How did our cities evolve from 2020-2040? We travelled forward in time to ask residents of our city of 2040 to provide a retrospective view. Here is their write up on how the concepts outlined in our Vision have shaped key elements of the 2040 city. What can we learn from these that might help us make decisions today?

Over the past 20 years since 2020, waves of technological adoption, particularly in the areas of automation, virtualisation and artificial intelligence have significantly changed the focus and nature of working, shopping and playing. This in turn has had implications for where people have chosen to live, and in turn how and where they travel. Most of us travel less frequently now than we did 20 years ago, but journeys are much more purposeful. The modes of transport we now use have also changed significantly. In place of internal combustion engines we have electric and hydrogen powered autonomous vehicles. Both freight and passenger trains are now larger, faster and greener than ever before and drones now deliver goods to people’s houses rather than the white vans of the first wave of e-commerce. Population growth over the past 20 years has been accommodated by a combination of growth within many of the UK’s smaller towns, facilitated by more distributed work models, as well as a densification and repurposing of our major cities. This is turn has increased the use of public transport, particularly in the former group, and had two other implications for the way in which people move around, and how roads and transport hubs adapted to serve them: Firstly, those living outside inner cities travel into the city centre less frequently and in response to specific needs.

How has transportation changed in the city of 2040?

URBAN ELEMENT: Transportation

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Most commonly these journeys are made by middle-age professionals travelling to their company’s head offices, which were increasingly developed closer to central train stations, but journeys are also made by those visiting cities for their unique social and cultural offerings. These journeys are predominantly made on high-speed, comfortable and sustainably powered trains. Secondly, those living in the densified inner cities now travel on foot, cycle and by public transport even more so than 20 years ago. Large areas of our city cores are now pedestrianised with no access or parking for cars. There is a greater proportion of residential accommodation in city centres and, in larger cities, a range of amenities are located close by to serve these populations. City centre roads are now much more pleasant to navigate on bicycle and electric scooter; air pollution is now largely a thing of the past due to the adoption of greener vehicles. Pavements are much wider and shielded from public transport vehicles by urban greening measures.

All of this means that there is sustained demand for high speed rail links between major cities and commuter towns but less frequent travel on many suburban routes, some secondary line services became unviable in the late 2020s. At the point of disembarking most of us now travel on foot or by electronically fuelled public transport; taxis are rarely used anymore. Most UK cities now have integrated public transport systems with Oyster-Card-like methods of switching modes. In an increasing number of cases, local authorities have been able to repurpose redundant railways and roads into linear urban parks and walkways such as the Camden to Kings Cross Highline. However, it has been challenging to adapt much of our outmoded transport infrastructure to meet the needs of a world which travels now very differently. And of course, as the hierarchy of transport nodes have shifted relevance, land values have adjusted accordingly.

URBAN ELEMENT: Transportation

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Where are we seeing this already? In 2021, the Swedish government began a new policy to repurpose redundant road infrastructure and improve local communities by introducing more amenity space. Similar to Paris’ policy of removing 70,000 car parking spaces, the Swedish authorities plan to discourage car use by filling car parking spaces with tables, benches and plants. The plan is that a range of modules used in to sit and eat, urban gardens, playgrounds, outdoor gyms, bike storage, and electric scooter charging points. Local communities are consulted as part of the process, and installations are currently being trialled in Stockholm. Further sites in Gothenburg, Helsingborg, and Malmö hyperlocal approach to planning is built around the concept of the one-minute city (building on the 15-minute city), a movement that wants people to make small, achievable Moving forward, this kind of policy may become more widespread as a means of quickly repurposing roads and transport infrastructure to provide greater amenity space within residential areas of cities as the promotion of pedestrianisation and ‘walkability’ continue to remove vehicles from our streets. Other examples: Curitiba Transport System, Seoul Integrated Transport System, Portland, Istanbul. bigger.

Takeaways » Fewer commutes as more people work partially remotely. » Denser, greener cities are now more walkable and accommodating for cyclists due to the removal of cars and reduction in delivery vehicles. » Public transport provides links across polycentric cities. » Some redundant roads and railways have been repurposed to provide urban green space. » Much of our historic road network remains unchanged but it is underutilised for greater periods.

What might this mean for your business? Get in touch with one of our Future of Cities team who can help with strategic evaluation, horizon scanning, scenario planning and future proofing:

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