Transport in the European Union: time to decide John Whitelegg Introduction



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Demand Management
The European Union White Paper on transport accepts the argument that we must now "decouple" the growth in demand for transport from economic growth. This is very important. The future direction of transport policy should be able to first of all reduce the rate at which at car-kms and tonne kms of lorry activity grow and then reduce these in an absolute sense. This can be achieved without sacrificing economic growth prospects. Indeed many transport commentators in Europe would argue that we can only continue to develop our economies if we solve traffic congestion and pollution problems. This European tendency echoes changes in UK national transport policy which in spite of some residual support for large and expensive new roads is nevertheless oriented in the direction of demand management and reducing the need to travel. This represents a fundamental policy shift that is more demanding culturally and psychologically than it is in any technical sense. The policy shift is real and documented in UK governmental statemsnt especially the influential "PPG13" (Planning Policy Guidance Note 13, Transport) but the views of many politicians and engineers is that only roads can bring relief from congestion and only roads can deliver economic gains for hard pressed regions. In the next section I shall review the power of demand management solutions to solve both sets of problems.

European Best Practice

There is already a considerable body of experience on achieving significant modal shifts and the associated traffic reduction in European cities and regions. This experience includes the following:


Lemgo in Germany has increased bus usage from 40,000 to over one million in one year
Zurich in Switzerland has held levels of auto ownership and traffic volumes constant for a decade whilst public transit use has soared
Houten in the Netherlands has developed a comprehensive bicycle-pedestrian network and cut car trips per household by 25%
Source: Hammond, B "Buses, bicycles and small town revivals" in US-European Perspectives on the Climate Change Debate, Center for Clean Air Policy, Washington DC, pp 33-41, 1994

Swiss and German research on car-sharing shows that people who have joined a car sharing scheme (not car-pooling) and who have previously owned a car have reduced their car mileage by 50%. The Federal Ministry of Transport in Germany estimates that car sharing will reduce annual vehicle kilometres by 7000 million. In Europe as a while the figure is put at 30,000 million vehicle kilometres reduction.


Source: European Commission (1997) DGXVII (Energy), Improving energy efficiency and reducing gas emissions in urban transport. Report of a series of car free cities seminars
In Aachen (Germany) traffic into the city centre has been reduced by 85% over the last ten years, the car's share of transport has gone down from 44% to 36% and NOx pollution has gone down by 50%
Source: Car Free City Conference, Amsterdam, 1994, Regina Poth, page 45
In Bologna a deliberate policy of traffic restraint involving the closing of streets and park and ride produced a 48% drop in motorised traffic entering the historic core and a 64% drop in cars (1982-1989).
In Groningen (Netherlands) in 1990 48% of all trips within the city were by bicycle, 17% on foot, 5% by public transport and 30% by car.
Source: Pharoah,T and Apel,D (1995) Transport Concepts in European Cities, Avebury
In Manchester the Metrolink tram has taken up to 50% of car journeys off roads in the area it serves. It has replaced over one million car journeys into the city centre each year.
5% of car users switched to a new "City Express" bus service in Belfast in the first 6 months of operation
Edinburgh has set itself a traffic reduction target of 30%
In Leicester 10% more 7-9 year olds were allowed to walk to school after traffic calming
Source: Roads 21: a roads policy for the next century, Transport 2000 (1997)
Levels of cycling in one of the safe routes to schools pilot projects have more than doubled even without the necessary infrastructure works being carried out. More than 120 pupils at Horndean Community School in Hampshire are regularly cycling to school compared with about 50 last autumn and just 36 when the project began in at the end of 1995.
Source: Network News, the Quarterly Magazine of the National Cycle Network, Issue No 6, 4th Quarter 1997
The "Carte Orange" in Paris covering all modes and introduced in 1975 led to a 36% increase in bus patronage. The London travel card led to a 16% increase in public transport use at a time of decline elsewhere.

