Planning Tomorrow’s Smart City: Turning Plans into Reality

Planning Tomorrow’s Smart City: Turning Plans into Reality

Integrated Mobility Plans for sustainable cities
As the day-long moderator, Gunnar Heipp, Director Strategic Planning Department at Münchner Verkehrsgesellschaft, opened the seminar emphasizing that planning mobility is about efficiently connecting people and places, now and in the future. Cities are increasingly gaining importance, as with the galloping urbanisation they are the powerhouses of the economy, concentrating 80% of the world economic output. Therefore urban sprawl needs to be avoided to ensure cities can take their growth onto a sustainable path, with a citizen-focused approach keeping in mind the need to build attractive and liveable cities. Cities need to be reinvented with new governance models to effectively coordinate and optimize all urban mobility services.
Our common goal, as explained during the seminar by Alain Flausch, UITP Secretary General, should be compact urban growth, connected infrastructure and coordinated governance, as it will boost long-term urban productivity and yield environmental and social benefits. Indeed, the solution lies within careful planning:
Integrated infrastructures, for a better managed growth through effective planning supported by strong public transport systems;
Smarter cities, as digitisation, information, ICT (information communication technologies) and use of “big data” are also opening up possibilities for improving urban planning, public transport efficiency and sustainable urban mobility
UITP’s main message is that planning tomorrow’s smart cities around a connected and efficient public transport network will support the building of compact, connected cities, which in turn will be able to deliver better growth, quality of life and become more attractive for citizens and businesses.
To reach this, there is a need for a wider city/region strategy designating public transport as backbone of the sustainable urban mobility system supporting and supported by other urban policies: land use, freight, environment, energy, health, social services, economic development, education, etc.
Backed by an efficient use of technology, integrated mobility planning should concentrate on the five key principles defined by UITP which will ensure that plans will turn into reality:
Sharing the vision
Effective governance
Long term political commitment
Strong links with land-use planning & economic development
Long term funding commitment
Indeed, setting up an Integrated Mobility Plan certainly is a milestone, but in many cases, the real challenge remains to turn words into action.
This was the main theme of the seminar’s morning session, gathering precious insights given by 5 experts from 5 cities that each excelled in these principles and round table discussions with all participants.

Sharing the vision:
In Burgas (Bulgaria), Ruska Boyadzhieva, Project Manager at the Municipality, explained that it has been understood that sustainable urban mobility builds on city identity. An Integrated Mobility Plan often challenges local traditions, reflects the city’s ambition, contributes to the shaping of urban areas and impacts citizen’s everyday life. Therefore a participatory approach from the first step of the planning process is essential. A shared vision can be built on the interaction of the following three dimensions: institutional support, community participation and sectoral integration.
From the Bulgarian example as well as examples from Bergen, Gothenburg or Rotterdam, participants came to the conclusion that to sell the vision and get the buy-in from all the stakeholders involved in the Plan, whether businesses, real estate developers or citizens, the prerequisites are to involve all stakeholders since its design phase. They also stressed the importance of the whole process’ transparency, the relevance of the various steps within the participatory process, a continuous feedback at any stage of the process, or the expertise and diversity of the citizens involved.

Effective Governance:
The experience in Montreal presented by Sylvain Ducas, Director of the Urban Planning Department of the City of Montreal, shows a strong link between land use, density and good public transport service coming from a political and administrative connection to articulate public transportation with urban planning. The main challenge is to coordinate the high number of public transportation authorities (15) at the metropolitan level. Consequently, the government of the Quebec province is currently aiming at granting the special status of “metropolis of Quebec” to Montreal, thus allowing specific powers of governance in public transport at the metropolitan level. This law might create a specific metropolitan body in charge of managing public transport.
As described in the Montreal experience, an effective governance structure is crucial in order to set up the plan in an optimal way. During the round tables, participants underlined the need for integration, following the same red thread: horizontal integration (integration of different mobility modes or – possibly geographical – decision-making levels) or vertical integration (structure and responsibilities of the existing agencies or institutions sharing public transport competences). However, integration from a geographical perspective and the inclusion of the living area in the plans remain crucial, as though urban planning is mostly a local matter from a governance perspective, mobility and public transport should nevertheless be treated at regional level in order to reach a more global vision. As for integration between transport modes, participants underlined that public transport Authorities need to support the connection of “traditional” modes such as rail, metro, or bus with new ones such as car-sharing or bike-sharing. This would provide an integrated approach with the objective to set up convenient and user-friendly “mobility platforms”.

