Part 1: Mobility means changing location

Part 1: Mobility means changing location

  • Posted by Gerhard Pramhas
  • On 29. April 2019


Just how mobile are we? And are we more mobile today than we were 200 years ago? Is there a discernible trend for the mobility of the future? Transportation and the associated infrastructure is a topic that has greatly intrigued me since my studies (mechanical engineering with a specialisation in traffic engineering and modes of transportation). This topic also has a lot to do with the question of one’s own mobility and the extent to which this has changed over the years. Your opinion is welcome!

Mobility is a wide-ranging concept and one that certainly means something different to each of us. Various means of transport, such as cars or trains, might be the first thing to come to mind for mechanical engineers. A civil engineer may think of road and bridge construction, a landscape planner might be concerned with damage to the landscape, and a citizens’ initiative may focus on preserving the natural environment and/or the quality of life. However, this list is by no means exhaustive. For this reason, I would like to approach this topic – which is often very emotionally charged – from a variety of angles.

How often are we on the move?

Let’s start on a completely unspectacular level: Why is there traffic, how is it created, and what laws apply?

Mobility refers to the movement of people and things in spaces. The word comes from the Latin “mobilitas”, which means mobility, speed, but also impermanence and indecision.

Let’s see if we can quantify your personal mobility. On any given day, how often do you change your location? Four times? More often? Most likely, you travel from home to work, to school, or to an educational institution, and back again. That makes two location changes. Maybe you go shopping after that, bringing the total to four. If you then also engage in some kind of leisure activity, the number increases to six. On average, you change your location four to five times a day.

Are we more mobile today than we were in the past?

An interesting question arises from the observation we have just made. Are we more mobile today than we were 200 years ago? Answer this question for yourself. The thing is, in the past we also went to our place of work, took care of the necessary errands and, if there was still time, pursued our leisure activities. Even though we tend to believe that we are significantly more mobile than our ancestors were, in my opinion, we are no more mobile now than we were 200 years ago. Because of this, I believe that mobility has actually remained constant over a long period of time. The only thing that is changing is the speed at which we move. Instead of walking a short distance to work, we take the same amount of time to travel at high speed by car or public transport. We thus confuse mobility with speed.

With this in mind, I would also like to address the following questions:

How do we move? Which means of transport do we use, and what type of infrastructure? Do we need more electric cars, more motorways, and a third runway at the Vienna International Airport? You’ll have to wait for the next blog posts to get more thoughts on these questions.

Until then, I would like to hear your opinion about how often you change your location each day. Feel free to write to me at or use the contact form.