Source: European Commission (1996) The Citizen's Network. Fulfilling the potential of public passenger transport in Europe


In Zurich substantial investment in public transport coupled with parking and access policies have led to the stabilisation (but not reduction) of traffic growth and to an increase of 30% in the use of public transport (1985-1990). The level of use of public transport is now 470 trips per inhabitant per year, about twice the level of comparable European cities.
Source: OECD (1995) Urban Travel and Sustainable Development, European Conference of Ministers of Transport, Paris
Achieving significant modal shifts, shifting people out of cars, creating more liveable cities, towns and rural areas and meeting traffic reduction targets is responsive to policy. We can achieve traffic reductions. The relative lack of progress in the UK, Spain, Portugal and Greece in recent years is not indicative of a fundamental psychological problem or even a carefully balanced choice to go for cars and freedom. It is the result of policy that either intentionally or unintentionally has encouraged the growth in demand for motorised transport.
This stance also implies a corollary. Moving away from car dependence and shifting to lower levels of car use with higher levels of use of the alternatives brings with it multiple benefits:
it brings economic gains to city centre retailing
it brings national economic benefits
it re-invigorates neighbourhoods and communities
it improves health
it reduces the total amount of public expenditure devoted to new infrastructure and reduces the costs of dealing with the health effects of transport
it helps us to achieve reductions in greenhouse gases
it is inclusive; it helps the young, the disabled and the elderly and it helps the poor
Traffic reduction involves new ways of designing and implementing policy as well as new policy objectives. These new ways of working will require:
clear action by national government to put the right conditions in place that will allow local authorities to do their work effectively
highly co-ordinated and integrated strategies at the level of local authorities to bring together the traditional transport, highway and planning functions with the agents of land use change and traffic generation. A collaborative model of working will have to be formulated and implemented.


Transport demand and land use planning
The main source of grow in demand for transport in Europe is the spatial re-organistaion of society to produce a more "spread out" life style, a concentration of facilities (eg retailing) in fewer locations and an increase in the space time complexity of everyday activities (eg two working adults and children going to different schools beyond walking and cycling distance). Transport planning and infrsastructure provision cannot comepnsate for fundamental inefficiencies in spatial organisation and service delivery. The practical experience of SE England is that the road network cannot cope with the demands made on it as commuter trips incrsease in length and school children are taken to school by car. The most serious congestion "hot spots" in Europe (around Paris, Frankfurt and London) are the result of spatial changes in the organisation of services and facilities and solutions are more lilely to be found in re-engineering those spatial changes and not in providing more roads.

John Robert's (TEST, 1991) comparison of Almere (The Netherlands) and Milton Keynes (England) demonstrated the extent to which land use and transport planning can influence the demand for motorised transport: "the most obvious finding and an important one, was the much higher percentage of trips made by car and the much lower level of bicycle use in Milton Keynes when compared to Almere (65.7% of trips by car compared to 43.1%, 5.8% of trips by bicycle compared to 27.5% respectively)". The influence of compact cities on reducing motorised trips is reviewed in Smith, Whitelegg and Williams (1998). Physical land use planning is a tried and tested method of reducing the length of trips, increasing the use of non-motorised modes and reducing the demand for expensive road infrastructure.



The policy agenda: how do European countries try and solve transport problems?

A number of policies are either currrently in use or actively under development to solve transport problems. They include:

Urban road pricing (including congestion pricing)
Fuel taxation
Taxation on parking spaces at the workplace
Taxation of parking spaces at car intensive developments e.g. out-of-town and edge of town retailing complexes, airports, leisure centres, sports facilities
Regional norms on car parking provision to deter a competitive bidding-up process
Financial support from hypothecated revenues for quality public transport, co-ordination, integration, dense pedestrian and cycle networks and innovative programmes of accessibility enhancement for rural areas
Substantial policy integration at the national level so that transport and land use planning policies support health policies, climate change policies and vice versa
Modification of the "predict and provide" approach which still determines policies towards airport capacity and housing provision
The establishment of regional transport authorities following the German models eg the Rhine Main transport authority in Frankfurt or the Danish model (HUR in Copenhagen). These authorities bring public and private finance to bear on the supply of public transport, high quality integration and co-ordination , "environment ticketing" schemes and high quality information
Providing new methods of funding public transport e.g. fuel taxation as in Germany and employer contribution as in Paris (the "versement" tax on employers)
Eliminating subsidies to private motorised transport through the company car, business mileage and corporation tax regimes

Not all these policy areas will be discussed here. .



