Interview: How public transit and multimodality can accelerate low carbon transportation
Iomob is hosting the second webinar of our popular Net-Zero series on 13 July 2021 at 17:00 CET | 11:00 EST. We chose a hot topic for discussion “Accelerating low carbon mobility with public transit and multimodality”, and have invited expert speakers from Europe and the US to draw on their vast experience on the topic. Iomob’s VP of Global Public Sector, Scott Shepard, will be moderating the panel comprised of Isabelle Vandoorne, Deputy Head of Unit at the European Commission, DG MOVE; Carol Schweiger, President at Schweiger Consulting; and Crissy Ditmore, newly appointed Head of Public Policy at Optibus.
You can sign up for the webinar in just a few easy steps by accessing the registration page. You can’t make the webinar but you are interested in the panel discussion? A link with the recording will be sent to all those who register.
With only one week until the webinar, we are giving participants a preview of the sort of topics that will be discussed during the event. We have asked each speaker one question about positioning public transit and multimodality as catalysts for sustainable mobility. Here are their insights:
What kind of pan-European tools are you exploring, at the European Commission, to accelerate sustainable mobility, particularly concerning mass transit?
Isabelle Vandoorne: The new EU Urban Mobility Framework will set our ambitions to make urban mobility more sustainable and safer, focusing on people and places rather than the movement of vehicles to ensure a better quality of life and faster uptake across all cities. The Framework is planned to be published by the end of 2021, and an open public consultation on the topic was just launched and is available online.
We want to place sustainable urban mobility planning at the core of the European urban mobility policy. We also see that capacity building at the local level needs to be further supported. We already have guidelines, briefings, and topic guides, but further action is necessary. We will also look into data to monitor the progress of cities and learn what works – and what does not work – to meet our ambitious goal. Here, the modal share of public transport – the backbone of urban mobility – and sustainable modes of transportation such as walking and cycling need to increase. On the freight side, goods and parcel delivery and logistics are an essential part of the economy, but their impact on cities is significant. Our objective is to reach sustainable logistics in cities by 2030. Low and zero-emissions cars and vans will be included in this multimodal mix. What matters is how they will be used.
Urban mobility will be essential to support European cities in their systemic transformation towards climate neutrality and turn these cities into innovation hubs that benefit quality of life and sustainability in Europe.
We want to address the above – and other essential aspects of sustainability, digitalization, governance, innovation in urban mobility – in the upcoming initiative.
Low carbon mobility is traditionally out of reach for lower-income users. How can we make sustainable mobility more inclusive?
Crissy Ditmore: Mobility access mirrors the effects of systemic policies in cities across the world that create inequality. Our response as an industry must be to inform ourselves on how those systems have impacted the broader social structures and fully understand what that means for mobility. 2020 should have taught us that we all have a responsibility to further our personal understanding of these issues and to use this newfound understanding in our work. Even as we celebrate this panel with experienced women discussing mobility, there is still a lack of diversity in the group, limiting the perspectives on what can and should be done to make low carbon mobility an equitable option. This is why climate issues are also social, race, and disability issues. Our collective and individual right to move freely, with safety and dignity, must be the starting place for defining new policies that do not just take into account existing inequalities but seek to repair historical harm from them.
Shifting transportation to low carbon emissions can improve air quality in dense urban cores, positively impacting residents’ health outcomes. This one aspect of sustainable mobility can lead to increased happiness and enhance lifelong vitality. In turn, this could repair some of the harm that resulted from wiping out neighborhoods to make room for roads that then brought noise and air pollution. The benefit of an electric fleet is somewhat limited if it is not part of a broader strategy to promote multi-silo solutions through policies. We can’t create equitable mobility options for people without coordination and collaboration with multiple government agencies. What good is it to shift to electric bikes and buses without providing supporting infrastructure? Equitable mobility includes abundant access to public restroom facilities, tree canopies that create shade, frequent and reliable bus service, and overhauling policy for active mobility options that give vulnerable road users the same level of priority that was given to cars.
How can demand-responsive transport (DRT) and other transit solutions enable more multimodal sustainable mobility for rural or suburban areas?
Carol Schweiger: Given the difference in the supply of mobility services in rural and suburban areas and several other factors, mobility solutions that work well in rural areas are decidedly different from those that work in urban areas. With the lack of services such as fixed-route public transport, rural areas can be best served by more flexible and innovative mobility services. While DRT has been in existence for many years and has typically been one of the only ways to serve rural areas, it has traditionally been a costly service and somewhat constrained way of providing service.
The advent of technology has made DRT service much more flexible – truly more demand-responsive than before. For example, in the past, DRT riders had to make reservations for DRT service way in advance. Technology has also facilitated the creation of other mobility services such as microtransit, which provides service in specific geographic areas, including rural areas. Finally, technology-enabled first- and last-mile services could significantly enhance connections between rural communities and desirable urban areas that contain employment, education, healthcare, and entertainment.
And my last point is about using technology to take advantage of the mobility services that already exist in rural areas. This concept was initially defined by Dwight Mengel, the Chief Transportation Planner with the Tompkins County Department of Social Services in Ithaca, New York and The Greenlining Institute. For example, the car is often one of the only mobility services in rural areas. Capitalizing on this service could enhance access to transportation for rural travelers but also provide incentives for car-owners to create shared mobility. The figure below is an adaptation of Mengel’s original thoughts on this approach.
To accelerate the path to net-zero with public transit, accessibility should improve. What are some ways to do that?”
Scott Shepard: The way to achieve that is by repositioning the public transit as the backbone of any urban mobility system and creating a truly multimodal mobility system. When including public transit in the multimodal offering, we can move the greatest number of people in an urban environment and connect those people to the greatest number of destinations, thus increasing access. Access to goods and services is the number one metric to measure the quality of urban mobility services. Through multimodality, public transit can function in the broader context of private shared mobility offers to solve the first and last-mile connectivity challenge for public transit. This increases access to public transit and can help accelerate the path to net-zero.
Do you want to hear more on these topics? Join our upcoming webinar on 13 July. Don’t forget to register using this link.
 Hana Creger, Joel Espino and Alvaro S. Sanchez, “Mobility Equity Framework: How to Make Transportation Work for People,” The Greenlining Institute, http://greenlining.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Mobility-Equity-Framework-Final.pdf