The consultation on the draft MK Council Mobility Strategy 2018-2036 is still ongoing, but will end soon. The strategy and the consultation process around it are both interesting for scholars of smart cities in the making, as the strategy will not only update the local transport plan, but it also integrates explicitly smart projects as it delivers the MK 2050 vision and the growth ambitions of Plan:MK. The update takes place at a critical time for Milton Keynes when advancements in IT and innovative transport systems, and the advent of connected and autonomous vehicles, coupled with a period of significant growth make mobility a key issue for the future success of the city. To a considerable degree, the strategy explores the various ways through which smart transport may sustain the environment and the quality of life of the city in a time of economic and demographic growth.
From our perspective at SCiM, the making of the strategy also provides an opportunity to reflect on the 'how', 'who' and 'where' of smart policymaking. In addition to the online consultation, Milton Keynes has quite a culture of face-to-face consultation and debate around policy issues, often led by intermediaries such as Community Action MK or the Fred Roche Foundation (FRF). Events like the Going Places workshop organized by FRF and the MK Business Leaders partnership provide a meeting point where government, business , academic and community actors can exchange perspectives in polite (of sometimes heated) public debates. For example, the Going Places event initiated a particularly lively debate about the feasibility of providing mobility for all through market forces alone. The city (and smart cities all around the world) may be getting close to the point where a binary choice will have to be made: will policy frame mobility as a public good, or will smart reinforce a model of monetized mobility that will take us into an Uber kind of future?
The debate goes on, and we at SCiM are reflecting on it and preparing our contribution to the consultation. Also, while the event was not related to SCiM, the organizers kindly allowed us to contribute by showing two of our smart city teachinig videos related to the issues under discussion - on looking at the context of MK and the roots of smart transport, the other looking at MK and its overall move towards becoming a smart city.