Road pricing and fuel taxation is an attractive policy option, particularly if the revenues could be recycled into the local economy to support all the alternatives to the private car. According to the OECD (1995) survey of transport policy options road pricing is being considered in some shape or form in most OECD countries. The Mayor of London intends to introduce a cordon based system in 2003 which will require vehicles to pay £5 to enter the charging area (very roughly coinciding with central London). Plans are well advanced in Cambridge and Edinburgh (UK), toll systems exist in Norway and Stockholm is planning to introduce such a system. Road pricing is generally suggested for those locations where the growth rate in traffic is already the lowest across a number of geographical situations. The growth of traffic into and out of central London has been far lower than the growth in outer London or the growth on the M25 corridor. Road pricing is best seen as a strongly supportive measure alongside a battery of other measures including strong land use controls and modal preference.
The view of the OECD (1995, page 154) is that "The key to the sustainable development strand is a substantial and steadily increasing fuel tax coupled with (other) measures". The UK had a policy of increasing fuel tax by 6% above the rate of inflation at each annual budget but this has now been abandoned by the Labour government. The OECD suggest that the impact of a 7% pa rise in fuel costs in real terms would be to quadruple fuel prices in 20 years ..(leading).. to lower car ownership levels compared with what they would otherwise be, fewer car trips and shorter trip lengths". An overall reduction in car trip making of about 15% , a reduction in trip length of about 25% and an overall reduction of vehicle kilometres of one third is predicted if fuel prices rise by a factor of 2.5 (OECD, 1995, page 156)
Denmark has a very high tax on the purchase of new cars (160%) and has one of the lowest levels of car ownership in the European Union.
The Stockholm proposals provide a model for UK local authorities. Stockholm will be divided into 10 zones covering the whole of the built up area, served by 90 fee stations. Light vehicles (e.g. cars) would pay 0.45 or 0.55 ECU per transit on weekdays between 0600 and 1900. The lower charge is for automatic debiting and the higher for manual systems. HGVs would pay 1.10 ECU per transit if fitted with noise reduction technology and 1.40 ECU if not. Once again higher charges would apply to manual systems. The differential charge for noise indicates a real environmental benefit from road pricing. Vehicles can be charged on a number of different noise and pollution criteria to help achieve air and noise quality objectives as well as congestion targets.
The Stockholm scheme is estimated to bring in about 140 million ECU a year. 13% is allocated to administrative costs, 79% is refunded to residents and the rest set aside for noise reduction and public transport expenditures.
Source: European Federation for Transport and the Environment, Briefing paper on Road pricing, Brussels, 1996

Parking taxes
A well developed system of public and private car parking charges already exists in most Euroepan countries but free car parking (as in employer provided spaces) is a strong incentive to drive for commuter purposes. Depending on the location more than half of the available car parking in a UK town or city is free parking. Private non-residential car parking (PNR) at workplaces, hospitals, universities and airports provide a powerful incentive for the use of car based transport for commuting and other purposes and for the use of cars in the course of work. If local authorities are going to be successful in achieving traffic reduction targets there will need to be strong disincentives to add to the supply of PNR spaces and strong incentives for employers and site managers to develop mobility options that give far more choice than the car. This will in its turn have an impact on the initial concept and location choice to the benefit of public transport, walking and cycling options. A specific car space tax is suggested as a clear fiscal measure to achieve these objectives.
Parking. Restrictions in mainland European cities such as Zurich and decisions as in Amsterdam to reduce car park numbers (Lemmers, 1996) provide best practice examples. Good practice parking policies exist in Sheffield, Winchester, Leeds, Southampton, Cambridge and Edinburgh. An MVA consultancy study of Bristol for the DETR shows that car trips into central Bristol can be cut by 41% by a 75% reduction in on-street parking, higher charges and enforcement of planning permission for PNR parking. (T2000, 1997, Just the ticket, traffic reduction through parking restraint).

