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"As long as we have cities, we will need public transport": Jerome Pourbaix departs UITP after 18 years

15/09/2021
  • Communication

After almost two decades with UITP, our Senior Director of Global Growth Jerome Pourbaix is heading for pastures new…

With an impressive 18 years of service, Jerome has spent that time dedicated to advancing sustainable urban mobility across the fields of advocacy and regional management by building UITP’s presence, membership and activities around the world.

New offices, new members, new events, new ways to move around our cities…UITP and public transport have grown exponentially during Jerome’s time and it seems fitting to hear his views as he bore witness to it all!

What has changed during the past twenty years in public transport? What has it been like to witness the growth of the only association of its kind dedicated to advancing urban mobility in all corners of the globe? And what’s next for Jerome as he moves on to this new stage in his career? 

You can find out by hearing directly from Jerome as he sets off for his new journey…but before he departed, our Senior Director of Strategy Sylvain Haon spent some time with Jerome exchanging stories, views and parting thoughts.

Q: During your time at UITP, what are the key changes that you have witnessed as the organisation has evolved?

“In the 18 years I have been at UITP, the organisation has had three different Secretary Generals. Each of them with their own priorities and own personalities and they have brought different outlooks and improvements to UITP during their mandates.

UITP has evolved with the changes in the public transport and mobility landscape. In the first decade of the 2000s, we have seen strong growth in mobility projects around the world and UITP has reflected this with strong international development. Within the second decade we have seen the transformation of the landscape of urban mobility with the new players and new services joining, and UITP has integrated that dimension into the working themes of the organisation and the working bodies. So, for me, the evolution of UITP is also a reflection of the evolution of the landscape within our sector. UITP has been able to not only follow these developments but adapt to them.

When I joined UITP, there were just two colleagues working outside of Europe; one in Hong Kong and one in Moscow. (UITP’s HQ is in Belgium, with 16 offices around the world) Now we have around one quarter of our global team of colleagues outside of Brussels. This is a major transformation and there is a real dynamic in the offices that are outside Brussels, with strong local players and partnerships. For me, these are the main developments that I have witnessed at UITP during my almost two decades with the association.”

Q: You are remaining with the public transport sector, but the scope of your work will broaden with your next job, where you will address rail transport, airports and logistics in your new role. Does that mean you are losing faith in public transport?

“Not at all! As long as we have cities, we will need public transport. I think that it is an integral part of the success of city living. What makes a city is the concentration of opportunities, of employment, leisure, business and more. This is not going to change. Public transport will always play a key role. What may change, is how people use the city and the configuration of urban activities. I strongly believe the need for public transport is always going to be there, but certainly evolution will be necessary.”

I have faith in public transport, it will remain important, it will remain essential. But as the use of the city changes, the shape of public transport will have to continue changing…
Jerome Pourbaix
UITP Senior Director of Global Growth
Q: From the time you developed the Mobility in Cities Database, structured our  advocacy outreach, and in the last years gained a unique exposure to the various realities of public transport across the globe…what do you believe are the main challenges facing our sector?

“I think that what is significant today is the possible evolution of the use of the city. This represents threats, challenges and opportunities. In terms of the challenges, it is likely that we will need to reinforce the suburban, regional connection with the city centre. Right now, this is not where public transport is the strongest. It will be important to reinforce that. The way the use of the city will evolve is in the direction of having a positive experience so public transport will have to adapt to match this experience. I also see opportunities and today when we have polarised demand throughout the day, we must dimension the peak-time demand and this is creating challenges in terms of costs and the use of infrastructure space. If we have a demand that is more spread along the day, then we may have less challenges there. This is a positive development of these transformations.

The main challenges are in transition economies where there is a very significant need for public transport and there remain institutional issues. There’s competition between jurisdictions and for the organisation of mobility, and that doesn’t sufficiently enable the development of public transport. That is the main challenge that we face now and we need to be able to develop public transport in a sustainable way in many transition economies.”

A public transport memory? Waiting for the metro on a crowded platform in Moscow, full of people who embarked onto the arriving metro in front of me, and then within a minute the next metro arrived and the empty platform was once again full with new passengers! Demand for mass transport right there!
Jerome Pourbaix
UITP Senior Director of Global Growth
Q: What is your strongest memory of your time at UITP in regards to public transport? What has impressed you the most?

“The Moscow memory is a good one – to see the immediate, and ongoing need for mass transport in a bustling city has remained with me. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet very inspiring people during my time at UITP, such as Joan Clos, the then Director of UNHabitat, who had a very inspiring vision of urban development, and Bertrand Picard, the explorer, who greatly influenced my conception of the innovation process.

I also remember organising a meeting between leaders of public transport organisations and leaders of the local business communities in London, and I had the impression that this meeting had a real impact in terms of enabling reciprocal understanding and concrete collaboration. I’ve truly met some wonderful, dedicated people…”

Thanks to Jerome for taking the time to share his thoughts and for his two decades of dedicated service!

We all wish him the best of luck for the future! 

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