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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Mobility and intermodality projects > Public transport - an endangered species in European cities
Graphic element Public transport - an endangered species
in European cities

As private car use increases in European cities, public transport deteriorates. Better and more efficient public transport service is required to reverse this trend. EU-financed research has shown that operating costs may be reduced significantly through controlled competition.

The decline of public transport has grave implications for European cities, two of the most serious being reduced mobility for disadvantaged groups and environmental damage. Poor public transport excludes people without access to a car, i.e. older people, children and low-income groups. The environment is suffering from the increasing number of cars causing air pollution and noise.

In recognition of the fact that a shift from private to public transport can alleviate some of the problems, the EU has allocated funds to research on improving public transport in our cities. The work has focused on sharing best practice and identifying the most effective policy measures.

Higher quality in public transport

Research into public transport showed that "controlled competition" is preferable to full regulation or full deregulation. This research has formed the basis for revision of EU regulations covering public transport in Europe. Compared to fully regulated operations, controlled competition may reduce unit-operating costs by 15% even without redundancies or wage reductions.

tandardised indicators of quality and other benchmarks for comparing performance between operators have been developed for inclusion in the tendering and contracting procedures of public authorities. In addition, a handbook has been devised to enable operators to assess their internal quality. This will support the introduction of the new regulations.

Improved passenger interchanges between modes and within the public transport system are important measures to increase the popularity of the public transport system as a whole. Research has shown that a clear demarcation of responsibilities between planning agencies at various levels is important in order to ensure effective planning and running of interchanges. Good practice guidance has been made available for interchange design.

Demonstration projects in 11 cities showed that physical measures, such as bus lanes and public transport prioritisation, are able to reduce travel time by 5-15% and improve the reliability of bus services. In Turin, integrated traffic management systems reduced travel time by up to 20% for both public transport and general transport.

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The Commission continues to emphasise the need for high quality urban transport. This is included in the recent Policy Guidelines of the White Paper on a common transport policy. The Commission proposes to place a priority on exchanges of good practice aimed at making better use of public transport and existing infrastructure. For this purpose, the Commission is financing the large-scale testing of integrated urban strategies in their new CIVITAS initiative.

More information on EU research in the improvement of urban public transport can be found on the European Commission's web site:

See also
Website reveals research results on sustainable mobility
Higher quality in public transport
More information

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