BCG Henderson Institute

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Cities have long seen the happiness of their residents as a byproduct of big-picture urban-planning initiatives that yield success on some measure: a strong economy, a pleasant environment, a high-profile infrastructure change. This has not typically involved listening to what residents really want, though, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that residents are happy in the cities they call home.

That doesn’t seem like successful urban planning to us. We propose an inverse approach: resident centricity, which begins with exploring inhabitants’ needs, roles, and everyday experiences and—ideally—ends with successful, customized solutions to the perennial problems cities face. It suggests that happy residents should be the basis, not the byproduct, of urban planning.

Mobility stands out as an area of challenge, and opportunity, for cities. It affects every urban resident, often profoundly. It’s expensive—the largest or second largest area of capital spending for most cities. And it has become a focus of innovation and entrepreneurship, with ride-hailing and micromobility companies operating around the world, autonomous-driving pilots underway, and city-led mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) platforms being pioneered in Berlin and Helsinki and developed in other urban areas.

BCG has taken a close look at life in cities around the world. We believe that the well-being of cities is defined by the well-being of their residents. With that in mind, we have conducted the Urban Experience Survey, involving 25,000 residents of some 70 of the world’s largest cities, to understand how satisfied people are with various aspects of urban living, including commuting access, time, convenience, and cost. We see that cities whose residents are happy and satisfied are better able to address challenges. Here, we focus on how a resident-centric approach can be applied to issues related to urban mobility.

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