Integrating Urban Mobility Starts in Our Heads

CUTA Urban Mobility

The Canadian Urban Transit Association’s re-branded Urban Mobility Forum Magazine.

For those of you keen on the next era of transportation, one more seemingly small but notable shift just happened.  And it didn’t start on a city street but in a change in mindset.

Canadian Transit Forum, the respectable and somewhat traditional journal of the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), just relaunched itself.  With the Spring 2017 issue just released, it has dropped “Transit” from its title and now become Urban Mobility Forum Magazine.

Explaining the name change to its members, CUTA said: “We changed the title to reflect our evolving industry and reflect CUTA’s vision to inspire and influence the evolution of integrated urban mobility.”

In his editorial for the magazine, CUTA President and CEO Patrick Leclerc described the rationale in even more stark terms, calling on his transit industry colleagues to be leaders in the mobility revolution and asking: “Do we want to be bus and train operators or do we aspire instead to become mobility managers?  This essential question may seem trivial at first, but it represents a major paradigm shift for most transport networks in North America.”

This ongoing shift to a larger and more comprehensive vision heartens me.

It is exactly where we should be going with our mobility networks and where we need to be going.  Whether we have a particular technical emphasis and slice of passion in transit, bikes, pedestrian design, road engineering, parking, shared mobility, air, rail or ferry travel, we all have a role in connecting all these modes together.

I am glad that our nation’s largest “transit” advocacy group recognizes this truth and is trying to live and promote it.  Like any mindset change, I’m sure the continuing transition will be bumpy at times.  Especially crucial will be navigating the changes to processes and positioning required to ensure the shift in stance is genuine and goes deeper than just a name.

However, I’m very happy that the broader conversation CUTA started a few years ago is continuing.  This name change is one more welcome mental pivot to travel down a far more compelling path.

Meanwhile, What’s Going on Inside Our Own Heads?

Remember, integrated urban mobility isn’t a new idea but a condition we’re trying to re-cultivate.   It’s clearly evident here in this 1910 postcard of Winnipeg’s Portage Avenue by Lyall Commercial Photo Co., Limited.  Pedestrians, cyclists, streetcars, wagons, horses and cars are all part of this scene.  (Image courtesy of Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries.)

CUTA’s change is a great reminder of how our own inner perspectives shape the transportation results around us.

I’ve been thinking about these mindsets a lot recently.  It seems that everywhere I look, people are writing about the cool projects of integrated urban mobility, our changing external transportation landscape.  However, it strikes me that less attention is being paid to the lens of our own internal paradigms and how we frame and perceive the change at hand.

As part of the launch of CUTA’s new magazine, I was honoured to be asked to contribute an article on integrated urban mobility.  It was exactly these internal implications that I most wanted to tackle.

For me, there are three mindsets that I think have critical implications for the future of diverse mobility in our communities.  One is our portrayal of this change as “new” when it’s not, as you can clearly see in the century-old Winnipeg photo, above.  Another dangerous mindset is our tendency to cling to order and control, when messiness is inherent in healthy diversity.  And finally, perhaps the greatest risk is our easy habit of fetishizing the tools of mobility (the technology and infrastructure) when instead the objective of connecting people always needs to be our focus.

You can read more from that article here: Shifting Perspectives, Integrating Mobility.

Much thanks to CUTA for the opportunity to contribute.  In particular, thanks to CUTA’s Publications Content Strategist Johanne Palermo and Communications Manager Jodie Hunt for their support and their concurrence that yes, it truly was time to include words like “smooch” and “George Jetson” in our country’s professional transportation journal.  Vive la révolution de la mobilité urbaine, indeed.

Got a comment to share? I welcome your thoughts here: