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People-friendly mobility: the cities that really believe in it

Public transport, pedestrian areas, soft mobility and charging stations are just a few strategies to improve the quality of urban mobility. Let's see how the five cities at the top of the global sustainability challenge do it

Diversified solutions for sustainable urban mobility are the answer to the environmental challenges of cities to become future-oriented smart cities. According to the Urban Mobility Readiness Index report, produced by the Oliver Wyman Forum and the University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco, Stockholm, Helsinki, Singapore and Zurich (see the fotogallery attached) are the top five out of 60 based on criteria of social impact, infrastructure, market attractiveness, efficiency and innovation of the local mobility system. 

Conditions of excellence, where sustainable mobility management is combined with, among other things, the adoption of intelligent, digital and connected transport systems. It is no coincidence, for example, that four of these cities (Stockholm, Helsinki, Singapore and Zurich) will adopt the ITS solutions of Yunex Traffic, a company acquired by Mundys (then Atlantia, ed.), in July 2021. In this scenario, the choice of Milan (31st) provides a comparison of the world's top performers with the case of an average European metropolis. The report also ranks Oslo first in its commitment to 'green' and sustainable mobility ecosystems and Hong Kong first in its commitment to public transport systems.

Public transportation and commuting

"As demonstrated by Hong Kong, home to what is widely regarded as one of the most efficient public transit systems in the world, investment in public transit infrastructure and services can drive utilization, whereby private vehicles play a secondary role in urban transport - says Guillaume Thibault, Partner and Mobility Co-lead, the Oliver Wyman Forum -. And, alongside efficient, reliable high-density mass transit systems, incentivisation with fare discounts can also drive use of public transit.  Thanks to its unique approach, the system is even profitable!"

Still, many metropolises need to discourage private transportation in commuting through urban boundaries, between cities and regions for instance by using high-speed rail, for longer trips. "However, these services still need to be affordable and reliable to shift from the comfort of private vehicles - Thibault notes -. Implementation of car-free zones, low-emission zones and charging drivers for using certain roads or areas during peak hours can also discourage use of private transportation and switch to alternative modes of transportation. In addition, the revenue generated from charging drivers can be reinvested in transportation infrastructure and services, while car-free zones can create safer networks to encourage active mobility such as walking and cycling". 

"More, promotion of active mobility and utilisation of public transportation through investments in infrastructure and services can promote the green transition and reduce emissions associated with transit".

Green transition as a global challenge

People-friendly solutions, green, electric and sharing technological innovations, make a difference in improving the urban landscape and quality of life (in this sense, other research, such as Here's Urban Mobility Index, also describes in more detail the transformation of mobility in the world's leading cities).

Spreading a clean mobility based on EVs is the current challenge in the most advanced countries. But, not every city is Oslo so how to foster the green transition in mobility, across developing countries?

"The decarbonization of the mobility industry is expensive and battery-electric cars are still not accessible to a large number of customers in developed countries - Thibault tells -. So far, investment has been a barrier to development of electric vehicle solutions for developing countries, however; there may be opportunities for countries where current car ownership is low to rapidly develop strong EV markets and even leapfrog the current leaders in electrification! For example, in South-East Asia electric two-wheelers are popular owing to their affordability and ease of use. It is important to take into consideration local mobility patterns to identify best mobility solutions. Adoption of low-carbon transport can be encouraged through incentives, such as tax credits, rebates and subsidies, that can help make these technologies more affordable.

For a large number of developing countries, providing reliable and affordable electricity is key to enable the adoption of Evs and investments should target better grids. Chinese OEMs are meeting success by exporting more affordable EVs than European or North American counterparts. It could be the solution to support the green transition in those countries".

San Francisco

The Golden Gate city enjoys excellent market attractiveness thanks to Silicon Valley universities and tech companies, with a thriving MaaS ecosystem. In spite of a car-centred infrastructure, San Francisco has invested heavily in charging stations, offers incentives for e-car purchases (up to $9,500), introduced micro-mobility measures (the bicycle network has grown by about 80 km by 2021) and instituted slow streets after Covid to improve road safety.

As a result, vehicle traffic was halved, pedestrian traffic increased by 17 per cent and bicycle traffic by 65 per cent. Autonomous driving has been tested both as a robotaxi and for police cars, not without security and privacy concerns. Nevertheless, San Francisco lags behind on issues of sustainable mobility and public transport. With only a few stops, it is necessary to walk long distances to reach them, resulting in a relatively low use of public transport.



Equipped with an efficient transport system and a 96-kilometre metro network operating from 5 a.m. until 3 a.m., Stockholm is also among the cities that have invested the most in electrification. The effects are felt on air quality and noise pollution, while the demand for electric vehicle charging stations increases. The 'Norra Stationsparken' car park under construction in Hagastaden, for example, will be the seventh with 100 per cent charging points (one thousand), making it one of the largest in Europe, in the second largest city in terms of electric vehicle share after Oslo. The public transport system is dense, multi-modal and with good connections to the rail network, although the utilisation rate remains relatively low compared to private vehicles and active mobility solutions are not popular.


With large car-free zones and a high number of electric vehicles, Helsinki has more than 4,500 bicycles, 750 electric bikes and 457 stations with a utilisation rate of more than six rides per day. In addition to bicycles (removed every winter and reused in spring) there are also 15 thousand scooters and 7 thousand are concentrated in the city centre. A public transport app integrates the choice for all means of transport and allows travelling with a ticket valid for all, at an affordable price. The Finnish capital aims to become climate-neutral by 2030, reducing CO2 emissions in the transport sector by 69% compared to 2005.


The city-state, known for its high population density, has been using IoT technologies and monitoring sensors to collect data on urban transport for years. The EzLink cashless digital map enables the collection of big-data on routes, crowding and travel time, useful information for deciding interventions in urbanisation processes and infrastructure improvements. Singapore's mobility management relies on forward-looking policies related to the road-user charge system.

The MaaS model offers, through the 'MyTransport' application, a personalised navigation service with multiple modes of transport, contributes to the reduction of traffic, and also reduces pollution. Micro-mobility remains a weakness, although doubling the cycle network from 530 to 1,300 km by 2030 is among the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) goals. 


Zurich's public transport is among the most efficient and convenient: trams and buses are the preferred means of transport for citizens. The transport companies are unified in the Zürcher Verkehrsverbund (ZVV) to travel with a single ticket on all means of transport in the extensive urban network, including ferries, boats, rack railways and cable cars. In order to reduce CO2 emissions and traffic, original solutions such as 'eco-drive-ins' for cyclists are appearing, to experience the 'bike-friendly’ city. A 'slow technology' model, but one that risks lagging behind cities that use the metro. The approach to autonomous driving is cautious, but the roads are safe and of high quality, with a low accident rate and an effective control system.


Milan has a well-connected multi-modal network of nodes, stations and interchange car parks for fast and convenient public transport. Despite regulations and incentives for the adoption of electric vehicles, charging infrastructure and car sales have lagged behind. According to the report, the city fails to benefit from an innovation environment, as few mobility companies are based there and few It patents are filed in Italy. The use of motorbikes (5.88%) and the share of people now working from home (8%) are higher than in the top five cities in the world.

Infra Journal Newsroom - The widespread editorial staff of Infra Journal is made up of qualified journalists and experts in the sector. It aims to regularly provide data, information, trends and analysis for those who strive to put in motion the community to which they belong.

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