Digital platforms, COVID-19 and the reshaping of urban mobility

When COVID-19 struck, it caused unprecedented disruption to urban transport systems. Stay-at-home and social distancing orders had dramatic impacts on urban mobility. Cities around the world ground to a halt, and many saw a sudden and prolonged emptying out of urban centres. In their blog post , Dr Andy Lockhart , Prof Mike Hodson and Prof Andy McMeekin consider how digital platforms were deployed in response to the pandemic and what this might mean for how urban mobility systems are governed in the future.

Key points:

  • At the same time as COVID-19 created significant challenges for public transport, the use of digital platforms in urban settings has accelerated, intensified and shape-shifted.
  • New deployments of private digital platforms in particular raise questions about how urban mobility will be governed by public authorities in the future.
  • However, the pandemic also illuminated opportunities to mobilise platforms for enhanced universal service provision and the common good - in particular using urban mobility data and integrative capacities of mobility-as-a-service systems (MaaS) built around public transport networks.
  • In order realise this potential, urban transport authorities will need significantly greater powers, resources and expertise to create and operate urban MaaS platforms as public utilities.

This blog is the latest output from their project, Digital Platforms and the Future of Urban Mobility. The full report on digital platforms and urban mobility during COVID-19 can be found here.

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