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Developing the Citizens' Network
This Communication outlines a system of local and regional passenger transport which would be achieved by providing the public authorities, operators and user groups with appropriate tools and establishing a policy framework which promotes sustainable mobility.
Communication of 10 July 1998 from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: "Developing the citizens' network - Why local and regional passenger transport is important and how the European Commission is helping to bring it about" [COM (1998) 431 final- Not published in the Official Journal].
The Amsterdam Treaty includes sustainable development as one of the European Union's objectives. Transport has a key part to play in achieving this goal. A well-functioning European transport system needs a good, sustainable local and regional passenger transport structure. This is primarily a matter for local, regional and national authorities, working with transport operators and users, amongst whom there is a high degree of consensus on the fundamental need to shift away from dependence on private cars and make transport systems more sustainable.
Practical methods of making transport systems more sustainable and shifting away from excessive dependence on private cars include:
- raising the quality and accessibility of public transport services and increasing their capacity to respond flexibly to changes in transport needs;
- making walking and cycling more attractive by offering more favourable conditions;
- reducing the demand for travel, for example by reversing the trend for housing, jobs, schools, etc. to disperse to places which are hard to reach except by car;
- removing psychological barriers to the use of alternatives to cars;
- actively managing car use in congested areas;
- making transport an essential component of strategies for spatial planning, economic development and social cohesion;
- fostering new, flexible working time arrangements;
- pulling all this together to create a door-to-door transport system which people can use as an integrated Citizens' Network.
What is needed is then integration of travel services, facilitating less costly and effective door-to-door travel whatever the number of transfers or the distances involved. One of the key principles is intermodality, as it allows different means of transport to be used as part of seamless transport chains.
To support the role of local and regional passenger transport while complying with the principle of subsidiarity, the Commission has drawn up a three-year work programme covering four key areas:
- Stimulating information exchange by developing a European Local Transport Information Service (ELTIS). This will consist of a database about local and regional passenger transport of all types, with information coming from the POLIS network of cities and regions and the International Union of Public Transport (UITP). Users will be able to consult the service electronically by using the worldwide web.
- Stimulating the benchmarking of service performance to enable public authorities and transport operators to benefit from comparison of the performance of their local and regional transport systems with systems in other countries. In this respect, the Commission will present a Communication on benchmarking of transport. In addition, the European Commitee for Standardisation (CEN) intends to adopt standard definitions which can be used in setting quality criteria for passenger transport. From 1999 onwards, the Commission will seek to encourage widespread use of benchmarking by public authorities and operators. It will publish a handbook on benchmarking local public transport and ensure that a database of results obtained is widely available.
- Establishing a political and legal framework which promotes increased use of local and regional passenger transport systems and helps to achieve the objectives of the European Union's common transport policy with regard to efficiency, quality and sustainable mobility. The Commission plays an important part in the development of this policy framework. In land use planning, for example, it encourages good practice with regard to transport through instruments such as the trans-European transport network, regional policy, and cohesion policy. In transport telematics, it makes the most of the potential of telematics applications to improve the efficiency and quality of transport services and help to overcome obstacles to their integration. The Commission believes that information obtained through new telematics applications (in real time, accessible at home, at work and on the move) should cover as many different forms of transport as possible, including public transport routes and timetables, the degree of congestion on the road network, the availability of parking, etc. Making use of the potential of regional transport will also provide increased moblity for women, the disabled and the elderly, and help to reduce pollution, energy consumption and CO2 emissions from transport and make optimum use of public spending.
- Using the European Union's financial instruments effectively. The European Commission will manage these funds and programmes so as to optimise the potential contribution from a sustainable local and regional passenger transport system. In its review of the guidelines for the trans-European Transport Network (TEN -T), for example, the Commission is paying particular attention to the question of local and regional connections to the TEN-T (whether to include intermodal passenger terminals in the guidelines). The Commission has also included four actions of specific relevance to the Citizens' Network in the first projects under the Fifth Framework Programme for Research and Development: Sustainable mobility and intermodality; Land and marine transport technologies; The city of tomorrow and cultural heritage; Systems and services for the citizen.
All in all, the Commission's work programme is intended to provide practical assistance to numerous institutions throughout Europe which contribute to the development of local and regional transport for the citizens' benefit: the public authorities, transport companies and user groups.