more roads, something which only creates more traffic and pollution, perpetuating the unequal health and safety impacts of many car-centered systems. If investments are directed mainly toward the expansion of America’s roads, funding this notion could increase emissions instead of achieving the desired reductions. A low-carbon, multimodal approach to transit can make a significant difference for municipalities nationwide. Expanding networks to accommodate a wider array of multimodal options will bring us closer to reaching climate goals. It will also make roads safer for everyone as well as increase access to economic opportunities, ensuring non-drivers reach important destinations around town without the need to own a car, in a more environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and convenient manner.

In addition to addressing the issue of car dependency, multimodality in transportation can offer enhanced community health, and livability benefits by engaging citizens in more active forms of travel. Expanding mass transit networks, building mobility hubs, bike lanes and paths designated for modes such as micro-and-mini mobility could help create better air quality in cities along with reducing noise pollution. Better land use and design, in combination with fewer cars on the road, could also result in fewer accidents on the road, for pedestrians, drivers, and users of micro-and-mini mobility modes. Furthermore, presented with new opportunities and alternatives, communities can ultimately have a say in how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds are being used and redirected so they can be used for modernizing public transportation systems, enhancing equity and accessibility of networks, building new infrastructure for the addition of new modes and investing in policies and initiatives that promote greener alternatives and innovative solutions.   

Multimodality in Transportation Can Help Us Achieve Climate Goals 

Transportation currently emits more greenhouse gasses than any other sector in the United States, accounting for 29% of the total GHG emissions in the nation. Decreasing emissions from transport is essential to achieving the nation’s goal of reducing emissions by 50%-52% by 2030. A recent report published by America Is All In, depicts a coalition of state and local climate leaders, who discuss that emissions reductions in the transportation sector can effectively contribute to more than one-third of what’s needed to reach the 2030 climate goal in the U.S. One of the most effective methods for reducing emissions from the sector is through increased use of public transit in combination with multimodal travel options. Choosing rail over short-haul flights, regularly using public transport, or cycling and walking instead of driving a personal vehicle can have dramatic effects when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint. It’s also considered that the use of shared mobility services such as car-sharing or ride-sharing schemes could further reduce emissions since they limit the number of vehicles on the road. 

Acceleration in the efforts to decarbonize the sector are also on the way, with many initiatives focusing on the transition to electric vehicles. While there are some issues regarding regulations, charging, battery prices, and initial investment for such vehicles, the benefits far outweigh some of these obstacles and they will most likely be resolved in the years to come. Urban mobility is expected to be largely dominated by eclectic vehicles in the future along with cleaner and alternative fuels as a means of mitigating the effects of climate change. This applies to public transportation as well as transit vehicles such as buses and trains operating throughout the nation are being considered for replacement with electric ones, with agencies and authorities realizing the multiple benefits that come from electrifying the sector. A current estimate predicts that a $4 trillion investment in electric public buses and trains could yield a return of over $1 trillion annually by 2030.  

Other data shows us that an investment in green public transportation holds the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 0.71 gigatonnes in a period of 10 years. A report issued by the World Bank further depicts that green transportation could create around 53 million jobs in emerging markets around the globe by 2030. Other segments such as electric micro-and-mini mobility are already creating noticeable results in communities by providing residents with an eco-friendly alternative to cars and assisting in first and last-mile connections. Multimodal travel can aid in the reduction of energy consumed by promoting the use of more energy-efficient modes of transportation among populations.  

Multimodal Transportation Systems Create Healthier Communities 

Poor air quality is often named one of the greatest environmental health risk factors in the United States, accounting for over 100,000–200,000 deaths, annually. It is widely believed that air pollution disproportionately harms low-income communities the most including minorities and young children. Shifting towards low-carbon multimodal transportation can significantly improve the air quality in cities for all members of the public. Citizens can engage in various forms of active travel such as walking, biking along with using micromobility options such as e-scooters, electric bikes, and mopeds. Multimodality will also allow them to easily switch between modes for their daily commute so that their journeys are quicker and more effortless and there is as little stress and inconvenience as possible. Better air quality as a result of fewer people using cars is also linked to improved academic performance, a reduction in premature births, and noticeable improvements in respiratory illnesses and other health conditions. It’s also been shown to reduce cardiovascular illness as well as the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, resulting in fewer clinic visits and hospitalizations. 

Other benefits that come from the implementation of multimodal systems include reducing noise pollution and the many harmful effects that come from it. It is reported that more than 100 million Americans are continuously exposed to noise pollution levels above the EPA’s recommended standard for avoiding hearing loss, with millions more potentially at risk for other chronic conditions and heart disease. Other health issues associated with noise pollution include sleep disruption, stress, and irritability. Furthermore, only half of Americans meet the guidelines for recommended daily physical activity, with that group being disproportionately male, well-educated, young, and active. It was also reported that active modes of transportation such as walking and biking which increase physical activity, provide the most health benefits such as limited risk of chronic disease and improvements to existing conditions. Increased physical activity as a result of active travel has also been linked to better mental health. The effects of exercise are often compared to those of antidepressants and psychotherapy due to the release of hormones. Research suggests that increased physical activity among people can protect against anxiety symptoms.

Economic Advantages of Multimodal Transportation

Expanded access to transportation creates more access to economic opportunities for residents of cities as well as those living in suburban areas. Providing populations with a wider range of multimodal options can help boost local economies by connecting people to more employment opportunities such as higher-wage jobs as well as service jobs in areas that would otherwise be difficult to reach without a car. Transit stops that are easily reached by bike or other micromobility and ride-sharing schemes can help bring these jobs to people regardless of where they live or what their social status is. Increasing access to low-cost transportation is critical to balancing the scales of equality in addition to promoting better access to high-quality jobs. More multimodal options will mean more members of society can use public transit and other modes to get to important facilities and destinations needed to maintain a good quality of life and do so in an affordable and highly accessible manner.  

