The topic of consumption of time and space and its measurement (m2.h) has been analysed in France in the last 30 years. Research has progressed but it is still far from having explored all different aspects and applications. Inside urban areas, transport and the automotive sector in particular consume a significant amount of space, which is a scarce and precious resource. An excessive consumption is therefore a critical issue. The most relevant question the research poses is whether transport modes occupy too much space in relation to the service they provide.
The research was carried out in two phases: 2007-2008 and 2009-2010.
The research had three main objectives:
- to measure the importance of space use by transport modes in urban areas by extracting unitary values for big metropolitan areas (the area of Paris was chosen);
- to understand the differences in the use of space for parking and circulation, in relation to the different transport modes (walking, cycling, motorcycles, public transport and cars), reasons (work, shopping, leisure ..) and zones (centre, inner suburbs and outer suburbs);
- to provide politicians with a tool of diagnostic instruments to support the adoption of proper mobility policies and measures.
The first study is structured into three sections.
After an introductory distinction between use of space and supply of space, the first part of the research tries to define a unit value for all space consumption areas of urban transport, according to the various modes of transport and in relation to parking and circulation patterns.
Then, in the second part the application in the Ile-de-France area is described. Regarding public transport only the bus service has been taken into consideration, while leaving rail transport to be analysed in the future.
In the third part two further issues are dealt with: the key role of speed as a factor converting time into space and the issue of cost of space consumption.
The follow up research performed in 2009-2010 completed some calculations and parameters for the Ile-de-France area and analysed also the metropolitan area of Lille
The main results of the research are summarised here in the following.
The first part reveal that increasing the speed of traffic in a city is not the solution. The advantages offered by speed are often overestimated, while its drawbacks are underestimated. Speed is the cause of urban density reduction (sprawl) thus affecting accessibility, especially in peripherical areas. Speed is not only a cause of noise, pollution and accidents, but also of social segregation and space consumption: it makes public transport less profitable and increase car-dependance.
Three measures can be employed as remedy:
- increase space availability, which can be a priori a win-win solution, but tends to be very expensive and can negatively affetcs the existing urban landscape;
- reduce the availability of space, by limiting car access to more congested areas in favour of other transport modes;
- redistribute space supply by restructuring the road and sharing space among different modes of transport.