Mobility Favours the Bold: Asia Innovates for Sustainable Growth

There is no single formula to create a great city. Around the world, urban areas have their own unique sets of economic, social, political and cultural factors that influence how they grow and operate. Some cities prosper by investing and improving livability. Others are losing ground due to aging assets and budgeting challenges, with weak economies that stunt future growth and opportunities to improve quality of life.

However, in this era of rapid urbanization, the contribution of mobility – efficiently moving people and resources within the city scape – to a city’s prosperity and livability is essential. Transportation systems – ranging from buses and trains to cars and highways – underpin a city’s ability to develop and remain competitive in the future, as well as making it a better place to live. The ability of a city to efficiently move residents around is a key component of achieving the “triple bottom line” of People, Planet, and Profit. Sustainability is measured across these economic, social, and environmental factors, and cities with the best balance between these three dimensions tend to be more sustainable. According to the findings of the Sustainable Cities Mobility Index 2017, Singapore has the best balance of scores across each of the three dimensions, and Hong Kong ranks first overall worldwide.

Cities improve their mobility by expanding their transit capacity and supporting infrastructure. Both public transportation and the next generation of automotive technology offer new options for sustainable urban mobility. Public transit is an important element of success, but Electric Vehicles and Autonomous Vehicles (EVs and AVs) are set to play an increasingly important role. By 2025, annual car sales are forecast to reach 125 million, half of which will be bought by people living in a city. EVs and AVs offer greater safety, higher fuel efficiency and time savings, in addition to reduced carbon emissions. Political regulation of zero emissions is the key driver for change and implementation of EVs. Government action, such as announcing bold, specific timeframes for eliminating the sale of new gas and diesel-powered vehicles, along with the automotive sectors implementation of complete EV fleets, will help accelerate this agenda, making EVs the market norm, rather than the exception.

Responsibility for improved mobility success rests not only with government but also with the private sector to develop and implement initiatives that meet the specific local needs of residents. Cities that act boldly on these initiatives – such as incentivizing introduction of EVs to reduce Co2 emissions - are more likely to successfully tackle their transportation challenges and achieve economic prosperity, livability and environmental quality.

Automotive Disruption

What we drive, the way we drive, or if we will drive ourselves at all, are all in a state of flux. The number of EVs on the road is set to exceed even the most optimistic forecasts from ten years ago, with 40% of new car sales globally predicted to be EVs by 2040. Government actions, such as Co2 emission reduction targets and potential diesel bans, are encouraging the development of EVs and its infrastructure. Improvements in battery life, reduced cost, and the rapid development of charging points, (over 12 million ports are expected to be available worldwide by 2020), are also driving EV adoption globally.

The car sharing community and AVs are helping shape the future use of automobiles. In Singapore, for example, BlueSG has introduced shared EVs that their members can pick up from 500 points around the City. The potential of AVs is also increasing, with Singapore testing the “platooning” of fleets of Connected Autonomous (CA) trucks to provide freight connections with the port. In line with Singapore’s ‘Smart Nation’ initiative, these innovative ideas rely on Singapore’s stable digital grid to safely navigate the EV and Connected AV (CAV) infrastructure.

Even roads are now becoming intelligent and generating data. Enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT), cameras and sensors make intelligent lighting and traffic lights possible. Vehicle transponders detect when a vehicle is moving, enabling both insurance companies to offer lower premiums for drivers who use their vehicles less frequently, and credit card companies to deliver personalized, location-based services. Vehicles and smart phones are increasingly integrated, and we are seeing a convergence of smart IoT for transport incorporating mobile phones and Roadway Sensors/SPS, Transponder and Auto Dashboard technologies. The trend is clear: data and analytics are increasingly becoming essential elements of creating transportation sustainability alongside urban planning and transportation infrastructure development.

Urban Planning

Urban congestion is responsible for billions of dollars of lost productivity, and adversely impacts quality of life. Well planned public transportation is affordable, widening access for city residents on different incomes, and are branded to highlight their modernity and efficiency.

Statistical uses of mobility big data include helping determine what facilities are needed and where they should be placed. This impacts industry location and talent retention, and even student accommodation locations. Countries like Malaysia are using master planning for the Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley areas to encourage mobility-orientated planning, including where transportation infrastructure such as the MRT and high-speed rail will go, and how to make it easy for residents to use it for work, shopping, and entertainment.


The IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are expected to play major roles in improving the efficiency of transporting people and goods. Autonomous transport will be crucial for smart cities in the future, and systems that connect different modes of transport will play a critical role in optimizing traffic flows. Hong Kong is a leader in “Mobility as a Service” - the concept of connecting all modes of transport through a single platform/system. Hong Kong’s transport applications and digital capabilities scored 100 percent in the Index due to the digital capabilities that are integrated into the transport system to make it more efficient.

Transit Hubs

Hong Kong ranked highest of 100 of the world’s leading cities for overall sustainable mobility. The city has put transport at the heart of development to create whole new city-centers and employment clusters based around transit hubs. The MTR and Airport Express lines that converge in Central and the outer island ferry terminals are the anchor for the International Finance Center (IFC). And Hong Kong’s new MTR lines have revitalized the East Kowloon and Central and Western districts. The MTR Corporation, (the listed company majority-owned by the Hong Kong government that operates the mass transit rail system), is also a real estate developer and a retail landlord. The MTR’s role as “placemaker” brings together the finance industry, the captive audience of commuters flowing through the transit hub and businesses, to create new, sustainable development. Additionally, the data collected from the Octopus MTR payment system provides insights into consumer’s movements and shopping habits. This model is being observed worldwide, with MTR exporting its model to the UK, Australia and China.


Arcadis is committed to improving quality of life. While there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy for a sustainable city, mobility and transport are critical factors in improving a city’s prosperity and liveability to ensure its future competitiveness. Cities and their policymakers face enormous pressures as they strive to meet today’s mobility challenges, with rapid urbanization, aging infrastructure, population growth and climate change continuing to challenge our world’s cities. Advancing automotive technology, such as EVs and AVs, and diversifying urban transport systems can help gain competitive advantage, as shown in our Arcadis Sustainable Cities Mobility Index 2017. Cities that invest in improved and sustainable mobility enhanced their productivity, attractiveness and overall quality of life, showing that mobility does indeed favour the bold.

To find out more about the Sustainable Cities Mobility Indexdownload the full report below and see how major cities rank in the world.

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