Sandra Witzel 17 August 2020

The ‘Great Reset’: Reshaping transport for a greener future

The ‘Great Reset’: Reshaping transport for a greener future image

Twelve months ago few people could have predicted a worldwide pandemic sending countries into lockdown, with self-isolation and social distancing becoming the new norm. People have worked from home, children have stayed away from school, and fewer vehicles on the road have resulted in improved air quality and lower CO2 emissions.

The question is, how will this reshape our future? Commenting on the theme of a twin summit at the 2021 World Economic Forum, António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations said: 'The Great Reset is a welcome recognition that this human tragedy must be a wake-up call. We must build more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies (...).'

This includes our relationship with transport but with fears over virus transmission remaining, how can local government and public transport authorities (PTAs) persuade citizens away from their private cars and prevent an increase in carbon emissions? The answer may lie in how major European cities use Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and the steps they are taking to encourage active and greener travel.

Supporting sustainability

MaaS organises transport efficiently, allowing passengers to plan, book and pay for multiple transport types from a single app. It offers convenience and provides an opportunity for travellers to personalise trips, for example by prioritising carbon-friendly routes.

Alongside public transit and on-demand services, MaaS apps support a growing range of transport types: electric vehicle hire, e-scooters, e-bikes, kick scooters and active travel, adding cycling and walking into the mix. Making all available modes easily accessible through a mobile device is an effective way to increase awareness of travel options. But how does MaaS work in practice?

MaaS-enabled cities

Helsinki is often seen as a blueprint for MaaS, with a high level of public-private collaboration. Travellers access multimodal routes with journeys paid for individually or via monthly subscription, all within a MaaS app. Finland also passed legislation to pave the way for MaaS and the digitalisation of transport, ahead of many other countries.

The Netherlands is another interesting example. It implemented, combining bike and train, with the project rolled out in Liverpool, Belgium, Barcelona and Milan. The pilots resulted in an annual reduction in CO2 emissions (approximately 1,000 tonnes), with a cumulative reduction of more than 40,000 tonnes by 2020.

Elsewhere, Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) officially launched its MaaS app last September, providing access to trains, trams, the metro, ferries and shared mobility – from cycles, e-scooters and e-kick scooters to shuttles and car sharing.

Bolder sustainability goals

Given the pandemic, the focus has turned to active travel. This provides an opportunity to gain citizen buy-in on multiple levels from social distancing to sustainability and well-being, encouraging people to leave their cars at home and reduce carbon emissions. Now is the time for governments and local public transport authorities to take bold, decisive action.

Countries across Europe are already seizing this chance. Permanent and ‘pop up’ infrastructures are being implemented in, for example, Berlin, Paris, Brussels and Milan. The UK government announced a £2bn package to encourage walking and cycling, while Leicester City Council and Leicestershire County Council received more than £1m of funds to extend their active travel partnership.

From business grants for showers, electric bike fleets and minibuses to the Wheels 2 Work programme offering low-cost bike hire for new employees and apprentices, sustainable travel has a chance to thrive – and MaaS has a major role to play in supporting this shift.

An appetite for change

The European Green Deal has ambitions to create ‘the first climate-neutral continent’. Given that road traffic accounts for around three-quarters of transport emissions, the EU wants to achieve a 90% reduction by 2050 through sustainable mobility. The pandemic has thankfully not dampened this enthusiasm.

It is sobering to think the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air reported 11,000 fewer deaths related to air-pollution in Europe because of lower pollution during the pandemic. Cleaner air is a matter of urgency too. With active travel and sustainable transport at its core, MaaS can provide easy and convenient access to all available modes – including active travel – to support the drive for more ‘liveable’ environments in our towns and cities. Local governments and PTAs must not ignore this wake-up call if they are to foster permanent change and start the ‘great reset’ for the benefit of society and future generations.

Sandra Witzel is head of marketing for SkedGo

Sutton Councils IoT pilot project image

Sutton Council's IoT pilot project

David Grasty, head of digital strategy & portfolio for Kingston and Sutton Councils, outlines how in-home sensors have improved the safety of vulnerable residents living in social housing.
SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Director of Children's Safeguarding and Care 

Gloucestershire County Council
Up to £116,391, plus relocation support
We are looking to fill this vital role at a very important time for us.  Our children’s services team is on an important journey of... Gloucestershire
Recuriter: Gloucestershire County Council

Director of Adult Social Care (DASS)

Hull City Council
£98,166 - £98,166
We are now seeking to recruit an exceptional transformational leader to build on our existing success. Kingston upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire
Recuriter: Hull City Council

Senior Building Surveyor

Bedford Borough Council
£34,728 - £36,880 per annum
An exciting opportunity has arisen following a comprehensive restructure of Economic Growth and Property. Bedfordshire
Recuriter: Bedford Borough Council

Senior Planning Officer

Three Rivers District Council
£30,451 to £33,782 (exc. LW)
We are looking to appoint a Senior Planning Officer. Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire
Recuriter: Three Rivers District Council

Insurance Manager

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£43,833 to £53,115 per annum
An opportunity has arisen for a skilled and experienced insurance professional to lead a busy and friendly Insurance Team providing a... Wandsworth, London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue