Op-Ed

New forms of mobility in outlying urban areas

Public transport is often praised for its efficiency in the centre of major cities. But it can also be an appropriate solution for facilitating mobility in outlying urban areas. In any case, this was the conclusion arrived at in the study carried out by Carbone 4 for La Fabrique de la Cité (The City Factory), whose findings were presented on Wednesday 14 January.
Based on the results of trials conducted in France and abroad, Jean-Marc Jancovici, associate and founder of Carbone 4, has developed a method for estimating the economic and environmental gains from introducing mobility solutions that supplement the private car. Bus rapid transit, carpooling and transport on demand are at the heart of this approach aimed at optimising organisation of transport in outlying urban areas. As a counterpoint, La Fabrique de la Cité invited Ben Plowden, director of strategy and planning for Transport for London, to show how London responds to demand for mobility from residents in these areas by offering services that can replace or supplement use of private cars.

The bus – an economic solution for city dwellers and local authorities

Using bus rapid transit rather than cars or trains delivers substantial savings for households &
8211; around « €300 to €1000 per year and per user » according to Carbone 4, whose study focused on the Madrid rapid transit network and two French lines (TransIsère and Chronobus, in Nantes). Citizens are not the only ones to benefit from introduction of a bus rapid transit network – it’s also a good deal for local authorities, which can make substantial savings, around €500 to €1200 per user and per year. « Bus rapid transit will often be economically more advantageous than guided public transport like regional express trains or light rail, which means lower public spending, » explains Jean-Marc Jancovici.
These figures are confirmed on the scale of a large metropolis like London, where more than six million trips are made every day in the 8,000 or so buses circulating in the UK capital. « This figure isn’t well-known and might surprise some, but today twice as many Londoners take the bus than take the tube, » says Ben Plowden.
London covers a huge territory, divided into three distinct areas: the city centre, London’s business and tourist hub, the less central districts of the Inner City and, lastly, Outer London, the third ring where 60% of Londoners live and which constitutes the point of departure, passage or destination of 65% of trips made by car in the city. « So, our major goal is for every Londoner to be no further than five minutes by foot from a bus stop, even if they’re far from the city centre, » says Plowden, who also emphasizes the role of the night bus network in the recent reduction of automobile traffic in central London.

Carpooling is changing people’s habits

Carpooling is another practical and economic solution. According to Carbone 4, which studied the Toulouse (Tisseo) and Grand Lyon networks, shared car travel, just like bus rapid transit, delivers substantial savings (between €250 and €1000 per year and per user) « in return for a low investment on the part of the local authority », such as providing park-and-ride facilities. Perhaps even more than bus rapid transit, carpooling radically changes user behaviour. Between 5% and 20% of regular carpooling users get rid of their car or are planning to do so in the near future, since they’ve realised they no longer have to own a vehicle.
A third mobility solution that helps cut use of the car in surrounding urban districts: transport on demand, which is particularly useful when a virtual line replaces a little-used regular line. Another advantage of transport on demand, according to the Carbone 4 study, is that it brings « a strong social benefit, since it allows older people or people without a vehicle to get around ».
Here again, London offers a good example. The city has successfully responded to the problem of automobile traffic by structuring a carpooling and « cars on demand » solution, that is both rich and effective. In 2015, over 130,000 Londoners are members of a « car club », i.e. 80% of the national car-sharing offer. The size of Greater London – and hence the space available for parking – obviously played a major role in development of this offer. For Ben Plowden « another factor making it possible was the involvement of big private car-rental companies, like Avis, which are investing heavily in this sector today. »

Integrated governance

At a time when an increasingly large proportion of the French population lives in outlying urban areas, providing new mobility solutions to reduce dependence on the private car – which takes a heavy toll in terms of carbon footprint and household budgets today – looks to be essential. To achieve this, we could take inspiration from London by adopting an integrated urban mobility policy. This could mean setting up a centralised agency, on the scale of the city, responsible for defining, coordinating and managing the entire transport offering, on the same model as Transport for London. As Ben Plowden proudly points out: « Since 2000, we’ve seen a fall in automobile traffic at the same time as an increase in the population. Before, the two curves were correlated. » Just 15 years after it was set up, « TfL » has proved its worth – so much so that the London public agency is today considered one of the world’s most integrated transport models.

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La Fabrique de la Cité

La Fabrique de la Cité is a think tank dedicated to urban foresight, created by the VINCI group, its sponsor, in 2010. La Fabrique de la Cité acts as a forum where urban stakeholders, whether French or international, collaborate to bring forth new ways of building and rebuilding cities.

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