By Mark Haddad and Gustave A Cordahi
Some of the themes of the recent Smart City Expo Doha 2022 were digital technology and its connection to smart and sustainable mobility. These themes recognize the link between the need to change mobility patterns, the power of digital technology and sustainability goals. Qatar, for example, is aiming for a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Such a goal is achievable if countries like Qatar use a comprehensive framework of action that changes the management of mobility and the urban landscape. The next target will be when Qatar hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup with over a million fans in attendance, who will use the country’s smart and sustainable mobility.
Qatar, like other countries in the Middle East, relies on private cars for most commuter transport. It helps that it’s relatively inexpensive to own a car in the country thanks to affordable fuel, cheap permits, and private vehicle-friendly policies. The indirect cost is pollution, congestion, poor air quality, traffic accidents and the resulting economic burden. The International Energy Agency, for example, estimates that transport is responsible for around 25% of all urban carbon dioxide emissions.
Moving away from excessive private car use has wider economic and social benefits, as well as clear environmental gains. As countries rethink mobility and urban development and invest in sustainable and smart transport, traffic flows will improve, as will economic and energy efficiency. Roads will be safer, productivity may increase and there may be less investment in roads which will induce more traffic flow instead of solving traffic jams.
A global action framework composed of five elements will make it possible to move towards sustainable and smart mobility.
First, governments should put public transport systems at the heart of the future of urban areas, with accessible and fully electric fleets. Qatar already provides this type of transport as it has invested in a $36 billion high-quality automated metro system in Doha. The country has also committed to zero emissions in public transport by 2030. The goal is for 25% of the fleet to generate zero emissions in time for the FIFA World Cup at the end of 2022 (which Qatar wants to be the first carbon neutral in the history of the tournament).
Second, countries should replace gasoline-powered vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs). Qatar has already used electric buses as replacements on its Metro Gold Line during recent essential works. Recently, Mowasalat, which manages public transport in Qatar, launched electric bus charging stations as part of its overall strategy for electric vehicles, which includes the Ministry of Transport and Communications encouraging private car owners to buy electric vehicles. The ministry has also entered into a memorandum of understanding with Alfardan Automotive to install free electric vehicle charging stations in the country, which also makes the case for electric vehicles.
Third, countries should reduce private car journeys and make travel more efficient by encouraging shared mobility. Several companies have already shown that carpooling and carpooling is a viable business model leading to more efficient use of transportation assets. A regional example is Swvl, which recently went public on the Nasdaq. The company started in Cairo to provide bus calls. Now based in Dubai, Swvl also offers carpooling, with operations in over 20 countries.
Fourth, countries can encourage soft mobility. This means making cities more walkable and providing micromobility like bike sharing and e-scooters. In addition to being an active and healthy option, soft mobility can strengthen public transit as a viable alternative by overcoming the “first mile” and “last mile” connection challenges that cause people to prioritize transportation modes. private motorhomes. Soft mobility is particularly useful during spectator events when many people need to travel relatively short distances, such as between football stadiums and surrounding facilities.
Fifth, countries can rethink the way they design urban areas to encourage less private car use. Urban planning can incorporate concepts such as ‘complete streets’ that promote safer and smarter mobility for all user groups beyond the unique reliance on private cars. Many urban areas are adopting “five-minute” policies so that all public transport or major amenities can be reached within five minutes or less of a walk.
Countries need to underpin the overall action framework with infrastructure, technology and other enablers. Advanced analytics and real-time data, for example, make it easier to understand traffic flows, efficiently route transport and monitor emissions, making sustainable transport smart.
In this context, the Qatar Mobility Innovations Center has signed a memorandum of understanding with the California Mobility Center, a public-private partnership, to collaborate in the commercialization of mobility innovations produced locally. Similarly, policies should be put in place to spread the burden of the cost of the transition to mobility. Governments can invest the money they receive from traffic control, road tolls and congestion charges to pay for sustainable and smart public transport.
The Smart City Expo Doha 2022 was an opportunity to explore these ideas. As Qatar prepares for the FIFA World Cup, the time has come to develop a comprehensive framework for action and implement it.
Mark Haddad is a partner and Gustave A Cordahi is a manager at Strategy& Middle East, part of the PwC network