The EU can contribute to improving urban mobility through harmonisation, research and benchmarking, but re-directing investment and citizens’ mindsets towards public transport will also be critical, according to urban-mobility actors.
The major question concerning the Green Paper is whether the EU should really be doing anything at all. Indeed, the differences in the size, population density, economic-growth levels, social cohesion and cultural specifities of each city bring with them the need for differentiated solutions, thought-out at local level.
However, the scale of the problems faced by urban areas and their spread mean that local administrations cannot manage the situation alone. Also, the EU’s commitment to combating global warming and to enhancing Europe’s potential for economic growth and job creation – which requires attractive and easily-accessible cities – means that it has a duty to intervene.
Nevertheless, the Commission has clearly stated that it has no intention to impose any targets or specific solutions, but rather to enable local and regional authorities to “create space to develop these solutions”.
The conference outlined a number of areas in which the Commission could help avoid duplication of efforts and enhance effectiveness of local action by defining a common EU framework. These include:
- Providing better financing to public transport infrastructure through structural funds;
- promoting the exchange and dissemination of good practice;
- issuing a recommendation for the internalisation of external costs of transport (a preliminary report is due end of March);
- carrying out research on key issues for urban mobility;
- setting a legal framework for public service obligations;
- establishing technological standards and ensuring interoperability, and;
- providing guidelines on urban planning.
Stakeholders also pointed out the need to modify consumers’ behaviour towards public transport if a real change in urban mobility is to occur.