TRAFFIC EFFICIENCY & MOBILITY
THE SPROUT RESPONSE
Urban mobility policies are often based on insufficiently detailed analysis and repetition of regulatory initiatives regardless of local characteristics and dynamics. The SPROUT Project, as described in this article by Teresa de la Cruz and Beatriz Royo, leads the path towards an evidence-based policymaking
Co-creation workshop in Budapest (pre-pandemic © BKK/Simon Nyírő
The European Union's policy response to urban transportation issues is not new. However, even though legislative initiatives evolve and change over time, user requirements and perceptions change even faster.
In the last decade, new business models, enabled by digital technologies, have changed the landscape of urban transport services for both passengers and goods. The changing urban mobility environment places a considerable challenge for urban policymaking, as little is known about changing user needs. The new business models sometimes do not clearly fit within the existing national, local, and sectoral rules and can contribute to precarious employment. There is also a risk that the modernisation of the transport system increases the gap between different groups of users, creating inequality in terms of affordability, reliability, and accessibility.
SPROUT stands for Sustainable Policy RespOnse to Urban mobility Transition. The project kicked off in September 2019 and will be running for three years. The project consortium is led by the Zaragoza Logistics Center and brings together 29 partners from 15 countries including local and regional authorities, international organisations, transport authorities, and research institutes.
The deafening sound of raw data
Data collection and data accessibility make implementing an effective urban mobility policy challenging. The lack of data is especially dramatic in the case of urban freight, and as a consequence, policies are often based on insufficiently detailed analysis and repetition of regulatory initiatives regardless of local characteristics and dynamics. Although data problems are less intense in passenger mobility, it still has its limitations: it shows how people are using transport now, not how they would use it in the future. And in this changing environment, urban planners and policymakers lack an effective approach to anticipate future transformations and their impacts on the complex environment that urban transportation is. Moreover, passenger and freight transport do not take place in isolation. It is recognised that to reach sustainable urban transport, integrated transport planning is a prerequisite; however, freight is rarely explicitly included as a component of this integration and the respective sustainability opportunities remain unexploited. It is within this framework where SPROUT germinates, aiming to produce new and practice-based knowledge and tools to navigate urban mobility policy through transition, and to use this to contribute to an evidence-based policymaking.
Understanding the impacts
SPROUT has tested nine innovative mobility solutions in five cities across Europe and beyond to gain insight into the policy impacts of emerging transport solutions. SPROUT pilot cities are Valencia, Kalisz, Padua, Budapest and Tel Aviv. The use cases were selected in order to cover a wide spectrum of new mobility solutions, city sizes, contextual conditions and user group needs. Thus, solutions implemented are diverse: secure bike parking and parcel lockers at intermodal nodes of the transport network, electric self-driving pods for mixed freight and passenger mobility, a system to effectively identify vulnerable pedestrians and use this information to increase their safety at signalised crosswalks, the use of bays with sensors for loading/unloading freight operations, the creation of micromobility parking areas and the reallocation of road and street space.
CICLOPARC station in Valencia © SPROUT project
To successfully implement and scale up new mobility solutions, balancing urban mobility stakeholders' interests is vital. It is also crucial to ensure the operators’ financial sustainability, as well as the implementation feasibility. To facilitate this, SPROUT developed an Evaluation Framework for assessing the impacts of introducing innovative urban mobility solutions. The aim is to support policymakers and urban operators - with a list of key performance indicators and calculation methods - to measure the economic, social and environmental consequences of introducing new mobility solutions to the pilot level. As policies are often inadequate at addressing emerging mobility solutions, whose deployment can be sometimes hindered by those very policies – especially when the innovation is highly disruptive and/or with a high technological component, as the regulatory changes are usually not in line with the innovation pace – learnings from assessments like the ones provided by SPROUT allow identifying local problems and supportive policy measures that would help overcoming them.
A truly city-led policy response
Implementation of effective policy responses that will harness the benefits of the emerging mobility solutions represents a challenging process. It can be viewed as a knowledge quest and creation process within an urban stakeholder’s network requiring the reduction of uncertainty. The types of uncertainties can be categorized as being concerned with technological feasibility, organizational capability and social acceptability. Uncertainty is particularly high for those measures that include new science, technology, markets, or regulatory frameworks.
Traffic signal informing of the pilot in Kalisz streets © SPROUT project
In order to minimize the uncertainty in the implementation of a policy measure and at the same time to maximize its effectiveness, SPROUT involves different actors within its pilots’ communities to improve decision-making. An extensive effort in the project was done identifying and engaging those stakeholders impacted (or that could be impacted) by the mobility solutions tested. Stakeholders involved ranged from public administration, technology providers, local businesses, police representatives and vulnerable users: cyclists, pedestrian associations, older people, people with reduced mobility, women, and caregivers. To create awareness and engagement, different channels were used: social media announcements, online surveys, videos and printed brochures.
Co-created future scenario for the City of Kalisz © SPROUT project (Author: Anna Wolska-de Keijzer)
Understanding what the objectives of the different stakeholders are is essential to develop effective and targeted policies concerning traffic safety, decreased emissions, investment cost, or accessibility. SPROUT follows a methodology based on the Stakeholder-Based Impact Scoring – or SIS – that allows quantifying the benefits and burdens of different policy alternatives. Indeed, examples of new policy responses can greatly vary depending on the objectives of stakeholders, as well as the specific context of a new mobility solution.
SPROUT is now finalising the last round of consultation with the pilot cities’ stakeholders to determine the implementation feasibility and user acceptance of its policies, and ultimately derive a city-led policy response that looks attractive to the users and feels more sustainable for the society as a whole. After further validation and exchange between the project cities, policy modelling and policy packaging will be employed to translate all these policies into a unique and widely applicable policy response: the SPROUT policy response.
Trials in Padua © SPROUT project
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