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Urban mobility package

19 December 2013
by eub2 -- last modified 19 December 2013

The European Commission is stepping up its support to towns and cities in a new "urban mobility package" adopted on 17 December. The Commission will reinforce the exchange of best practice, provide targeted financial support and invest in research and development. In addition, it is encouraging the development of "sustainable urban mobility plans" to stimulate a shift towards cleaner and more sustainable transport in urban areas.


What is the problem?

  • European citizens and economic actors need a transport system which provides them with seamless, high-quality door-to-door mobility. At the same time, the adverse effects of transport on the climate, the environment and human health need to be reduced.
  • Many European towns and cities suffer from severe traffic congestion. The total cost of congestion in the EU is estimated at €80 billion annually.
  • Urban areas account for a high share — some 23% — of all CO2 emissions from transport. Cities need to make more efforts to turn past trends around and contribute to achieving the 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions called for by the Commission's white paper "Roadmap to a single European transport area – towards a competitive and resource-efficient transport system".
  • EU legislation on air quality and increasingly stringent emission standards for road vehicles seek to protect citizens from harmful exposure to airborne pollutants and particulate matter. But cities in virtually all Member States are still struggling to comply with the legal requirements.
  • The number of road fatalities in the EU remains very high - some 28,000 in 2012. Urban areas account for 38% of Europe's road fatalities, with vulnerable users such as pedestrians being particularly exposed. Progress in reducing road fatalities has been below average in urban areas.

Public concern

According to a new Eurobarometer survey:

    Half of all Europeans use a car every day (50%), which is more than the proportion who cycle (12%) or use public transport (16%) combined.

    Around four in ten Europeans encounter problems when travelling within cities (38%).

    A substantial majority of Europeans believe that air pollution (81%), road congestion (76%), travelling costs (74%), accidents (73%) and noise pollution (72%) are serious problems within cities.

    Reduced travel costs are frequently mentioned as a way to improve travelling within cities. More than half of Europeans believe that better public transport (56%) and lower prices for public transport (59%), would be the best ways to improve urban travel.

    Less than a quarter of Europeans believe that the urban traffic situation will improve in the future (24%) and most believe it will stay the same (35%) or get worse (37%).

    Across the EU, only a third of respondents use public transport at least once a week (32%).

    Europeans are broadly satisfied with urban public transport. However, fewer than four in ten respondents across the EU are satisfied with the price of urban public transport tickets (39%).

There are considerable differences in the use of more sustainable urban mobility modes and in the perception of the problems associated with current urban mobility patterns: While 57% of Finnish citizens cycle at least a few times a week, only 3% of the Maltese citizens do so. At the same time, 97% of Maltese citizens think that congestion is a serious problem in cities, against 27% of the Finnish respondents.

What is a sustainable urban mobility plan?

For several years, EU-funded initiatives have brought together stakeholders and experts to analyse current approaches and identify best practices in urban planning. From this exchange the concept of "sustainable urban mobility plans" emerged, which provides guidance to local authorities on how to implement strategies for urban mobility that build on a thorough analysis of the current situation, as well as a clear vision for a sustainable development of their urban area.

The sustainable urban mobility plans should be developed in cooperation across different policy areas and sectors (transport, land-use and spatial planning, environment, economic development, social policy, health, road safety, etc.); across different levels of government and administration; as well as with authorities in neighbouring areas — both urban and rural.

Sustainable urban mobility plans are about fostering a balanced development and a better integration of the different urban mobility modes. This planning concept highlights that urban mobility is primarily about people. It therefore emphasises citizen and stakeholder engagement, as well as fostering changes in mobility behaviour.

Every year, a European city receives an award for their sustainable urban mobility plan.

The Commission will set up a European platform to coordinate EU cooperation on developing the concept and tools further and it will support national, regional and local authorities in their planning — including through funding instruments.

Why address urban mobility at EU level?

Cities are important nodes of the European transport system and most trips originate or end in urban areas. Furthermore, many of the negative effects of transport (like congestion and pollution) occur mainly in urban areas. A successful European transport policy, therefore, cannot ignore the urban dimension.

What is the role of the Commission?

