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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
13 November 2020

Giving people what they want: Rome’s SUMP and its participatory co-creation process

  • Urban mobility planning
  • Italy
Resource type
  • Case study
Case study image: Rome

First published on 13 November 2020. 

Following a two-year participatory and iterative process that involved different stakeholders (residents, civil society groups and neighbourhood representatives), the city of Rome approved its Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) in 2019. The SUMP marks a crucial point in the city's transition to cleaner and better urban transport, and highlights the advantages of bottom-up sustainable urban mobility planning. This approach empowers the city’s residents, who are both beneficiaries and the driving force behind the planned policies. The co-creation process resulted in a vision of mobility in Italy’s capital by 2030.


In 2017, following the adoption of the ‘National Guidelines for SUMP in Italian Cities’ (which was subsequently revised in 2019), each city needed to approve a new SUMP by 2020. To better understand the motivation behind the development of Rome’s SUMP, it is essential to understand the challenges faced by the city. The pressing need for a better balance in the modal share in favour of public transport and other sustainable mobility modes is evident from the data prior to the approval of the SUMP. This reveals that roughly 63% of Rome’s inhabitants travelled by car, whereas sustainable mobility accounted for 37% of the overall transport choice (including walking, public transport and cycling). The SUMP scenario envisions a modal split in favour of sustainable transport modes (52% by 2030).

The need for modal shift was further demonstrated in the ‘listening’ stage of the process (that is, before the actual development of the SUMP). When asked what they saw as Rome’s main mobility issues, residents gave a resounding answer – the need to reduce accidents and traffic jams, and improve air quality (e.g. by doing things such as improving the conditions for cycling). The residents’ underlying request was to improve their quality of life and the attractiveness of the city.

These were the driving forces behind developing a SUMP approach that had people at its core during the conceptualisation and implementation of the plan, and universal accessibility to sustainable mobility as the main goal. For this ambitious goal to be achieved, there was a need for an all-inclusive approach to be taken that tackled nearly all dimensions of urban mobility. These include public transport, intermodality and demand regulation, road safety, city logistics, fleet renewal, shared and electric mobility, walking and cycling.

In action 

In 2019, after a 2-year participative, resident-centred, iterative process, Rome’s SUMP was concluded and approved, with a 10-year outlook. The development of Rome’s SUMP not only followed the SUMP guidelines, but also included a plan that successfully used a people-centred co-creation process, that placed quality of life and environmental sustainability at its core.

This participative process involved residents and other stakeholders with differing roles and responsibilities within the city. The first phase of the process included:

  • Defining a priority list of potential actions/issues for the SUMP (e.g. multimodality, less congestion, safety concerns, stronger public transport and shared mobility).
  • Launching a portal for stakeholder participation, which was followed by an analysis of the proposals that were received.
  • Conducting a listening process that took place between September 2017 and February 2018. This process enabled residents to send proposals directly through the portal, while public meetings took place alongside other promotional actions. The importance of engaging residents was supported by the numbers – 4,106 proposals were received, with 3,132 comments posted. All proposals were analysed and received a response, which totalled 43,651 interactions.

The second phase of the process took place in July 2018 with both a phone and online survey, receiving 2,000 and 5,415 responses respectively. These interactions resulted in several priorities being identified, such as reducing the accident rate, pollutant emissions, traffic jams and congestion, while promoting urban cycling and strengthening infrastructure for public transport.

This was followed by a consultation process with a wider array of stakeholders, namely city inhabitants, neighbourhood associations, business owners, trade unions and the Municipality Commissions. To facilitate the consultation process, the municipal area of the capital was divided into six territorial areas and, for each one, three meetings were held, with a total of 529 attendees. Each meeting fulfilled a specific objective, which included presenting the SUMP proposal and the projects envisioned (segmented by theme or geographical area) and presenting alternative priorities that had been defined by residents.

The feedback resulted in five themes being defined (i.e. public transport, intermodality, cycling, environmental islands and shared transport/logistics/security). The overarching needs that were identified focused on:

  • improving the quality and supply of public transport and increasing its capacity;
  • improving road safety;
  • improving routes dedicated to active mobility.

As a result of the participative process, the approved SUMP strikes a perfect balance between the main concerns raised by residents in the co-creation process and the policy strategies already envisioned by the city of Rome.

The result is a SUMP that has a main goal of overcoming the existing ‘traffic approach’ and moving towards ‘planning for the people’, based on the following core assumptions and goals:

  • Creating a people-centred plan aiming to give the city back to its residents.
  • This is to be achieved by promoting integration and multimodality, and minimising private car use by individuals. Such ambition needs to be complemented by an increase in the capacity of public transport.
  • Focusing on active and shared mobility (e.g. carpooling; car, bike and van sharing; and e-mobility) and recognising the importance of the role of mobility managers.
  • Ensuring less congestion (including by planning to introduce a congestion charge in Rome), which can, in turn, contribute to improved road safety and to halving the number of car-related deaths (currently standing at over 100 per year). 

To achieve these goals, Rome’s SUMP lays out a three-step implementation process. The short-term plan will focus on the most critical bottlenecks, in the medium term more significant and complex work will be carried out, whereas the long-term plan encompasses all of the foreseen actions.

The actions highlighted below are a result of the translation of residents’ expectations into concrete sustainable mobility actions.

