As the Commission opens the first stages of its public consultation on urban transport, public-transport workers and operators are calling for more than a simple benchmarking exercise.
The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) and the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) have joined forces to convince the Commission that it "can no longer confine itself to promoting good practice" when it comes to tackling the huge congestion and pollution problems besetting European cities.
Just days before the Commission holds its first stakeholder consultation, on 31 January 2007, the two organisations called on the EU executive to make it mandatory for cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants to draw up sustainable-transport plans.
Their proposals echoed a September 2006 Parliament resolution on the Commission's 'Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment' (Hegyi Report), which called for a 5% shift in passenger-kilometres from cars to more sustainable modes, such as public transport and cycling, within the period 2002-2012.
"Binding targets would be nice but we realise that this is not realistic," acknowledged ETF Deputy Secretary-General Sabine Trier. "What we are looking for is stronger political leadership," she said.
The UITP and ETF also want the Green Paper on urban mobility, due in September 2007, to address the question of financing. Currently, insufficient public funds and fuel-price hikes are preventing public transport from developing into a high-quality alternative to the private car.
"The financing of modes must be rebalanced," said UITP-EuroTeam Director Brigitte Ollier, adding that this could be achieved via taxation, 'polluter-pays' systems, such as congestion charging, or 'beneficiary-pays' schemes, and that the Commission should identify best practice.
"Europe's urban mobility problems will not be solved without such an integrated approach," stressed Guido del Mese, chairman of the EU Committee of UITP, saying that action up to now has tended to focus on technology alone rather than on changing citizens' behaviour.
For more information on mobility problems in European cities and on what the Commission is doing about it, see our LinksDossier on Urban Transport.