Reallocating space and modal preferences. There are many isolated examples of successful policies in this area: the Manchester Metrolink, bus lanes in several British cities, Zurich's prioritisation of public transport, Maidstone Integrated Sustainable Transport (MIST) project, car-free residential and city centre areas (Lubeck, Amsterdam, Berlin, Edinburgh), building homes on car parks, bicycle priority schemes and planning in York and Cambridge, Delft and Groningen (the Netherlands), Detmold and Rosenheim (Germany); Copenhagen's cycling strategy, Darmstadt's (Germany) encouragement of cyclists and pedestrians to share the same large car-free space in the city centre; SMART buses in Liverpool, new tram systems in Strasbourg; innovative car-sharing initiatives (StattAuto) in Berlin, Bremen and Edinburgh e.g. 3000 participants in the Berlin car sharing scheme have removed 2000 cars from the roads of Berlin. Vienna has adopted a policy of constructing several hundred extended pavements at crossings and tram stops to improve safety for pedestrians
Traffic management: Groningen (Netherlands) has developed a sector access model; Bochum (Germany), has prioritised its trams in preference to cars, Gothenburg (Sweden), has divided the CBD into 5 cells which has had the effect of reducing car mobility by 50%; Houten (Netherlands) pop 30,000 has given preference to bicycles, restricted access by sectors and traffic restraint. Oxford (through parking controls and Park and Ride) over the last 20 years has produced one of the lowest rates of traffic growth in the city centre of any UK city.
Marketing. Large scale marketing exercises have increased bus patronage in Lemgo (Germany). Similar but less ambitious schemes can be found in the UK e.g. SMART buses (Liverpool) and TravelWise schemes. System-wide, discounted tickets have helped increase public patronage in Germany e.g. the "Umweltkarte" or "environment tickets" e.g. Freiburg where the Umweltkarte is attributed with a reduction of 4000 cars per day on the roads to the city centre. The German national rail system has increased its patronage through the introduction of the "Bahnkarte" system which provides 50% discounts on all rail ticket purchases after the acquisition of an annual card costing DM 250.
Green Commuter strategies These are increasingly common in the UK e.g. Nottingham (City, County, Queens Medical Centre, Universities and Boots), Derriford Hospital (Plymouth), Oxford University (planning agreement). Pfizer, the US based multinational company has reduced car use at its Sandwich (Kent, UK) plant by 12% in 3 years of the operation of a transport plan. The Rijnstate Hospital in the Netherlands has restricted its car parking provision to 400 spaces for 2050 staff. Transport Demand Management policies have increased the use of public transport from 8% to 40% of all journeys. Restricting car parking availability was the key to this success.


Traffic reduction for heavy goods vehicles

HGVs are a long standing problem in towns and cities, on trunk roads through villages and in or near national parks. They area very serious problem on Alpine transit routes and on key sections of motorways in Germany, France and the UK. In general their impact is much greater than their numbers would suggest. Their impact on noise, road damage, pedestrian and cyclist fears and air quality is large and there is a strong case for reduction in ways that can protect the economy of towns and cities and the consumer who has come to depend on goods and services supplied by HGVs. Considerable progress has been made in this area in mainland Europe, particularly Germany, whilst hardly any progress at all has been made in the UK. In Germany HGV reduction strategies which pay attention to the commercial interests of the companies involved are generally referred to as "City-Logistik" strategies.


City Logistics involves setting up new partnerships and styles of co-operation between all those involved in the logistics chain and in delivering/receiving goods in city centres. These partnerships offer significant reductions in vehicle kilometres and truck numbers and are currently in existence in Germany and Switzerland. City Logistics are a very clear illustration of the importance of developing high quality organisational arrangements and inter-company co-operation agreements in addition to whatever new technology might be appropriate. City logistics have taken transport operations into an area of development that builds links and emphasises co-operation across all players and interest groups.
In Germany partnerships between logistics contractors are reducing lorry numbers and improving the urban environment. These partnerships (known as City Logistik companies in Germany) are in operation in Berlin, Bremen, Ulm, Kassel and Freiburg. The Freiburg example has several pointers to the future shape of freight transport in urban areas. There are currently 12 partners in the scheme. Three of the partners leave city centre deliveries at the premises of a fourth. The latter then delivers all the goods involved in the city centre area. A second group of 5 partners delivers all its goods to one depot located near the city centre. An independent contractor (City Logistik) delivers them to city centre customers. A third group this time with only two service providers specialises in refrigerated fresh products. These partners form an unbroken relay chain, one partner collecting the goods from the other for delivery to the city centre.
The Freiburg scheme has reduced total journey times from 566 hours to 168 hours (per month), the monthly number of truck operations from 440 to 295 (a 33% reduction) and the time spent by lorries in the city from 612 hours to 317 hours (per month). The number of customers supplied or shipments made has remained the same. The Kassel scheme showed a reduction of vehicle kilometres travelled of 70% and the number of delivering trucks by 11%. This has reduced the costs of all the companies involved and increased the amount of work that can be done by each vehicle/driver combination.
These reductions in vehicle numbers and in traffic levels have benefited the companies through higher levels of utilisation of the vehicle stock. It is not in the interests of logistic companies to have expensive vehicles clogged up in city centres, one way systems and on circuitous ring roads. There are clear economic benefits arising from lorry traffic reductions.

