Jamal DAMICH : Head of the Mobility and Transport Department of Agadir, Project Manager of the Grand Agadir Urban Mobility Plan and Project Manager BHNS in the same locality. He is also part of the national urban mobility trainers of the Ministry of the Interior and active member of several mobility networks. He holds the Master in Transportation and Sustainable Urban Mobility coordinated by CODATU, the International University Senghor and the National Institute of Planning and Development (INAU) of Rabat; he is also PhD student at the engineering school « ENSA » UTZ – Agadir.
Institutional context: the challenge of transport management at the inter-municipal level
Can you briefly present the organization and management of transport in Agadir ?
Before presenting the current organization, I would like to come back to the evolution of Agadir context the last few years especially since 2010. At that time, the municipality of Agadir faced many issues related to the management of some sectors whose functioning goes beyond the municipal borders and interacts with the neighbouring municipalities. For example: public lighting, waste management and public transport. Indeed, Agadir Municipality concentrates a lot of economic and administrative activities. Traffic flows are also important in the whole agglomeration and particularly with nine neighbouring municipalities.
Initially, we tried to tackle this issue, but there was no legal framework for inter-municipal governance. Thus, we created a model agreement signed by municipalities in order to manage the collective bus transport in the absence of any regulating authority. The operational management was delegated to a private operator, and the contracting authority came back to the Wilaya.
This work has accelerated the process of setting up a transport authority (Inter-Municipal Cooperation Structure under the municipal charter) which led to its creation in 2014. Today this authority has competence for organization, planning, pricing, restructuring of networks and studies…etc. It has the necessary financial autonomy and has made possible the implementation of an Urban Mobility Plan (Plan de Déplacement Urbain, PDU) for the period 2017-2022.
In addition to this transport authority that deals with planning, we have also set up a local development company (SDL ) named Agadir Al Kabir, a kind of operational support for carrying out studies and transport projects, purchase of equipment, monitoring and control of operations with the private sector…etc.
The commissioning of a BHNS line is the opportunity to restructure the network and to develop new digital mobility solutions
So we have the cooperation structure (made up of nine municipalities and the Region) as well as the SDL Agadir El Kabir, which work for the realization of the objectives of the PDU. The first project planned for early 2019 is the commissioning of the BHNS. The line will be acompagnied by a passenger information system, a priority system at intersections and CCTV. The BHNS project will be an opportunity to rethink and restructure the public bus transport network with other modes of transport in a complementary and intermodal approach. Fares integration will consolidate the physical integration of the network.
As a roadmap, does the PDU 2017-2022 integrate the digital mobility issue as a specific axis or is it addressed punctually in the document?
In general, the PDU highlights the concept of sustainable mobility with economic, social and environmental objectives, stating that this might be done in various ways. So without enumerating or limiting itself to specific tools such as digital mobility, the PDU remains a planning document whose objective is to stay as flexible and adaptable as possible to evolution of the context.
In addition, with the international cooperation or city-to-city cooperation, some tools are specified such as Smart City. The PDU provides strategic tracks, then with the partners we tried to work on the tools and exploit them including Smart City and by extension Smart Mobility.
In projects related to Smart City, we face transport issues without necessarily working on the transportation system itself. For example, we are working on the digitization of administrative procedures : instead of adapting supply to demand, we have tried to reduce the travel demand. It is today possible to carry out procedures on the internet or by smartphones and avoid physical travels.
A lot of current experiments : open data, traffic management, 2.0 car parks, electric vehicles, traveler information, etc.
In this context, what are your Smart Mobility projects?
First, we try to set up an observatory that could help understand better the needs of users and offer them adapted services. We have a system for monitoring urban mobility in a continuous and systematic way all year round. It is a World Bank project that is developed nationally and even internationally to build an open database, or what is called Open Data . We began to work on the first database in 2018, and people are responsible for updating this database principally with new current projects. Travel surveys are also carried out to understand the behavior of users with regard to mobility, and road traffic surveys at different times, and particularly in the summer period. Today, there are six permanent road traffic count stations in Agadir. The information is centralized first nationally, to be processed, and then should be available next year.
