London is discussing to extend its current ‘Ultra Low Emission’ zone in the city centre before 2020 as initially planned. In Paris, in an attempt to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2050, the mayor decided to ban pre-1997 built cars in selected city areas. Last year, Brussels introduced a 50 hectare pedestrian area, the largest in Europe. These are just a few of the more than 290 cities in the EU that have some form of restricted access for cars in the city centre.
Multi-modal, multi stakeholder approach required
By 2050 70% of the population is expected to live in cities, meaning air quality and congestion will only pose even larger challenges to mayors and city planners around the world. Of course, banning old and polluting vehicles is one part of the equation, but what are the alternative mobility solutions offered to citizens? In the end, people still need to move around to go to work, shop and visit friends. Also, no two cities are alike. You have densely populated and smaller ones, developed and less developed, highly or less motorised …
Whatever the case, you will have to start from the existing situation. A city is no empty drawing board.
Sustainable Mobility Indicators to the rescue
If you were tasked to develop an urban sustainable mobility policy, would you not welcome some scientific based, yet very concrete roadmap with practical suggestions? Some direction on where to go? Here is where WBCSD and its SMP2.0 project enter the picture. Who? Indeed, quite a mouthful.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development in Geneva gathers around 200 forward-thinking global companies that want to create a sustainable future for business, society and the environment. They go beyond what a typical ‘think tank’ would do: they not only help drive the debate and generate constructive solutions but in fact also look at implementing those solutions. It’s within this organisation that the ‘Sustainable Mobility Project’ (SMP2.0) was born with the aim to ‘Improve the quality of life and the attractiveness of cities with a focus on creating an integrated sustainable mobility system’.
Toyota is a member and co-chair of this project next to other car manufacturers such as BMW, Daimler, Ford, Honda, Nissan and Volkswagen and mobility related companies such as BP, Bridgestone, Brisa, Fujitsu, Michelin, Pirelli and Shell. Together, the project members have put in place a practical toolkit – which includes the Sustainable Mobility Indicators (SMI) – for cities to map out mobility priorities and find possible measures.
From theory to practice: Toyota in Bangkok
The project has evolved around 6 demo cities: Indore, Bangkok, Chengdu, Campinas, Hamburg and Lisbon. Each project member is linked to a city in which they have a larger involvement. For Toyota that city is Bangkok, and more in particular Sathorn street which is one of the busiest city axis in this business district. Take a look at the impact that just a few measures can have on the man on the street. Literally.
Reducing traffic in the streets is a joint effort. One person leaving his car at home will not have the desired impact. It requires a behavioural change of many stakeholders, such as:
- Students: started using the shuttle bus to/from school. During the day, when these shuttles are not needed, they are being used by rental companies as hotel limousine and/or company vans
- Companies: started implementing flexible working times for their employees, reducing the average commuting time to 1.3h per round trip.
- For all: Park and Ride formulas were developed, discouraging shoppers from entering the city with their private cars
Click here for a deeper understanding of how the Sustainable Mobility Indicators work.
The big question mark was whether people would actually change their mobility behaviour the way Toyota had modelled it using the Sustainable Mobility Indicators:
- The end user benefited from more convenience and lower costs
- For society: solutions are based on a business model that is sustainable (economically viable) on the long term, on a costsharing principle (no large investments by the city) and resulting in clear benefits (less congestion, better air quality, safer environment).
Why is Toyota involved?
Why would a company whose core business it is to sell cars want to be involved in a project which may result in having fewer cars on the road? Here are three good reasons.
One, we want to contribute to solving the mobility puzzle that cities are facing.
Two, we’ve built up knowledge on what people expect from a car. Our knowledge of mobility needs beyond a car is still at its infancy. That is why we want to better understand what the issues are and how these can be overcome along with the cities.
And three, we need to deepen our engagement level with stakeholders that are different from our traditional partners in the automotive industry for the technologies to come, namely ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems), Fuel Cell, and last but not least autonomous driving.
It’s clear that Toyota wants to be an active player in the field of urban mobility.