Access Cities: Contributing to Better Quality of Life Through Sustainable Communities
Access Cities: Contributing to Better Quality of Life Through Sustainable Communities
By The Epic Talent Society
February 9, 2023
Mobility is just a means to an end, a derived demand. What we all need are high levels of accessibility.
We live in a world that faces tremendous challenges. And most of them will be dealt with and solved in cities. It’s in cities that most of us will live; to define and decide what type of life and planet we will have, and that the battle of climate change will be won or lost. Therefore, we (all) need to focus on designing, planning, managing, and using our cities in a more efficient and people-centric way. Urban mobility is a key factor in that process if we want a fruitful, attractive, exciting, and dynamic city that is, at the same time, sustainable, safe and universal.

Mobility is a means to an end
It may sound strange, but what we really need is not (solely) mobility. Mobility is just a means to an end, a derived demand. What we all need are high levels of accessibility—to people, places, information, goods, leisure, knowledge, culture, and work. Accessibility can only be achieved by a balanced and integrated combination of three factors: proximity, connectivity, and (sustainable and smart) mobility.

The first key factor in having high accessibility is being close. Proximity is therefore a key variable in the design of a city, of public space, and in the way we enjoy our lives in cities. Tactical urbanism is thriving in many cities around the globe. It is redesigning, at low-cost, people-centric public space and all contributing to a city of proximity, reducing mobility needs while enhancing a more sharing community. The concept of the “15-minute city” by Prof. Carlos Moreno, adopted by several cities, namely Paris, the “New York City Plaza Program” or the “Piazze Aperte” in Milan, the “Superblocks” approach in Barcelona, or the “one Plaza in each neighborhood” implemented in the city of Lisbon are also great examples of this trend.
We need an integrated approach to design a sustainable future in cities
But in many situations, we do not need to move at all. Connectivity, which became an even more powerful tool during the pandemic period, not only allows us to have access to information or e-commerce, but also to business and personal meetings, thus reducing our mobility footprint considerably. Connectivity can also increase sharing (when adopted properly). It is also a key factor in the digital revolution that we are experiencing. People, places, infrastructure, vehicles, and many other new concepts and systems that have not yet been introduced to the market (or invented!) will all be fully connected, contributing to the concept of a Smart Sustainable City.
Sustainable smart mobility is key
Even if we are close and connected, we still need a smart, sustainable mobility solution at our disposal. This means that it should be designed to work well with proximity and connectivity while also exploring the sharing and digital concepts to their full potential.The system should be safe and secure, affordable, comfortable, inclusive, and efficient (in terms of travel time, reliability, frequency, and energy consumption), while adopting new technologies that make the solution even easier to use. Therefore, mobility needs to be sustainable, integrated, and seamless, making each trip a positive experience. Urban mobility needs to have a public transport backbone, complemented by active (walking and biking) and sharing solutions, and reduce the role and impact of private vehicles. Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) have been developed by many cities and are a great tool to embrace all these ideas and put them into practice.
The future is not just a CASE of technology, it’s also about happiness
For many, technology will solve the problem. Not really! Technology may contribute to making the cities more efficient and accessible, as mobility will be more CASE – Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric, becoming a seamless, on-my-smartphone, pay-as-you-go service called MaaS (Mobility as a Service). Now, here comes the interesting part: more proximity, connectivity and sustainable smart mobility mean more sharing (of space, services, ideas, feelings, experiences, etc.) and therefore, require more interactions between people, more involvement and participation in the destiny of our communities and cities. In other words, it will lead to an increase in social capital, contributing to a general increase in our quality of life, health, longevity, and levels of happiness. Sounds great, doesn’t it? So, what are we waiting for? Let’s do it together, designing a sustainable future where “the rhythm of the city should follow humans, not cars” as Carlos Moreno suggested.
About Tiago Farias
Tiago Farias is currently an associate professor with tenure in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal. His research, consulting, and training activities cover smart sustainable mobility and alternative vehicle technologies. He has published more than two hundred papers in Scientific Journals, International Books and Conference Proceedings. He was an invited speaker at more than one hundred national and international events.

As an executive, Tiago Farias was the former Executive President of CARRIS, the Lisbon Municipal Bus and Tram Operator. Previously, and among several roles, he served as the municipal director of mobility and transport for the City of Lisbon and as a member of the board and COO of EMEL (the Lisbon Mobility and Parking Municipal Company.

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