This article is part of our special report Industrial revival.
MEP Gyula Hegyi, who has drafted a Parliament Report on the EU urban environment strategy, says in an interview with EURACTIV that improving mobility should be cities' number-one priority and that the EU must do more to encourage this.
"The European Union always speaks about the importance of public transport – to have fewer cars and more tramways, or buses, or undergrounds. But then, in practice… it doesn't do anything or does very little to improve the situation," Hegyi said.
In the new member states, the overall share of public transport is decreasing because funds are being poured into building roads and motorways, rather than into upgrading deteriorating public-transport systems.
Hegyi is calling for more EU funds to be reserved specifically for public transport, and wants the Commission to set a binding target requiring that, in five years, all European cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants make a 5% shift from individual to public transport.
As to how cities should achieve this target, he believes that it should be left to local authorities to decide which policies are best adapted to their needs.
- A social need
Addressing mobility in urban areas is not just an economic and environmental priority, but also a social one, because providing access to transportation for all is vital for integration, Hegyi argues.
He added that the lack of transport systems between Paris city centre and its underprivileged outskirts contributed to citizens' sense of isolation, which led to the riots in 2005.
- More urban woes
Other areas in which Hegyi believes that the EU can contribute to making cities more sustainable include:
- Defining a comprehensive strategy to reduce emissions from housing, both from heating and cooling;
- establishing a strategy to combat the increasingly deathly heat wave phenomenon, and;
- conserving what remains of cities' green spaces by making the co-financing of projects conditional on investing in 'brownfield areas', such as abandoned or under-used industrial and commercial areas.
To read the full interview, click here.