The Alpine region belongs not only to the ecologically most sensitive areas but also to one of the most important recreation areas of Europe. Large parts are threatened by pollution caused by increasing car traffic, which has also negative effects on the quality of life and the environment. Growing ecological problems have shown the need for innovative transport solutions. Bad Hofgastein, a well-known tourist resort in the Austrian Alps, with 6.800 inhabitants, 8.000 tourist beds, and 1 billion overnight stays registered per year, has tackled this problem and solved it in a holistic and sustainable way.
The objective of the project consisted in the introduction of sustainable transport management in the tourist resort of Bad Hofgastein. In the course of the project, a logistics concept for integrated transport was to be created, and a shift towards locally emission-free vehicles for freight distribution and public transport was to be implemented. Besides aiming at considerably reducing traffic pollution, this project was designed as a reference project for other tourism resorts. The project had the following goals:
- to improve the quality of life and environment for inhabitants and guests by reducing the traffic pollution.
- to improve delivery practices by developing a sustainable logistics concept (goods for shops and luggage of guests) and thereby reduce pollution.
- In the long run to create a trend towards a “car-free” town.
Due to various delays, such as an unsuccessful invitation to tender for the purchase of hybrid buses and the election of a new mayor for Bad Hofgastein, not all the tasks that were planned for the implementation of the LIFE project were achieved. Notably the creation of a freight distribution centre and the electrification of city buses did not take place. However, the following goals were achieved within the framework of the project.
A logistics concept for integrated and environmentally sustainable freight transport was elaborated and implemented during the project. The reduction of delivery traffic in the centre and the pedestrian area was based on a bundled delivery of shops and hotels with environmentally sustainable vehicles (e.g. electric powered delivery vans).
New environmentally sustainable transport systems and their capability for operation in Bad Hofgastein were investigated and there was a step by step shift from vehicles with internal combustion engines to more environmentally sustainable vehicles (e.g. electric powered vehicles). During the pilot project a total of 14 electric vehicles were acquired for local delivery with additional costs covered through grants. The Environmental effects of the operation of electric vehicles were elaborated in a separate study. The knowledge gained by the commercial use of electric vehicles in the pilot project should be of great value for European car manufacturers.
A considerable reduction in energy consumption and climate related emissions of CO2 and air pollutants was achieved. With the intensive shift towards electric powered vehicles for business purposes, CO2 emissions were reduced by 13%, which corresponds to the reduction target for Austria fixed in the Kyoto Protocol. Due to the low noise level of such engines, a reduction of general noise exposure was also expected.
As mentioned above, the shift from diesel powered busses to electric powered busses during the pilot project was not possible. During test runs in Bad Hofgastein it was found out that the available buses on the market could not satisfy the conditions in Bad Hofgastein (reliability, driving capability on steep slopes). However, the beneficiary was aiming to pursue this in the future by purchasing two hybrid or electric buses.
From the very beginning the population of Bad Hofgastein were integrated into the project by intensive public relations and consciousness-raising work with the goal of changing its transport behaviour (info folders, events, school projects, etc.). Numerous public activities in Bad Hofgastein made the project tangible for the inhabitants and tourists (604,000 overnight stays in the Winter season 2000/2001).
The project also achieved:
- A regularly published newsletter (“Soft Mobility”), which was distributed together with the municipal newspaper to every household in Bad Hofgastein.
- Primary school teachers presented the principle of soft mobility to pupils and parents.
- In September 2000 Bad Hofgastein participated in the International Car Free Day.
- Signs with the logos of soft mobility and the EU were put up at three town entrances in order to call the guests’ and the population’s attention to the model project.
- Within the framework of Austria’s EU Presidency, a European Forum for Soft Mobility in Tourism was organized in Bad Hofgastein from 9 to 11 December 1998. Being a model town, Bad Hofgastein co-organized the congress and presented the LIFE project at this occasion.
The municipality of Bad Hofgastein was awarded national and international prizes for their engagements for sustainable mobility of inhabitants and guests. The experiences gained from the project could be used in many cases. Arguments and recommendations for a large application in other European tourist resorts have been presented. The LIFE project has been incorporated in another model project, which provides for a second model area in Werfenweng, Salzburg.