Cities are sowing the seeds of tomorrow’s mobility, thanks to policies and infrastructure that will chart a new era in sustainable transport. But how will this transformation really look in the net-zero cities of the future?
From 31 May to 2 June, the 2023 Eurocities Mobility Forum in Porto will put that question in the spotlight. The ‘All aboard: future-proofing urban mobility’ event will take participants on a journey to catch a glimpse of how the next generations will move around.
Urban and EU mobility experts will head to the Portuguese city to discuss how municipalities are addressing transport poverty, how the digital revolution is bound to re-shape urban public transport, and what the upcoming revision of the EU’s Trans-European Transport Network policy will mean for cities.
Forum participants will also explore how to strengthen multi-level governance and how cities can optimise sustainable mobility efforts by working more closely with the regional and national level.
High on the Porto Mobility Forum agenda are the challenges brought by the current geopolitical context and, particularly, how municipalities can bolster sustainable mobility without leaving anyone behind.
Events such as the war in Ukraine and the ensuing energy crisis have hit low-income households particularly hard, questioning their ability to afford the price of transport tickets.
Heavy-duty vehicles at a turning point
The Mobility Forum will officially kick off with the ‘Zero-emission and climate-resilient solutions for urban nodes’ opening session. The event will focus on one of the tenets of the green mobility transition: the decarbonisation by 2040 of heavy-duty vehicles. This category includes public transport buses as well as garbage and cleaning trucks.
According to a recent European Commission proposal, for example, all new buses sold in the EU will need to be zero-emission in 2030 and heavy-duty vehicles be 90% emission-free by 2040.
“We are at a turning point for zero-emission trucks and buses, because the European Commission has proposed to significantly reduce CO2 coming from these vehicles,” says Thomas Lymes, Eurocities’ Mobility and Air Quality Policy Advisor. “It’s then essential for Eurocities to provide a space for its members to discuss the issues at stake around this revolution, as cities will play a decisive role in this transition.”
Panel participants will swap notes on municipalities’s complex role in the transition to a zero-emission logistics fleet, with cities like Porto, Stockholm, or Cologne, and the Netwerkstad Twente network showcasing the results of their initiatives.
The debate will also concentrate on public transport, largely considered the backbone of sustainable mobility. Eurocities mobility experts from Porto, Madrid, Brno and Munich will reflect on the requirements of public transport of tomorrow, including accessibility, affordability and multimodality (the combination of different modes of transport for a single journey.)
“Public transport is bound to take an even more important role in the cities of the future by better linking urban areas with their near and far surroundings. Porto is an excellent example of how public transport can connect the dots between local, regional and international mobility,” says André Sobczak, Secretary General of Eurocities, who will preside over the ‘Zero-emission and climate-resilient solutions for urban nodes’ session.
The artery that keeps Europe together
The annual event will pay special attention to a pivotal aspect of EU sustainable mobility: the expected revision of the EU’s Trans-European Transport Network policy. Also known as TEN-T, this refers to the transport connections (‘corridors’) that run across the European continent, spreading in all directions like arteries through a body.
Discussions will concentrate on the role of cities and how those that are defined as TEN-T ‘urban nodes’ would be asked to adapt their transport policies to meet additional requirements. “It is still to be seen what a reinforced role for urban nodes in the proposed revision of the TEN-T regulation amounts to. There are clear opportunities, but awareness still needs to be created and relevant actors should engage in policy dialogues and knowledge-sharing,” explains Lucian Zagan, Mobility Project Coordinator at Eurocities.
Porto the trailblazer
As an urban node itself, Mobility Forum host Porto is a good example of how the TEN-T’s branches extend across Europe’s western-most flank, touching the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, is ticking many of the boxes of sustainable mobility and is an early adopter of transport innovations.
In 2002, the municipality launched a groundbreaking multimodal initiative: the ‘Andante‘, a public transport ticketing system combining bus, train, and metro options in the city, and whose motto is ‘All your transport modes into your hand’. The scheme is now flanked by the ‘Anda‘ mobile app, to digitally purchase and validate tickets.
Public transport in Porto and the metropolitan area relies on a network of buses, light rail and suburban trains; future additions will include a new light rail line (‘pink line’) in the centre and a bus rapid transit line (BRT) in the west.
The city also boasts four restricted car access zones enforced in areas with a high number of pedestrians, tourists and commercial activities to alleviate congestion and pollution. To increase active mobility uptake and travellers’ safety, the speed limit is set to 20 km/h in 88 streets and roads across town.
Cycling paths built over the past few years run for 16 kilometres across town. A new project starting this year will expand the biking network to connect it with the nearby municipalities of Matosinhos and Rio Tinto.
In addition, three mobility operators in Porto provide 2,300 vehicles between e-scooters and bikes which can be picked up at 221 shared mobility points across over the city.
Click here for the Forum’s agenda.
Top picture credits: ©Miguel Nogueira