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"Shared transport and mobility hubs" by Rachael Murphy, Director for Scotland, CoMoUK: Tuesday 26 October 2021

Rachael Murphy, Director Scotland, CoMoUKd

Rachae lMurphy, Director Scotland, CoMoUK

© CoMoUk

CoMoUK is the charity for the promotion of Shared Transport for Public Good, which it aims to achieve through advocacy, research, development and accreditation.

Mobility hubs are highly visible, safe and accessible spaces where public, shared and active travel modes are co-located alongside improvements to public realm and, where relevant, enhanced community facilities.

Mobility Hubs are about the removal of the private car from journey planning. What you might find at one are bus and train connectivity, bike and lift share, a car club, electric vehicle charging, Digital Demand Responsive Transport, cycle parking and storage, lockers for parcels collection and other facilities to make the place special, including toilets, a cafe, vendors or vending machines, wayfinding and shared office-space.

Policy drivers that make Mobility Hubs an idea whose time has come include the climate emergency and associated need to decarbonise transport, the steep fall in this century of bus patronage, transport poverty of choice including car-dependency, place standards, the vogue for 20-minute neighbourhoods, the target of a 20% reduction in car kilometres and considerations of physical and mental health and wellbeing contending the isolation which can be a feature of modern life.

Placemaking considerations include quality of life improvements, social space for interaction with nature and reflection on our environment, working, living and playing differently and concern about air quality.

Community concerns include meeting local needs, implementing the findings of the Just Transition Commission, providing community engagement events, conforming to community assessments and delivering active travel planning with partners so that there may be a shared transport response targeted to the location's circumstances.

Three key factors in changing behaviours are motivation, capability and opportunity. Lifestyle changes occur at key junctures in people's lives such as moving house, changing job or going to university, and these may nudge behaviours towards more sustainable travel patterns.

Except perhaps for the limited applicability of bike-share in rural areas, mobility hubs may offer the same range of options whether they are in rural, suburban or urban settings. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to mobility hubs, each of which will have its own workable characteristics and components. Current limitations are that lift-sharing is inconsistent with post-pandemic restrictions and that e-scooters and therefore sharing of them are not yet permitted in Scotland. In their Introductory Guide to Mobility Hubs CoMoUK explores 6 typologies for hubs, which can be at city-centre large interchanges, linking transport corridors, suburban mini hubs, at business park or housing developments, rural market town hubs or tourism areas, indicating the components and public realm improvements that might be associated with each type of location on a hierarchical basis.

Different organisations can lead on hubs, ranging from local authorities and education or healthcare providers through mobility infrastructure providers and operators to the private sector and community groups, with leadership and ownership tailored to their individual aims and context. The local authority might own the land and buildings but leave it to a community group to manage the hub.

Maintenance should be linked to a revenue stream for sustainability, and can be overarching or operator-led. Maintenance of the public realm can be challenged around vandalism, so needs to involve the police with the courts providing suitable deterrence. Funding streams for facilities such as live interactive CCTV can come from developer contributions through the planning process, transport and regeneration grants from local and central government, local enterprise partnerships and business improvement districts or from community programmes. Multi-revenue sources can include user charges, revenue from commercial components, rent or concession or service charges, franchise payments, advertising and sponsorship (particularly for bike-hire) and parking income.

Accreditation based in CoMoUK's typologies can deploy essential and desirable criteria to achieve different levels, and should be annually reviewed. Good design should promote visibility and accessibility, choice of sustainable modes, ease of switching both physically and digitally, safety, practical non-transport additions and visual enhancement that contributes to social and community fabric. There should be awareness of the needs of particular groups, including those with autism or dementia.

Bremen is one of the originals, designed to reduce congestion and parking issues and now integral to new housing development as a planning gain offering a full suite of travel options. Closer to home, Calderwood near Kirknewton in West Lothian is a housing development that aspires to ensure "first and last mile" mobility which does not involve cars, with a hub that was not a requirement of the planning permission - and other Scottish examples can be found at Elgin, Brechin and Leuchars. South Woodford provides Electric Vehicle charging, car club, seating and bike-share adjacent to a London Underground station, and its success in reallocating space from the private car to public use has helped it to achieve Gold Accreditation.

Local authorities must practise what they preach, with staff incentivised to promote and use shared transport. Other key players include Regional Transport Partnerships, shared and interoperable transport providers, planners and developers, housing associations, community representatives and CoMoUK itself as a supplier of guidance for planners, toolkits, a communications guide and coming soon architect's costings. There is a quarterly forum and newsletter, and the annual CoMoUK conference is on 7/8 December, but before then the organisation will be taking part in a Sustainable Transport Alliance event at COP26 on 10 November.

While the pandemic has represented a setback notably to use of public transport, it has also caused us to re-evaluate the journeys that we make and may thus trigger behavioural change in a positive direction. Mobility hubs seek never to undermine public transport but always to extend its appeal, for example by facilitating access to it over the first and last mile.

Report and photograph by John Yellowlees.


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