Public transport will remain the backbone of cities

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On the 28 and 29 April 2016 the UITP conference ‘New Trends in Mobility’ took place in The Hague, under the high patronage of the Dutch EU Presidency. Over 150 international experts gathered to discuss the challenges posed by a growing demand for mobility on the one hand and targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions on the other.

Mass transit
The conference members agreed on the fact that, in spite of new mobility trends, travelling together will continue to be the most attractive option for economical and sustainable mobility. With demand for mobility on the rise, the need to enhance mass transit systems and invest in their capacity is more imminent than ever. Well-functioning and easily accessible public transport systems are key to achieving global targets on carbon dioxide emissions.

“The new mobility services are a great compliment, but if you want to move a lot of people, public transport is the only answer,” explained UITP Secretary General Alain Flausch. “Late-night bus services carrying few people are ultimately unsustainable. Moving towards on-demand transport will be much more interesting. That’s our future. Public transport needs to be much more entrepreneurial and innovative. If we do not embrace innovation we will be side-lined,” he warned.

Modal shift
If we want to benefit fully from mass transit systems, modal shift policies must be revitalised. Above all else, it must be made easy and attractive to board collective means of transport. This requires more focus on feeding services, such as taxis, and considerable investment in integrated ticketing and passenger information systems. As customers are free to use any mode of transport they choose, proper pricing of all forms of mobility should be pursued. Principally, pricing should include the costs of environmental damage of any given mode of transport.

“We need to get serious about the price of mobility,” argued Michael Cramer, MEP. “100% of European railways are tolled and only 0.9% of roads: this is not acceptable and it has to change”.

Concessions and tendering
In recent decades, considerable efficiency gains have been made in public transport thanks to the decentralisation of governmental responsibilities and a more active involvement of the private sector. This has also meant the increasing role of tendering for public transport concessions. However, the participants felt that there are indications that in accommodating new trends in mobility, for example in the introduction of electric buses, the tendering system can lack flexibility.

European cooperation
While the travel patterns of the EU’s population are becoming more diverse and tend to increasingly disregard borders (whether regional or national), the need for European cooperation is vital.

In his speech, Stéphane Ouaki, head of Infrastructure Investments of Connecting Europe, called upon the expert audience to not be shy and present him with their project proposals.

European cooperation on integrated ticketing and passenger information systems should focus on harmonised processing of tariffs and passenger information, from a multitude of sources.

Furthermore, the development of electrically-powered vehicles will benefit from European cooperation on technical innovation and financing schemes. Fleur Gräper-Van Koolwijk, Regional Minisiter, Provincie Gröningen said

We need to work together and combine our buying power as governments, which can really make a difference
“[We need to look to] new and unorthodox partners - partnerships between the usual and unusual suspects, public transport operators, authorities, industry, energy suppliers and network managers.”

Last but not least, participants of the UITP-conference urged European authorities to take the lead in promoting harmonised internalisation of external costs, in a balanced manner, across all modes of transport.

Michael Cramer, MEP, gave the assembled participants some inspiring closing words: “People-oriented cities are the future,” he explained. “[In the future] public transport will remain backbone of clean, safe and affordable mobility.”

Several transformative trends are changing the urban mobility landscape. Click here to read the UITP Policy Brief on integrated mobility

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