How urban design can increase everyone's quality of life

Case study: Mobility Happiness

The vibrant city of Rotterdam has been going through an urban transformation over the past decades. Since 2015, AKKA has been consulting for De Verkeersonderneming¹, and together we have been focused on how mobility can increase happiness amongst citizens. We put people first. Since this is not only a mindset, but an action-oriented approach, we started by asking: ‘what do people care for the most?’. The ultimate answer is a better quality of life, i.e. happiness. Worldwide, much research has been done into what makes people universally happy; distilled into:
1.Social Relations
3.Personal development

A person’s mobility influences each of these aspects, therefore affecting people’s happiness. That is why we believe mobility is a means to live a more meaningful happier life, we call this concept mobility-happiness. Mobility-happiness is the extent to which mobility contributes to people’s happiness. With mobility-happiness we urge to look beyond traffic jams and cost-benefit analysis and consider the social and cultural effects of mobility.

How can we contribute to increasing mobility-happiness and how do we quantify such a ‘social return’ on investment?

That is where our mobility-happiness index² comes in. It is an index designed to quantify the effect of mobility on people’s happiness. The Index’s results provide practical insights into people’s context and mobility behavior. We use this to directly engage different stakeholders in pilots and solutions that can make a difference.

Even though Rotterdam’s mobility is constantly being improved, there is a blind spot. We generally usually only look on the road, therefore missing the people that have no access to the road and suffer from a lack of or limited access to mobility. From our first test using the Mobility-Happiness Index, we have extracted preliminary yet very interesting results³:

  • 67% of respondent with long-term health problems experience regular difficulty reaching healthcare facilities.
  • Among the respondents who earn less than €20,000, there are relatively more people who walk to family/friends compared to the other income groups (12%).
  • Considering the respondents that have work or follow a study, the higher the income the less likely they are to cycle or walk to work.
  • 42% of the respondents that indicated health reasons not to travel, state that they are lonely and do not see friends/family enough or at all. 79% of the respondents that indicated health reasons not to travel, are dependent on others for travel.
  • 55% of the respondents are very concerned about air pollution

Because we believe that a happy citizen is an engaged citizen and that is the most sustainable form of citizenship, we aim to create a first measurement of Mobility-Happiness for the city of Rotterdam in 2019.

3.These first results, based on a small pool of 640 respondents are not fully representative of the population of Rotterdam. However, they give a good indication of the type of insights that can be extracted from the analysis of the Index’ results. Currently, we are working on a larger launch of the Index to collect a representative pool of respondents from Rotterdam – both quantitatively and qualitatively – with a special emphasis on walking. This next round of the Index will result in more reliable and in depth results, which should be available by October.​

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“We would like to express our gratitude for the time you invested in helping us get to a clear picture.  Anna and I really appreciated the call we had with you, your responsiveness, and the great empathy that you exhibited throughout – we certainly felt very “well taken care of” when engaging with you.  On the practical side, we especially appreciated that there was the option to obtain robust bottom-up cost estimates for the construction itself (not every design architect offers this).”

-Private Client of AKKA



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