Fast-tracking sustainable mobility’s growth

10 December 2021

Bologna plans to prioritise trams over other transport modes to make people’s journey around town quicker and safer. The move will require an overhaul of the transport network and traffic light system. How can the Italian city best do that? Gothenburg has as a solution.

Ljubljana wants to encourage daily commuters to swap their cars for e-bikes, but how can it achieve that goal when most e-bikes only reach inner city areas? The cities of Antwerp and Hengelo will help the Slovenian capital extend the scheme to the suburbs and beyond.

Cities cooperating with cities is at the core of FastTrack, a project under the CIVITAS umbrella that helps municipalities implement solutions to accelerate (‘fast track’) their sustainable transport.

From 16 to 18 November, mobility issues such as Bologna’s and Ljubljana’s were brought to the table at the project’s first Capacity Building Week. The event officially kick started the exchange of best practices among FastTrack’s 24 participating cities.

“When it comes to mobility innovations, some municipalities are ahead of the game. They have already wrestled with issues and found answers, so our idea is to foster the transfer of knowledge from one city to another,” says Anne-Charlotte Trapp, FastTrack Project Officer at Eurocities.

Train Mobility
Photo by Scott Webb

One hub, many services

At the November online event, city representatives were asked to identify their pressing mobility challenges so that peers with previous experience on the same tasks could come up with solutions over the course of future events and exchanges.

Budapest, for example, will provide suggestions to Debrecen and Malmo on how to set up a comprehensive network of multi-modal hubs to facilitate connections between different means of transport and between urban and rural areas.

Tampere and Groningen will explore the idea of linking mobility hubs with community hubs. Their goal is to ensure that urban spaces with good public and shared mobility can also host commercial, recreational activities and social services.

“If a good transport network helps residents to reach a square or main street, Tampere and Groningen want that area to thrive with shops, coffee bars, movie theatre and municipal info points, for example. This way, with a single tram or e-bike journey people can access a vast array of services,” Trapp explains.

Bologna city centre
A street in Bologna’s city centre. Photo by Arno Senoner

FastTrack’s participating cities are divided into groups, each led by an ambassador municipality with expertise in a specific area.

Stockholm is the reference point for the sustainable urban logistics cluster while Antwerp the one on cycling in the urban and regional area; Budapest leads the integrated multi-modal mobility solutions cluster while Bologna the one on traffic and mobility demand management.

Data sharing to improve logistics

The project’s first Capacity Building Week gave Stockholm and Eurocities the chance to start discussing the advantages and limits of data sharing as a support to urban logistics.

“Do you wonder about the amount of trucks and vans in your area and the pollution that they generate? Do you want to know what happened to the package that couldn’t be delivered because you weren’t home? Collecting data about urban logistics will help provide answers to these frequently asked questions and a better understanding of logistics flows,” Trapp explains.

Mobility metro
Photo by Pankaj Patel

The representative for Stockholm for example, emphasised the need to map truck and van movements to better understand what happens to parcels while en route to their destination.

“A key challenge for cities looking to improve urban logistics is how to collect the right data and make sure that all parties involved in the supply chain cooperate with the municipality,” Trapp said.

A Munich representative, however, cautioned about cities overstepping their limits by being overly engaged in logistics data gathering; she also emphasised the need to offer the right incentives that can encourage data exchange.

Cities can find a helping hand in the ‘Sustainable Urban Logistics Plan’, a European Union strategy tool that assists municipalities in connecting with all parties involved and with data gathering tasks.

“We’ll need to develop our talking points further, but what is sure is that we’ll need to bring all those involved to the table. Logistics operators, shippers, retailers, courier and postal operators, real estate, transport and industry vehicles will all need to contribute to the conversation with answers and workable plans,” says Trapp.

At FastTrack’s first Capacity Building Week the conversation already started to flow. A workshop connecting cities with suppliers, for example, brought fresh ideas, from ‘smart parcels’ equipped with tracking sensors to digital platforms to visualise freight flows.

“Overall, our project underlines how innovative mobility is not an island, how clean transport solutions for people and goods do not exist in a void but are all interconnected, how one city’s growing pains can help another, speeding up sustainable mobility development all over Europe,” Trapp explains.

Top page photo by Gianni Camilleri


Daniela Berretta Eurocities Writer