Migration from rural to urban centres, changing lifestyles, and increasing motorisation rates are among the many factors that have contributed to congestion, pollution and noise, and to reduced efficiency of the transport systems in our cities. Over the last few years, scientists, transport operators, the industry and policy-makers have developed a wide range of innovative concepts to make urban transport more efficient, competitive and sustainable. Despite significant progress, a number of barriers have prevented the large scale implementation of these innovative concepts.
The mission of the project NICHES is to stimulate a wide debate on innovative urban transport and mobility between relevant stakeholders from different sectors and disciplines across Europe.
The high-level goal of the NICHES project was to support the development and adoption of innovative technology and policy-based urban transport concepts that would contribute to establishing sustainable urban transport systems. This in turn was expected to contribute significantly to a more efficient and competitive transport system, a healthier environment and improved quality of life in urban areas.
This high-level project goal was translated into five overall project objectives:
- to enhance discussion and knowledge exchange between practitioners, experts and researchers in the field of urban transport in Europe, ensuring that different sectors would be involved (transport authorities, operators, industry, academics, and other researchers as well as users);
- to provide a forum for those involved in European research activities and projects as well as national, local and industrial initiatives in the area of innovative urban transport concepts to share their knowledge and experience;
- to develop an accessible document store and a knowledge-base on innovative transport concepts as well as integrated urban transport strategies, in which several innovative concepts are implemented in a combined way;
- to identify future research needs and pave the way for innovative transport concepts, meeting mobility needs in 2020;
- to develop a platform for capacity building (tools and content) for practitioners with guidance on developing and implementing innovative concepts in the framework of integrated urban transport strategies.
NICHES provided coordination for a wide range of innovative urban transport concepts through a combined programme of stakeholder involvement via targeted in-depth interviews, expert working groups (adopting a successful, previously adopted focus group approach), and validation and dissemination workshops, accompanied by desk research and good practice in the field of urban transport.
The NICHES work process was oriented at gradually broadening the impacts of relevant innovative urban transport concepts. It was structured in four steps, accompanied by four Working Group (WG) meetings, plus the parallel dissemination and exploitation of results. Each step involved the experts invited for the WG meetings, as well as the selected interview partners, participants from other ongoing R&D activities and the NICHES Advisory Committee. These four steps were:
- Establish the State-of-the-Art;
- Assess success factors, barriers and transferability of innovative concepts;
- Integrate innovative concepts into coherent transport strategies;
- Research and policy recommendations.
The thematic areas of the four working groups defined by the consortium were:
- New forms of seamless mobility services;
- Innovative approaches in city logistics;
- New Non-Polluting and Energy-Efficient Vehicles;
- Innovative Demand Management Strategies.
This project facilitated the coordination of research activities of academic institutions, industry, mobility operators and transport authorities in the area of innovative urban transport concepts. It also helped to identify and disseminate excellent, transferable examples of innovative transport measures in the most crucial areas of urban transport.
The main achievements reached by the project are as follows.
1) Establish the State-of-the-Art
The main achievement was the development of the document 'State-of-the-Art in Developing Innovative Transport Concepts in Europe', which provides an overview of this topic, and defines, describes and analyses the 12 selected NICHES innovative concepts and examples of their successful implementation in cities across Europe. These innovative concepts, which the other steps focused on, are:
- Urban Lift-sharing Services;
- Space Management for Urban Delivery;
- Policy Strategies for Clean Vehicles;
- Transportation Management Associations (TMAs);
- Public Bicycles;
- Inner-city Night Delivery;
- Biogas in Captive Fleets;
- Local Taxes or Charges, Ring-fenced for Transport;
- Call-a-bus Services;
- Alternative Solutions for Home Delivery;
- Joint Procurement of Clean Vehicles;
- City-wide Campaigns.
More specifically, the document included:
- precise definitions for all selected concepts and description of different approaches that they embrace;
- an explanation of the selection process for concepts by providing arguments that clarify why a concept suits the NICHES approach;
- descriptions of both the context of the four thematic areas (see the section 'Methodology') and the selected concepts by identifying macro trends, driving forces as well as barriers and problems;
- a brief description of examples chosen as representative of the concept;
- a first snapshot of synergies and integrative potential within and between thematic areas and concepts.
