Edit 12 March 2021
Innovation in Urban Mobility in the 2020s
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Introduction - Urban mobility planning in the 21st century

This concluding chapter summarises the standout generic and specific lessons from the three chapters (data, collaboration, behaviour change) and then discusses the overall picture that appears to be emerging in the mobility policy landscape. This landscape appears on the cusp of major change, certainly in terms of the potential for change resulting from the emergence of enabling technologies (ICT, electric or driverless vehicles) and other factors. This suggests that, while the situation facing city planners has never been more difficult (urbanisation, dominance of the private car, pollution and now Covid-19, and so on), there are real opportunities to push forward towards a new sustainable mobility landscape.

Generic lessons

The structure of the chapters, progressively builds a picture of a dizzyingly challenging landscape facing the modern mobility planner. Challenging both in terms of the core and related goals associated with city and urban mobility (congestion, pollution, accessibility, CO2, and health) and in terms of the myriad solutions either already available or now emerging. The investment choices made today could set the trajectory for decades to come.

The review of UIA cities’ experiences with exploiting data reveals that cities need to possess the technical capacity to integrate new data opportunities into planning. The review of collaboration reveals that cities need to possess the capacity to engage with stakeholders, both in the public sector (national, cross-departmental, European) and in the private sector. In this regard, the UIA survey usefully identifies the pragmatism of the outreach strategies being deployed, such as in Toulouse, Ghent, and Lahti. These cases suggest that a key dimension of this collaborative capacity is leadership capacity and shows how leadership can drive progress at city level.

The review of the policy relevance of behavioural change also suggests both a challenge ‒ in that habits, and especially the private car, are hard to change, and an opportunity, but one that is difficult to exploit; new modal options can be provided (not necessarily easily), but getting citizens to use them implies designing incentives to change habits and this in turn means understanding the underlying drivers of behaviour. Again, this suggests city planners need to have quite specific the skill-sets to exploit the opportunities. In other words, capacity. Not only ‘nudge’, to be clear, but a whole range of outreach strategies.

The themes focused on in each chapter are also interconnected. Providing data, i.e., useful information is related to behaviour and choices, Collaboration is synonymous with co-creation, leveraging support from key stakeholders (such as employers) is a question of information exchange and a means to influencing behaviour. The UIA projects are places where these different aspects come together in a range of initiatives that are proving their value. It is clear that mobility policy, if it is to be successful, must take a holistic approach and focus on citizen’s needs, taking into account the reasons why we make our choice of transport mode (convenience, cost, etc.).

A further message of this report is therefore that the professional mobility planner could usefully adopt a policymaking approach that enables the participation of stakeholders in the development of a shared vision. The question of capacity is one which cities need to address in accordance with their visions and planned projects. A question they must ask themselves is, ‘How ready are we?’. Do we have the technical, collaborative, and policy development capacities to deliver multimodality, to entice people out of their cars, and make our city more liveable?

Takeaways from the three chapters

Data is the new fuel that will enable multimodality

  • Data, from an increasing rage of sources, has enormous potential in mobility (to promote sustainable modes, understand habits, travel times etc.). Data can support cross-departmental working and public-private partnerships;
  • Data gives insights into present & future mobility demand;
  • Accurate public transport and other mobility data helps planners to provide more efficient services (Lahti, Szeged, Toulouse);
  • A shift towards open data will support TMaaS

New approaches needed to deal with data (quantity, microdata, etc.)

  • There is a need to complement conventional collection, handling, and maintenance methods with big data and new data validation methods;
  • From 1 to many: not a single source, but many, generated through different sources, units, or city departments;
  • GDPR constrains how a city can collect data to offer individualised services;
  • Not yet fully Open Data…. data can be costly to obtain: need to invest in new software, sensors and/or purchase data from data owners.

Using data in a context of rapid change in the mobility landscape (trends, technologies, etc.)

  • Cities need to set-up a reliable data management system, which can help build a shared vision of mobility demand and supply;
  • Cities should make use of data for future transport planning;
  • User feedback (through data) is key for a citizen-centric transport management approach (links with behaviour change through understanding preferences, which is vital to encouraging new transit habits;
  • As a result of the new roles for data and the technical challenge it represents, cities need new skills and should consider the need to train/hire transport/mobility staff to be able to meet the challenges.

