Mobility, transport policies and urban inclusion

June 2010

Dialogues, propositions, histoires pour une citoyenneté mondiale (DPH)

There is a clear connection between the evolution of technical systems and that of urban organisation per se. The introduction of the railway in the 19th century, as well as that of cars in the 20th century, have impacted both the size and the organisation of cities. They have now become urban regions that in some cases spread over several hundred square kilometres, and account for up to forty million inhabitants.

The hubs of the transport systems - be they stations or road interchanges, have had a decisive impact on the work-life relationship, as well as on the way that industrial and shopping areas are designed. Individual choice of means of transport leads to and is led by collective decision-making on the way transport networks and transport are organised. This dialectical relationship is self-reinforcing, as we have seen from the way cities have spread over the last century. The choice of transport systems, and the way in which they are organised in terms of the sharing of road and other transport networks and public space, are largely responsible for determining the shapes of cities.

Although not the only decisive factor, transport systems have a decisive impact on property prices, as well as having a heavy influence on urban economies. This leads to key political and tax issues, such as the local authorities’ ability to recover the added value on property where public investments have been made in transport systems.

There is an equally dense and complex relationship between social structure and the way in which transport systems are organised. The original vertical segmentation of cohabitation of different social classes, whereby the working classes were frequently relegated to the basement or to the attics, has now been replaced by town planning segregation that takes different shapes and forms according to the countries, with the poorest people often living in run-down areas of old cities, or banished to the outer suburbs.

Since the middle of the 20th century the relationship between cities and cars has become a central issue in both the United States and Western Europe, as well as progressively in the rest of the world. Cars are the symbol of access to freedom, wealth and prestige; this has produced such a high level of pressure that urban structures are required to adapt, even when it has been proven that the “negative external factors” as economists prudishly call them - congestion, various forms of pollution and health impacts - are patently obvious.

The generalisation of the use of cars leads to vicious circles of self-destruction of cities themselves. Over the last twenty years we have witnessed efforts of reverse this trend, as well as new evolutions of technical systems - the new-generation tramways, self-service bicycle rentals, car-pools, automatic traffic regulation systems, car tolls in central urban areas, two-wheelers and electrical cars - all of which have progressively modified the privileged relationship of cars and signs of modernity.

Nevertheless in economies where the automobile industry lies at the heart of the industrial system, not a single government is prepared to take the risk of hurting this growth-driving sector, especially in times of economic crisis.

In decades to come, the management of urban mobility will symbolise the ability or lack of ability of our societies to move towards a new, more sustainable social model. Significant progress has been made in cutting down on energy consumption in housing and tertiary sector activities, and the ability to reorganise mobility will be at the heart of transition strategies to “green growth” and sustainable society.

Frequently, the scale of growth of cities has spread beyond administrative and political boundaries of old territorial entities. This poses major and often poorly resolved questions of coordination of transport systems. Mobility management is a test of the political ability to manage the connection between the various levels of governance and cooperation between public services, from neighbourhood to metropolitan levels.

This explains CITEGO’s ambition to bring together experiences in organisation and mobility management as seen from different angles and over a period of several years.

4 analysis

2 case studies