Political Commitment
The case of Munich, as presented by Christian Ude, Munich’s Mayor between 1993 and 2014, gave a number of keys about the importance of long-term political commitment: After decades of collaboration between all stakeholders in urban transport (city council, airport authorities, Chamber of Commerce, car clubs, bicycle clubs, public transport operators, etc.), Munich has managed to set up a common long-term vision to be supported by decision-makers, no matter the political majority changes at federal, state or city level. This was also supported by the fact that the Lord Mayor of Munich was designated as the Chairperson of the Munich Operator (MVG) and the Munich Transport Authority (MVV), which greatly helped cohesion between stakeholders and set a strong figure for transport at city level.
During the round tables, participants agreed that long-term political commitment is not an easy thing to achieve, the consequent investment in capital necessary for public transport projects very often leading politicians to take unpopular decisions, and the limitation in time of politicians’ mandates preventing them and the population to see the benefits within the same political mandate (therefore not helping for re-election and creating an incentive for politicians not to invest in such projects).

Strong links with land-use planning & economic development
London, as explained by Elaine Seagriff, Head of London Wide Policy & Strategy, Transport for London, benefits from the Mayor’s role in integrating the strategic planning of land use, transport and economic development which has led to achieve sustainable growth in an exploding metropolitan area. Indeed, transport links have allowed for massive increases in employment density. In spite of the increasing pressure notably on housing and social services, the implemented policies have unlocked possibilities for huge additional housing and employment in identified opportunity areas if new transport schemes were provided notably through the development of the London Overground network, the Northern Line Extension and Crossrail 2.
During the round table discussions, participants focused especially on planning and expressed concerns for the planning of future systems within cities, which future existence should be taken into account when designing today’s plans: An example was given by one participant that if driverless cars are the future, then the city should be shaped according the future needs in terms of space, roads, etc. and integration between modes should be sought for through the setting up of interchange hubs.

Long-term funding commitment
Hanne Bertnes Norli, Vice-President Strategy & Development at Ruter, presented the situation in the rapidly-growing city of Oslo, which had to establish a funding strategy for the long run. While in 2008, politicians decided to earmark the toll ring revenues to subsidise public transport (notably based on the fact that car-owners were benefitting from enhanced driving conditions), other agreements have also been signed between Oslo and the Akershus county in order to sustain public transport subsidies to 2007 levels. A last significant step has been the recent analysis commissioned by Ruter to demonstrate the benefits of public transport, which impressive results show that for each euro invested in public transport, it will produce 4.5 times its value in the economy.
In line with the fact that long-term funding commitment and long-term political commitment are closely linked, round tables participants agreed on the need for transport practitioners to better showcase the benefits of public transport projects in order to get funds – be it from public or private sources -, and on the importance of internalising external costs: taking Oslo as an example, they underlined the importance of the willingness to pay from users (notably car-owners), which can only be demonstrated through this type of analysis.

Smart cities: connecting infrastructure, services and people

The afternoon session started with a presentation from Ina Homeier, Project Manager from the city of Vienna, on “Smart City Vienna”, their long-term initiative to improve the design, development and perception of the federal capital. Smart City Vienna looks at a cross-section of the city, covering all areas of life, work and leisure activities in equal measure, and includes everything from infrastructure, energy and mobility to all aspects of urban development. Smart City Vienna has set itself the task of consistently and continuously modernising the city in order to reduce energy consumption and emissions significantly without having to forego any aspects of consumption or mobility. Smart City Vienna stands for the “intelligent city”, meaning intelligent and innovative solutions, responsible and sustainable use of resources. The Smart City Vienna Framework Strategy is a long term umbrella strategy to 2050 that will establish a structural framework to ensure its implementation.
The key objective for 2050 is the best quality of life for all inhabitants of Vienna, while minimizing the consumption of resources. This will be realized through comprehensive innovation and strong political leadership.

