Transport and energy were selected as national priority areas for action in 2009 by the Italian Ministry for the Environment. Commuting between home and work, especially in industrial areas, generally offers good opportunities for improvements in efficiency in the management of mobility. Inadequate public transport often means that employees in these industrial districts have no choice but to use their own private vehicles to travel to and from work. This private traffic, together with commercial traffic during rush hour, causes serious congestion problems in the access routes to industrial areas. Road traffic also affects air quality, road safety and noise, while increasing carbon dioxide emissions and leading to increased economic and social costs for individuals, businesses and the community. The industrial district of the municipality of Correggio was identified as a suitable location for demonstrating the project’s proposed Integrated Model for Sustainable Management of Mobility in Industrial Districts (I.M.O.S.M.I.D.).
The I.MO.S.M.I.D. project aimed to carry out trials in the Correggio district in order to help implement the ‘Protocol of Intent for Air Quality’ tackling environmental pollution, which was signed by local government agencies and business associations in the Reggio Emilia province. This protocol includes the promotion of integrated transport systems. Moreover, the project planned to identify and define an innovative integrated governance model inspired by criteria for sustainable mobility. The idea was to try to satisfy the growing demand of supplementary local public transport services and reduce the use of private vehicles. A key aspect of the project was to bring together transport and energy issues in a system capable of exploiting energy produced from renewable sources trialled in a pilot industrial district.
The I.MO.S.M.I.D. project promoted the use of car pooling with electric vehicles and other sustainable mobility models in the industrial district of Correggio in the northern Italian province of Reggio Emilia. Twenty-five vehicles were rented by the project and made available to workers willing to participate in daily car pooling to work and back. This opportunity was well received by the workers and 12 have continued to use the vehicles after the end of the project (by renting the vehicles instead of getting them for free). However, the initiative to promote private car pooling was less successful than expected. Just two groups of workers sharing private cars were registered at the end of the project.
The system put in place by the project had an impact on local regulations and helped promote further shared transport opportunities. The project also contributed to a change in the attitude of companies located in the industrial district. They are now willing to install recharging stations for electric vehicles. Surrounding towns are also installing recharging stations and supporting the access of electric cars to town centres. In general, the promotion of sustainable mobility models – numerous events were organised by the project – generated much interest among the public. Information materials were distributed to the pupils of local primary and secondary schools. The proposed system, however, is restricted by the need of external co-financing and lack of sustainability in the long term.
Nevertheless, the project team calculated that the annual savings for the users of the car pooling system with electric vehicles amounted to €37 per person. It is estimated that the use of individual cars will decrease in the future, with expected additional savings and the creation of job opportunities. The project’s use of electric vehicles was also estimated to result in saving of 20.8 TEP (Tonnes Equivalent Petrol) and 61.2 tonnes of CO2.
Furthermore, the project team analysed the system’s implications for EU policy and legislation following the participation in several international meetings and conferences on the theme of sustainable mobility. They found that the project has less to offer to EU policy makers than to national or regional authorities. Nevertheless, the project contributed to the local decisions at municipality level, such as the establishment of cycling lanes, electric recharging stations and the extension of a shuttle bus for workers. At the regional level, the project results helped with the drawing up of a strategy for air quality, which includes some of the measures foreseen in the I.MO.S.M.I.D.‘ Protocol. It also contributed to the reduction of GHG emissions foreseen in the implementation of Piano Clima of the Emilia Romagna region.
In short, the key results can be summarised thus:
- Replication of I.MO.S.M.I.D.‘ in other countries and contexts appears possible only by securing external financing of operations; the lack of self-sustainability is actually the main obstacle to replication;
- The proposed method is presently too resource-intensive. The efficiency of the system may be increased if and when the cost of electric vehicles decreases. This could happen if European car producers decide to focus more on sustainable mobility rather than on luxury vehicles;
- Possible amendments to the present policies in favour of the proposed system could focus on direct incentives to use and produce electric vehicles;
- The key stakeholders for such an approach could be the car producers as well as the local administrations (in charge of providing the needed infrastructures, e.g. the charging stations) and companies;
- The message for policy makers, based on the results of this project, is that the promotion of sustainable mobility should be the top priority and is incompatible with giving support to oil companies and traditional car producers contrast with what has been a common practice throughout Europe over the recent decades.