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Mobility hubs are the key to unlocking corridor development potential

September 15, 2023

By Ashley Thompson and Tom Young

When paired with transit-oriented community strategies, mobility hubs can supercharge safety, sustainability, and equity

Cities everywhere are turning to transit-oriented communities (TOC) to help improve urban mobility and safety, meet sustainability goals, and unlock economic opportunity. Those that get it right will make their communities more attractive, with a better quality of life. One important step in getting the investment right is to think of transit as a journey enabler, not a singular service. That’s where mobility hubs come in. Let’s have a look at one scenario.

Leila attends her local college, works the dinner shift at a restaurant across town, and helps take care of her grandmother when she can. Today, Leila walks around campus attending classes and hops on a campus bikeshare when she is running late to chemistry. After her last class, she takes an electric scooter to the bus rapid transit stop located in a TOC just off campus. When her shift ends early, she takes the bus back to her stop where a microtransit van she ordered is waiting for her. She takes it to visit her grandmother nearby. Leila then takes a bikeshare back to her dorm after a busy but fulfilling day. Leila can do all of this without a private car, thanks to the network of mobility hubs offered on campus and in the community.

Making transit more useful for people isn’t just about the service itself. It must be about the entire journey. While mobility planning is generally part of the TOC process, integrating mobility hubs takes the impact of TOC to the next level. 

The University Area and Wiregrass Intermodal Centers Study brings together mobility, land use, and community development for a more equitable and interconnected transportation network in Tampa, Florida.

Mobility hubs and TOC: A match made in heaven

In the last decade, technology has made it possible to use our smartphones to access convenient services like rideshare, bike and scooter rentals, carsharing, and real-time transit updates. There has also been development of faster public transportation and improved infrastructure for cycling and micromobility. While cars continue to be a dominant mode of transportation in North America, there are other options available now. And people are using a mix of modes for their journeys. Making these options work well together and fit into our public spaces is complex, but mobility hubs are the anchor that can bring them together. You can see our primer on mobility hubs here.

Meanwhile, the concept of transit-oriented development has evolved toward TOC. This is driven by the desire to make the community development and transit investments work better together. Creating walkable, human-scaled places with a mix of land uses and access to transit has an impact on both equity and sustainability. TOC looks holistically at the needs of communities and brings integrated, systems-level thinking to development.

A mobility hub system within a TOC features webs of connections, which bring the benefits of transit investment to more people. It shifts people from using personal vehicles to other travel modes like bikes and electric scooters. When we plan for different modes early, we can build the infrastructure to support them, making the road safer for all users. It also contributes to sustainability by reducing CO2 emissions from traffic. This isn’t just about creating a single hub at the station. The value of mobility hubs is truly unlocked when they become a multimodal mobility system, integrated with the movement patterns of the communities they serve.

Otterpool Park in the Kent Countryside, United Kingdom, will use mobility hubs to connect homes, schools, public squares, businesses, and the local railway station.

Planning for mobility hubs from the start

Planning for mobility hubs ideally takes place at the same time as transit, land use, and public realm planning. That way, they create integrated systems that reinforce and support each other. In Otterpool Park, a master-planned community in southeast England, planning for mobility hubs was a key part of the community plan. Improved rail service at the nearby Westenhanger Station helped kickstart the development.

Stantec Smart(ER) Mobility worked to ensure all mobility hub components on private and public land were integrated into the new development. Meeting with the County Council, the master developer, the individual property owners, the rail agency, and the highways department helped move things forward. We also planned for the hubs to connect to one another and bring residents from the new community and existing nearby neighborhoods to the rail station. Each hub within the system was scaled to fit its context and respond to its role within the overall neighborhood network. This is in contrast with the one-size-fits-all approach that would have duplicated the same components at each hub.

We looked at ridership demand from both the first phase of development and the community at full build out. This contributed to planning for suitable phasing of the mobility hub system and the short- and long-term needs at the main rail station and town center hubs. This created a plan that was scalable and adaptable to changing needs and movement patterns as the population grows.

The value of mobility hubs is truly unlocked when they become a multimodal mobility system, integrated with the movement patterns of the communities they serve.

Helping to make investments more equitable

Transportation is the second largest component of cost of living after housing. Affordable mobility options provide people with more flexibility in their finances, give them access to more employment options, and make communities more livable. However, if we approach our transportation work without thinking about how it integrates with the cities we are serving, we can miss opportunities for more equitable outcomes.

Here’s an example. Our team developed mobility concept plans along a proposed bus rapid transit corridor for the Wiregrass/University Intermodal Station project in Tampa, Florida. One of the planned station locations was at a defunct shopping mall. It’s ripe for redevelopment. To better serve the existing area, our plan for that station added various modes that were not originally part of the study. This created a more robust—and equitable—network of options. We also proposed that the station should consider transit-oriented redevelopment to enhance ridership demand over the long term.

Doing land use, public realm, and transportation planning as an integrated process is an ideal way to maximize benefits. But in the complex, real world of planning and development, doing all these things at once isn’t always possible. Taking the big picture plan with transportation projects is the “next best thing” to not close off chances that benefit the whole community. 

Mobility hubs expand TOC’s system-level thinking to reach more widely into the community. It looks at a variety of transit modes—walking, cycling, micromobility, microtransit, bus, and rail.

The future of community mobility

Mobility hubs provide a range of choices for community mobility. They not only connect people to transit stations but also help them reach other places they need to go. This means that getting around becomes easy, convenient, and affordable—whether you're going nearby or far away.

Mobility hubs can help communities contribute to many goals. Safety. Equity. Improved public health. Resilience. Sustainability. And mode shift. Whether you’re working on a community project or focused on improving mobility, it’s important to consider the needs of both the present and future. Through thoughtful planning, we can create communities that are functional, livable, and equitable.

  • Ashley Thompson

    An urban designer and Smart(ER) Mobility planner and practice lead, Ashley focuses on both traditional urban design projects as well as autonomous vehicle work and technology reviews and assessments.

    Contact Ashley
  • Tom Young

    Tom is an urban planning lead specializing in downtown redevelopment, mixed use precincts, smart cities strategies, suburban retrofit, and transit-oriented development. His priority is innovation through sustainable growth.

    Contact Tom
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