Transport in cities and regions

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Thu 10, October 2019
11:30 - 13:00
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Transport is a key ingredient for a high quality of life, making places accessible and bringing people together. Transportation has allowed human settlements to expand into larger urban areas and serve wider regions with dedicated infrastructure to support commuting flows.

The growth in urbanisation levels is visible across the world, including in Europe. Today, approximately 72 % of the total EU population lives in cities, towns and suburbs and although the speed of transformation has slowed down, the share of the urban population continues to grow. As human settlements change, transportation systems require to adapt in order to serve the mobility needs of its users in terms of accessibility to goods, services and activities, while addressing at the same time a reduction of its externalities, such as air pollution, fatalities, greenhouse gas emissions, noise and congestion. Car-oriented mobility systems and sprawled urban patterns reduce the viability of other modes, and contribute to the exclusion of disadvantage population groups. These challenges are also reflected by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically by Goal 11 aiming at making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Such considerations lead to rethink transport policy and investment by using the concept of accessibility as a criterion for decision making, and accessibility indicators are seen as an important measurement to monitor the ability of cities and regions to serve the mobility needs of their population. Metrics that actually capture the concept of accessibility are rarely used in decision-making.

This session is dedicated on showing ways to measure transport performance at regional and urban level, with a particular focus on accessibility. The first presentation will show new ways to measure regional and territorial accessibility at different scales, while considering the spatial distribution of the EU population. The second presentation discusses alternative ways to measure congestion in cities. The third presentation introduces a set of indicators that capture accessibility (absolute accessibility) and its core dimensions, land use (proximity) and transport (transport performance), while the last presentation will be dedicated to explore the links between accessibility and regional development.

Rolf Diemer, Head of Unit, DG MOVE - Mobility and Transport, European Commission. Unit A.3 Economic Analysis and Better Regulation, Belgium.
Paolo Bolsi, Policy Analyst, European Commission - DG REGIO, Belgium.
Aris Christodoulou, Transport Researcher, Joint Research Center, Spain.
Alexander Lembcke, Policy Analyst, OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities, France.
Tatiana Samsonova, Policy Analyst, International Transport Forum, France.
A more connected Europe: mobility
European Commission - DG REGIO, International Transport Forum, OECD
english (en)
Building SQUARE - Brussels Convention Centre, Room 213+215.
Address: Mont des Arts, 1000 Brussels

Session summary

The session was dedicated to presenting new tools for transport policy making. In particular, proposing a shift from the classical transport statistics metrics towards new types of indicators about accessibility to assist policy makers and urban planning. Until now, accessibility measures measured the impacts of investments rather than mobility needs. Since the concept of accessibility is directly correlated with the proximity of travel destinations, a benchmark for proximity is used by taking a radius of the surrounding destinations from a specific geographical point as a reference. From these two quantities, the performance of the transport network can be derived as a ratio between the population accessible within a certain travel time and the number of destinations within a proximity range. This simple approach requires data on population at grid cell level and road network data, but as a bottom-up approach allows a high degree of computability at various scales: grid level, urban centres, functional urban areas, NUTS3, NUTS2 regions and even country aggregates.

The introductory remarks by Rolf Diemer, Head of Unit at DG Mobility and Transport at the European Commission, stressed the importance of having precise and reliable quantitative tools for transport policy decisions, considering that externalities from transport sector amount to 7% of EU GDP. Precise planning and tools are also required to ensure the highest degree of transport efficiency and achieve the existing objectives in transport decarbonisation. 

Paolo Bolsi, Policy Analyst at DG Regional and Urban Affairs at the European Commission, introduced the main concepts and results of the 2019 working paper by Dijkstra, Poelman and Ackermans about Road Transport Performance in Europe using the new accessibility framework.

Tatiana Samsonova, Policy Analyst at the International Transport Forum, presented the work done by applying the accessibility framework at city level and the main results observed when comparing cities' performance across modes and at different destinations, showing that this framework can help policy makers identify what their city is lacking and plan accordingly.

Aris Christodolou from the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission has shown how to integrate the effects of congestion at different times of the day, showing how cities' accessibility changes due to traffic, using the cities of Brussels, Krakow and Seville.

Alexander Lembcke, Policy Analyst at the OECD, has shown the gains in terms of GDP, employment and regional population driven by improvements in accessibility, combined with the analysis of who the main beneficiaries of accessibility are in cities and how to consider accessibility in urban planning decisions.

Take away message

The session has shown the importance of the topic of accessibility and how the flexibility of this new approach also allows for different types of analyses, including the effect of congestion in accessibility, analyses of the performance of transport modes like public transport, cars and buses, various types of ranges and travel times, various types of destinations and provides policy insight at different levels of governance.

The accessibility framework can be combined with data from various sources to represent both the temporal and the spatial dimensions of congestion in detail. Transport performance is suitable to compare congestion in different cities. – Aris Christodoulou, JRC

The access framework can help policy makers identify what their city is lacking and plan accordingly. The Urban Access Framework has already been applied in other regions, with more to come. – Tatiana Samsonova, ITF/OECD

The Urban Access Framework developed by the EC, the ITF and the OECD highlights the need to consider transport planning jointly with land-use and urban development. Relying only on the performance of the transport network to provide accessibility cannot close existing gaps and deepen existing socio-economic divides. – Alexander Lembcke, OECD

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  • Posted by: Laurent BONNAUD
    On: 07/10/2019 - 17:20pm

    How to mitigate bypass effects?

    How to make the best out of existing infrastructure - especially high-capacity railways - to connect less densely populated areas or how to mitigate bypass effects? The Channel tunnel only supports limited inter-regional services between Kent and Northern France. High-speed railway lines bypass rural areas between regional metropolitan areas. Thank you.
    • Posted by: Paolo BOLSI
      On: 07/10/2019 - 17:52pm

      Re: How to mitigate bypass effects?

      Dear Mr Bonnaud, thank you for your question. Please consider this reply as a personal view rather that the Commission since I am a statistician and not a transport policy expert, however I believe that connectivity and accessibility relies on a mix of tools to be improved. Investment in infrastructure is of course one of these aspects, and upgrades in infrastructure and fleet could serve towards better regional connectivity along with high-speed services. Other solutions might be technological and more data driven, e.g. combining different transport modes together for more effective multimodality. Finally, one should not forget the regulatory aspect and the need to combine the general economic interest with economical viability and operational efficiency. On this regard, you might want to have a look at the legislative framework of the EU, Regulation (EC) 1370/2007 concerning the opening of the market for domestic passenger transport services by rail which has been amended in 2016. You can find more information on the webpage: https://ec.europa.eu/transport/themes/pso/land_en
  • Posted by: Clive HINCHCLIFFE
    On: 03/09/2019 - 15:11pm

    The bits between the towns.

    How can we ensure sustainable mobility in the areas between towns? A lot said about towns and cities but what about the rest of us are we in a no man's land?
    • Posted by: Paolo BOLSI
      On: 03/09/2019 - 15:32pm

      Re: The bits between the towns.

      Dear Mr. Hinchcliffe, The indicator which will be discussed during the session has the advantage of being built out of the spatial distribution of the resident population and the existing transport infrastructure, thus offering insights about accessibility at both urban and rural areas. When it comes to potential solutions for sustainable mobility in rural areas, I would recommend a look at the 2018 SMARTA project: https://ruralsharedmobility.eu/ Best regards,