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Europe leads, North America lags as index tracks cities’ mobility readiness

European cities have hijacked the Deloitte City Mobility Index, with Stockholm, Amsterdam, London and Barcelona leading the pack. Only two cities from North America  – Vancouver (6) and Los Angeles (7) – figure in the top ten, with Auckland, Dubai and Shanghai bringing up the rear.

Deloitte City Mobility Index (DCMI) 2020 looks into the quality of urban mobility in 36 cities across the globe. The index offers rankings and comparisons based on three major criteria:

  • Performance and resilience – congestion, public transport reliability, transport safety, integrated mobility and modal diversity
  • Vision and leadership – vision, investment, innovation, regulatory environment and environmental sustainability initiatives.
  • Service and inclusion – public transport density, transport affordability, air quality, customer satisfaction and accessibility.

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Cities mobility index

For each criteria, the cities are ranked low to high, from ‘emerging’ over ‘aspiring’ to ‘contender’, ‘top performer’ and ‘global leader’. For instance, Stockholm scores high on public transport density, accessibility, modal diversity, and is a ‘global leader’ in these areas. However, it is a ‘top performer’ when it comes to managing congestion, public transport reliability, integrated mobility, innovation, regulatory environment, environment sustainability initiatives. It is a ‘contender’ in the remaining areas of transport safety, investment, transport affordability and customer satisfaction. Public transport is a high favorite among its citizens (32%), less than half opting for private cars (46%) – walking (15%) and bicyle (7%) are the other two modes of transport. 

Amsterdam is a ‘global leader’ in modal diversity and vision and strategy, a ‘top performer’ in congestion and public transport density, but only an ‘aspiring’ city for transport affordability. On the other hand, Tokyo is a ‘global leader’ in transport safety, but only ‘aspiring’ when it comes to congestion and air quality. Citizens in the Japanese capital cycle less (17%) than their Dutch counterparts, but walk a lot more (24% vs only 4% in Amsterdam). They also travel more on public transport (47%) but less by car (12%) compared to citizens in Amsterdam. Interestingly, contrary to popular beliefs, private cars still amount for the largest (42%) transport mode, with bicycle emerging only as the second favorite (30%) and only public transport the least (19%).

There is an interactive comparison tool enables users to compare various aspects of individual cities or groups of cities. For example, Singapore (‘top performer’) and Shanghai (‘contender’) are doing much better in terms of Congestion than London, Tokyo and Jakarta (all ‘aspiring’); Public Transport Reliability is much greater in Singapore (‘top performer’) than in nearby Jakarta (‘aspiring’); London and Singapore are ‘global leaders’ in terms of Investment, while Jakarta is merely a ‘contender’. 

Los Angeles, the only US city to figure in the list, private cares accounted as an overwhelming favorite mode of transport (89%) with public transport a distant second at 5% and miniscule takers for walking (3%) and cycling (1%). Interestingly, while the city has approved tax increases to fund transport projects and several new rail lines and a reorganization of the bus network will expand capacity as the city prepares to host the Olympics in 2028, the study finds that private vehicle ownership has increased faster than population growth, contributing to persistently high congestion on the roads. Public transport passenger numbers have in fact declined substantially since 2013, particularly on the bus network, which accounts for 70% of total public transport numbers. Further, the city’s regulations for the provision of data on mobility have faced legal challenges from both private companies and advocates of privacy. It is also notes that low-income populations in particular are the biggest users of public transport.

Likewise, in Washington DC, private cars account for the maximum number of journeys (77%). However, public transport perform a shade better here ( 16%), followed by bicyle (4%) and  walking (1%). Though the city has ambitious projects in the pipeline and formation of private sector partnerships to promote transport projects, car use is ingrained among citizens, resulting in very bad congestion – the sixth worst in the US. This affects the bus network too, which suffers from average speeds of 10 mph and poor on-time service, leading to fall passenger numbers.

Vancouver gets a heads up for having a clear vision for improving transportation across the region and transportation across the region and modes. While the city has a well-integrated, affordable, and accessible transport system that is popular with residents, the demand far exceeds capacity. The bus service suffers from road congestions and the train network is popular but has limited coverage and accounts for just over a third of all journeys by public transport.

Notably, while it is recognized as bike-friendly city with ever-expanding infrastructure and

all-ages-all-abilities design, bicyle is the least favorite mode of transport of its residents (3%) with private cars taking the top spot (68%), public transport (21%) and walking (7%).

COVID-19 impact

The DCMI 2020 research spanned the two years from March 2018 to March 2020, and hence was mostly before the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on cities and transport around the world.  Deloitte recognizes this limitation while predicting the future. “It is difficult to predict with confidence which changes will be temporary responses and which will be permanent. It is possible that the trends over the past decade will be undone by the combined effects of the pandemic and the potential economic fallout. But these crises could act as a catalyst, propelling cities towards a future for mobility that is cleaner, safer, faster, equitable and accessible,” the report states.

However, the report does see COVID-19 accelerating some of the trends such as move towards curbing private vehicles and reorienting public space more towards pedestrians and cyclists. Milan is repurposing 35 km of roads in the city center for bikes and pedestrians while Berlin, Brussels, Rome, Manchester and others are making similar changes.

Another interesting trend observed, thanks to COVID-19, was that the concept of ‘safety’ with regard to mobility has been expanded to include hygiene. For transport operators, that probably means employing a variety of measures, from temperature checks and new vehicle configurations, to more frequent services to reduce passenger loads.

The study also foresees up to 75% of people will limit their use of public transport in the coming months because of COVID-19. In several regions in China that have ’reopened’, road traffic levels have returned to pre-pandemic levels, and in some cases even increased. The study also finds that there are also issues with the management and sharing of mobility data, which may be extended to include new and potentially more intrusive data collection measures, as the authorities seek to monitor the health and movements of individuals. This data could ultimately be used to improve the operations of the transport system, first for the protection of public health (for example, collecting information about crowding on buses or trains), but eventually with other goals in mind (better matching of supply and demand for transport services).

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