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| Integrating land use and transport policies for cleaner citiesIncreasing traffic congestion – with its adverse effects on quality of life in Europe’s cities and regions – presents a major challenge for policy-makers. Spatial separation of human activities creates the need for travel and the transport of goods. But transport also makes places more accessible and, thus, more or less attractive for the location of businesses, shops, leisure activities or residential housing. The TRANSPLUS project suggests that the best way forward is through better integration of land use and transport policies.
“The acronym of the project communicates our goal quite well,” says project coordinator Dr Carlo Sessa. “We wanted to look at ways of tackling existing problems of mobility in urban environments using innovative transport policies, but also blending in other important aspects, such as land uses which have an impact on transport,” he adds. “By doing this, we can add a ‘plus’ to traditional transport policies, making them more effective in contributing to the overall goal of sustainable urban development.”
The physical location of different types of activities – work, home, shops, leisure – influences our need for transportation and also our choice of what means to use. Around 80% of the EU population lives in urban areas, and the transport of goods and people in these urban areas accounts for an high share of all transport kilometres covered in Europe. This concentration of transport use in relatively restricted areas has an important impact in terms of traffic congestion, pollution and influence on quality of life. The growing use of private cars is perhaps one of the greatest challenges we face in the urban environment. But if we want to get where we want to go – to a better, healthier, more sustainable city environment – then we need to look at new ways of dealing with mobility issues in our cities and regions, the TRANSPLUS team points out.
“The devitalisation of city centres and rapid growth of residential areas around the periphery of major towns and cities – what we call urban sprawl – have led to escalating transport needs which can not always be met satisfactorily by existing public transport infrastructures,” notes Sessa. Similar patterns are appearing all over Europe.
“One part of the problem is, clearly, the need to look at ways of improving public transportation and making it more flexible and more responsive to user needs: for example, the use of light rail services to connect suburban areas to the centre and with each other, and improving areas around railway stations,” he explains. “We can also look at ways of encouraging the use of more environment-friendly options, such as car sharing or using a bicycle.”
The major ‘plus’ that the project is proposing, however, is the harnessing of land use policies to help tackle mobility problems and reduce mobility needs. “If residential areas are developed, for instance, with basic services,” he adds, such as shopping, leisure, schools, commercial services and businesses integrating employment into the development stage, “this will greatly reduce the transportation needs of a large part of the population and, at the same time, improve their quality of life.”
Another important ‘plus’ put forward by TRANSPLUS is the need to encourage greater participation of various areas of society in efforts to improve urban sustainability and address the challenges posed by urban mobility issues.
“Mobility and accessibility problems are complex and cannot be successfully addressed without a concerted effort from all [stakeholders], including politicians, civil servants, urban planners, private transport operators, property developers, researchers and also the citizens,” stresses Sessa. “We will be much more successful, and the solutions we find will be better, if we can develop more effective ways of working together.”
Networking is needed at several levels. Networking at the local level will help find and implement solutions that work within a specific context. Transnational networks are also needed, however, as a means of exchanging experiences and disseminating best practices. By facilitating access to shared knowledge, we may help cities find easier, more effective solutions to their problems and limit the risks and costs of implementing new, unproven solutions.