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Waiting for the European Transport ConferenceThoughts and anticipations on urban mobility planning
What challenges will transport systems face in the post-pandemic era? What kind of city can we imagine building for full accessibility, without any gender, age or social condition barriers? How can cycling be developed as a systematic transport mode, considering the investments being made in many Italian and European cities? Are there any contraindications and myths to be dispelled? What issues does the rapid spread of electric vehicles raise in the medium term? Will charging points be destined to overrun our cities?
A close debate. Many contributions from the call for papers that closed in mid-February were analysed by the Technical Commission Planning for Sustainable Land Use and Transport.
A multicultural debate. Project experiences and applied research show profoundly different cultural approaches and sensitivities across the different countries represented at the Conference.
An in-depth debate. Quantitative assessments and surveys reveal the behaviour of users in changing frequency, purpose and travel mode both during the pandemic period (revealed preferences) and, as expected, in the near future (stated preferences).
The result is a panel that will be officially unveiled in the next few weeks – but we can reveal a few previews: 9 sessions addressing the themes of the “15-minute city”, social inclusion, the impacts of the pandemic, reducing emissions, sustainability and cycling; about 40 presentations, and 13 European countries represented.
It is not easy to summarise this result but some fundamental themes, correlations and reflections can be set out.
The diffusion of Covid-19 is certainly one of the most relevant points of discontinuity of this decade, a disruptive event which, beyond the global effects, has deeply affected people’s behaviour and, in particular, their mobility. On one hand, there has been massive confinement of the population, which has altered not only social and work habits but also consumption patterns. On the other hand, technology is proving to be an essential ally in monitoring the impacts of the virus, in some fields slowing down its spread, managing the crisis and mitigating its consequences.
In its in-depth analysis of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Flows had already highlighted the results of a Doxa survey, carried out for the Italian Transport Regulatory Authority, where 70% of the sample interviewed declared that they considered all means of collective transport to be “much less safe” or “less safe” than the pre-Covid situation, both for medium/long distances and local, regional and urban services.
At a global level, McKinsey recently published a study that clearly highlights how the criteria for choice of transport mode have profoundly changed pre- and post COVID-19 for different trip purposes (commuting, business and leisure). Today, the risk of infection will impact mobility choices in a relevant way.
During the sessions of the European Transport Conference 2021 ( #ETConline2021 ) we will be able to further analyse these themes with the contribution of qualitative and quantitative assessments that, as a result of big data analysis tools and Revealed- and Stated Preferences surveys, have evaluated the dimensions of the phenomenon, the impacts on transport modes, the evolution of the quality of life, and environmental and social sustainability. Further, in #ETConline2021, we will discuss how some macro-themes of great interest in recent years have changed precisely because of the pandemic. We will re-read pedestrian mobility, cycling, the “15-minute city”, social inclusion and equity, and decarbonisation as elements of the same series. Questioning, even provocatively, some fundamental axioms. Recording if and how far we are actually moving away from the objectives of environmental sustainability. Highlighting how certain aspects are modifying urban land use in front of us. Which, in the end, brings us to the need to re-think the approach to urban regeneration, where perception of safety, equity and inclusion are extremely important as design criteria.
In #ETConline2021, COVID-19 is thus transformed from a “vertical” research theme into a “laboratory”. A “laboratory” where we will observe situations, understand their evolution, make hypothesis of future scenarios that can support strategic and tactical decisions in mobility planning and, more generally, urban transformation. A “laboratory” where the weak points of the system to use as starting points can be identified – barriers to active mobility, which become discriminatory for weak users, sociality and well-being, and the environment; and the technological contexts, which may hinder the integration and diffusion of new forms of energy supply for the transport system.
A “laboratory” where policies, solutions and action with a short-term impact can be discussed amongst technicians, researchers, professionals, and enthusiasts, seizing the opportunities offered by the context but consistent with a strategic, long-term view, now more than ever necessary to avoid taking steps backwards.