We also have some parallel projects related to road traffic management whose objective is to control traffic flows and limit the use of cars in pedestrian areas. Thus, we will equip 18 smart intersections managed by a micro-regulation in real time. It will help regulate traffic and promote public transport flows. The project also includes parking management to limit the car’s presence in some areas and to allow the development of pedestrian zones. We also realized a first car park equipped with VMS (variable-message signs) and detectors on the ground to inform about available spaces. This car park also has a variable pricing management system dependent on demand.
We also have a bicycle-sharing system project. We plan to set up 15 solar charging stations with 150 bicycles. Note that a network of 140 km of bike lanes is also planned in the PDU.
We attended international meetings on electricity, and following this, we identified, among other things, a project to develop an electric vehicle service in the Agadir city hall for the removal of administrative staff and vaguemestres (postal workers of the municipality). These vehicles will be recharged by the excess energy coming from the photovoltaic panels installed on the city hall.
It should be noted that in the context of the Administration Travel Plan (PDA), we have tried to integrate some practices that fall under Smart Mobility. After a study and a survey of the 1600 administrative agents, we launched reflections and projects on bike- sharing, carpooling, with platforms dedicated to that.
Finally, we experimented with Google a passenger information application for public transport in the « Greater Agadir ». The project was launched in April 2018. It consists of a platform accessible through a website and the Google Maps application that informs on routes, stops, lines, and schedules. We try to exploit the data in real time and adapt the service to the needs of users.
Political will: an important factor in the success in those projects
You work in parallel on several topics, does talking about digital data facilitate the dialogue between the actors and the implementation of projects?
In any case, it remains a difficult task to move from a conventional model where information is not available to a new way of working. What facilitated the work was clearly the political commitment. We had the opportunity to work with the president of the municipality and his office who are aware of the issues and importance of Smart City and Smart Mobility. Add to this, the support of the international cooperation partners and funders. We had interesting exchanges, capacity building sessions with their support. Afterwards, it is up to the technical team to make efforts to transmit this vision to other local actors.
Also, these efforts are provided by the actors of the Wilaya, the services of the Ministry (Equipment, Transport …), the police which manages the traffic and the parking lots, and who also participated in training and study trips. Not to mention the civil society that greatly facilitates the advancement of projects.
When designing projects we are confronted with the reluctance of actors on sustainable mobility issues. Especially when you want to restrict road traffic, parking and reduce the importance of the car. There are more obstacles on these issues.
Are there a local vision and/or a national coordination for digital mobility?
There is no vision yet properly on this issue, but we talked about the actions undertaken on the national scale, particularly with the World Bank’s guidelines, or the local vision with the PDU. We always try to coordinate the different actions. There is for example, the initiative Mobilise Your City to link national and local visions of mobility.
We can say that these are the first exercises to tend towards a synchronized vision between the national and the local levels.
Have you identified any risks regarding investment in new technologies, and their adaptation to the local context?
On the one hand, our current contracts allow us to work with professional and experienced operators such as Alsa, which manages lines for example in Spain and England. They have a good knowledge of the system, and we have put in place an effective communication process to improve continuously the level of service. Therefore, we do not have significant difficulties in setting up tools locally.
On the other hand, a national involvement is necessary in order to implement this kind of initiative. The agglomeration of Agadir is following what is happening internationally and we would like more pilot projects to be set up at the national level. The budget allowed to these pilot projects is reasonable, but once the vision is mature, the support of the State and donors becomes essential. The municipality cannot support the cost of the investment of major projects alone particularly when impacts on territory are often important. Pilot projects have been carried out, and funds are expected from the private sector and other investors to improve strategies and develop projects.
Finally, have you noticed an improvement in the services provided when integrating the digital ?
Most of our projects have been launched recently, they are being experimented and put in place, so it is early to draw a first assessment or to make an evaluation. But we continue to develop initiatives and new mobility services which look promising for the moment.
This interview was conducted on 27 August 2018 by Younes Aggoun, CODATU Cooperation manager in Egypt, as part of the CMI‘s « Community of Practice for Sustainable Urban Transport in the Mediterranean ». This community of practice – led by CODATU – aims to promote the sharing of knowledge about sustainable urban mobility in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa.
 Managed by the communal charter, the SDLs are private-law companies with public interest. With the participation of the legal persons of public rights of 51% minimum in the capital, (the local authorities must have 34% minimum). The private sector can be a shareholder up to 49% maximum. These companies have developed in several sectors, including heritage management, waste management, public lighting…
 The ministry has set up a system for monitoring urban mobility – SSMU in Moroccan cities.