The costs associated with vehicle ownership, maintenance, and rising fuel prices make it harder for people to invest in owning a car. When more Americans are presented with alternatives for their daily travels and commute they can better manage their budget and save money along with increasing sustainability in the sector. It has been reported that by shifting from a personal vehicle to public transit, an individual can save up to $13,000 a year. It’s also worth noting that although the goal is to limit the use of vehicles, EVs are a better choice when compared to conventional cars in terms of cost and energy savings. They come with a slightly higher upfront cost, however, they require 50% less maintenance than standard internal combustion vehicles and can lower fuel costs by more than $4,700 in the first seven years of ownership.  

Furthermore, multimodal transportation has been shown to reduce the length and stress of daily commutes. Among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, around 27% of the workforce has access to a job that is reachable by transit in 90 minutes or less. Additional research shows that shorter commute times also stand as a viable predictor of upward economic mobility. Enhanced user experience, convenience, and shorter journeys could also help reduce stress, improving overall health and sleep among citizens. Multimodal transportation expands the labor force available to businesses with its impact stretching beyond individual use to benefit local economies as a whole as it has been shown in some studies highlighting the positive impacts on local business revenues when cities invest in more pedestrian and bike-friendly practices. By investing in public transportation and other active modes of travel, municipalities can redesign how land is being used and it will be possible to free up space from excessive parking lots along with limiting the need for more expensive road infrastructure.

Multimodal Transportation Enhances Safety on Roads

In conventional transportation systems where road vehicles such as cars are given priority, the street can be a pretty dangerous place for pedestrians and cyclists. Official data shows us that a pedestrian is killed by a vehicle almost every 85 minutes in the United States, and injuries that lead to fatalities in pedestrians are a leading cause of death for children. Pedestrians and cyclists who survive a traffic collision face uncertain consequences when it comes to their ability to recover along with other implications regarding healthcare and racial inequality. Those behind the wheel are also not exempt from danger as statistics from 2019 show us that more than 22,000 vehicle occupants died in traffic-related crashes and over 2.4 million passengers suffered multiple injuries, according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. Car crashes are currently rated as the second-leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. Rethinking existing infrastructure, use of land, and road design, along with implementing new practices and policies that accommodate and prioritize the safety of everyone on the roads is key to facilitating lasting change.

Multimodality in transportation can prevent many of these unnecessary deaths by helping municipalities move toward a future of urban mobility where transit is interconnected and all modalities work safely in conjunction to serve and meet the needs of communities. A similar approach to urban planning can be seen in concepts such as 15-minute cities where low-carbon multimodal transportation systems serve as an important building block to ensuring the vision of these cities is made possible. The “15-minute communities’’ will likely play a role in the future of Smart Cities, particularly in denser urban areas, to accommodate the basic needs of societies such as education, access to transportation, and fresh foods, all within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. Community members will be able to gain access to other neighborhoods and distant destinations by using well-established public transit systems accompanied by the necessary infrastructure for other alternatives such as walking, biking, and micromobility solutions that will aid in first-last-mile connections. Safety regarding continued car use will be enhanced by reinforcing strategies that regulate vehicle speeds in high-risk areas. Residents of rural areas who are unable to drive could alternatively explore options such as on-demand shuttles and vehicle-sharing schemes. 

Re-thinking How We Design Cities Through Complete Streets

While logistics and planning surrounding multimodality account for more than just street design, a notion known as ‘’Complete Streets’’ has been described as a critical component in establishing successful multimodal networks. Such an approach takes into consideration the layout of the road, its condition, and all aspects that have to do with its safety and accessibility. This can look like anything from adding bike and bus lanes to upgrading traffic signals and other technical components that could enhance accessibility for all members of the public including the visually impaired. Policies in Complete Streets aim to create safer roadways for residents of cities that are user-friendly and fall in line with the future vision of Smart Cities. Such a design has been shown to slow down traffic without contributing to congestion. Results regarding the implementation of a similar initiative can be seen in a StreetLight study of a bike lane installation on the Northside of Kansas City, Missouri, which showed that the introduction of bike lanes managed to eliminate any traffic going over 40 miles per hour, adding only an additional 5 seconds to the trips of residents who were driving.

Strategies such as Complete Streets can reduce injuries and fatalities on American roads by ensuring safe and sufficient accommodation for all travelers, including pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation users, and drivers. A comprehensive study consisting of 37 Complete Streets projects in the U.S. concluded that the projects will earn back the money spent for their initial investment in just under eight years by helping avoid a significant amount of road collisions and costs associated with injuries. Similarly, a study with over 53 counties reported that a Safe System approach that emphasizes road design, infrastructure, and systemic issues as a means of improving safety on roads can have the biggest impact when it comes to achieving the lowest rates of road death fatalities by population. Vehicle manufacturers also have a key role to play here by designing safer cars, while cities can advocate for the implementation of smaller vehicles to ensure city streets become safer for both pedestrians and drivers. Modes such as minimobility provide further benefits when it comes to safety as they travel at relatively low speeds from 25 to 90 kilometers per hour.   

Multimodal systems offer many benefits to communities including the ability to leverage the strengths of different modes of transport and combine them as efficiently and effectively as possible so that connectivity is enhanced and citizens of urban areas can enjoy mobility that is accessible, equitable, and readily available when they need it. City planners, leaders, and professionals in the field will need to actively engage in making this notion a reality if they are to meet climate goals, improve transportation networks, and create greener and more efficient mobility that serves all members of communities.