Archives: The New Mobility Agenda

New Mobility agenda measures tools - cloud

This posting, taken with minor updating from the original 2008 Wikipedia entry under that title, traces the history of the New Mobility Agenda from its founding as part of an OECD program of the Development Center under the leadership of Eric Britton and Mikoto Usui,.  It charts the history and evolution of this innovative transport planning and policy concept from its beginning in the early seventies through 2008, at which time this international networking role was taken over by the international collaborative “World Streeets: The Politics of Transport in Cities” at

The New Mobility Agenda (“Reinventing transportation”) is an informal international network which, although a virtual and open collaborative project today, was originally set up by an international working group meeting at the Abbey de Royaumontnear Paris in 1974 with the support of the  OECD to challenge old ideas and practices in the field of urban transport through a long term collaborative program of information exchange, education and peer support. The Agenda today draws together the experience, expertise and support of more than four thousand individuals and groups worldwide in an open collaborative peer network. One of the original proponents of this approach, Professor Mikoto Usui then director of the OECD Development Centre, referred to it in the founding meeting at the “Abbé de Royaumont as an “invisible college”.

Drawing together the experience and expertise of more than four thousand individuals and groups worldwide, who are networked via a combination of websites, discussion groups and fora, and collaborative projects, the Agenda takes an approach to transportation planning, policy and practice that has gained considerable force over the last two decades—provides a leading-edge alternative to earlier (20th century) methods of looking at and providing mobility for people and goods in cities. The Agenda has received prestigious awards for its contributions, including the Stockholm Environment Challenge Prize (2000) and the World Technology Environment Award (2002).

Like the sustainable transportation movement, to which it is closely related, it differs from previous methods (which in fact still dominate planning, policy, investment and operations in most parts of the world) in that it takes a global or broad systemic approach to the challenges of how to get around in cities, and is especially sensitive not only to pure transport efficiency (which traditionally is interpreted in pure engineering terms as speed and volume of vehicle throughput) but equally to matters of sustainable developmentpollution and environmental impacts—including matters relating to climate change, the reduction of Greenhouse gasesresource efficiencyenergy conservationpublic health, both personal and public economics, overall time savingspublic spaces, and quality of life in communities, including relations between people in public spaces – with particular attention to social justice and the unmet needs of women, children, and others with mobility or economic or health disadvantages which are not being properly served in our present mainly car-based systems and thinking, in which other forms of transport, including public transport, play only residual roles.

New Mobility vs. Sustainable Transportation

These two are closely related but not identical concepts. The term “Sustainable Transportation” had it origins in the mid-eighties and has developed over time and for the most part with particular emphasis on informing transport and environmental policy, with support from a number of university programs, NGOs and from some international and government organizations. By contrast the term New Mobility Agenda takes the issues of sustainable transportation the other way around: by emphasizing the supply side—and specifically targets projects and programs which demonstrate and achieve the basic principles behind sustainable transportation.

Targeting near-term improvements 

A distinguishing aspect of the new mobility approach is its emphasis on the importance of targeted near-term improvements. It does not give up at all on long term thinking, but in response to what are increasingly understood to be unacceptable levels of pressure coming from current transportation arrangements, and the speed with which this degradation is taking place, there is a growing consensus that projects and measures should be targeting substantial improvements within a period of two or four years. In most places this also coincides with the electoral terms of those in office, thus giving those elected an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to more sustainable transportation arrangements.

New Mobility and New Urbanism

These two movements share a common base of concern about the importance of bringing new approaches to the manner in which we structure our cities. Both key on facilitating the move to more economically and environmentally efficient higher density communities. Collaboration between the two independent programs is just getting underway

In Brief

The New Mobility Agenda looks for and coordinates a complex bouquet of overlapping mobility services in an attempt to offer a high quality multi-level alternative – or complement – to the mostly car-based transport system of the city. Services most often incorporated into this multi-level alternative transport system include: Travel avoidanceland use planningmixed useTransportation Demand ManagementTelecommutingTeleworke-workPublic space management, Shared spaceHuman-powered transportWalking and Walkability , PedestrianizationPromenadologyTraffic CalmingCyclingpublic bicycle systemsutility cyclingpublic transit priority systemsBus rapid transitCar diets/reduction plansHOVIntelligent transportation system, LOV (Low-Occupancy Vehicle), Park and rideParkingRoad dietsSOVSingle Occupancy VehicleToll roadsCar rental , Car Free DaysCarpoolingCarsharingflexible workingflextimeHitch-hikingJitneyMidibusMini-busxTransitPublic transportRide sharingeconomic instrumentsCongestion chargingroad pricingFull cost pricingRoller skatingSelf-Organizing Collaborative NetworksShare taxisTaxicabVanpooling.