On public transport:

  • Investment in public transport infrastructure of more than EUR 9 billion.
  • Expansion of metro and railway lines (an increase of 45 km) and tram lines (58 km).
  • 185 new stations and stops.

On electric mobility:

  • Renewing surface fleet by replacing older vehicles with low and zero-emission vehicles by 2030 – there have already been 682 new vehicles in 2020. In addition, 60 electric buses will be renovated within the next 3 years.
  • There are 118 electric vehicle charging stations, a number that is predicted to increase to 300 in the near future.

On developing cycling and pedestrian mobility, and support for modal shift:

  • 80 new environmental islands (pedestrian and semi-pedestrian areas);
  • 304 km of new cycling routes, 91 km of which are under construction;
  • Six plans for extending cycle paths have been drafted. Studies suggest that creating infrastructure to ensure cyclist safety will increase the modal share of cycling from 0.6% to 5.1%.

On developing sharing mobility:

  • Promoting car/bike/scooter-sharing schemes, car-pooling and taxis.
  • Mobility manager to promote active mobility projects for the home-school connection and home-work travel plans to support the reduction of private car use.
  • Support the adoption of smart working.

On demand management:

  • Adopting the C40 Fossil Fuel Free Streets (FFFS) protocol, with two objectives:
  1. purchasing only emission-free public transport vehicles from 2025;
  2. creating at least one urban area ‘with zero emissions’ from transport by 2030.
Case study image: public transport
Challenges, opportunities and transferability 

The most innovative and transferable aspect of the SUMP is the co-creation participatory resident engagement process, which led to a mobility plan being created that puts people at its centre – and truly reflects their expectations. Successfully implementing the SUMP will bring about a better quality of life for Rome’s residents; and positive environmental, economic, and social impact. It will also empower residents to voice how the city develops.

This process can be easily replicated and/or adapted to bring policy making closer to the residents in other cities. This can be done by directly addressing residents’ urban mobility concerns, so bridging the gap between policymakers, local/regional institutions and the people they represent.

Rome had to adapt its SUMP to the challenges posed by coronavirus (COVID-19) and the associated lockdown. With public transport supply reduced and subject to social distancing, a major challenge is avoiding an increase in car use in the city. Rome has to use this crisis as an opportunity for a paradigm shift in urban mobility and to try to learn from this emergency situation about how cities can better operate. Some key lessons for the future of mobility are:

  • the need for continuous monitoring and tracking of traffic data;
  • the need for urban mobility to be better regulated;
  • the importance of teleworking and digitalisation;
  • the need to promote active modes of travel.

With regard to the last point, Rome is rolling out improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure. Over 150 km of emergency bike lanes – based on the existing plans in the SUMP are being implemented, with 40 km completed over the summer of 2020.

Similar resident engagement techniques are becoming increasingly popular for policy making. For instance, in early 2020, the city of Gdansk, Poland, launched a public consultation (including two online public surveys) to contribute to the development of its strategy for the development of electromobility in the city, including its vision for 2035. An additional example is the ongoing process of SUMP preparation in Pardubice, Czech Republic, which also involves residents.

Equally innovative are Rome’s ambitions to promote the best use of mobility management functions with incentives for virtuous behaviour. That is particularly the case for promoting smart working models and implementing the city’s Electric Mobility Plan (Rome Plan for public recharge).

One of the biggest challenges of the current plan relates directly to its ambition, and how it will go from a paper document to its successful implementation. The COVID-19 crisis and the need to implement measures to ensure social distancing, sped up the implementation of actions foreseen in the plan and reiterated the mobility expectations voiced by residents during the participative process (i.e. interest in more sustainable modes, such as bicycles). Specifically, Rome quickly implemented 150 km of emergency cycling lanes based on its SUMP plan, which made headlines around the world. Other measures included promoting active modes, particularly for journeys of less than 5 km, and incentives to purchase electric bikes.

Notwithstanding these early successes, the challenges brought about by the crisis may undermine these positive developments if traffic congestion increases because more people use their private cars as they are fearful of using public transport.

On this, Enrico Stefano, Member of Civitas PAC and Rome City Councillor, Chairman of the Transport Committee stated that ‘The SUMP in Rome was built to recover sustainable mobility in short medium term’. He further adds that ‘Now, the challenge is not to waste the COVID crisis, accelerating this sustainability path reopening the city leading the change: less space for cars, more safety and space quality, focus towards active modes with new bike lanes and new sharing opportunity, save environment and avoid future crisis.’ 

Rome is Italy’s largest city and most populated municipality. It is also the fourth largest city in the European Union (by population within its city limits). The potential for positive knock-on effects of its SUMP strategy is substantial. Rome’s example clearly shows how building a SUMP through a bottom-up approach and combining residents’ expectations and needs with pre-established policy goals can lead to the creation of an inclusive, people-centred plan that also takes sustainability into account for, and should be included as an example of good practice by cities that are currently developing SUMPs.  

In Depth 

For more specific, relevant information about Rome’s SUMP, please contact:

  • Fabio Maria Nussio, Responsible of Fund Raising and International Cooperation Roma Servizi per la mobilità Srl, fabio [dot] nussioatromamobilita [dot] it (fabio[dot]nussio[at]romamobilita[dot]it)