Urban mobility policy increasingly requires more managerial agility

  • Cities cannot achieve multimodal goals alone but can spearhead policies and projects.
  • Resources: need to lobby government for the framework conditions or funding needed and effective multi-level coordination;
  • Partnership-based governance has a role to play, which requires flexibility cross-departmental working vital but can be difficult;
  • Cooperation with the private sector has a role to play as it makes it possible to experiment with new solutions and may leverage funding.

Collaboration creates a common vision and ownership for more sustainable mobility

  • All of the above is facilitated by developing a shared vision with stakeholders: takes time but is necessary to improve prospects for change;
  • Engaging with citizens and stakeholders is important: this also takes time but supports creative policymaking. Engaging with citizens:
  • ensures projects meet their needs;
  • creates political buy-in, accountability, and supports behaviour change

Successful collaboration needs to include mutually beneficial prospects right down to the individual stakeholders (for both the public and private sector)

  • Private sector involvement is conditional on it seeing added value from being part of the project;
  • No one-size fits all: each project must reflect specific contexts and stakeholder interests if it is to be successful;
  • Trust-building initiatives can help as high trust leads to lower levels of formalisation and drives down costs, enabling certain innovative projects to gain traction;
  • Corporate and cultural backgrounds can vary, so it is important to take this into account when approaching private sector stakeholders.

Ensure policy alignment & coordination

  • It is useful to identify stakeholders early and to align initiatives with specific needs – this is part of the co-creation approach;
  • Projects can usefully be aligned with relevant city goals & integrate transport and urban planning;
  • Projects can usefully be aligned with national objectives (national cycling strategy to increase modal share). And vice versa, cities are experimenting with innovative policies and national government should monitor and support successful initiatives.
  • People do think about changing their travel choices e.g., Lahti, 30% of people now considering alternative modes of transport;
  • There is a role for regulation but behaviour change requires other incentives, often in combination; Planners can use a range of measures (physical opportunities plus information/incentives such as in CitiCAP) as part of a ‘machinery of enticement’;
  • Policies should also help engage, encourage, and inform citizens, they should be co-created and drive towards the same objectives (e.g., health and transport). They need to be integrated not just at the city level but also at the national level. It is under these conditions that a larger and longer-lasting positive change in mobility patterns will occur;
  • Policies that provide a positive experience and/or rewards/incentives, along with the availability of infrastructure/services that enable behavioural shifts, can be a more effective way of influencing people’s behaviour; Make sure alternatives are well-designed to avoid any negative experiences;
  • Cities outreach efforts have created a greater awareness of the environmental impact of travel choices (employers) & better understanding of drivers of behaviour change to help focus communication campaigns (employees) – Szeged.

The impact of THE Covid-19 Crisis

Encouragingly, UIA cities are seeing a change in how people are assessing the impact of their mobility choices. For example, in Szeged, both employers and employees now have a greater awareness of the environmental impact of their travel choices. In Lahti, around 30% of people surveyed as part of the city’s Personal Carbon Trading (PCT) Scheme are now thinking about switching to public transport, walking, and cycling. From a policy perspective, UIA Cities found that knowledge and awareness are an important causal factor in behaviour change, which suggests that exploiting behavioural insights ‒ in combination with infrastructural improvements ‒ has real potential.

However, Covid-19 is disrupting people’s lives and its impact on mobility issues is profound. This is particularly the case in the transport sector. The OECD reports that in Europe, daily carbon emissions declined by 58% during the first lockdowns, with emissions from cars and motorcycles falling by 88%[1]. According to the International Energy Agency, globally, CO2 emissions will fall by 8% in 2020[2].

One of the main impacts is the reduced use of collective transport because of restrictions on its use or people’s safety fears. The first available data from UIA Cities shows that the crisis drove a fall in use of around 80% and 70% in Lahti and Toulouse respectively. Nonetheless, public transport continued to operate and mitigation measures were put in place to minimise the risks for passengers. While such measures can be effective[3], there remains a risk that people abandon collective transport for good, both traditional and newer forms, resulting in the uptake of individual transportation, which varies considerably in its sustainability (from shared e-bicycles to private vehicles).

If they create a climate of fear, crises can greatly impact people’s transport behaviour. Crises have an immediate impact on mobility patterns and if sustainable transport options are not supported at and following moments of crises, sustainable or greener behaviour patterns, essentially collective transport, may suffer, compromising sustainability in the medium and longer terms. Covid-19 is unlike previous crises and may indeed lead to profound and lasting behavioural change. But the truth is, when it comes to behaviour, we do not know what the lasting effects will be.

