Sustainable urban transport plans

[tweetmeme This note provides an overview of the concept of Sustainable Urban Transport Plans (SUTPs) by tying its analysis to the relationship between sustainability and urban mobility. The note presents some key SUTPs experiences in selected European cities, and discusses the role of the European Union in this field.  This note was produced by the European Parliament and presents a good summary for both private citizens and organisational stakeholders.  The executive summary to this report reads:

Mobility may be regarded as the ability to travel (Giuliano, Hu, & Lee, 2003), although its meaning could be much broader since mobility encompasses not only the travelling activity, but also, more importantly the possibility for the traveller to decide when and where to travel, by being aware and making use of an information set for optimising the journey.

Although mobility plays a crucial role in contributing to the socioeconomic growth of urban areas, its positive effects have to be also weighed alongside the negative impacts which the increasing demand for mobility has generated over the last 20 years.

‘More sustainable’ is thus regarded as being the main goal that underpins current approaches to and solutions for future mobility. Sustainability should lie at the heart of all policies and strategies for a more sustainable transport system in environmental (CO2, air pollution, noise) and competitiveness (congestion) terms, while also addressing social concerns. This is why the concept of sustainability goes far beyond the need to respond to managing road traffic flows and their impacts, because it should also address, for instance, the costs of mobility in relation to social exclusion, economic and social cohesion, and the demographic changes that will shape the structure of European cities in the future.

Based on the background outlined, and even if local authorities are primarily responsible for urban policies according to the principle of subsidiarity, the European Union (EU) has taken an active role since the adoption of the White paper on transport policy (EC, 2001). The purpose of the EU action is to offer local authorities specific support for promoting a new culture of urban mobility, in which sustainable and affordable urban transportation is a key to making cities dynamic and vibrant. This also explains why EU support has taken several forms, through a combination of policy intervention and guidance support.

The present note is one of three dealing with urban mobility1. It aims to give a comprehensive overview of the concept of Sustainable Urban Transport Plans (SUTPs). The overall purpose is not only to formulate a definition of and analyse the objectives of SUTPs, but more essentially to present examples of selected European cities that have decided to implement such mechanism, and discuss the results obtained. This will enable us to observe the major challenges an urban transport system has to face in developing more sustainable mobility, and to look at the current and future potential role of the European Union in this regard.

The note is structured into five Chapters. After the introductory Chapter, Chapter Two explores the paradigm of urban transport sustainability. The current challenges of moving towards more sustainable urban mobility are presented, where issues such as congestion, air quality, urban sprawl, CO2 emissions, the social meaning of mobility, demographic changes and road safety in urban areas deserve special attention. The analysis in Chapter Two confirms the role of mobility as a major component and facilitator in ensuring freedom of movement and good quality of life, but linking this role to the concept of sustainability, where its enhancement represents an endeavour to mitigate the pressures, the current environmental challenges, and the mobility-related problems that most European urban areas are facing.

Within the analytical framework provided by Chapter Two, Chapter Three describes the nature, main determinants and objectives of Sustainable Urban transport Plans (SUTPs). It shows how SUTPs may represent are a useful tool for proposing common approaches that may enable each urban area to discover the most suitable solution for its mobility problems, based on its specific characteristics. SUTPs would have the potential to create more sustainable urban mobility that balance the need to restrain mobility growth and the need to secure an adequate level of accessibility to basic services.

Significant European SUTPs are illustrated in Chapter Four, which focuses on the approaches followed in Paris, the West of England, Brussels and Vienna. Importantly, since SUTPs are implemented over the long term, the specific effects generated by these SUTPs will be produced in 10 to 15 years time and still have to be quantified. Therefore, the case studies presented in this note have been chosen because they appear to be most significant  in terms of their strategy and approach towards more sustainable mobility. This chapter therefore shows: (i) how the decision-making process has been set up by the local administrations to design and implement the SUTPs, (ii) how the different mobility measures have been integrated, and (iii) how the various targets have been identified and measured.

Chapter Five presents the conclusions and a set of observations concerning the possible levels and actions for EU intervention in the field of SUTPs. Based on the analysis undertaken, and especially by observing the selected case studies, it may be pointed out that different cities have much in common when implementing a SUTP. Naturally, each city has its own specific characteristics and, thus, mobility problems. However, all the cities observed have looked at SUTPs as both a framework and a toolbox where they had the opportunity to identify the most suitable solutions for their respective urban transport problems. Final considerations focus on the following aspects: (i) consistency, (ii) long term vision, (iii) monitoring, (iv) integration, and (v) public acceptance.

When looking at the role of the EU, on the other hand, its contribution to making sure that urban transport and urban mobility are high on the political agendas of Member States is remarkable. Nevertheless, the answers to urban mobility problems have primarily a local dimension and, more importantly, not all EU cities are equally concerned with the question of sustainable urban transport. This means that, particularly in relation to the specific issue of SUTPs, the added value of EU support may be obtained more by facilitating, rather than regulating, the implementation of SUTPs. This would not only apply the subsidiary principle but, more importantly, would enable each city to adopt the most suitable solutions for its specific mobility problems and challenges in a flexible manner.

Read the full publication here in PDF format.

Citation: Sustainable urban transport plans, European Parliament, 2010, IP/B/TRAN/FWC/2006-156/lot7/C1/SC6, ISBN: 978-92-823-3197-2

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