Everyone has an opinion on what constitutes quality of life, but one thing that resonates with most of us is mobility – which affects where we live, what jobs we have access to and overall health and happiness.
And good urban connectivity also translates to economic growth too, revitalising neglected areas and enabling greater access to jobs and the opportunities of the city centre. In London, for example, the Northern Line Extension project is expected to create up to 25,000 jobs, while Crossrail will add an estimated £42bn to the UK economy.
The areas which benefit from new transport hubs become more desirable and often experience rises in office costs and house prices as a result. However, many small businesses set up on the peripheries of cities precisely because of the lower costs of less connected neighbourhoods, and are forced to move even further afield when costs go up. In Stockholm, for example, start-ups which have set up on the outskirts of the city complain that the government has done little to incubate new enterprise, pushing them to consider moving abroad. Here, rather than improving transport connections, policy makers need to support enterprise with measures which help small businesses compete, such as tax incentives, grants and trade promotion.
So while a well-connected and affordable transport system is important, it has to be integrated with long term plans for land use, housing, employment and recreation to ensure economic growth is well distributed.
This is even more crucial if we consider the disruptive effect of population growth and urbanisation over the next 10-20 years. An increase of around 16% in the world’s population is forecast over the next 15 years. This growth is not evenly distributed, with some countries projected very high population rises, such as Nigeria (44%) and Pakistan (30%).
Delegates must take the opportunity of Habitat III to highlight the importance of integrating transport within wider national frameworks to support sustainable economic growth. We need real solutions to the growing challenges posed by global urbanisation.