Attractive travels

Most of us agrees that travels can enrich our lives and that unexpected meetings can change the world. Most people also agrees that a lot of travels are unwanted and not required.

How do we find the balance to promote journeys that we want and prevent unwanted travel?
One of the corner stones is efficient city planning. It should be easy for citizens to live close to their daily work. Enablers are availability of housing as well as affordable pricing.

volvo hybrid plugin
Volvo is spearheading electromobility for buses: Volvo plug-in “Hyperbus” above is charging at the end terminal at Redbergsplatsen in Göteborg.

A lot of focus is spent on megacities, and rightly so, because of the challenges. However, the average citizen lives in a city slightly larger than the average city (figure that one out if you can). For cities sized for 200 000 -800 000 inhabitants other factors matters than for megacities. The citizens often have more options for their daily travel to work.

In real cities today there is still a lot of “unwanted” travel going on. For this category of travel the attractiveness is rarely the deciding factor. People need to take the, car, metro, bus or train in order to get to work and the range of true alternatives are limited. That’s why so many cities gets away with a limited offer of public transports.

If we imagine a scenario where the city planners are successful and the unwanted travel can to a large extent be avoided. Less people will be travelling and the choice of travel is increasingly driven by the attractiveness of the journey. Even if nothing compares to a walk in the park some journeys will be longer. Average sized cities can by relatively simple means offer separate lanes for pedestrians, biking, private cars and buses.

In an ideal world the citizens are given a menu of options and the attractiveness of the alternatives is the deciding factor for the choice of each person.

Most cities are concerned about the:
Air quality caused by local emissions
Energy use and local/sustainable energy production
Emissions of greenhouse gases

This means that there still need to be requirements that puts threshold for the acceptable alternatives. My guess is that this will initially be handled by emission free zones, low noise zones, pedestrian zones, safe zones etc. Eventually, there will be harmonized standards for cities to handle all the important aspects of travels in the city.

Now to the core issue in today’s blog: What are required by buses to make them attractive and competitive?

The starting point is strong since the bus already is the preferred alternative for most  cities today. Still some weak points can be improved.
In the table below, I have addressed the main improvement areas, based on my experience from various cities:

Column1 Expected


Noise Electromobility >10 dB
Local emissions Electromobility Zero
Energy efficiency Electromobility 60% Deacrease
Energy clean/local Clean power 100% Certificate
Ride comfort Political priority*  
Safety Electronic support tbc
Transport capcity BRT approach 1 000-50 000 Pax/h
Transport speed BRT approach ~50-100% higher
Punctuality Traffic management  


Volvo is now offering complete bus systems that will make major advances in attracting passengers for cities in the future. Who wants to spend the time in traffic jams when you can play Angry Birds® in the bus?

My conclusion from this analysis is that electromobility will become a qualifier for getting access to future cities. By being clean and noise free the bus qualifies for the political priority that is required to get access to street space and infra structure to realize BRT, Traffic management and the other solutions that will raise the clean modern cities further.

I expect politicians in cities all over the world to demand clean buses to acceptable prices. As the new buses prove their benefits, politicians will be prepared to act to raise the attractiveness further by:
-introducing bus rapid transit systems with electrified buses
-reserving separate lanes for most buses where the bus suffers under congestion
-improving road quality for the buses
-providing easy to use ticket systems
-introducing zero emission, low noise and safe zones

Do I need to say that Volvo Bus is about to offer complete bus systems?

About volvobuses

Adjunct Professor of Catalysis at Chalmers University of Technology. Lives in Gothenburg, Sweden, with my wife and three daughters born in 1991, 1994 and 1997. Is a passionate runner.
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