Mobility: Interview with Robert Cervero
Robert Cervero: Mobility in cities needs to be sustainable, given the finite limits of fossil fuels, the problems of pollution in our cities and the growing concerns over climate change. More accessible mobility comes from a wider and more advanced public transport system, from city planning which prioritizes traffic – with new constructions growing around train stations and BRT (bus rapid transit) lanes – and from urbanization which promotes walk and cycle paths – options that are also healthier – as well as urban growth which accompanies transport capacity, and not the other way around.
What cities need to start thinking about these issues already?
Robert Cervero: In the USA, cities such as Houston, Atlanta and Phoenix. In Latin America, São Paulo and Mexico City are still losing the fight against traffic congestion, pollution and the incessant domination of the automobile.
What trends will dominate the future of mobility?
Robert Cervero: Technology will play an important role. We will be able to solve environmental and energy problems with cleaner fuels. The advances in digital communications will decrease the need for physical travel. In some more advanced economies, the negative population growth will reduce some traffic problems, but this will be counter-balanced by the increase in the production of cars in countries such as India and China, with the elevation of income among the population. In terms of quality of life, we will see more neighborhoods and districts more receptive to a life-style based on walking and not driving. The consumers’ own choices will lead to better urban planning.
You have developed mobility projects in Brazil. What would be the best solutions for the large cities in the country?
Robert Cervero: Countries like Brazil need various good TOD (transit oriented development) model-projects. A ‘greener’ urban growth and planning which takes the traffic into account could create cleaner, more pleasant neighborhoods. The authorities in Brazil need to concern themselves with solutions such as urban trains and exclusive BRT lanes. These initiatives could re-value degraded urban spaces, improving public paths, sidewalks and squares. Partnerships between the government and private initiatives can help cities to plan their communities with innovative projects and participatory planning.
On an individual level, what attitudes can each one of us take to improve mobility in cities?
Robert Cervero: Ideas like the buy local, live local concept, which encourages people to shop, work and consume products and services without needing to leave the neighborhoods where they live, can help decrease traffic and mobility problems. Neighborhoods like Hammarsby Sjöstad (in Stockholm, Sweden), Riesefeld and Vauban (both in the city of Freiburg, Germany) and Masdar City (in Abu Dhabi) are examples of communities planned to maximize the energy economy and decrease the need for travel and vehicles on the road.