The individual components of ‘new mobility’, transportation modes and policies including those listed just above, are in generally broadly well understood and defined, at least at the leading edge. But what makes the whole an “agenda” stems from the fact that new mobility policies are based on the development and orchestration of extensive packages of measures which need to be brought on line over time and as experience and demonstrated competence with these new approaches develops. Hence the totality is referred to as an “agenda”

Continental Europe is leading the way in understanding and implementing the New Mobility Agenda, and the increasingly higher quality of their transportation systems performance and their life quality and environmental impacts are immediately visible to both visitors and those who live there. German, Swiss, Dutch, Austrian, Danish, and increasingly the cities of France, Belgium, Northern Italy, and the rest of Scandinavia are joining in the new mobility/quality of life sweepstakes, driven as much by pride and strong local leadership as by purely negative factors (those these are many and important movers as well). A process has been engaged in Europe which other parts of the world are looking at and starting to emulate: cities increasingly looking at themselves and each other scanning for good ideas that they can take home and adapt for their communities. This is thus an example of a virtuous spiral. The European Commission has played an important supporting role in this process.


To appreciate fully what “new mobility” means, it is useful to see how it differs from “Old Mobility” (often defined as being stuck in traffic, waiting in the rain for a bus that may never come, or paying large amounts of taxpayer dollars for “improvements” that ultimately find us still late for work or waiting for that bus. (See the multi-media presentation of A Day In The Life of New Mobility for one characterization of how it might look in day-to-day life in one city.)

What we now call “old mobility’ thinking and practice is in effect the dominant paradigm of 20th century visions and practices. It is/was essentially oriented to the search for engineering, technological and infrastructural solutions for increasing speed and throughput capacity in specific links and at key points (including bottlenecks). The old mobility paradigm was one that has been characterized as “forecast (growth) and build”. Old mobility solutions more often than not cost a lot of money, and created a broadly shared mind-set in which the main limit to providing for yet further capacity increases within the system was constrained only by funding limitations from public sources. The old system was and is essentially hierarchical and “expert oriented and controlled”. It is still dominant in many cities and parts of the world today.

(Since this entry is still in progress, here is an attempt to characterize the present arrangements and constraints that form it very broadly. By understanding these – if (a) true and (b) really a problem – we have a base for fine-tuning our proposed new solutions. So, here is how old mobility looks from the specific vantage of the proponents of the New Mobility Agenda:

  1. Based on an essentially closed system (looking at “transport” in isolation from the rest)
  2. Hierarchical
  3. Top-down
  4. Centralized
  5. Statistics based (historical)
  6. Bounded
  7. Reductive
  8. End-state solution oriented
  9. Authoritarian
  10. Supply oriented
  11. Oriented to maximizing vehicle throughput and speeds
  12. Expert based
  13. Engineering-based (i.e., working “within the box”, but with high technical competence)
  14. Binary: i.e., either “private” (i.e., car-based) or “public” transport (and nothing of importance in between)
  15. De facto car-based
  16. Costly to the community (unnecessarily)
  17. Costly to individuals (unnecessarily)
  18. Resource intensive (unnecessarily)
  19. Total dependence on costly imported fossil fuels (unnecessarily)
  20. Highly polluting
  21. Massive public health menace
  22. Destroys urban fabric
  23. Hardware and build solutions, technology oriented
  24. Treats ex-car solutions as (very!) poor cousins
  25. Offers poor service/economic package to elderly, handicapped, poor and young
  26. Sharp divide between planning, policy and operations
  27. Obscure (to the public) decision making processes
  28. Focuses on bottlenecks impeding traffic flows (i.e., builds for > traffic)
  29. Attempts to anticipate them and build to forestall
  30. Searches for large projects to “solve” the problems
  31. These large projects and the substantial amounts involved often lead to corruption and waste of public moneys
  32. Still too much separation from underlying land use realities.
  33. Inadequate attention to transportation substitutes or complements
  34. Increasingly technical and tool oriented (this to the good)
  35. Anachronistic,
  36. Not doing the job that we need in 2005 and beyond!, and finally and worst of all. . .
  37. Creates a climate of passive citizenry and thus undermines participatory democracy and collective involvement and problem solving

The heart of new mobility policy by contrast is systemic complexity, diversity, participation, wide outreach and a wide array of partnerships and other forms of synergistic interaction and collaboration. It more often involves the orchestration of a large number of measures and policies, many of which often very small in themselves, in order to provide a dispersed modern city encompassing many different types of people and mobility needs – as opposed to the “big solution” approaches often favored in the past (whether major highway or road building or extensions, new Rapid transit (metrossubways or other expensive rail systems, massive central parking structures, and the like). The goal of the planners and authorities changes radically with this new paradigm, such that rather than “solving problems” with centrally planned and executed engineering and measurement; they start to get more involved in multi-level complex problem-solving, which brings them to such quite different kinds of approaches such as community outreach and orchestration of services and the participation of a much larger number of actors and players.

