Cities around the world are engaging with the private sector to devise solutions to their urban transportation challenges. This collaboration is important. Transport entrepreneurs often have the the flexibility to innovate and work rapidly while cities must plan for the long term. Finding the right balance in these partnerships allows the private sector to provide solutions but keeps cities in control of their own development, implementing policies and solutions that best serve their residents.
When tackling urban challenges, Councilor Wayne Walker of Auckland, New Zealand, and member of the ICLEI Oceania Regional Executive Committee, uses the lens of “wicked problems”. Wicked problems are those that cannot be solved with one simple solution but require a complex combination of approaches that evolve over time to match changing requirements and conditions. Shifting the status quo away from conventional, unsustainable forms of transport is one such “wicked problem” requiring this type of flexible, inventive thinking and multi-pronged innovative approaches. Cities around the world are taking on this challenge, and private sector partners can really help.
Throughout the EcoMobility World Congress in Kaohsiung, numerous entrepreneurs and private companies have presented the innovative technologies or solutions they offer cities. One company created a model of shared motorcycle batteries that can be switched out at charging stations. This prevents the need to connect miles of parking to a grid, leaving motorcycles parked for hours to charge. The type of inventiveness could provide cities with the flexible solutions they need to make the transition to electric mobility a smoother process.
Public-private partnerships can also enhance the effectiveness of projects. For example, We Drive Solar is a project in Utrecht, The Netherlands that has designed a system to use electric car batteries to store electricity. The energy charged during the day from solar panels can then be distributed back into the grid and used by a neighborhood at night when electric cars are parked. In partnership with a private company, the city is working to implement this project and find multiple benefits from more sustainable forms of transport.
While private sector solutions are valuable, ultimately, cities must remain in control of and define their development. This requires a clear vision, strong leadership and consistent policies that allow room for private sector partnerships but keep residents needs and well-being at the center of new urban transport systems.
This post is based on the “Kaohsiung EcoMobility Dialogues #2: Cleaner fuel for cleaner transport” session at the EcoMobility World Congress 2017.