Picture a city where the air is clean, the streets are spacious, and the commute to work is a breeze.
It might sound too good to be true, but it’s not.
We just need to be ready to change the way we think about transport.
As the founder of eCabs, I’m the public face of a mobility-tech company that’s asking people to start using their private cars less.
It’s a big ask, I know.
So, it comes as little surprise that I sometimes get faced with questions, like: “Aren’t you just making traffic worse?”
Well, the answer is “no”.
Every day, a single eCabs partner driver takes several people wherever they need to be.
That’s one ride-hailing car on the road instead of potentially dozens of privately owned vehicles.
And that one ride-hailing cab isn’t taking up street parking either.
When they aren’t in operation, our fleet of cars is parked in our parking facilities right next to eCabs HQ.
The privately owned car on the other hand? Well, it spends 95% of its time idle, cluttering our public spaces.
It’s the main reason our walkways are often too narrow and why there never seems to be any space for bike lanes or urban greening.
You see, we aren’t the problem.
Far from it. We’re part of the solution.
The solution I’m talking about is this idea called multi-modal mobility.
That’s a lot of ‘Ms’, I know, but stick with me on this.
It’s a transport system that leads to what is known as livable cities – the belief that moving away from dependence on the private car by providing other reliable ways of getting from A to B can decongest our clogged urban spaces and make them better places to live.
In doing so we shift the focus of urban planning away from cars and towards what really matters – people.
This is a goal eCabs shares with cities around the world, and with good reason: because reducing personal car use holds the potential to reduce the negative impacts of transport and unlock our urban spaces.
From air pollution to traffic accidents, and the vast amounts of space used for parking and new roads which instead could be used for gardens, parks, and wide-open walkways.
To do this we need policymakers that promote alternative solutions and invest in the infrastructure that supports them.
A multimillion Euro active mobility network
Like my brother Andrew said in his opinion piece in the Times of Malta, it’s time to stop rewriting policy documents and start implementing them.
A couple of days ago that exact thing happened.
Policymakers unveiled details of a multimillion Euro active mobility network promising to provide a “realistic alternative” to cars.
The first phase of the €35 million plan aims to make walking and cycling safer, with routes aiming to be direct and continuous.
The goal of the first phase is to connect Msida, Blata l-Bajda, Valletta, and the Valletta waterfront.
A dream worth believing in
At eCabs, we dream of a future when the entire country is connected this way.
A future where we have the option to use a multitude of different ways to get around.
But this kind of change doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
We also need to change the way we think about travel on a personal level.
A few years ago, I decided to start walking to work every morning.
Those passengers who were picked up by that single eCabs partner driver? Well, imagine the multiplier effect of those same people deciding to walk for one or two of their weekly trips instead of driving their car.
Throw in a bus ticket and a scooter ride now and then and that can mean thousands fewer private car journeys.
It can mean cleaner air and easier commutes, and it means we can start reclaiming the public space that has for so long been forfeited to cars.
It’s a dream worth believing in.
And it’s a dream eCabs is driving towards every day.
At eCabs, we know that ride-hailing is part of the answer.
It’s how we are going to achieve truly livable urban spaces.
That’s why I know we aren’t the problem.
We’re part of the solution.