International Transport Forum - 2014 annual summit Transport for a Changing World | 21-23 may 2014 - Leipsig, Germany | France presidency

Transport Authorities: Steering Smart Changes in our Urban Culture

25 April 2014
Ruud van der Ploeg, Secretary-General, European Metropolitan Transport Authorities (EMTA)

Mobility issues are increasingly important in today’s fast-growing, innovative urban centres with conurbations set to be the drivers of economic recovery from the crisis: 85% of all GDP is earned in urban areas. Cities’ competitiveness relies heavily on an efficient urban transport system. Economic expansion exacerbates issues brought by growth in mobility and car dependence, creating congestion, environmental pollution and affecting road safety.

The challenge is adapting urban transport systems to better meet individual mobility needs. To reverse the counterproductive cycle of increasing urban congestion and negative impacts on the economy, environment and health, a fundamental change in the mind-set of citizens, businesses and politicians is needed. Decision makers should focus on transport users as part of their strategies, as individual choices affect the sustainability and efficiency of transport systems. Users of the transport system also need to adapt their behaviour and attitudes towards mobility.

With ageing urban populations, growing car dependency and demands for new and more flexible lifestyles, cities are faced with the challenge of finding new transport solutions. New technologies create high expectations for smart mobility options, such as real-time traffic information for passengers, drivers, fleet operators and network managers. New technologies also bring opportunities for integrating data for journey planning as well as electronic ticketing and smart cards to foster interoperability.

Intelligent, better public transport provision can provide solutions for the emergence of combined mobility that is fuelled by the dynamics of urban life styles. The demands of the modern urban dweller have been shaped by the opportunities provided by open travel data. Metropolitan lifestyles will continue to create new travel patterns as users’ individual wishes and preferences are profiled into a customised offer geared by the use of the internet, of smartphones and social media.

Transport authorities play a critical innovative role towards sustainable transport solutions. It is no longer possible to approach sustainable mobility exclusively from a sectorial perspective; a holistic view on transport is needed, taking into account a range of determinant and interrelated factors:

  • accessibility: 50% of all daily trips into cities are made by car, mass transit lines are saturated due to urban sprawl;
  • the environment: transport generates 30% of CO2 and micro particles emissions, of which 90% come from cars and lorries, creating real issues in terms of public health, noise and road safety;
  • quality of life: a modal shift from private cars to public transport and eco-friendly modes is needed given that in some cities around 60% of car trips cover distances of less than 3 km;
  • public space management: need to share space between different transport modes, (walking, cycling, public transport, private car, urban freight) and other types of use (shops, playgrounds, green zones, urban facilities);
  • citizens’ information: on mobility services, (regular and real time) travel conditions.

Innovative technologies and research findings can be used as instruments in the quest for sustainability in transport solutions to mitigate the threats and risks occurring from individualised mobility patterns in urban mobility culture. Transport authorities leading the decision-making process on mobility strategies will continue to be forcefully challenged to develop integrated solutions and foster effective governance in their transport system.

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