31 May 2016

A Community of Practice in Urban Transport … why? for whom?

challenge of sustainable urban mobility is a priority for the Mediterranean cities

The urbanisation rate in the Mediterranean countries, which stood at 64% in 2000, is set to rise to 72% by 2025. This rapid increase in population and the resulting urban sprawl have generated a strong demand for mobility. Large cities have tended to develop extensively leading to high levels of congestion and a slowdown of economic development. Mediterranean cities have to focus now on mass transportation to ensure an energy-efficient transport offer as the quality of transport services is a determining factor for their competitiveness.

Recurrent underfinancing of the urban transport sector, particularly public passenger transports, can generate extremely high costs for local communities in the time lost by users due to increased traffic congestion and in health costs due to air pollution. It is a question of striking a balance between economic urban development for a better quality of life and the protection of the environment.

When it comes to urban mobility, the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean share many common traits and similarities

Both are experiencing urban sprawl, metropolisation, urban congestion, a reliance on fossil fuels and pollution. In the North of the Mediterranean, a process of change has begun and things are evolving in a positive direction thanks to the development of public transport and active modes (walking and cycling) and the support for sustainable practices. Conversely, in the southern and eastern Mediterranean, the situation is more delicate as countries has to face difficulties resulting from the multiplication of poorly regulated informal systems and from the decline of public or private transport companies. Although few good practices including the Algiers metro, the extension of the Cairo metro, the Tunis light metro and the many tram projects across the region, countries suffer from a lack of high-quality public transport and favourable conditions for the adoption of non-motorized modes such as walking and cycling. Faced with these problems and the ever-increasing use of automobiles, central governments and local authorities in charge of urban transport are aware of the need to develop their urban transport networks, but authorities do not always have the opportunity to exchange experiences and to share their knowledge. In most countries, local and national institutions in charge of urban transport do not have the necessary skills. They are inadequately staffed, in quantity and quality, for the major issues they have to deal with.

Furthermore, the relationship between researchers and practitioners still iconic and initiatives should be envisaged to promote rapprochement and enhance joint efforts. At national and regional levels, the existing exchange networks for the academic world are fragmented and dispersed. One of the goals of the CoP is to foster interaction between researchers, local decision makers and transportation professionals to join efforts in the joint creation solutions adapted to each context and, as much as possible, transferable.

The Sustainable Urban Transport CoP will give policy makers and experts an opportunity to exchange experiences and work together

Many challenges remain to be faced in order to build a network with multiple actors whose objectives are sometimes contradictory. Researches and technical expertise on urban transport needs to be developed in Mediterranean cities. Territories need to develop metropolitan transport systems based on high performance environmentally in order to become economically competitive and attractive. Mediterranean cities should therefore innovate in this direction and engage in long-term sustainable policies that will enable the region and its cities play a dynamic and proper role in the globalized world of today.

The Sustainable Urban Transport CoP will give policy makers and experts an opportunity to exchange experiences, to work together in order to find appropriate responses to local needs and the specific characteristics of the Mediterranean, and to develop cooperation to address these new challenges. We wish you good discussions and we hope to see grow rapidly this community that already exists but that becomes real today through this project of CoP.