An EU project will improve sustainable transport alternatives to the car by—for example—focusing on travellers’ preferences, making it easier to get from door to door, and concurrently integrating green transport solutions in the urban environment.
Passenger cars currently contribute about 13 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Denmark, whereas public transport can get close to zero if there is a switch to electric trains and buses, and if people are also motivated to cycle and walk to and from public transport facilities.
However, persuading people to switch to public transport is not all that easy. It is about changing habits and attitudes, but also about making the urban environment and stations more attractive and coordinating the individual means of transport better.
“Innovative and digital public transport solutions and attractive sharing schemes only have an effect if people use them. It’s therefore not enough for us to focus on developing all the technological solutions. We must also have a strong focus on user-oriented and behavioural perspectives,” says Professor Otto Anker Nielsen from DTU Management.
He heads a new four-year EU project entitled ‘Seamless sustainable everyday urban mobility’—also referred to as EASIER. The project is supported by ERA-NET Cofund Urban Accessibility and Connectivity (ENUAC) and national sources—in Denmark—Innovation Fund Denmark. The project is aimed precisely at creating sustainable transport from a more holistic angle, where user perspective and research into behavioural changes are included as key aspects.
“The aim is to increase the share of sustainable transport types such as bus, train, and metro, shared mobility services, walking, and cycling in Europe. The whole range of aspects must be connected holistically seen from the traveller’s perspective—from door to door. The solutions must also be incorporated as an integral part of the urban environment of the future,” says Otto Anker Nielsen.
Therefore, the EASIER project includes leading experts in behavioural modelling and urban planning.
“By including passenger preferences and knowledge on how to nudge and influence attitudes and behaviour, we can gain new knowledge in this area, which can be used in future urban and public transport planning in Europe,” says Otto Anker Nielsen.
Combines knowledge about transport, behaviour, and urban development
Previous studies have shown that it is possible to achieve large increases in passenger numbers in public transport if passenger preferences are taken into account in new systems. Changes in urban spaces around stations can also boost passenger numbers markedly. In addition, it is crucial to shorten waiting time and create cohesion between all the different transport options, making it easy to switch from one transport type to the next.
“We already have much knowledge about passenger behaviour in public transport, cohesion in door-to-door travel, optimization of timetables, and development of new green and healthy urban spaces with good bicycle tracks and footpaths. The ambitious and unprecedented aspect of the EASIER project is that it combines knowledge and research in all areas,” says Otto Anker Nielsen.
Among other aspects, the project combines large volumes of already existing data from traditional transport habit surveys, and traffic analyses with qualitative studies on preferences and experiences, as well as new data sources such as travel cards and smartphone data. It also includes analyses of the regulatory framework for transport, ticket prices, and urban development research.
“It isn’t enough to meet passengers’ preferences or influence attitudes towards a healthy lifestyle where you leave your car at home. It will also be necessary to look at how legislation and other incentive structures such as prices can promote the desired behaviour,” explains Otto Anker Nielsen.
The EASIER project consists of several work packages that ensure the interdisciplinary approach. Figure: Helge Hillnhütter NTNU.
In addition to being interdisciplinary, the project involves partners from other universities, national and regional authorities, transport companies, providers of shared transport schemes, and user organizations from Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Sweden. These four countries have been chosen because they have comparable transport systems and climate zones, as well as relatively high market shares of cycling and public transport, and the exchange of experience thus provides real value.
The project will result in a number of specific decision-making tools and design principles for urban and transport development, as well as legislative regulation.
“The tools that the project develops can be used in the future planning of how new sustainable transport initiatives are to be designed and implemented for maximum impact and optimal integration in the urban environment,” says Otto Anker Nielsen.