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Urban mobility

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According to the United Nations, by 2050 the world urban population is expected to nearly double making urban mobility a key challenge for cities’ sustainability. The more activities are concentrated in a given urban context, the more congestion, traffic safety and environmental pollution it will bring. Hence, mobility has numerous negative consequences on people’s health as well as on local GDP. Cities face worldwide issues such as global warming, energy dependency and increased energy costs. This global context urges urban authorities across Europe to tackle common challenges ranging from public transport inadequacy to air quality and urban planning. EU Urban Authorities have been working for many years with local, national and European initiatives (such as Civitas or Europe on the Move, 2017) on these issues by establishing Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs), which embeds a long-term common vision for cities’ mobility strategies. To address the effects of the climate crisis, and given that conventional solutions have already reached their potential, cities have been transformed into living laboratories for the design, development and testing of solutions. The 2nd UIA call for proposals called cities on to tackle these issues in order to achieve a smarter, greener and more integrated urban transport of people and goods, suggesting to experiment: 

  • Efficient infrastructure and mobility. From soft solutions of ride-hailing or car-pooling apps, to hard infrastructure interventions of self-charging vehicles, cycling lanes or logistic hubs, the central focus of the call is to improve the efficiency of urban mobility. 
  • Integrated urban transport of people and goods. The second set of suggested activities focused on the comprehensive way of addressing mobility challenges by concentrating on a long-term strategy involving citizens, a multi-scale and multi-modal approach and replicable and measurable resource-efficiency solutions. 
urban mob

Trends of the solutions proposed

The  UIA Call for Proposals (2016) emphasized the complexity and relevance of urban mobility in the European urban context as 86 urban authorities from 21 European Member States proposed innovative solutions to it.
Most of the solutions proposed aimed at including environmental protection or socio-economic progress while bringing forward automated, electric and shared mobility solutions:

  • Environmental protection. With transportation, particularly on the road, being a major source of CO2, NOx and noise emissions, zero emission power train technologies (mostly electric ones) and automated mobility solutions are seen as desirable alternatives for urban transportation, and many city authorities are aiming at promoting their broader diffusion by an appropriate mix of push-and-pull measures.
  • Socio-economic progress. With economic growth and social welfare being critically dependent on the availability of reliable, cost-effective and fast means of transportation, city governments are on high alert of underserved communities and limitations of access. At the same time, they are worried about public space being wasted for parking and congestion. Hence, they promote shifts to soft modes, supported by on-demand mobility solutions. There is a solid understanding that these objectives require novel technologies, services and processes, and that it is necessary to complement these by regulation and business models. In addition, changing citizens’ behaviour from individual to collective transport is also a cross project’s priority, which requires an involvement of the users’ perspectives in transport planning and decision making processes. 

UIA projects, solutions implemented and common issues

Five projects have been selected out of 86 proposals, bringing in the forefront five European cities whose mobility challenges are representative of those of several cities in the continent, yet on different levels and sectors: 
•    LINC - Transforming Urban Planning Providing Autonomous Collective mobility, Albertslund
•    TMaaS - Traffic Management as a Service, Ghent
•    CitiCap - Citizen's cap-and-trade co-created, Lahti
•    SASMob - Smart Alliance for Sustainable Mobility, Szeged
•    COMMUTE - Collaborative Mobility Management for Urban Traffic and Emissions reduction, Toulouse Métropole

These projects deploy a holistic or a large-scale approach as they combine a large range of actions dealing with economic, social and environmental issue. Thus, UIA cities deal with mobility issues with a wide range of tools, activities and technological devices including both offline and online tools. 
Looking at the five projects gives an overview of the major trends of innovative urban mobility solutions cities are implementing related to cooperation strategies, data and behavioural change.

