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Let’s make post- COVID-19 mobility more sustainable: UNECE issues guidance on reducing car use in cities

Published: 07 April 2020

It is clear that the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic cannot simply be a return to business as usual. With the mobility that societies take for granted severely limited in many countries due to emergency measures, one area that calls for a critical re-assessment is how we can shift to more sustainable and efficient mobility.

From tackling deadly air pollution to lowering carbon emissions and reducing congestion, the benefits of cutting down car use have made it a priority in many cities’ efforts to date.

However, this shift can bring many challenges, with no one-size-fits-all approach available to meet the specific needs of all cities. Providing a tool to help policy makers navigate this key area, UNECE has issued guidance on mobility management - defined by the European Platform on Mobility Management as the promotion of sustainable transport and the management of the demand for car use by influencing travellers’ attitudes and behaviours.

Drawing on concrete experiences from across the Pan-European region, the guide, developed under the Transport Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP), provides practical policy considerations enriched by a total of 22 good practices from 17 countries that set out the positive and significant impacts of mobility management programmes. These include:

  • Home to work mobility - Mobility management should become standard practice for companies as well as for entire business and industrial parks, managed in cooperation with local authorities. A successful example is the “Green Way” project in Villach, Austria, where a technology company’s efforts to promote car-pooling, facilitate public transport use, encourage cycling and electric vehicle use led to 50% of its 3,400 employees travelling to work more sustainably.
  • Home to school mobility - Schools should commit to engaging in mobility management and should be invited to appoint a mobility team, with the aim of increasing the autonomy of students’ mobility and reducing congestion around schools and university campuses. School Travel Plans set up in the West Midlands in the United Kingdom have more than halved car use for home to school journeys.
  • Major events – Appropriate mobility management should be an integral part of the organization of major events, guaranteeing accessibility with a variety of transport modes other than the car and raising participants’ awareness of their transport options. For example, travel planning for major concerts held in Brussels in 2017 lead to the vast majority of fans reaching the venue with sustainable modes of transport.
  • Sustainable urban logistics – When implemented, sustainable urban logistics solutions have a direct impact on reducing urban traffic, pollution and noise. Incentivising these solutions through innovative technologies and methods for greener last-mile deliveries should be encouraged. For example, the creation of a distribution service in Padova, Italy, has led to the reduction of 1,216 km per day of inner-city deliveries. In Utrecht, the Netherlands, freight distribution by electric boat for last mile deliveries has helped reduced traffic congestion and cut annual emissions of CO2 by 17 tonnes.
  • Parking management – The ability to effectively manage parking solutions has a direct impact on reducing congestion and pollution. With appropriate alternative solutions in place, only 33% of trips to a new  retail park in Zurich, Switzerland, are made by car.
  • Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) – Robust planning is fundamental. For this to be successful:

- National Governments should assist local administrations through guidelines and technical support;

- SUMPs should address different policy areas and sectors and foresee the active participation of citizens and other stakeholders;

- SUMPs should be updated to reflect emerging transport innovations

Successful examples of SUMPs set out in the case studies include those in Kruševac, Serbia, Strasbourg, France, and Seattle, USA.

  • Demand responsive transport - This offers an alternative to conventional public transport for sparsely populated areas, reducing car dependency. In the remote village of Kolsillre, Sweden, which has a population of only 100, an on-demand minibus and online journey booking service resulted in 4,100 passengers transported in one year. This proved highly cost-effective, with its cost per person of €7.26 translating into €0.61 per kilometre - considerably less than the €2 per kilometre of regular bus lines in the area.
  • Communication and information – Communications and raising awareness of sustainable mobility possibilities can be highly effective, especially if this is tailored to different target groups. Munich, Germany, takes advantage of life-changing events such as the birth of a baby, retirement, or moving to the city, in order to influence people’s mobility behaviour. An impact assessment showed that new citizens that received dedicated welcome folders and phone consultations used public transport 7.6% more than those who did not, equivalent to almost 6,500 fewer car journeys in the city each year.

The guide also looks at national efforts to coordinate mobility management initiatives, drawing on examples such as Austria’s “klimaaktiv mobil”, which since 2004 has funded 11,600 mobility management projects, including 9,200 for businesses, 1,100 for cities, municipalities and regions 900 for leisure and tourism, 400 for cycling projects. Other examples include France’s National strategy for sustainable mobility development, results of which include 133 sustainable urban mobility plans covering 55% of the population.

Building on the good practices identified, the guide sets out a range of lessons learned to support the implementation of effective mobility management policies:

  • Push and pull: ensure there are appealing alternatives to the car –  “push” measures aimed at reducing car use such as parking controls need to be coupled with the “pull” of good public transport, cycling infrastructure, car sharing, and other incentives;
  • Know the target group –there is no one size fits all for cities or countries, but this is also true for different sections of the population, therefore knowing who you want to target with efforts to reduce car use is fundamental;
  • Stakeholder involvement – The more stakeholders are involved in the planning and implementation of the scheme the more consensus can be achieved on the best way forward;
  • Long term approach - Ensure there is a long-term approach with commitments from all stakeholders in the area and integration with other programmes;
  • Raising awareness and communication – No scheme will work if resources are not dedicated to ensuring public understanding, acceptance and awareness of benefits;
  • Make it fun and rewarding – Providing a monetary incentive or a reward related to the adoption of these types of schemes will also further facilitate the uptake of measures.

The guide is available at: https://www.unece.org/index.php?id=54128


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