The public–private imperative in urban mobility: A view from Canada

The Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) convenes city governments, manufacturers, tech companies, and other stakeholders to solve urban-mobility challenges

Josipa Petrunic imagines a low-carbon, smart-mobility future for Canada. In this interview, she describes how CUTRIC, the consortium she leads, is bringing the public and private sectors together to make it happen.

The Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) convenes city governments, manufacturers, tech companies, and other stakeholders to solve urban-mobility challenges. The goal: spur innovation and economic growth through the creation of a low-carbon, smart-mobility ecosystem across the region. In this interview, conducted by McKinsey’s Allen Webb, CUTRIC’s executive director and CEO, Josipa Petrunic, describes the consortium’s progress, as well as the challenges it faces cutting through bureaucracy to bridge the efforts of the public and private sector, in service of a shared goal.

The Quarterly: What do you see as the future of urban mobility, and how does CUTRIC’s mission fit into that?

Josipa Petrunic: For us, low-carbon smart mobility is the name of the game—anything that reduces emissions or improves mobility for Canadians is where we play. At CUTRIC, we want to move Canadians faster, quicker, cheaper, and cleaner than individual automobiles ever could. That is the goal.

The Quarterly: Where do you prioritize your efforts? What sorts of projects are you working on?

Josipa Petrunic: We’re helping to develop a few different technology projects, including a Pan-Canadian electric-bus project focused on high-power charging systems and a hydrogen fuel-cell bus application. Another very large effort is a national smart-vehicle project, where we’re working with 10 to 12 cities in Canada to integrate autonomous low-speed electric shuttles.

That’s critical, because in Canada, as in the United States, we have a lot of first-mile/last-mile problem areas. We have light-rail transit, subways, or rapid-transit buses that get you from point A to point B really quickly and efficiently. But once you get to point B, there is no bus service, or very low service. And the result is you drive your car the whole distance—the classic suburban problem of North America.

Understandably, transit systems in cities will look at routes that are very short and they will not apply a bus to it. It’s expensive, and the bus will be empty most of the time. Transit systems in cities are typically looking at these kinds of one-kilometer, last-mile solutions and saying, “That’s where autonomous vehicles need to go.” And they’re right.

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SOURCE: McKinsey & Company

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