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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article7 February 20203 min read

Sustainble urban mobility must come first: so how do you get people out of their cars?

Local and regional authorities and policymakers have the chance to mould and create urban spaces. Offering the best options for movement has the potential to make the biggest positive impact on people’s living conditions and influence their daily travel decisions.

During a joint conference, the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) and the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) asked a key question of urban mobility measures: ‘How do you get people out of their cars?’ The question aimed to identify solutions that have already been successful in encouraging citizens to opt for public transport. The UITP and the ECoR brought together more than 160 international participants for the conference, offering collective experiences and novel ideas.

The road transport sector in Europe is responsible for over half of all NOx emissions, accounting for 72% of the European greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to transport (making up 27% of total EU GHG emissions). This has damaging impacts on the quality of life and health of residents in towns and cities (congestion, noise and air pollution, and more), not to mention the irreversible damage to natural habitats.

Isabelle Boudineau, Chair of the European Committee of the Regions Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER) said: ‘Emissions from the transport sector continue to rise. The European Union cannot succeed in its Green Deal if regions and cities are not at the forefront of efforts to provide an efficient and clean public-transport service. They are the actors most capable of proposing innovative solutions that make it possible to stop using private cars’.

The European Green Deal addresses the need for transport to become significantly less polluting, especially in urban areas. It stresses the importance of multiple measures aimed at improving public transport options, reducing urban congestion and curtailing emissions. UITP President Pere Calvet said: ‘The need to move as many people as possible to shared modes is vital. At UITP, we’re convinced that a shift from private cars to public transport and active modes, cycling and walking, is the best way to decarbonise people’s daily mobility’.

‘The Green Deal is a game-changer, it’s an opportunity. Its ambitious objectives in terms of climate neutrality and more generally in terms of sustainability will not be met if public transport and a modal shift to sustainable daily mobility are not given priority. A number one priority. It’s the bus that takes kids to school, the tram that takes me to the office and the metro that takes you to the movies which makes a difference ‘, said UITP Europe Senior Director, Thomas Avanzata.

The Conference discussed how cars have shaped our cities and why a modal split is necessary, how Europeans travel and influences that affect mobility choices.

The European Green Deal calls for a 90% reduction in transport emissions by 2050, in response to that Sylvie Landrieve and Susan Grant-Muller of Forum vies mobiles and the University of Leeds offered examples and implementations for mobility improvements in cities: behavioural change, incentivisation and understanding the different measures required for various locations should always be considered.

The Conference had two Urban Mobility Toolbox sessions.

Part one showed a range of best practices and experiences with various aspects of urban mobility, specifically aspects of seamless travel, urban access regulations and offer and demand management. Part two looked at practical experiences in relation to multimodality and fare policy, pedestrianised areas, on top of zero-emission zones and access restrictions.

In the final section of the Conference, a panel of experts discussed how to achieve a greener, carbon-free urban transport system in Europe and deliver the future of urban mobility.

Sir Albert Bore, Birmingham City Councillor and CoR member, Clara De La Torre, Deputy-Director General, DG CLIMA, Anna Deparnay-Grunenberg MEP, Member of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, Miguel Gaspar, Deputy Mayor for Mobility & Safety, City of Lisbon and Elke Van den Brandt, Minister of the Government of Brussels Capital Region responsible for Mobility, Public Works and Road Safety, discussed ideas on finding the right balance between urgent long-term societal pattern shifts and short-term mobility needs.

The Conference concluded with Matthew Baldwin, Deputy-Director General of DG MOVE saying: ‘To my reading, public transport will become the cornerstone of the new MFF 2021-2027’.

The discussions in the Conference have made it clear there is life without the car and there is a demand for EU support in sustainable urban mobility and the modernisation of public transport. A modal shift away from cars can be encouraged through examples, incentivisation and investment.

UITP also held a joint Conference with the European Committee of the Regions and UNIFE last September concerning urban rail investment.

Original article first published 27 January 2020 by ECoR.



Publication date
7 February 2020
  • Urban mobility planning
  • Europe-wide