ICT's change transport and mobility. Mind the policy gap!

30-06-2017 | Working paper

In recent years both our need or desire for mobility and the opportunities and tools available to meet them have changed (and keep on changing) as a result of information and communication technologies (ICT’s). ICT’s have influenced both our transport modes and infrastructure as well as our behaviour. In this paper we discuss the main features of these changes and investigate how they could put public values in the transport debate in a tight corner or lead to new policy challenges.

Impact of new developments on relevant public values in the transport debate

Transport comes with benefits and burdens and often a unequal distribution of both. Moreover, there are tensions between short and long term interests, public and private interests and between efficiency and equity. Analysing how new developments impact public values that are considered relevant in the transport debate shows that there is a wide range of aspects to consider. We discuss the following public values:

  • Accessibility is concerned with providing access for all, making sure there are transport options available as well as taking care that people have the capabilities to access them.
  • Affordability or (cost) efficiency is about spending public money wisely.
  • Availability reflects the need for a reliable transport system, today and in the future, as this is crucial for economic performance and social interaction.
  • Acceptability is a broad category including issues with regard to justice and solidarity, the impact on safety and other external effects, the impact on the market playing field and respect for privacy.

ICT’s change transport and mobility

ICT’s change transport in very different ways. They have changed the world of travel and traffic information, bringing more options and alternatives under people’s attention. Public transport information is widely available, GPS’s guide our car trips and provide real time information on traffic conditions, and platforms enable us to find a shared car or a Uber taxi fast and easy. They have enabled new forms of transport, such as new services offered through internet platforms, and probably will enable other new modes like self-driving vehicles.

ICT's change our need or desire to travel and our travel experience. They change the geography of our destinations. All in all, ICT’s change our behaviour in many ways, making us more flexible leading to more fragmented patterns in space and time. And with all these changes, the transport system also becomes more complex.

An assessment of new developments in the transport system as a result of ICT’s leads us to major challenges.