The European Commission has recently submitted a legislative proposal for a European Climate Law to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions for further consideration under the ordinary legislative procedure. With this Law the Commission proposes a legally binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and binds the Union to achieve a climate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions (emissions after deduction of removals) by at least 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030. It is hard to see how these targets can be achieved unless climate is prioritised in national and European transport policy plans. The question needs to be asked whether climate is a priority in modern day traffic management. Dr Johanna Tzanidaki, Director of Innovation & Deployment at ERTICO, explains.
Traffic management is the planning, guidance and control of vehicles within the road network. Traditionally understood as the organisation and arrangement of traffic light signals and traffic lanes on busy roads and highways, traffic management has evolved into a multi-level discussion amongst traffic manager operators, city planners, automotive engineers, decision-makers, economists and most importantly, citizens. This target group has entered the discussion for good reason: most public authorities are expected to prioritise one user group (car drivers) over others (including pedestrians, bicycle users etc.) within the road network. It is only recently that cities and regions have come to challenge this view.
The TomTom traffic index, which for the last 10 years has been providing detailed insights on traffic congestion levels in over 400 cities around the world, includes a growing number of cities that interestingly focus less and less on vehicle driving ‘efficiency’ and more on lowering carbon emissions policy by facilitating the use of bicycles or walking in urban areas. With traffic management professionals aiming to ensure safe and efficient mobility for people and goods, in both stationary and moving traffic, pedestrians, bicyclists and all types of vehicles should contribute to targets set by city authorities. These targets, are more ‘green’ than we thought.
An impressive number of 93% of the European cities interviewed by ERTICO – ITS Europe under the City Moonshot initiative are indeed taking climate emergency very seriously. Enhancing the quality of life for citizens and ensuring more climate neutral mobility ranks high in the policies cities are setting in Europe. The City Moonshot initiative aims to give voice to 300 cities around the world, so that their real needs and interests and also their concerns are heard and understood by the industry and other stakeholders alike. Through the interviews that ERTICO is conducting since May 2020, it becomes obvious that safety and efficiency are still the primary concerns of traffic managers and transport planners but this is only half the picture. Sustainable transport related actions taken by European cities to address climate emergency include:
- specific bicycle lanes (78%),
- continuation of investment in public transport (66%),
- establishment of charging infrastructure for e-vehicles (63%)
- development of a transport action plan (59%).
These actions are setting the limits of what city public authorities consider acceptable in terms of traffic environmentally-wise. Nonetheless, what lies behind such decisions made by the public authorities, is political will. Konstantinos Gioutikas, Vice Governor for Environment and Deployment, Region of Central Macedonia and The city of Thessaloniki (Greece) stated during the City Moonshot interview with ERTICO that ‘the sustainability of transport in our city has an impact on our quality of life and we see it as a collaborate effort of a multidimensional activity. Environmental impact and innovation in transport, as well as how we manage traffic are complementing one another. If we want to achieve a sustainable future, collaboration with all stakeholders is a must’.
For traffic management to prioritise environmental targets, as well as safety and efficiency, a more cooperative way of data sharing among traffic stakeholders is needed. The ERTICO Innovation Platform TM 2.0 on interactive traffic management has been working on taking traditional traffic management to the next level. According to the agreed, scheme on TM 2.0, road and traffic conditions, speed advice, road works and incidents on the road as well as weather conditions are combined with information on parking availability, geofencing measures and recommendations on (eco) routes so that public authorities can directly emancipate the user to select the route that corresponds to the best environmentally-optimal option.
Can Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) lead to a better climate? Taking one example of how users using ERTICO Partner PTV Group transport optimising services are making savings of 40,000 tons of CO2 every single day. In a year, that accounts to more than 14 million tons CO2!
The 42 public and private members in the TM 2.0 ERTICO Innovation Platform agree to base their business agreements on the principles of co-opetition and trust. The service providers agree to cooperate and follow the priorities set by the public authorities while at the same time they continue competing on the quality of their service to users. When a city geofences the centre as a low emission zone during certain times during the day or even days during the month, all service providers are informed and aware so as not to route their users through this zone, even if it means that their customer will have to delay their arrival at their destination by 20 minutes. According to the TM 2.0 scheme of cooperation, the city does not necessarily have to enforce this with a law or regulation. Well-discussed and agreed traffic management plans and strategies that involve all traffic stakeholders, suffice. The political will of the city has to be discussed in a dialogue where the private sector becomes a partner by adhering to set targets.
Through dialogue amongst public and private stakeholders, reducing climate impact, safety, quality of life, and traffic flow are then no longer the sole responsibility of public authorities in TM 2.0. It is the responsibility of all mobility stakeholders. Network optimisation is an ambition to which, they all have to contribute. The new cooperative approache developed by the TM 2.0 ERTICO Innovation Platform promotes the deployment of an interactive traffic management system, where collective interests in safe, efficient and, equally importantly, sustainable transport are perfectly aligned. Climate targets are a priority for which, the responsibility to reach them rests in the hands of all traffic stakeholders. The ERTICO Partnership understands this concept very well and contributes to its attainment with practical solutions.