With over 70% of EU citizens currently living in urban areas, achieving sustainability of cities has become one of the defining challenges of our times. While urban areas can enable access to important social and economic opportunities, they have also brought about new challenges related to traffic congestion, air- and noise-pollution, and inefficient transport systems. This makes cities and local authorities central actors in leading the shift to smarter and more sustainable mobility.
As a cornerstone of its urban mobility policy, the European Commission has strongly encouraged European towns and cities of all sizes to embrace the concept of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs). By improving accessibility to, through and within urban areas and promoting the shift towards more sustainable modes of transport, SUMPs hold the potential to improve the overall quality of life for residents by addressing issues of congestion, air- and noise-pollution, climate change, road accidents, unsightly on-street parking and the integration of new mobility services. SUMPs consider the whole functional urban area, and foresee cooperation across different policy areas, across different levels of government, and with local residents and other principal stakeholders.
Despite the recognition of the wide range of benefits linked to this strategic urban mobility planning approach, the implementation of SUMPs has been voluntary and remains limited to a small proportion of European cities. This can be attributed to the lack of financial, technical and political support as well as quality control for SUMPs from national and regional levels in the Member States where devolution gives regions more competences. Furthermore, where plans have been developed these have often failed to fulfil minimum quality standards due to a lack of uniform understanding of the SUMP concept.
A number of measures have been used by Member States to improve enforcement, such as for instance preconditioning the provision of operational subsidies or grants on an approved SUMP and trained mobility department. In order to overcome existing barriers and accelerate the uptake of high-quality SUMPs Europe-wide, the European Commission is now exploring the idea of developing a common EU-framework for sustainable urban mobility indicators (SUMI). A common, methodically sound and practically feasible indicator set could enable public authorities to determine the current status of the city with regard to sustainable urban mobility, including the identification of deficiency areas where additional action may be required, to track progress towards set policy goals, to identify scope for improvement, and to better understand the overall impact of urban mobility policies. It would also enable cities to benchmark against other cities and compare against national and international data sets. The 19 indicators tested and modified to the EU context within the SUMI project were originally developed bythe World Business Council for Sustainable Development with a promise to enable “cities to perform a standardised evaluation of their mobility system and measure the improvements resulting from the implementation of new mobility practices or policies”.
As implied above, however, the definition and selection of indicators, is a complex exercise. Indicators must be widely applicable across Europe irrespective of city size and local characteristics in order to enable cities to benchmarkagainst other cities and to compare to national or international data sets.What is more, SUMI need to be future-proof and adaptable to new urban mobility approaches (e.g., electric scooters, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and shared transport) and evolving travel habits. Another key question relates to data collection methodologies and data standardisation which will need to be ensured in order to allow comparability.
In view of this, the 7thFlorence Intermodal Forum, co-organised by the Transport Area of the Florence School of Regulation and the European Commission’s DG MOVE, will bring together policy makers from national-, regional- and local-levels, together with public transport operators and manufacturers for a timely discussion on the rationale behind- and challenges towards a common European framework for SUMI. More specifically, the forum will explore the definition and appropriate indicator parameters; data collection techniques and data standardisation, as well as more generally the question of enhancing enforcement of SUMPs. Last but not least, the forum will draw on lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic in relation to urban mobility in as far as SUMI are concerned.
Please kindly note that this event is by invitation only.
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