Accelerating growth in public transport

21 October 2013

The new Grow with Public Transport campaign confirms the sector’s commitment to publicising the many social, economic and environmental advantages it delivers. Jim Banks speaks to Alain Flausch of the International Association of Public Transport about what he hopes the campaign will achieve.

In the last five years, there has been a surge in activity among key players in the public transport sector around the world in order to encourage the travelling public to make far greater use of their services. In 2009, at the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) World Congress in Vienna, the PT×2 strategy was launched as a long-term project to dramatically increase the use of public transport, and this year's Grow with Public Transport campaign is intended to add more momentum to that drive.

UITP, the international network for public transport authorities and operators, policy decision-makers, scientific institutes and the public transport supply and service industry, has over 3,400 members from 92 countries. Therefore, its place at the helm of Grow with Public Transport means the campaign is far-reaching, not only in geographic terms, but also in terms of its penetration at all levels of the public transport industry.

The new campaign will build on the firm platform of interest created since the launch of PT×2, which saw hundreds of applications from every corner of the world to its 2011 awards for projects aimed at boosting public transport use and improving sustainability.

"The aim of our new campaign is to make PT×2, which had a sector-based approach, much broader," explains Alain Flausch, secretary-general of UITP. "We want to move from an industry approach to one that includes all decision-makers, including city or regional managers. We are trying to make it more friendly and people-orientated.

"We have a milestone to reach in the next 15 years of trying to double the market share of public transport - the goal of PT×2 - and we are trying to keep people mobilised on a campaign that began in 2009 and runs until 2025. That is a long road and the challenge is to keep people motivated," he adds.

At the heart of the new campaign is the desire to highlight public transport's benefits for the economy, its positive impact on the environment and its broader contribution to society. The goal is to send out a strong message to political decision-makers and citizens that public transport plays a key role in achieving sustainable growth, social cohesion and environmental protection.

The campaign is aimed at policy-makers around the world and intends to raise awareness of the urgent need for more and better public transport, and the benefits that come from investing in sustainable mobility. There is also a major effort underway to encourage the general public to choose public transport services more often; however, targeting policy is the key tactic because if better transport networks are in place their appeal to the public will consequently grow.

Message received

Although the new campaign is in its early stages, there has already been a satisfying level of engagement across the industry. So far, 85 towns, regions and industry members have already confirmed their participation in UITP's worldwide campaign, largely as part of a social media publicity drive, and through advertising on vehicles and at stations.

The hope is that raising awareness of the benefits of public transport will convince decision-makers to look past the perceived barriers to investment.

"The hurdles are mainly financial," says Flausch. "It costs money to build new infrastructure and increase the size of fleets. I think that people are convinced by the message, but we need to move from words to actions. In a time of economic crisis in Europe, public transport is one lever that can be pulled to create jobs and grow the economy. That is well understood in countries like the UK, which knows that a city without public transport is not winning.

"We have a milestone to reach in the next 15 years of trying to double the market share of public transport."

"We have more trouble in other cities - Moscow is one example - where there are huge traffic jams and people spend too much time travelling. London, for example, took the right decisions early. The same can be said of Vienna or Berlin. In those cities you see clearly that public transport is a fantastic tool for helping the economy to run," he adds.

Flausch is pleased with the number of parties that have signed up to the new campaign, and with the diversity of countries around the world that they represent. As well as many cities across Western Europe, there has been a strong response in Eastern Europe. In Poland, for instance, operators in Gdansk, Gydnia and Warsaw are taking part; in Russia, Moscow's Mosgortrans is also on board.

The project's reach extends into China in the shape of Shenzhen Metro Group. North Africa's involvement includes Morocco's Casablanca Transport, while from South Africa there are two participants - Gauteng's Gautrain and the Rustenburg Municipality. In South America there has been strong involvement from Brazil, with the national body Associação Nacional das Empresas de Transportes Urbanos involved alongside Rio de Janeiro's Fetranspor and São Paulo's Autopass (CMT) and METRA Sistema Metropolitano de Transportes. Among the participants from the Middle East is Musroc, an operator from the Iranian city of Mashhad.

The campaign is supported by a varied cross section of transport operators and policy-makers from around the world, but Flausch is keen to continue building the momentum of the project and to bring more participants on board.

"With 85 sign-ups we have a good start," he says. "Paris has said that it would equip 1,000 buses with the campaign slogan, for example, but this is just the first try and it can sometimes be hard to mobilise people. The industry is generally not very good at marketing its product, so I'm happy with what we have achieved so far, but it is only the start."

A future for sustainable mobility

One central message of the campaign touches on a key issue for the industry - sustainability. Usually this topic is viewed from a technology perspective, with the focus on reducing emissions and fuel use through new bus designs. But for Flausch, there is more to sustainability than this; it is as much about planning and investment as it is about new technology.

"To achieve sustainable mobility you have to combine urban planning with transport policy," he says. "You have to avoid the kind of chaos that you see in cities like Moscow. You also need to look at the long term, which means having a consistent policy that goes beyond one term of government. You have to extend any plan many years into the future."

"The goal is to send out a message to political decision-makers and citizens that public transport plays a key role in achieving sustainable growth, social cohesion and environmental protection."

He points to the success of transport policy in Vienna, which has maintained a consistent strategy since 1975. He also highlights Zürich and Munich as examples of European cities that have the right approach.

"Even Paris and Lyons have been committed to a city planning and transport policy for decades," he notes.

Flausch believes that even when the right decisions are made at a policy level and funding has been approved to put a long-term, integrated plan into action, there is always more to do in order to ensure that the public transport system meets the evolving needs of its customers.

"Many cities have made the right investment, but even then there is much to be done to integrate the various transport networks," he remarks. "For instance, there needs to be a more integrated approach to providing information to passengers who may be using different forms of public transport. There is a lot to do to integrate the operators of different networks so that a city's public transport system offers passengers a real solution. To achieve this I think it is important to have some kind of leadership role at the city level."

Building on success

While he acknowledges that much could be done to improve the public transport services - even in cities that have invested in robust planning and modern infrastructure - Flausch believes the sector is making great progress. Now, the immediate task is to build on the good work that has already been done in order to raise awareness among policy-makers and customers, and to highlight the economic, social and environmental benefits of public transport.

"The next step is to build on the pillars of PT×2, which include key factors like operational excellence, and to keep working to transform people's behaviour so that they make public transport part of their lifestyle," he explains. "In the next 18 months, we will build an evaluation programme to assess how cities are doing in terms of progress in line with the pillars of PT×2, and we will score them to some extent."

"In that way we can identify problems and come up with solutions. That will help us to set the goals for the next two years or more. We will refresh the campaign every two years in light of what we find from our evaluation.

"We are certainly moving forward. Mobility is a critical issue in any big city, so everyone should take an interest in it. We have to keep the leadership in place and motivated."

Public transport in urban areas has been proven to create jobs and grow the overall economy.
The Grow with Public Transport campaign aims to build on successful policies in cities such as Vienna, Zürich and Munich.
Alain Flausch became secretary-general of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) in 2011.

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