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Europe’s cities need to start delivering smart mobility

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European cities are currently toying with various types of urban vehicle access restrictions. Though these cities mean well, such restrictions are burdensome and come at a cost for motorists, so smart mobility measures need to be proposed instead, writes Laurianna Krid.

Across Europe, cities are beginning to put in place restrictions on cars accessing urban areas. Here, of course, we are talking about diesel vehicle bans, congestion charges and car restricted zones.

Although perhaps well-intentioned, these initiatives are highly burdensome and costly for motorists, both for residents and visitors alike. Decision-makers need to start thinking outside the box and begin to deliver smart mobility solutions for road users.

Most car owners bought their vehicles in good faith, trusting the emissions levels advertised. These same people have to pay additional environmental charges or lose the right to drive in the city.

Furthermore, these restrictions could affect the resale value of their cars, which could be a significant financial hit as a personal car is often the second biggest expenditure most consumers will make during their lives.

Better information for consumers

Motorists now face the problem of understanding what access restrictions are in place in any given city. This is an obstacle for drivers on their daily commutes and can become a nightmare for tourists.

The European Commission, cities and member states need to partner up to provide easily accessible and consistent information on the different schemes for citizens. This information should be available in multiple formats and languages to ensure that citizens clearly know when and where they can drive.

Getting citizens informed is not just about providing better information about access restrictions, consumers also need to be properly informed when buying a new vehicle. Here, the European Commission needs to start the long-awaited reform of the car labelling Directive, to ensure that prospective car buyers can easily figure out which car works best for them, be it a traditionally fuelled, electric or hybrid vehicle.

Putting cleaner cars on the road

The EU can make a significant difference by ensuring that the latest, cleanest technologies are coming on the market to reduce vehicle emissions. That’s why we are calling for the EU to set more rigorous post-2020 CO2 targets for cars.

The Commission has proposed a 15% reduction by 2025, but ultimately this lacks ambition. By setting more stringent targets and producing cleaner vehicles with a stricter approval process, restrictions on mobility become much less relevant.

Mobility in your pocket

Enhancing the interoperability and smooth functioning of different modes of transport would also offer citizens a variety of ways to get to their destination. Many cities, like London or Helsinki, are already testing a ‘Mobility as a Service’ model. This offers a variety of mobility options in a single monthly package.

Subscribers would have access to public transport, share car/bike and taxi rides. In Switzerland and Spain, road users can already take advantage of integrated mobility services with the apps Simply Mobile and RACC Trips.

Such services require a truly integrated network of mobility services and would be the investment with the biggest impact. Rather than penalise citizens, this empowers them.

One of the major problems associated with developing apps for ‘seamless travel’ is access to ticketing and scheduling information of public transport entities. Here, the European Commission and member states must do more to open up these databases and allow innovation to flourish. This is about empowering people to use various options to fulfil their daily mobility needs.

Many urban centres are implementing a one-size-fits-all approach to vehicle bans, which risks excluding many everyday users. In the search for cleaner, more streamlined mobility, a long-term view which incorporates the latest technologies and listens to citizens will have the best chance to find a lasting solution.

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