The New Mobility Agenda addresses the issues on both the supply and demand sides. It thus combines Transportation Demand Management TDM strategies and measures for containing, channeling and limiting wasteful and encumbering private car traffic in cities, with coordinated support of a wide “bouquet” of alternative transportation arrangements. These include various forms of Human-powered transportutility cyclingwalkingpublic space improvement, electronic substitutes for travel (such as teleworktelecommutingor e-work) and a variety of shared and public transport strategies, new and old, including HOV (High Occupancy Vehicles), carpoolingride sharingcar rentalstaxicabShare taxiJitneys, and the list goes on (see long list of modes and component parts in Internal Links below).


What is today known as the New Mobility Agenda has had many antecedents and both before and since has proceeded in many places and on many fronts as traffic congestion and more generally the weight and poor performance—environmental, economic, social, and destruction of urban fabric—of the old, mainly car-based mobility system has increasingly made itself felt in city after city around the world. Unsurprisingly the worst problems we are seeing today are in the cities of the developing countries, and most of all in their megacities – in most of which the old mobility thinking continues to carry the day in policy and investment circles who are proving slow to adjust. Over the last two decades this movement has steadily gained force to the point where a growing array of programs and authorities are coming together in an attempt to create more balanced transportation systems, better equipped for dealing with the highly diverse mobility needs of people of all social and economic classes in the 21st century. (See references below for some of these.)

The New Mobility Agenda provides an example of a focused, international Self-Organizing Collaborative Network applied to the challenges of transport in cities. And while its antecedents are as old as the first time anyone got stuck in traffic and wondered about how things might be better organized, the actual “New Mobility Agenda” by that name was formally kicked off in 1996 during the OECD International Conference in Vancouver Canada (24–27 March 1996) under the title Towards Sustainable Transportation.

In the wake of the 1996 Towards Sustainable Transportation conference, two things happened immediately which started to give concrete expression to this new movement.

  • Working in cooperation with the OECD‘s program EST – Environmentally Sustainable Transportationprogram a long-standing open expert forum organized on the topic area under The Commons: Open Society Sustainability Initiative in 1974 decided to relaunch their existing STEP program (Sustainable Transportation Emergency Program) with the name New Mobility Agenda. This program and its extensions today bring together more than four thousand international experts and activists working in this area, and is guided by an International Advisory Council. These individuals and groups are at work to develop a common frame of information and understanding mediated by a collection of exchange mechanisms, including a whole series of web sites, blogs, newsgroups, and periodic conferences, both physical and using the latest low cost video and voice conferencing techniques.
  • In parallel the City of Toronto launched a program, Moving the Economy with an explicit “New Mobility” Strategy, which continues to be active. The City has also created its own New Mobility HUB Network, which is supported by a New Mobility HUB Survey which can be usefully applied with only minor adaptations to any other community.

Collaborative New Mobility city projects (1 Sept. 2007 update)

Recent collaborative projects that are presently (early 2007) getting considerable attention in specialist and policy circles around the world, include the relaunching of the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice include the continuation of the Toronto (Canada) New Mobility Hub regional network and their latest Seamless Link program. In parallel the open group has launched the New Mobility Advisory/Briefs program which is aimed specifically to engage mayors and city leaders to give more attention to low cost remedial measures and projects offering near term relief. The Agenda has also recently created a handful of open video libraries which can be accessed via New Mobility Video Library.

The New Mobility program is in its work supporting the 1 August 2006 call of the Clinton Climate Initiative for 80% CO2 reductions in cities over the next ten – fifteen years. While not affiliated with the Clinton project, that is primarily looking at technology-based reforms in the largest world cities, the New Mobility program is concentrating on strategies to bring about major institutional reforms and a massive repartitioning of the transportation arrangements of cities of all sizes, including in the high CO2 sprawl areas that surround center cites.

The following cities are currently looking at eventual New Mobility projects and strategies: Paris, Stuttgart, Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, Vancouver, Santa Barbara (CA).


The New MobilityAgenda is based on a “bouquet” of arrangements and services which in place after place seeks to find the right mix of the following:

Demand Management[edit]

Supply (New Mobility Building Blocks)

One point that needs to be made concerning these building blocks, is that in any given city these will involve at least hundreds of coordinated actions, many of which carried out by or requiring the active support of groups outside of the traditional public and transport sector.

See also

External links


About the author: 

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | | #fekbritton | | and | Contact: | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

View complete profile


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s