So what can be done to encourage further “smart city” developments? That was the question at the core of the debate with experts following Vienna’s experience: Colette Maloney, Head of Unit Smart Cities and Sustainability, European Commission; Salla Ahonen, Director, Sustainability and Environmental Policy, Microsoft; Mieczyslaw Reksnis, Head of Road and Transport Department, Warsaw City Hall and Sebastian Marx, Chief Executive Officer, City of Gothenburg’s European office.

To kick start the debate, Gunnar Heipp, the moderator for the panel session, stated that hardly a week passes without a Mayor somewhere in the world unveiling the next “smart-city” but what exactly does this mean and what role should transport play. Salla Ahonen suggested that smartness lies when cities realise what they want to do differently not necessarily in smart technology itself. Transport is an obvious starting point for smart cities as it impacts all urban citizens on a daily basis. For Sebastian Marx, smartness is also about driving city collaboration and using innovation to link city departments. This was a sentiment shared by Colette Maloney, who felt that the key to smart cities is “integration”. While smart cities is the right direction to go into, Mieczyslaw Reksnis also raised the point that this is still an emerging topic in some cities and that it is also about making “smarter citizens”, than just smarter cities. He also highlighted that the media can play an important role in communicating the benefits of smart cities to citizens.

The panel session then considered the technologies themselves, and Salla Ahonen argued that most of the technologies needed for smart cities are already here, we are just not using them so there must be other barriers to why cities are not taking them up. Colette Maloney argued that this was perhaps because what the technologies were able to offer and what the cities wanted to achieve did not always align but as we begin to understand smart cities better, the more uptake we will see. She highlighted lessons learned around the importance of opening data, but noting that this does not have to be free. Both the city representatives from Gothenburg and Warsaw also noted that due to the democracy of cities, they sometimes move at a slower rate that business and that the lack of city finance is also slowing the pace of innovation. This was a point also picked up by the speaker from Microsoft, in that both business and cities need to better understand each other’s needs and wishes if we are to build the effective partnerships needed to transform our approach to innovation. Other barriers were also highlighted by the panellists, such as the complexity of the procurement process and risks associated with not knowing the end result of new untested innovations.

Panellists were asked to give their take away points from the Q&A session and all agreed that given high upfront costs, if we are to see progress on smart cities, it would be best to forget mega-projects, but focus on quick-win options. As public transport infrastructure is already established in many cities, a connected public transport system therefore offers an investor ready, quick win smart city solution that can lay the foundations for wider city initiatives. In fact, the public transport is leading the way; apps using open data have made the jump from interesting novelty to reliable consumer service. The same is also true when it comes to the electrification of transport, with the public transport sector ahead of the game.

Questions were then open to the floor, when panellists were asked about the economic case of smart city investments. All panellists agreed that it was difficult to provide concrete examples of complete smart cities but that there are many small scale efforts which help to demonstrate the potential. Another area from the audience focused on effective governance to overcome the silo approach within cities in order to build effective partnerships. Again panellists agreed on the need to bring together public and private players but this is best addressed at the local level. As a take away point, all agreed that smart cities offers significant opportunities for new funding, partnerships, contacts and so on, so the public transport sector must be in a position to make the most out of the opportunities that arise otherwise these will be taken by the new players entering the mobility market.

Wrap up

Concluding the day, Gunnar Heipp, highlighted that a recurring theme was leadership and cities must learn from one another and that UITP is in an ideal position to facilitate this through events such as todays. Successful smart city strategies require a strong vision, effective governance, long-term political commitment, new funding arrangements and most importantly ‘connectivity’ and ‘collaboration’ within the public transport sector and with other city services. The seminar’s afternoon panel discussion not only highlighted the central role that public transport can play in smart cities but also that the same very principles designed for an integrated master plan for a city are applicable to any smart city strategy like that developed in Vienna. This is because, from a policy perspective, the two approaches aim to achieve the same thing – better growth and developing attractive, sustainable cities which enhance people’s lives. The findings show that there is no single answer but the public transport sector can play a key and leading role in being an ‘urban integrator’.

This seminar has been jointly prepared by the UITP Transport and Urban Life Commission, the Sustainable Development Commission and the Organising Authorities Committee.


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