The Oliver Wyman Forum, in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley, present its fifth Urban Mobility Readiness Index, a ranking of 65 major cities worldwide on their preparedness for mobility’s next chapter. For its fifth anniversary, the Index introduces tailored recommendations to improve public transit and sustainable mobility for each city.
Why Cities Should Focus On Mobility Fundamentals
Simple, affordable, and efficient mobility solutions will help cities navigate economic and climate disruption
It’s more important than ever for urban mobility to emphasize the fundamentals. Cities that offer affordable and efficient mobility with simple essentials — like cycling lanes or efficient trains — can buffer against risks like record-breaking heatwaves or high living costs that threaten how and why people travel.
Many cities are trying to address these problems. Some are investing heavily in public transit and cycling infrastructure, while others are experimenting with new pricing strategies to lower fares or are making electric vehicle (EV) purchases more affordable and convenient, according to the 2023 edition of the Urban Mobility Readiness Index, a forward-looking ranking of how well-positioned cities are to lead mobility’s next chapter.
Conducted by the Oliver Wyman Forum in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley, the cities that topped this year's edition are those that opted for the simpler building blocks of urban transport, like infrastructure and systems efficiency, rather than more innovative solutions still in development, like autonomous cars. For the Index’s fifth anniversary, the report includes city-specific recommendations on ways to improve public transit offerings and their sustainability.
Helsinki And Amsterdam Remain Steady At The Top, While London And Tokyo Decline
How top city rankings changed from 2020-2023
No city better demonstrates how important these factors are than Helsinki, which claims this year’s top overall ranking. The Finnish capital boasts car-free zones, large investments in EV charging infrastructure, advanced cycling infrastructure, and an expanding public transit network with new light rail and tram projects. Increasing public transit offerings is just one way Helsinki’s attempting to boost ridership: It also makes it affordable with a roughly $3 ticket that allows commuters to ride on any mode of transport.
Cities That Consistently Invest in Mobility Make Strides
Even cities that rank in the bottom half of the Index can make leaps forward in modernizing their mobility systems with continual investment in the mobility essentials. Take Jeddah and Bangkok, which climbed the rankings the last two years thanks to determined efforts to boost public transit ridership with affordable fares and convenient service. Consider also Mumbai, a top performer in road safety, or Casablanca, which has the highest pedestrian modal share in the Index. These cities display a spirit of consistent effort and investment in improving their mobility networks – and are climbing up the Urban Mobility Readiness Index rankings in the process.
Those that slipped in our Index, like Singapore, Zurich, Boston, and Los Angeles, have been outpaced by other cities that are accelerating efforts to modernize their mobility networks. These cities should continue to find ways to innovate and make real progress across a range of Index metrics, from EV market share and public transit use to road safety and engagement of the private sector.
Hong Kong Remains a Model for Public Transit Authorities
Some cities that already offer a gold standard of mobility services can continue to double down on their strengths with continued investment. Consider Hong Kong, which for the second year in a row, tops our Public Transit Sub-Index thanks to its efficiency, affordability, and accessibility. Those ingredients have enabled the city’s public transit system to account for a staggering 71% of all distance traveled within Hong Kong. And city authorities continue to bolster the transit system even further – in 2023 it began work on a new station that would help connect the eastern and western parts of the New Territories – a major region of Hong Kong.
The importance of these continued investments can’t be understated: 45% of consumers said that accessibility and availability are the most important factors driving their mobility decisions – a close second to affordability, according to the Oliver Wyman Forum’s April 2023 survey. Offering a dense public transit network that’s easy to use is a wise investment for cities that want to increase public transit ridership and grow their economies: Every $1 billion invested in public transport generates economic returns five times as great and creates 50,000 jobs, according to C40, a coalition of 96 cities that advocate for climate action.
2023 UMR sub-indices Performance
Inflation and Supply Chain Pressures Challenge Access To Essential Mobility Services
Providing affordable public transit is crucial for cities. High inflation rates in combination with supply chain disruptions have squeezed households globally and delayed the production of electric vehicles and buses that may delay city plans on EV uptake and result in higher costs in doing so. Meanwhile, a tight labor market in many countries exacerbates the issue by leaving some suppliers without truck drivers to deliver goods while some public transit agencies struggle to retain workers to deliver reliable service.
Intensifying regional competition between Europe, North America, and China to more closely integrate value chains indicate how the mobility industry evolves in the coming years: China has a wellspring of raw materials to manufacture EVs, while the United States seeks to onshore semiconductor manufacturing. Europe’s decentralized industry model will make it difficult to localize supply chains – although the region generally offers many incentives to buy EVs. The regional supply chain dynamics will ripple through the economic tissue of cities and their mobility systems.
Public transit ridership has not returned to pre-pandemic levels for most cities in the Index, which strains an essential urban function that is also challenged by higher energy and maintenance costs. The American Public Transit Association found that 71% of the largest transit agencies will face a fiscal cliff in the next five years while a European Union study notes significant loss in post-pandemic revenues. And with nearly half of consumers citing affordability and accessibility as the most important factors when choosing how to travel, according to a Forum survey, it’s vital that cities be resolute in satisfying these expectations.
Some governments included in the index are being proactive about making public transit more affordable. Berlin and Munich, for example, benefit from Germany’s recent Deutschland Ticket, which lets commuters use all local mass transit for roughly $52 per month. Seoul, similarly, plans to release a mass transit pass that would allow riders to use all subway and bus lines and the city’s bike-sharing service in 2024. Boston, meanwhile, is studying the feasibility of offering flexible transit fares based on income levels.
Clean Energy Generation Gets the Spotlight for Sustainable Mobility
The war in Ukraine focused attention on what energy sources countries use and how they source them. It’s a facet of the larger problem: how mobility can truly be sustainable if it’s powered by oil and gas or carbon-heavy energy generation. Cities that are reliant on carbon-heavy energy are off track to meeting their climate goals, according to an Oliver Wyman Forum analysis. But many of the top cities in the Sustainable Mobility sub-index are making concentrated efforts to pursue more eco-friendly alternatives.
Consider cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, and Munich. They provide everything from world-renowned cycling culture to strong public transit offerings, earning them top-10 finishes in the Sustainable Mobility sub-index for the second consecutive year. While natural gas or fossil fuels still account for large percentages of their energy production, both the Dutch and German governments have committed to transitioning to cleaner sources.
Oslo, which relies on a national hydropower system to generate nearly all of its electricity, extended its reign as the top-ranked city in the Sustainable Mobility sub-index. That clean energy powers an impressive EV fleet – which accounted for more than 80% of new car sales in the second quarter of 2023. Norway also plans for zero-emission vehicles to account for all new car registrations beginning in 2025.
Urban vitality depends on affordable, convenient, and sustainable mobility networks. As global pressures stress livelihoods and the climate, cities must futureproof their feasibility as places to live and work. A return to fundamentals that keep mobility sustainable, accessible, and efficient can strengthen that vitality.
About the Index
The 2023 edition of the Urban Mobility Readiness Index provides an in-depth analysis of 65 global cities. These cities are geographically diverse, representing six regions – North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and Africa. They range from sprawling megacities like Tokyo and Delhi, to more compact cities such as Oslo and Washington D.C., to fast-developing metropolises like Nairobi.
The fifth edition of the index includes five new cities – Copenhagen, Manama, Melbourne, Monterrey, and Rome — as part of the ongoing effort to broaden the research and ensure representation of a diverse population.
Read more about our methodology and research