How much infrastructure is required to support decent mobility for all? An exploratory assessment

Narasimha Rao and 7 other contributors

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    Decarbonizing transport is crucial for achieving climate targets, which is challenging because mobility is growing rapidly. Personal mobility is a key societal service and basic need, but currently not available to everyone with sufficient quality and quantity. The basis for mobility and accessibility of desired destinations is infrastructure, but its build-up and maintenance require a substantial fraction of global resource use. The question arises, how much mobility and how much infrastructure are required to deliver decent, sustainable mobility. We explore the relations between mobility levels, mobility infrastructure and well-being. We synthesize definitions of decent mobility and assess mobility measurements and provide a novel estimate of mobility infrastructure stocks for 172 countries in the year ~2021. We then explore the relations between infrastructure, travelled distances, accessibility, economic activity and several ‘beyond GDP’ well-being indicators. We find that travelled distances and mobility infrastructure levels are significantly correlated. Above levels of ~92–207 t/cap of mobility infrastructure no further significant gains in well-being can be expected from a further increase of infrastructure. We conclude that high mobility in terms of distances travelled as well as building up mobility infrastructure is only beneficial for well-being up to a certain point.