For anyone who has attempted to drive across Los Angeles during rush hour, the future of urban mobility might not seem bright. Yet the organizers of CoMotion L.A. 2019, a two-day conference held this past November 14 and 15, provided both a progressive and realizable vision for what may come to an audience of over 2,000 people. Held at ROW DTLA, a recently-opened 30-acre complex in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles, the third annual CoMotion L.A. brought together global leaders, including Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti, Moovit CEO and co-founder Nir Erez, Deputy Mayor for Mobility for the City of Lisbon, Miguel Gaspar, and President of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, Matt Petersen, to discuss the newest forms of mobility and share their thoughts on a future that’s less reliant on cars.
The keynote conversation held on the first day, Reinventing Mobility, Transforming Place, elaborated on how the expansion of public mobility options might have a positive impact on real estate and civic space, and how we navigate through cities. Moderated by Frances Anderton, the host of KCRW’s Design and Architecture (DnA) show, the panel brought Grimshaw Architects’ partner Andrew Byrne, chief marketing officer of REEF Technology Alan Cohen, and Chief Design Officer of the City of Los Angeles Christopher Hawthorne together to imagine how the static elements of Los Angeles’ infrastructure might be transformed into dynamic hubs of activity. Anderton and Hawthorne exchanged examples of successful pedestrian zones in the city’s history, while Byrne and Cohen shared how recent projects from their respective firms brought pedestrian infrastructure into the 21st century.
On the second day, several 90-minute workshops were held for participants to imagine the future of urban mobility more intimately. Designing for Sustainability and Life Cycle Management, for example, shared visual aids and in-depth solutions to reducing the large carbon footprint associated with short-distance urban transit. Meanwhile, The Age of Automation panel, moderated by L.A. Times writer Russ Mitchell, brainstormed how vehicular autonomy might increase the speed, efficiency, and safety of urban travel while also debating the associated financial risks of investing in new technology.
While the conference was taking place, a live demonstration of some of the same innovations being discussed was displayed on dedicated “new mobility” lanes that connected ROW DTLA and the L.A. Cleantech Incubator. These lanes provided a full half-mile of space for visitors to try out the latest in new mobility for themselves, including smart shuttles, electric scooters, e-bikes, hydrogen-powered vehicles, and other methods of clean-energy transportation. Though some of these vehicles had the air of concept designs, we all might be seeing them in common use throughout American cities in the very near future.