As the world becomes increasingly urbanised, all sorts of innovative companies have sprung up to disrupt the way we travel. The likes of InMotion, through its Accelerator, and Uber, through its modern take on taxi services, are just two examples.
But many of us want even more as we explore new ways of travelling around our urban environments. And interestingly, what we want is similar the world over — lunchtime surveys of commuter wishlists in London’s Canary Wharf and East End deliver responses not unlike those in Brisbane, Paris and New Orleans.
Make my journey bespoke
Both Kathy, a 30-year-old management consultant from London, and Dwan, a 39-year-old policy officer from Brisbane, are part of the global trend towards multimodal transport.
Kathy usually takes the tube, but sometimes runs or walks. “It would be good if apps worked out from previous journeys how fast I walk and used that to give me more accurate estimates in future.
“Sometimes I run home from work and I’d like an app that told me the safest route – sometimes I find myself being the only person on a deserted street at night.”
Dwan, who cycles some days and take the bus on others, says she wants an app to plot more tailored riding routes. “I’d love to be able to say to my app ‘I want to go to work. But I want to cycle for twice as long’ or ‘I want to ride 15km this morning’ or ‘I really need to train for hills, so make hills a part of my route.’”
Safe is separate
While cycling aficionados like Dwan have grown in number dramatically recently, as commuters try to avoid crowded trains, both cyclists and motorists seem united in the view that the two are best kept apart.
Vincent, 39, a council worker who cycles to work in Tower Hamlets along London’s new cycle superhighway, says: “The new lanes sometimes instil a false sense of security in cyclists as it’s easy to forget you have to interact with other traffic at crossings and the like.
“This is where I’ve usually seen accidents taking place. It would be better and safer for all road users if they designed routes that bypassed other traffic.”
Fellow council employee Marwar, 35, agrees. “I drive along the new cycle route and some of the things I’ve seen are very dangerous. Lots of cyclists don’t stop at red lights. I think it would be better if the lane was totally separate from other traffic.”
New solutions to old problems
Unfortunately, we can’t all find new ways to commute. With house prices increasingly pushing city workers out of city centres – the average commute in London, for example, is now almost an hour each way — many have no choice but to use crowded public transport.
While London’s Canary Wharf commuters accept crowds as a fact of life in rush hour, they suggest better communication about train problems, apps with alerts about overcrowding and more bus stops with departure information would be a big help.
Urban environments are undoubtedly becoming more challenging — and interesting — places to commute, whether by new methods or old. While we’ve welcomed the technological advancements that help us navigate the daily grind, many people are now craving more intuitive, more responsive tools.
Oriane, 29, a sales representative from Paris: “I hate to stop all the time at red lights. I would like an app that tells me that a traffic light is in 100m and to get there when it’s green I have to drive at 30km/h.”
Fliss, 31, a musician from London: “I would like more fold down seats on the tube. For me and the passengers around me it helps if I can store my instruments underneath my seat.”
Derek, 42, an engineer from New Orleans: “Smart cars need to be invented where they travel in an express lane and all link up like pods of a train so you don’t have to steer. When you need to turn or exit a ramp, you pull out of the express lane into a normal lane and drive as normal.”
Increasingly, urban commuters needs more personalised solutions to their everyday travel problems. With so many transformative businesses working in the mobility area, it should only be a matter of time until they get them.