The Future of Cities and Transport

Thursday 28th February 2019


Cities are changing. The great suburban sprawl created by the motor car is not the model of the future. A fundamental redesign of cities is imminent and once again transport will play a key part.


Liverpool City hosted another excellent discussion on 26th February in its Ideas 2170 series. This one was titled “The future is nearly now, transport in the 21st century” and included an expert panel from Arup, Transport for NSW, Western Sydney University and a tech entrepreneur discussing how transport is changing and what that means for cities.


A key message was that future transport is being driven by changing needs, not just technological advances. There is a move towards people wanting to work close to home, have access to all basic amenities (shops, etc) close to home and a desire for more liveable places. That leads to density which changes the way we commute to work and how far we expect to travel. At the same time, retail is changing, with more online purchases shopping centres will need to adapt and be more distributed. And in an increasingly digital world, online, high bandwidth 5G connectivity is becoming a necessity that is changing the need to travel long distances physically, to work, to play, to shop.

Putting all that together the panel agreed that the future transport needs of cities will be multi faceted but include public and private transport that is electric, autonomous and shared. Mass transit remains at the heart of any livable city. It will include much more local travel and less long commutes. But there is a recognition that people’s transport preferences are getting more complex and more diverse, so there will need to be a mix of individual solutions perhaps ranging from electric scooters, to Uber like shared autonomous vehicles to driverless trackless trams, to intercity fast train hyperloops for example. 


However, there are challenges to overcome. Electric vehicles will kill fuel tax which pays for roads, how do we replace that?  How do we ensure autonomous vehicles don’t deplete public transport? How do we democratise the future transport options so all can afford it? Most of Sydney is lower density and not ready for non car options, how do we transition to this new future equitably?


If we want a denser city with more great walkable places full of jobs and facilities, connected to other such places, then we need to overcome these challenges and design our transport accordingly.


Dr Rob Lang | Chairman, RDA Sydney

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