How to build seamless integrated mobility systems for the cities of the future

  • New mobility solutions risk overtaxing existing systems and infrastructure.

  • Seamless integrated mobility systems (SIMS) could be the answer.

  • This new report examines the SIMS challenges and choices faced by cities.

The future of cities has captured the global imagination for centuries, and some of those earlier thinkers were prescient. A UK Ministry of Transport report in 1963 warned of the effects of traffic and motorcar ownership, and recommended getting cars off the road and repurposing street space. A half-century before, in 1911, French architect Eugène Hénard envisaged the first version of a seamless mobility: a central tower to coordinate the various mobility modes and facets of a hypothetical modern city.

Today, a plethora of new mobility solutions are available, from drone-enabled shipping and self-driving vehicles, to on-demand public and private transportation options and integrated trip planning. But these disparate services and technologies, operating in isolation, risk exacerbating the strains on already overtaxed legacy mobility infrastructure.

The Seamless Integrated Mobility System (SIMSystem) Initiative proposes a solution much like Hénard’s: to bring together disparate mobility modes onto a single digital mobility platform. The potential impact could be profound. With a bird’s-eye view on the deployment of mobility solutions across urban centers, city leaders can adjust schedules, stops, vehicle types and routing to benefit citizens while optimizing efficiency.

Nevertheless, the activation of a seamless integrated mobility system is fraught with challenges and questions. How can competitors be convinced to share data? How can cities build the capabilities to handle this large technological effort? How can consumer privacy be protected? How can this system ensure service to the underserved while reaching critical mass?

To explore these questions and more, the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Consulting partnered to examine 10 cities’ journeys toward the activation of their own seamless integrated mobility systems, which will be featured in our report, Activating seamless integrated mobility systems (SIMSystem): Insights into leading global practices.

The challenges

In the report, we combine insights from these case studies to offer learnings for those embarking on their own mobility system transformation. In many respects, the focal cities of this study could not be more different. But there was also a surprising degree of consensus – indeed, near unanimity – on some of the approaches they have adopted and the challenges they face:

Political will determines everything. A committed leader willing to champion new approaches and drive change is critical – but they must have the authority to act on their vision.

Having a clear vision necessitates making hard trade-offs. This enables identifying (with much greater clarity) what you can and cannot do and matching mobility transformation efforts to specific goals and objectives. Simply copying the playbook of another city is unlikely to work well.

Governance structures matter and can powerfully shape how and with what success a city advances its mobility agenda. Whether centralized or not, a strong coordinating mechanism is vital to achieving meaningful, systemwide impacts.