Wrapping up the online lecture series “Mobility Analysis and Planning for Human-Scale Cities”

Screenshot from the lecture of Õnne Kask, May 11, 2023.
Home » BLOG » Wrapping up the online lecture series “Mobility Analysis and Planning for Human-Scale Cities”

This year’s lecture series, which focused on evidence-based solutions for just and sustainable urban mobility, is now complete. Our lab hosted the lecture series “Mobility Analysis and Planning for Human-Scale Cities” for the second year. This time, it featured eight experts with diverse disciplinary backgrounds from Estonia, Finland, the U.S., and Canada. The recordings of all lectures from this and the previous year are available at https://transportplanning.ut.ee.

The lectures addressed transport policy, social transitions towards sustainable mobility systems, the social, environmental and health aspects of mobility and transport, accessibility concepts, multimodal mobility solutions, and novel data and methods in mobility analysis and transport planning. The lectures were held either in English or Estonian. The series was integrated with a master’s level course “Mobility Analysis for Planning” of the geography curriculum at the University of Tartu but was also open to the public. We had 120 registered online participants with origins ranging from Estonia to Canada, India, and Indonesia. Most of the registered participants represented academic organisations while other interested people came from the public sector and consultancy.

The first lecture was held by Elias Willberg from the Digital Geography Lab, University of Helsinki, at the time being a Doctoral Researcher and now a PhD in Geoinformatics. His lecture highlighted the importance of integrating spatial accessibility concepts into urban and transport planning. Elias also opened a wide avenue of open-access data sources and tools that can be used for planning and decision-making to promote urban sustainability.

The second lecture, being part of the U.S. Speaker Program, featured Professor Harvey Miller, the Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis (CURA), Bob and Mary Reusche Chair in Geographic Information Science, and a Professor of Geography at the Department of Geography, the Ohio State University. The lecture was arranged in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Estonia. In his lecture, Prof Miller called for a novel, observatory-based urban sustainability science that treats the city as a complex system best understood one event at a time and treats sustainability as a crucial but conflicted societal challenge.

The third lecture was given by Mari Jüssi from the Estonian Transport Administration. Her lecture introduced the strategic goals, mobility data, surveys, and measures in national-level transport planning and management to improve public transit accessibility, operations, and integration with other travel modes. She highlighted the importance of transport equity among socio-spatial groups. As one of the signs of liveable urban space, she brought out schoolchildren’s independent travel to school, which so far has been normal in Estonia. Apart from urban regions, the lecture also addressed the perspectives for sustainable mobility solutions in rural areas.

Margit Keller, an Associate Professor in Social Communication at the Institute of Social Studies, University of Tartu, gave the fourth lecture. It focused on the need for a systematic transition towards sustainability of the so far car-centric transport system in Estonia. As a starting point, she introduced the concept of deep transition with six to eight intervention points, from disrupting the existing unsustainable systems to accelerating the adoption of novel, more sustainable ways to operate. She then presented the results of an expert survey, which evaluated expert support for the intervention points and specific measures leading to the (deep) transition.

The fifth lecture was given by Hans Orru, a Professor of Environmental Health, University of Tartu. In his lecture, Prof Orru explained how disrupting a car-centric mobility system in favour of sustainable urban mobility will provide health benefits through increased physical activity, cleaner air, and greener and less noisy urban environments. He highlighted the importance of air pollutants in mediating a wide range of noncommunicable diseases, the causal role of motorised traffic in those unhealthy pathways, and the measures to increase public health benefits.

The next lecture was held by Õnne Kask from Hendrikson & Ko, a spatial planning consultancy company. Her lecture focused on the role of spatial planning in improving our mobility system and the current practice of mobility analyses in this domain in Estonia. She emphasized the importance of integrated land use and transport planning as new developments have a major impact on people’s mobility behaviour, related use of space and environmental impacts, and the equity of access to services and various points of interest. As Õnne has started her joint PhD studies at Tallinn University and the University of Groningen, she related her consultancy experience with academic research in mobility behaviour.

The seventh lecture was given by Huyen T. K. Le, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Geography, and a core faculty member at the Sustainability Institute at the Ohio State University. In her lecture, she focused on the associations between the quality of travel environments, people’s travel behaviour, and their mental health. She introduced the data, methodology, and results of two activity space studies conducted in the U.S., which examined the impacts of travel mode and activity space metrics on mood and well-being. As one of the methodological outcomes, she highlighted the role of spatiotemporal data resolution and the choice of measures in mobility, environmental, and health research.

The final lecture was held by Karl Saidla, a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Mobility Lab at the Department of Geography, University of Tartu. His lecture on active transportation policy discussed the health, environmental, social, and economic benefits of active transportation, the major categories of policy interventions considered to improve active transportation rates, as well as the important political obstacles in reaching sustainable mobility goals. He emphasized that despite our knowledge of the social and health benefits of active transportation and the necessary policies to support it, their implementation often remains a struggle due to political reasons. This makes research on political awareness, strategic decision-making, and governance an important cornerstone in active transportation research.

The lecture series has been an insightful journey for our team, and – hopefully – also for our speakers and participants. We are grateful to all our speakers who found time for the lecture and discussions with the audience in their busy schedules. We would also like to thank the U.S. Embassy in Estonia and the U.S. Speaker Programme. We are thankful to both our online and on-site audience for your attention and should you have missed any of the lectures, then no worries, the recordings of all lectures are available on our web page transportplanning.ut.ee.

The Mobility Lab of the University of Tartu is an interdisciplinary research group that studies human mobility and its associations with society and the environment using mobile (big) data.

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