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Policy recommendations for sustainable transport

Submitted by on 08 May 2018 – 12:05

By Karen Vancluysen, Secretary General, Polis

Until today, the public sector has been the primary provider of public transport services and data in many European cities. But increasingly, third parties such as app developers, shared vehicle providers and connected minibus operators have entered this domain. The Mobility as a Service (MaaS) concept forwarded such a mobility ecosystem, where customers can plan, book and pay door-to-door journeys through a single app using all kinds of public and private transport modes and services.

The routing and booking service is often provided by a private company. In the light of this paradigm shift, cities and regions started to reconsider their future role in mobility. Thus, a recent Polis discussion paper debates if and how transport authorities could enable and steer MaaS.

In 2018, Polis will publish a similar paper on automated road vehicles. It recognises the potential advantages of automated driving regarding safety, space consumption and traffic flow but does not neglect challenges, such as pedestrian accessibility. Instead, it forwards an approach which enables cities to integrate automated vehicles ecologically and in a socially coherent way into transport systems.

During the high-level plenary debate on the changing role of the local and regional authority in transport service provision at the Annual Polis Conference in December 2017, it was recognised that whether the impact of disruption is positive, negative or neutral, it will depend on the policy framework you build around it. The debates at Polis and the paper exemplify how cities and regions in Europe and beyond see the need to steer these new developments by developing clear visions on the role of new transport systems and services. They want to make sure that emerging new mobility services will contribute to the policy goal of more sustainable urban and regional transport systems.

Both MaaS and automation will contribute to a sustainable mobility transition if they ease multimodality and make passengers use a wider and more sustainable range of transport modes. New mobility bears high potentials, but regardless of the adopted approach, a need for public sector oversight remains, to ensure hitting the mark. The widespread introduction of automated vehicles, for example, could as well lead to increased congestion and suburbanisation. Both have negative social, economic, environmental and health impacts, especially if walking, cycling and public transport aren’t boosted.

Newly elected Polis president Dr Jon Lamonte, chief executive at Transport for Greater Manchester, emphasises that “Neither MaaS nor automated vehicles are an end in itself. Instead, they need to contribute to the overarching policy goals, reduce air pollution and congestion, address climate change or increase road safety.”

In its papers, Polis recommends three key actions to give the vision of innovative, safe and sustainable transport systems a chance:

1. There is a need for a structured dialogue between the transport authorities, industry and service providers on various issues related to disruptive transport innovations, including the issue of data sharing and governance.

2. More research is needed on the impact of MaaS and driverless vehicles in the urban environment.

3. National governments and the European Commission should pay greater attention to sustainable mobility goals, in line with the EU transport white paper, as they develop policy on transport innovations. Cities, regions and their transport authorities should be systematically consulted. The Commission and the member states can also play a role in enabling the sustainable implementation of transport innovations, through research programmes, regulation and as facilitators of multi-stakeholder cooperation.

These policy recommendations have been developed by Europe’s local and regional authorities that make cooperation a reality under the umbrella of the Polis network. Polis member cities and regions also understand the advantages of exchange on global level. The Polis Global platform fosters cooperation on global challenges and new mobility topics across the world.