Unsurprisingly, walking, cycling and micro-mobility experienced a rapid rise in their modal shares in all UIA projects during the periods in question, especially in Albertslund and Ghent. Toulouse also experienced a 4% increase in the modal share of cycling following the launch of its awareness raising activities under their shared goals project – a share that has since grown considerably. Citizens in Toulouse are also opting to carpool, with circa. 60,000 carpooling trips reported, and 60 tons of CO2 avoided in the first year of the project (figures from before the pandemic). An important additional pilot under the Toulouse project was the deployment of an inter-company carpooling app (Karos operator for home-to-work trips). In just 6 months, it gained more than 3,115 users, covering 328,722 km, thereby avoiding 21,437 car trips. Other travel patterns have also changed, for example in Szeged, the morning rush hour all but disappeared from the streets. However, car use and travelled kilometres has increased in most UIA Cities, for example Lahti saw vehicle trips by car increase from 55% to 70% in terms of modal share. UIA Cities fear that changes to transport behaviours occurring during the crisis may result in permanent changes in habits.

The unknown is whether the uptake in carpooling will endure when normal life returns. With many aspects of our lives moving online, from work, through the rapid increase in remote working, to social interaction, from education to shopping, the modal shares and indeed commuting/teleworking dynamics of the post-Covid world remain unpredictable[4]. Research has shown that disruptions can be a catalyst towards new behaviours but avoiding the undesired behaviours requires governments and local policymakers to take decisive actions ‒ sooner rather than later.

Ensuring people do not lose faith in all forms of sustainable transport systems in the long run will be critical for all UIA projects if they are to achieve their long-term mobility strategies and encourage people to use soft modes such as walking or cycling and public transport. Remote working also offers an opportunity to reduce car use and may be one of the positives from the Covid-19 crisis. By far the main challenge for UIA Cities however is how to encourage people back to collective public transport - when people may have invested in a car in response to the crisis. Without investment, cities can expect people to shift away from public transport. This risks undermining the vision for multimodal cities with fewer cars. UIA Cities have identified public transport as a core pillar in their strategies. It provides the spine of multimodal systems and also tends to be a catalyst for alternative, new modes of mobility.

Simply accepting the de facto model of urban mobility that has emerged due to Covid-19 – dominated by walking, cycling, and car use will hamper economic growth and restrict access to urban opportunities for those that need it most in the future[5]. Moreover, and importantly, it may not be sustainable from a road safety point of view. It is therefore vital that UIA Cities maintain their long-term visions for greater adoption of sustainable transport modes, notably public transport.


[1] OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus, ‘Cities Policy Responses’, 23 July, 2020.


[3] OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus, ‘Cities Policy Responses’, 23 July, 2020.

[4] According to a study by McKinsey “Hybrid models of remote work are likely to persist in the wake of the pandemic, mostly for a highly educated, well-paid minority of the workforce” (McKinsey, ‘What’s next for remote jobs’, November 2020.

[5] The importance of public transport is underlined by its classification as services of general economic interest (SGEI). The Commission defined SGEI as economic activities delivering outcomes to the overall public good that would not be supplied (or supplied under different conditions) by the market without public intervention (1). In accordance with Article 14 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), SGEI furthermore promote social and territorial cohesion (2). Source: European Commission: (1) COM (2011) 900 final, 3; (2) Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, Art.14.

A final word

The future depends in part on how cities react to this crisis

The essential response to the Covid-19 crisis implies a renewed integrated policy effort using the different levers that influence mobility choices, the infrastructures, both physical and ICT-based, with, in addition, further development of outreach and ‘nudge’ policies such as those implemented by the UIA cities. Cities will need, at the very least, to re-make the case for the safety of public transport. There is enough evidence to suggest that when the necessary safety measures are in place, risks are minimised, thereby making public transport safe to use[1]&[2].

The wider picture building up throughout this report, which has looked at the growing significance of data as a resource, of collaboration as a method, and of behaviour as an opportunity, is that mobility policy today implies a certain set of skills and resources some of which may be new for city administrations. It follows that among the priorities for cities engaging in mobility policy is to review their capacity to pursue a mobility policy that makes full use of all of the policy tools available to them.


[1]  UITP, ‘Public transport is Covid safe’, Policy Brief, October 2020.

[2] OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus, ‘Cities Policy Responses’, 23 July, 2020.