Transport provision in new developments is moving away from just providing more parking spaces for cars, with national government policy increasingly focussing on the need for alternatives, such as mobility hubs. Mark Dowey of CoMoUK explains what this means, and what developers can do.
The concept of ‘mobility hubs’ is one that is increasingly talked about in the UK. The idea has developed in mainland Europe and the USA over the last 20 years, and there has been growing interest in them in both urban and rural locations, with the first ones appearing in Scotland in 2021.
So what are mobility hubs and why are they important? Broadly speaking, they are interchanges where public transport, active transport (cycling and walking), and shared transport (car clubs, bike share and future modes such as e-scooters) come together, sometimes along with community facilities.
Interest in them has been rising because of the increasingly accepted need to move away from the dominance of the private car and prioritise alternative, lower-carbon modes. Scotland has a target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, and domestic transport is now the largest contributor at 25% of total emissions. To stand a serious chance of meeting this target, domestic transport de-carbonisation needs to be seriously addressed, including within housing developments.
In Scotland, the policy direction in this regard is clear to see. The ‘20-minute neighbourhood’ principle aimed at reducing the need to travel is increasingly popular with local authorities, and is enshrined within the new National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4), currently out for consultation. There is the proposed reduction in private car use, described in the Scottish Government’s ambitious ‘Route map to achieve a 20 per cent reduction in car kilometres by 2030’, also currently out for consultation, that builds on the vision for Scotland's transport system set out in the second National Transport Strategy. And mobility hubs are also backed in the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2), the project-based infrastructure delivery programme from the Scottish Government.
In a development context, mobility hubs can potentially offer substantive planning gain and allow for greater housing densities if tied in with reduced parking requirements. They are suitable for new developments not least because moving into a new home is the time when many people are particularly likely to consider behaviour change in their transport patterns. If a development is challenged around grid capacity, then a mobility hub offers alternative modes of transport at a much-reduced load capacity. More broadly, the creation of mobility hubs can help reduce congestion, allow for the revitalisation of cities by reclaiming space from the private car, and help tackle transport poverty by giving users viable, cheap, and easily accessible alternatives to the private car.
Understanding the different typologies and components available for a mobility hub are crucial to their success. CoMoUK has developed guidance around six different hub typologies that vary according to their location and proposed use. The suitability of hub components, be it shared bikes, an electric vehicle car club, or non-transport facilities such as parcel lockers, is then understood through this approach and improved by a community engagement process that feeds into the Place Standards toolkit.
In England their growth is due to accelerate in the next couple of years thanks to targeted government funding helping place them at the forefront of sustainable transport provision. Plymouth is planning a network of 50 mobility hubs, while up to 30 are planned in Norwich and across Norfolk. Recent developments in Scotland include a mobility hub at the Calderwood housing development in East Lothian; Brunton Hall Journey Hub in Musselburgh, a precursor for a connected network of council-implemented hubs in East Lothian; and a community-driven Loch Ness Travel Hub at Drumnadrochit. CoMoUK has case studies for each of these examples.
CoMoUK is a registered charity, dedicated to the social, economic, and environmental benefits of shared transport. We offer design guidance and an accreditation scheme to assist any organisations interested in setting up a mobility hub. More information is available on our mobility hubs pages or please contact Mark Dowey at CoMoUK on email@example.com.