While some argue that the megacities of the future will not save the earth, major cities have started a growing trend towards becoming more densely populated and pedestrian friendly. Already the Millenials scorn the car, opting instead to bike, use public transportation or one of the many "car-on-demand" services now available.
Generation Y, the so-called millennials now in their 20s and early 30s who have come of age in the digital era, seem less wedded to possessions than their baby boomer predecessors. Surveys show that the one object that is prized is the smartphone, and the future of transport is likely to be based not on individually owned cars but on “mobility as a service” – a phrase supposedly coined by another Finn, Sampo Hietanen, chief executive of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Finland. Consumers will, so the theory goes, use their smartphones to check ultra-detailed travel news, locate car-club cars or bikes, check for parking spaces, call up Uber drivers, and arrange shared rides. Who needs a personally owned car?
While in Helsinki, I meet a delegation from the city’s Regional Transport Authority. I’m struck not just by their commitment to sustainable transport, but their willingness to engage with the public. They send staff into schools and workplaces to try to win converts to walking, cycling and public transport, and take their message to older people, who are usually the most resistant to abandoning their cars.
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