Universal Basic Mobility as a human right

Groundbreaking technologies are transforming the way we get around town, only this could be causing a new disparity among us.

Moving around cities by car is getting gradually slower, while the expenses of owning a car keep rising. It is an undeniable fact that large cities want less traffic, lower emissions, less parking areas and more social spaces. Thereby, policies are being developed to keep cars away from the city, by increasing parking fees and enlarging environmental zones. 

The future of mobility is as thrilling and unpredictable as it ever has been over the last century. All kinds of organisations, from tech companies to car manufacturers, as well as public leaders, are presently competing to search for the best solutions that will change the way citizens travel. From the rise of ride-sharing apps and bike-sharing systems, to the launching of new platforms providing Mobility as a Service (MaaS).

While these solutions intend to simplify the way we all move around, making it more simple and efficient for us, there is a big portion of people with no access to transport or technology who may be living under the threat of being left out. Here is where the concept of Universal Basic Mobility (UBM) must be an essential part of the conversation.

As much as Universal Basic Income intends to tackle earnings disparity and its snowball effect, UBM is oriented to take on employment discrimination. As Matt Caywood and Alex Roy expound in this renowned article published last October on CityLab, mobility brings basic access to employment opportunities and provides essential needs like food, housing, and medical attention. As said by the authors, just as anyone would not get a job without a phone for an interview, no one can show up at a personal meeting without mobility, or to go to work every day once being employed.

As assayed in this large, continuous study of upward mobility based at Harvard, commuting time appears to be the sole most powerful component in the odds to overcome poverty. The longer a standard commute in a given province, the less the chances of low-income communities to climb the ladder. In a city with restricted or no public transportation, employment entirely relies on owning a car, and being deprived of it, quickly increases the chances of being unemployed. UBM has the capacity reinforcing local economies by protecting its members from not having access to affordable means of transportation, to guarantee the population a permanent gateway to employment, medical assistance or other necessities.

Last December, the government of Luxembourg stated it will make all public transportation free by the year 2020, becoming the first nation in the world to do so. By removing all fees for trains, buses and trams, the country wants to motivate more people to use them. That would not only reduce traffic on personal vehicles, but also be better for the environment. 

This could be the first of many to come, where UBM may transform the way people move in the future. And whereas there is no advanced technology involved, it is destined to enhance the lives of millions of people.

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