Move fast and implement things

7 April 2021

With abandoned streets and cars collecting dust in driveways, many cities across Europe took the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020 as a chance to implement mobility pilots with lightning speed.

A year on, the appetite for rapid mobility innovations has not dissipated. Enter Fast Track, a new project under the Civitas umbrella aiming to help 24 local municipalities implement solutions that will help boost sustainable transport.

A solution that may be common practice in one city or town in Europe may be innovative in another. Fast Track is working with cities to foster whatever solutions are truly innovative for them, with support from peers who may have already implemented something similar. Four thematic clusters will help cities learn from each other over the course of the two-year project.

Each group is led by an ambassador city with expertise in a specific area. They are: urban logistics and clean fuels, led by Stockholm; new mobility and active travel, led by Antwerp; public transport, led by Budapest; and multi-modal traffic management, led by Bologna.

We wanted to get to know ambassador cities, so we sat down with representatives to discuss their hopes and expectations for Fast Track.

What does sustainable mobility look like in your city?

Paul Fenton, City of Stockholm: It looks positive, but it could – and will be – better! Prior to the pandemic, we had very high use of public transport, increasing use of cycles, high levels of walking and increasing use of sustainable logistics solutions and new mobility services. The pandemic has destabilised this but also led to emergence of new ideas and solutions. Private cars and the challenge of goods transportation are and will remain key challenges for the city.

Katia Kishchenko, City of Antwerp: Our main objective is to encourage and facilitate a modal shift towards sustainable transport behaviour to keep the city and region accessible and liveable, now and in the future. Through improving infrastructure, informing, nudging and incentivising people to travel differently, we influence the demand for mobility. Through supporting and regulating the development of new mobility solutions in our city, we increase the offer. In the past few years, this has led to a raised awareness, many new transport options in the city, a declining number of car users and much more cyclists. We’re very happy to see this positive evolution.

Kinga Lőcsei-Tóth, City of Budapest: Budapest has a dense network of public transport: four metro lines, trolleybus and bus lines and one of the world’s longest tram lines. In Budapest, 66% of passenger transport runs on electric-powered public transport. Sustainability also includes improving the conditions and rate of barrier-free transportation for disabled people.

Beatrice Bovinelli, Municipality of Bologna: Since 2020, our municipality decided to accord permission to circulate in the city centre only to environmentally compatible vehicles, thus radically changing its previous rules, which allowed access to people with their primary residence or a commercial activity in the city centre. This has been accompanied by a voucher system for those residents who do not meet the requirements for maintaining the right to access – it is an electronic ‘purse’ of up to € 1,000 per year for two years to be used for local public transport, car sharing, bike sharing and cabs. The municipality is now planning to adopt a wider area of restriction involving about 57% of the entire territory.

What does ‘mobility innovation’ mean to you?

Paul Fenton: I’m not sure I feel totally comfortable with the term, mainly for two reasons: the actual meaning of the word ‘innovation’, which denotes a shift from old to new and may imply the old was somehow inferior, and the usual scientific definition given by business scholars that emphasises product or service development for commercial gain. A large part of the ‘mobility’ challenge – if we are thinking about it in terms of sustainability – can be resolved without a lot of innovation, but rather will and commitment. That is, we need to enable more walking and cycling, and within the framework of both there is scope for lots of innovation to maximise the potential of active mobility. Yes, we need innovation, but more importantly, we need sustainable mobility – which I see as fundamental to enable ‘mobility innovation’.

Katia Kishchenko: We see innovation as something that improves the current situation, the quality of life. A new way of approaching or further developing things. In this sense innovation can be found in many aspects: policy planning, stakeholder engagement, funding, service design, products, promotion, and so on.

Kinga Lőcsei-Tóth: Making multimodal transport easily available for everyone, connecting public and shared transportation, improving the integration of active- and micro-mobility into transport chains. As a responsible mobility manager, we must be committed to helping citizens to become smart travellers with reasonable mobility choices and be aware and implement the latest trends in mobility.

Beatrice Bovinelli: Bologna is an industrial centre and one of Italy’s most important road and rail transport hubs. It’s also located in one of the areas with the highest level of air pollution in Europe, the Po valley. Our goal is to shift approximately 255,000 daily trips from private vehicles to more sustainable modes. Our Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) and Traffic Plan approved in 2019 provide the mobility interventions to do this, such as the creation of new infrastructure, the implementation of regulations and the use of incentives. Innovative solutions for sustainable mobility should be found in this last area, finding the right balance between opportunities and benefits.

How much do you know about the other cities in the project and what would you like to learn from them?

Paul Fenton: We have tested and evaluated lots of different approaches, but we always want to learn more from other cities. Everyone can do everything better, so we need to help each other!

Katia Kishchenko: The diversity in the cities involved is very interesting and the interactive session during the kick-off meeting showed that there are many topics of mutual interest. We heard for example that many cities are working on safe cycling and walking, data and Mobility as a Service, monitoring and measuring, the challenges of multimodality, and so on. So, we are looking forward to getting to know the cities better and working together with them. We heard many topics that we’re interested in, but specifically we are looking forward to learning more about safe active travel, everything related to data and e-Mobility. But also, urban logistics and multimodality are topics that we work on and we are eager to see how other cities tackle the challenges related to that.

Kinga Lőcsei-Tóth: Unfortunately, not too much. We’re looking forward to getting to know them better during Fast Track! We like the integrated approach of Groningen and Ljubljana towards their transport system. We would like to learn about co-operating methods, mobility innovation processes and experiences.

Beatrice Bovinelli: We don’t know our project partners well enough yet, but we are proud to work and exchange knowledge with other important European cities. We are interested in learning new ways to meet our mobility goals and innovative ways of measuring the efficiency of the measures adopted from the other partners.

What mobility project or expertise would you like to share in the project?

Paul Fenton: We have the task of sharing experiences about clean vehicles and logistics in this project, which includes everything from how to work with procurement of public fleets to different types of vehicles and fuels, our approach to installing public charging infrastructure, and much more. Of course, we want to share other experiences too, depending on the needs of the other cities.

Katia Kishchenko: We think our overall, integrated approach on sustainable mobility is one of our strengths. The Smart Ways to Antwerp brand and our work on behavioural change have shown very positive results, so we are hoping to inspire others with this. Many infrastructural projects have taken place in Antwerp and many are still to come, so we have useful experience to share on that as well. We have developed our own multimodal route planner, set up a framework for public-private cooperation, are working on an integrated data strategy, are setting up a shared mobility and MaaS ecosystem. So many things are going on in Antwerp – we’re happy to share and happy to learn from others as well!

Kinga Lőcsei-Tóth: The engagement, co-design, co-development method of the Cities for People project and our demand-responsive bus transport system.

Beatrice Bovinelli: All project partners are aware of the necessity of an environmental transition, of the goals of the Agenda 2030 and especially of the role of sustainable mobility in our cities. Through this project, the exchange of different experiences in the connection between traffic and mobility management is fundamental.

Stay tuned for updates on this exciting new project. Follow Fast Track on Twitter for more information.