2) Assess success factors, barriers and transferability of innovative concepts
The main achievements were:
- the identification and involvement of key actors that implemented the selected innovative concepts in different forms and places, who provided crucial input to the project;
- the production of the report 'Success factors and transferability of innovative urban transport concepts', which provides deta
- Before performing new research it is advisable to consider the existing results. It is strongly recommended to enhance activities to foster the use of existing research results, because it can help to avoid repetitive work and permits to use existing knowledge as a valuable basis to build on.
- Improve assessment methodologies and create practical decision support tools. In spite all the progress made concerning knowledge about the impact of measures to tackle urban transport problems, adequate decision support tools are still lacking.
- Strengthen research on connections between urban transport measures and urban development and land use planning.
- Assess and analyse adverse and unforeseen effects. Measures in urban transport that seem promising are often implemented without adequately assessing and analysing possible adverse effects.
- The understanding of change management is still lacking. Research should address this topic to a higher degree and try to understand the key drivers (and barriers) for change.
- Improve the understanding of the impact of demographic change on urban transport. Low birth rates and increasing life expectancy will result in new mobility patterns and demand for adequate and tailor-made mobility or delivery services.
- Give non-motorised transport an appropriate status in research activities. Walking and cycling play a significant role in urban transport and have unexploited potential to contribute to more sustainable transport patterns.
- Strengthen research on urban freight innovation. More dedicated research is required to better understand patterns of urban freight traffic, as well as research on technical solutions to facilitate innovation.
- Better consider the full spectrum of alternative fuels and market uptake. Some NICHES experts stated that research is generally too much focussing on hydrogen, which will not play a significant role in transport for a long time, if ever. Ethanol, biogas and biomass-to-liquid/gas (BTL/G) are alternatives that need further research and development to exploit the unexplored potential to increase energy efficiency and economic viability in the production and to decrease emissions from the vehicles.
- Profile the mobility culture and enhance understanding of mobility behaviour. Despite their crucial importance, behavioural aspects of transport and mobility are underestimated in a rather technology-oriented research arena.
- Foster interdisciplinary appro
Different urban transport experts during the NICHES working group meetings have elaborated the following policy recommendations addressed to EU policy makers.
- Provide clear EU-wide definitions of sustainable urban transport and clean vehicles.
- Strengthen the status of soft measures in EU policies. Soft measures have proven to be cost-efficient and effective tools to tackle urban transport problems. Nevertheless they often seem to be neglected in discussions about the future direction of EU policies in the field of urban transport.
- Encourage development of Sustainable Urban Transport Plans (SUTP).
- Foster EU-wide promotion of and training on sustainable urban transport.
- Continue support for EU-wide networking activities. A continued and stable support for thematic networks with a long-term perspective is recommended as efficient way to promote the exchange of experiences.
- Provide practical guidance on implementation. The EC should take a stronger role in providing practical guidance on implementing promising urban transport measures. This could be achieved by providing more project funding for such tasks .
- Support standardisation activities for clean vehicles and road pricing. NICHES experts identified some areas related to the innovative concepts, where standardisation is lacking and poses barriers to the uptake of clean vehicles and road pricing schemes. The EC should support standardisation activities in the following areas:
- Standards for emission checks for clean vehicles in order to gain consistent results in Europe and to foster clean vehicle uptake;
- Standards for noise emissions of vehicles (e.g. for night deliveryservices);
- Standards for road pricing technologies to facilitate technical harmonisation and interoperability.
- Provide adequate framework for urban road pricing. The overarching legal framework for transport pricing is still very incomplete at the European level and relates entirely to heavy good vehicles. The EU should, within the limitations given by the subsidiary principle, provide an enabling legislation for urban road pricing. This also requires addressing privacy concerns related to necessary monitoring and control within urban road pricing schemes. The EU should also continue work on the provision of a common methodology on charging.
- Review legislation and regulations for urban transport innovations. The project highlighted tha