Urban Mobility Evolves
I think it is time we updated, or at least added to the long-time motto of location, location, location with mobility, mobility, mobility.
Today urban mobility is perhaps the most important infrastructure that every residential buyer or developer considers as an essential for any real estate development or purchase.
Location is still important however, today mobility can involve a much more considered perspective than simply being near a bus stop, railway station or motorway, mobility today covers a wide range of factors.
There are two interesting perspectives, on very different scales that I’m thinking about, and they are the appeal of a walkable neighbourhood and the Uber affect.
When we consider how mobility is impacting modern urban design, housing demand and demographics, these two topics have a lot in common although, they can be as different a shared transport via an Uber scooter or town planning that creates safe walking and bike trails.
The Walkable Neighbourhood
Being caught up in the Saturday morning traffic frenzy or during peak hour traffic in Sydney or Melbourne or indeed in any major city, the idea of a walkable neighbourhood becomes instantly appealing. An easy pleasant walk will always for most of us, trump being stuck in traffic.
The site www.walkscore.com ranks address in the United States, Canada, and Australia covering the largest 3,000 cities and over 10,000 neighbourhoods.
The site describes walkable neighbourhoods by their access to public transit, better commutes, and proximity to lifestyle places that to quote; make us happier, healthier and with a more sustainable lifestyle. When thinking of a walkable community this is not confined to inner suburbs or new master planned estates.
It’s interesting to see that Sydney’s outer suburbs are becoming increasingly walk friendly thanks to improving infrastructure and also as a direct result of the shift to higher density apartment living.
Looking at Sydney’s most “walkable” suburbs reveals that many areas are located more than 30km from the CBD. Putting them on par with inner city areas. Walkscore.com shows The Entrance on the Central Coast as the most walkable suburb across the Greater Sydney region.
A key measure of how walkable an area is, its mobility, and is described as when residents can do “most errands” without ever needing to use a car.
Out of interest, Sydney with a score of 63, when last ranked it was Australia’s most walkable city, followed by Melbourne 57 and Adelaide 54. In the USA New York City takes first spot with a score of 89 followed by San Francisco at 86.
However, one really top walkable city is Central London with an impressive score of 100.
Walkability is now a sort after quality and a measure of mobility that’s increasingly top of mind for all homebuyers.
Governments, planners and developers are all looking for ways to make areas more walkable. It has also been suggested that some direct transport taxes, like congestion charges, should in part be directed to help make cities more walkable.
The Uber Effect
That brings me to the ‘Uber Effect’ a new kind of urban mobility already having a big impact on cities.
Uber might be for any time when you really can’t walk or simply need to drive but, in a trend of falling car ownership, partly a reflection of more apartment living, what does the Uber Effect tell us about cities, and how and how and where we live? About changing urban mobility?
My comments are general in nature and here relate in part to Sydney, but this is a topic we are bound to hear more about in the future and it extends to Uber Rides and Uber Eats.
Sydney has taken to Uber Rides and weekday AM hotspots include: Eastern Suburbs, CBD, North Sydney and the Airport and all are high density population areas. Evenings are busy in the CBD, Inner West and Lower North Shore and popular growth areas include Parramatta, where there’s also a lot of development of new apartment projects and many have limited parking, but they do encourage ridesharing services.
With ridesharing services so popular there are some impacts already apparent that influence urban mobility and these include a possible drop in the use of public transport and increased numbers of private cars on already busy roads.
As a result, some cities are looking at ways to tax ridesharing as a means of funding sustainable transport (and walkable neighbourhoods) and these charges could include road congestion fees.
Congestion fees have proved effective in cities like London, Singapore and Stockholm but are yet to fully address ridesharing. As services like Uber become more popular and possibly add more private cars to our roads, the debate will start to focus on how the environment is impacted.
Perhaps understanding this trend, Uber is also extending its services to include bikes and scooters, this year Uber has a $1billion budget for bikes, scooters and other mobility initiatives, perhaps Uber skateboards!
A less obvious trend on urban mobility is being impacted by Uber Eats as the delivery service is reshaping how many consumers, in particular in high density populated areas buy takeaway food. The trend is reshaping the demand for some food related space with specialist ‘dark’ kitchens being developed in areas that will never rely upon or even accommodate foot traffic.
The mobility afforded by Uber Eats can also help to reduce demand for parking in busy high street locations although, food outlets impacted by these trends will have to consider how they manage and plan their business growth and that includes where they are located.
Next time you pass a busy Uber Eats delivery bike in your area they might just be freeing up a previously hard to find parking spot right near your favourite café, restaurant or pub.