Rural Areas
Rural areas have higher levels of dependency on cars than urban areas and have experienced a steady decline in recent years in the range and quantity of facilities that represent the normal everyday destinations for our trips. The decline in rural shops, post offices, schools and health care facilities has been documented in most of the UK's rural areas. For these reasons special care is needed with traffic reduction policies in rural areas.
Rural areas are not universally perceived as particularly difficult in terms of public transport provision and facility development. Rural transport and facility density in Switzerland and Norway are well developed and sit amongst a number of other measures designed to support the residents of rural areas. In the UK this support network is lacking and it would be unreasonable to expect transport policies to make up for the huge deficits in other policies. The existence of a "rural transport problem" is largely dependent on the extent to which organisational and fiscal changes over the last 30 years have left rural areas unsupported. When this support is restored e.g. through financial incentives that will support small schools, post offices, shops and rural enterprise as well as affordable housing then the "rural transport problem" is rendered less intractable.
Central government can support rural areas through a policy of providing resources for small facilities in a dispersed pattern in a rural area particularly in education and health care. In the UK local authorities can support rural areas through the provision of 100% rate relief (a local property tax) for shops and post offices (section 49 of 1988 the Local Government Finance Act). This already happens in East and West Sussex where all but one of the districts offers rate relief to village shops.
Rural inhabitants will still need to travel and unless transport initiatives are vigorously pursued this is likely to be by car. There are potentially a number of alternatives to the car in rural areas:
much improved bus services on main routes into larger settlements
improvements to rural rail services where these exist
community/voluntary car schemes
community bus/dial-a-ride schemes
improvements to pedestrian and cycling facilities
shared use of vehicles e.g. post buses
home deliveries

The exact mix of transport opportunities will vary from area to area and from the deep rural situation to circumstances where a large market town is accessible within half an hour by bus. UK experience with rural bus services and community bus services up to 1985 was successful in many places but was dealt a severe blow by bus deregulation in the 1985 Act. This Act is in urgent need of reform to encourage innovative, community run bus services in rural areas.


In spite of this unhelpful public transport regime there are still very good examples of quality bus services in rural areas. The bus services in Cerrig-y-Druidion in North Wales provide such a link (to Ruthin and Denbigh) and are well used.
Rural railways also continue to provide quality public transport in those areas that are served by this mode. Recent research by TR&IN in Huddersfield has shown how rural lines currently serve their populations (Exeter to Barnstaple, Derby to Matlock, Ipswich to Suffolk and Huddersfield to Sheffield) and how they could do much more to offer a quality, affordable alternative to the car.
In rural Oxfordshire a study of Cholsey and Chalgrove showed that residents of the village with the poor levels of public transport (Chalgrove) travelled 30% further by car than Cholsey residents. Cholsey has a bus or a train at least every hour. The survey (Environment Change Unit, Oxford University, 1996) also showed that the average distance for car journeys within both villages was one mile or less, indicating a significant potential for transfer to non-car modes. It would be mistaken to assume that rural transport demand is dominated by large numbers of long journeys in situations where there is no public transport. The reality is far more varied and has considerable potential for intervention to bring about a shift away from the car.
In Germany the "Buergerbus" initiative has set a high standard for affordable, frequent, community managed rural bus services. These buses have been funded by the state government of North Rhine Westphalia and are operated by locally managed companies. They cover a network of market towns and sparsely populated areas on a variety of frequencies and carry between 2000 and 18000 passengers per annum.
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