Urban mobility is intimately linked to achieving EU policy objectives for a competitive and resource-efficient European transport system, but the organisation of urban mobility is primarily a responsibility of the competent authorities at the local level. For many years, EU initiatives on urban mobility have primarily sought to enable and support efforts at city level by taking action in areas with clear EU added value. The urban mobility package sets out how the Commission will reinforce this support in the new financial planning period, 2014–20.

What is the role of the Member States?

There are the thousands of towns and cities across Europe, with many specific situations in different parts of the Union. The urban mobility package calls on Member States to create the right framework conditions that allow local authorities to implement local urban mobility strategies successfully.

Specifically, the urban mobility package invites Member States to

  • conduct a careful analysis of the present and future performance of urban mobility in their territory, also in view of key EU policy goals;
  • ensure that sustainable urban mobility plans are developed and implemented in their urban areas; and
  • review the technical, policy-based, legal, financial, and other tools at the disposal of urban planning authorities.

The same solutions for all cities?

Urban areas are diverse in their needs and circumstances. Therefore local authorities need to develop urban mobility strategies and projects that fit their particular situation. At the same time it is important to avoid unnecessary fragmentation in the deployment of technologies (such as ITS solutions) and policy-based measures (such as urban access regulation, e.g. 'green zones'). A patchwork of solutions that confuse users or lack interoperability undermine efforts for the creation of a single European transport area which offers easy and seamless door-to-door mobility across the EU. A study published by the Commission in 2010 showed, for instance, that more than 70 different schemes for urban access regulation (such as 'green zones') exist in the EU, with different access criteria, road signs or vehicle stickers.

The urban mobility package therefore invites Member States to ensure that action on urban mobility is coordinated within the Member States and across the Union in order to overcome such fragmentation. The Commission invites Member States to participate in a Member State expert group that will support an exchange on common approaches for urban mobility.

What does the urban mobility package consist of?

The central element of the urban mobility package is the communication, "Together towards competitive and resource-efficient urban mobility". It is complemented by an annex that sets out the concept of sustainable urban mobility plans, as well as four staff working documents on urban logistics, urban access regulations, deployment of ITS solutions in urban areas, and urban road safety.

1. Urban logistics, while pivotal to the functioning and competiveness of a city, is often neglected in urban mobility policies. Therefore, the Commission will prepare guidance documents that provide practical assistance on how to improve urban logistics performance. Member States are invited to ensure that urban logistics are given proper consideration in the national approaches to urban mobility and in sustainable urban mobility plans.

2. Urban access regulations — such as "low-emission zones" — are increasingly used by cities to regulate road vehicle traffic. However, there is currently a confusing diversity of schemes being implemented across Europe. It is important to get a better understanding of how effective the various schemes are and to explore how a fragmentation can be overcome. The Commission will therefore foster an exchange with Member States and experts on urban access regulations across the Union.

3. To ensure greater coherence and interoperability of ITS (intelligent transport systems) solutions across Europe, which is necessary for their full potential to be realised, the Commission and an urban ITS expert group have produced a set of guidelines for deployment of key applications of urban ITS. Member States should use these guidelines when key ITS applications are deployed and develop proper interfaces between urban and surrounding, interurban transport networks. The Commission will, among other things, take forward work on supplementing the existing legislation on access to traffic and travel data.

4. Improving road safety is a political priority. Some 11,000 people die in road traffic in EU urban areas every year. The majority of fatal or serious road traffic crashes involving vulnerable road users take place inside urban areas. Around two thirds of pedestrian fatalities take place in urban areas and 50% of those killed in accidents in urban areas are pedestrians or cyclists. During the last decade, the number of pedestrian fatalities decreased by only 39% compared with 49% for car driver fatalities.

Additional effort is therefore needed to enhance urban road safety and protect in particular the vulnerable users from death and serious injury.

The Commission will continue to gather and disseminate good practice examples for road safety planning and consider further measures for reducing the number of serious road traffic injuries in urban areas. Member States should ensure that sustainable urban mobility plans give due consideration to urban road safety as a horizontal issue.

Next steps

In spring 2014, the Commission will launch the Member States expert group on urban mobility. It will provide a platform for Member States and EU to tackle the challenges of urban mobility together.

The Commission will also launch, early next year, a platform for sustainable urban mobility plans to coordinate EU cooperation on developing the concept and tools further, provide a one-stop shop, and expand the present website into a virtual knowledge and competence centre.