Brussels, 21 Jan 2004
An EU funded project on the ability of transport and land use policies to increase sustainability has concluded that a 'policy package', rather than individual policies focusing on car use, public transport or land use, is the most effective route to sustainability.
The PROPOLIS project was funded under the 'energy, environment and sustainable development' section of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5), and developed models for predicting and mitigating the negative impacts of policies on environmental, social and economic sustainability. More than 75 per cent of Western Europe's population lives in cities, where quality of life, health and safety are affected considerably by urban transport and land use strategies.
'What is clear is that the existing level of sustainability cannot be maintained. If we continue as we are today, 'business as usual', sustainability will decrease,' Eric Ponthieu, the Commission's scientific officer responsible for the project, told CORDIS News. 'If I were a regional authority, I would be very concerned,' he added.
No single policy is particularly effective on its own, explained Dr Ponthieu. While policies to make car travel less attractive by making it more expensive or slower, do have an impact, they are dependent upon a degree of centralisation in a city. Policies to make public transport more attractive were found to have a minimal effect on car mobility, and can also have the disadvantage of promoting urban sprawl - the further decentralisation of residences and workplaces. 'We have to be very careful in the way we use polices to make public transport more attractive,' said Dr Ponthieu.
Land use polices, designed to increase urban density or mixed land use, were found to have little effect on car mobility without the presence of accompanying measures, but do have the long term benefit of laying the foundations for a reduction in car mobility.
Introducing policies in each of these three areas as a series of 'push and pull' measures will have the effect of reducing car dependency. And Dr Ponthieu believes that the results of this project will go some way towards such a scenario: 'This project will raise awareness among local authorities that something needs to be done,' he said.
PROPOLIS examined the current situation and hypothetical application of relevant policies in seven EU cities: Helsinki, Dortmund, Naples, Vicenza, Inverness, Bilbao and Brussels. The models developed by the project team suggest that the implementation of a policy package in these cities would lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions of between 15 and 20 per cent, and a reduction in traffic accidents of between 8 and 17 per cent, in addition to reduced exposure to noise, pollutants and time spent in traffic. The correct policies would also increase accessibility to the city centre.
Coordinator of PROPOLIS, Kari Lautso from the Finnish small enterprise LT Consultants, assured participants at the final project meeting on 20 January that the results of the project will be put to good use. The consortium would like to see the Commission test the policies that it is recommending, and also intends to take the models developed during the project to other cities in Europe and beyond.
Dr Ponthieu is also certain that the models developed can be applied to other land use issues, such as forestry or marine policy planning.
The ball now lies in the court of policy makers, who have before them information on how to increase the sustainability of Europe's cities, but who must implement the recommendations in order to see results.