Re-Programming Mobility: A Literature Review, And More to Come…

Over the next several weeks, the Rudin Center will be releasing a series of white papers and reports from our research project on Re-Programming Mobility: Getting Around Metropolitan America in 2030 and the Coming Crisis in Transportation Planning, which has been led over the last 12 months by Dr. Anthony Townsend.

Every Monday in August we will be releasing material from the Re-Programming Mobility project including a bibliography, a technology signals report, an article examining two case studies of technology and regional mobility in the US and UK, and a set of four alternative futures scenarios exploring technological change and land use in US metropolitan areas.

Today, we are pleased to announce the release of a white paper authored by Prof. Andrew Mondschein of the University of Virginia (and a former research scientist at the Rudin Center). This white paper provides a wide-ranging overview of the key issues raised by new information and communications technologies, where they have been addressed in the transportation and planning literature, and what gaps remain. We hope that this document can orient researchers who are mapping their own strategies for studying this crucially important topic in the future.

Download: Re-Programming Mobility Literature Review (PDF)

The abstract follows:

This paper addresses questions of how planners and other transportation professionals should be thinking about, planning for, and managing ICTs. The review draws on existing literatures from urban planning, social and applied science, and the technological press. Key considerations include the history of technologies in transportation planning, theories explaining effects of technologies on travel, how planners deal with technologies today, and ongoing gaps in knowledge, concepts, and practice. This exploration is wide-ranging, as the range of technologies now transforming mobility is itself broad. I argue that in many cases planners are not yet prepared for the onslaught of ICTs and their effects on mobility. Even where researchers have begun to frame potential impacts, clear linkages to planning and have yet to solidify. Historically, technological advances have been a boon for travel, making systems safer and more useful, but also facilitating increased driving with its ancillary impacts. Conceptually, ICTs don’t just reduce monetary and time costs, but also shift the patterns of daily life and fundamentally alter how people make choices about where to go and how to get there. These functional and psycho-social effects will continue to impact planners’ ability to meet fundamental transportation planning objectives such as increasing accessibility, equity, sustainability, and livability. The potential for significant shifts in behavior suggests that dealing with ICTs is not just a matter of updated regulation, but of reconsidering longstanding assumptions built into the planning process.


One thought on “Re-Programming Mobility: A Literature Review, And More to Come…”

  1. I would love to see also a study that -as a meta-analysis- scrutinizes past similar efforts at transport prognostication in the past. My studies seem to show, that most longer-term studies in (public or individual) transportation completely missed the mark. E.g. there were several conferences about how horse manure would soon make New York and other large cities completely “unnavigable” if traffic continued at the same pace unabated. The conferences actually lasted days and came to the conclusion that there was no realistic policy to stem the tide. Well, we all know how that ended. Similarly I remember during the 1970s oil crises how fuel prices were projected and what wild assumptions were made about the future (or not) of individual transport. Now today Elon Musk not only has a program for transporting stuff into space at a fraction of the cost public endeavors were costing (probably with no less ingenuity applied), but he wants to build a system of vacuum-tube speed trains traveling, in the essence, faster than air planes when times are considered from start to finish, i.e. the human being actually arriving at a destination where they can get to work rather than checking in and out at an airport far away from city centers. So far science has rarely self-reflected itself in this way, rather it was to hindsight studies like Thomas Kuhn’s “Scientific Revolutions” etc.

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