TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The auto industry faces a new wave of regulations as cities trying to combat rising congestion and pollution become more assertive in shaping the ways their residents move about.
Planners realize they've been "designing cities for cars rather than for people," said auto industry executive and author Venkat Sumantran, who spoke Tuesday at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars.
Some local governments are trying to shape consumer choices via targeted user fees, subsidies and regulation, encouraging the use of certain forms of transportation and discouraging others.
London is an example of how public policy is used to manage congestion and reduce pollution. The city wants to increase the share of people who use public transit to 80 percent, said Sumantran, chairman of consulting firm Celeris Technologies.
"The imposition of a congestion tax in London has dramatically shifted the way people move. It's shifted modal choices," Sumantran told Automotive News. "The role of public policy and regulation is going to play a very important role to make cities more economically efficient, by reducing congestion and potentially impacting what kinds of transportation options are available."
For many cities, traffic congestion alone erodes 3 to 5 percent of local gross domestic product, he said.
In his new book, Faster, Smarter, Greener, Sumantran reports that greater intervention from local authorities is one of several changes shaping the transportation industry. Sumantran and his co-authors argue for a framework for a new world of mobility — one that is connected, heterogeneous, intelligent and personalized.
Sumantran believes that approach could be a formal architecture for the concept of mobility as a service. It allows city administrators and planners to influence demand for transportation modes by using a combination of policies, investments, incentives and levies aligned to societal goals.
Such a framework could be tailored to individual communities to suit their priorities for convenience, accessibility, economics, land use and environmental impact, he said.
There has been a proliferation of transportation models, Sumantran said, referring to ride-hailing services such as Uber and car-sharing services such as GM's Maven. People can choose travel modes based on user experience and efficiency, aided by "intelligent advisers," accessible through mobile devices. A commuter might use an e-bike to get from home to the nearest transit station, then take a train to the nearest station to the workplace and finally hop into a Lyft for the last mile.
"You're synthesizing journeys on the fly," Sumantran said. "And you've got the tools and the power to do this today."
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