Most of the projects selected tackle sustainable mobility issues by developing a strong cooperation framework in which the technological solution is embedded. As such, they do not consider the sole deployment of unprecedented technological advances as able to address the complexity of mobility issues by their own and explore the different format of public-private collaboration as essential frameworks to embed efficient and innovative projects. For instance, the COMMUTE project seeks to develop a long-term and sustainable cooperation strategy, including a wide range of stakeholders, in order to have a greater impact on the mobility area targeted. Indeed, the project led by Toulouse Métropole tackles the airport area accessibility and congestion issues by co-creating a set of actions aiming at changing commuters travel patterns and habits. It does not only deal with the modes of transport, but also the way of working, as well as intermodal connections, mobility services (car sharing) and infrastructure (autonomous vehicles) and, as such, engage the airport area stakeholders in a public-private partnership. Other projects as the SASmob project of the municipality of Szeged initiated a broad cooperation scheme. As Toulouse project, SASmob’s model of cooperation is based on agreements with local employers (local businesses such as a large food processing company, the city hospital, university and transport providers) in order to adapt institutional working arrangements, being mainly telework and commuting deals. However, the two projects target two different work force, as the SASmob project focusses on developing tailor sustainable commuting solutions its low-skilled employees – the biggest car-dependent mobility group. 

Most of the projects include data as a resource to support the modal shift and reduce levels of congestion. Indeed, the COMMUTE and SASmob projects combine an innovative governance approach together with IT platforms, measuring the impacts of the implemented experimentations as relevant decision-making tools for urban mobility authorities and citizens (in the CitiCAP case). Other projects’ solutions, such as the TMaaS (Traffic Management as a Service) project in Ghent, essentially rely on data’s management challenges. Through its Traffic Management System (as a Service), the city of Ghent seeks to harmonise mobility between different transports modes as well as informing citizens of sustainable alternatives to move around the city. The IT system created will merge and analyse crowdsourced, multimodal and open data and therefore provide real-time and multi-modal information both to urban authorities and travellers. Therefore, data is used in those projects as a mean to inform and pull people from individual and motorized transports to collective and more sustainable ones and bring forward the technological and ethical challenges of data sharing and collection.

To foster change in mobility habits, most projects propose actions ranging from behavioural change campaigns (SASmob project) and participation processes to complex carrot and stick approaches (CitiCAP project). One of them, the CitiCAP project in Lahti, is experimenting the co-creation of a Personal Carbon Trading (PCT) scheme through the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan framework. The PCT scheme is based on incentives mechanisms that rewards and promotes behavioural changes to embed sustainable and low-carbon mobility habits. This type of incentives complex schemes is not only tackling local mobility issues but also trying to foreshadow traditional mobility policies at the local level. As for the TUPPAC (Transforming Urban Planning Providing Autonomous Collective) mobility project of Albertslund, it deals with another related challenge: the acceptance of autonomous vehicles. Indeed, the project seeks to address the first and last mile “mobility gap” by implementing electric autonomous shuttle busses. Four driverless vehicles will be tested, for the first time, to ensure the link to and from two pilot Light Rail Transport (LRT) stations. Special attention will be given to user experience, as it is a trending and emerging mobility solution spreading through European cities. 

First lessons learnt

In 2020, UIA performs a capitalisation activity on urban mobility exploring the following cross-cutting issues:

  • the right mix and format of collaboration when it comes to city administrations and private entities deploying solutions together in an urban context,
  • the most innovative ways to pull people from individual and motorized transport to a collective and more sustainable one,
  • the trade-off of privacy and communal good under the prism of data sharing and collection.


Lessons learnt: Innovation in Urban Mobility in the 2020s


Get inspired and find more with UIA experts and UIA knowledge lab

UIA experts capture, analyze and narrate the main findings, lessons learnt and experiences coming from the different UIA urban mobility projects. Look for their journals (analysis on main challenges for implementation) and zoom-in (focus on a crosscutting dimension or specific component of the project) to get deeper knowledge about urban mobility and related-topics. 

Explore the UIA Knowledge Lab and search for key words such as: traffic management, data management, digitalisation.

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Innovation in Urban Mobility in the 2020s: UIA experiences and practices




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Urban mobility's projects