Are we on track to adapt our transportation infrastructure with our growing needs by 2050?

  • Graham  Currie

    Graham Currie

    Professor of Public Transport at Monash

20 February 2024

The model of the 20th century - what we call the “Predict Provide Paradigm”,  where urban  planners would predict the amount of vehicle infrastructure, provide them, and segregate traffic - is no longer sustainable.

This model only served to incentivize the mass adoption of private  vehicles by the public at large, which then became self-reinforcing and required ever-more  expansion.


The 21st century, by contrast, has already seen the rise of Mega Cities - with populations of over 10 million citizens. Such urban density renders the use of private vehicles impossible. Even the nascent development of electric and autonomous vehicles does not solve this issue; carbon emissions may be reduced, but congestion would still remain prohibitively high. The only way to move citizens at this scale is through the use of public transportation. Cities such as Shanghai, which has a population of 26 million people, would literally not function without a robust public transportation system. With 20-30 billion transit rides per day globally, this trend will only increase.


Municipalities and policy makers need to consider how to use existing infrastructure to reinforce  public transportation and make it appealing to the masses. One way to do this is to ensure on- time, reliable transportation schedules with higher frequency service. Another is to ensure that innovation is at the forefront of public transport modes, and ensure that passengers have a variety of modes to choose from when moving across their environment. The car prerogative must be moved away from for the future of cities, and prioritize the right of way to public transportation instead of private vehicles. Public transportation authorities should lean on private actors for operations, while centralizing planning and oversight to ensure that municipalities retain control while allowing the market to determine the best operators possible.


The question of urban mobility isn’t an option - it’s a critical obligation that will enable the cities  of tomorrow to function. Currently, half of the world’s population already resides in cities, with  this number only set to grow in the coming decades.