Many European cities are facing challenges when it comes to setting up and implementing truly sustainable mobility policies and measures. QUEST is a Quality Management tool developed to help small and medium-sized cities to set up and further develop their sustainable mobility policies and actions with the assistance of an external expert – the QUEST Auditor. QUEST supports European cities in making real progress towards a more sustainable urban transport system, and helps them to find solutions for achieving the desired goals.
QUEST developed an audit tool that evaluates a city's urban mobility policies. The aim of the QUEST audit is to support cities in their efforts of developing more sustainable urban mobility systems. Based on the results of the QUEST audit a tailor-made improvement programme is recommended to each city. The focus of the improvement programme is directly linked to the present state of urban mobility policies. Cities that have completed a QUEST audit receive a certificate which recognises their efforts in sustainable urban mobility planning. Almost 50 cities from all over Europe were involved in QUEST, demonstrating that there is much demand for advice on how to improve urban mobility policies at local level.
QUEST has four stages:
1. QUEST AUDIT
In this stage, the auditor works together with the city to collect objective information on the local transport policy and compares it with the key elements of generally accepted good practice in mobility planning. The result of this stage is the identification of strong and weak elements: the room for improvement.
2. SELF ASSESSMENT WITH STAKEHOLDERS
A wide group of stakeholders, ranging from administrative staff, politicians to business representatives and end-user groups, are invited to share their views on the city performance with regard to sustainable mobility. Differences in opinions are discussed to build consensus for commonly supported actions. The auditor and the city together select a number of areas that will be the focus of the stakeholders' meetings and the action plan.
3. REPORT & ACTION PLAN
The purpose is to set up a list of most promising actions according to room for improvement, feasibility and cost/benefit-estimation. These should be concrete actions that can be taken up over the next year and that aim for a specific result. The action plan should combine the input from the audit, the self assessment as well as from the three meetings and should clearly point out suggested actions to improve the problems identified. At the end of this stage, the auditor writes the Quest City Report.
When the City Council endorses the Action Plan, committing itself to taking up the actions from the City Report (fully or partly), the city will be awarded with a Quest Certificate. The Quest Certificate indicates that the city has gone through the entire process of Quest and aims at implementing its key findings.
The entire sequence of the Quest process where the auditor is actively involved (all 4 stages) takes between three to five months. The auditor guides the city through the Quest Process: auditing, self-assessment and action plan. The auditor is however not responsible for the implementation of the actions. It is up to the cities with their local stakeholders to implement the actions, even long after the Quest auditor will have finished his tasks.
The project resulted in 40 full city reports, including detailed action plans for each city with proposed short- and long-term measures for sustainable transport as well as for organisational improvements to strengthen the city’s capacity. These measure are expected to receive support when implemented, since they have been discussed with city representatives and local stakeholders. Only three cities decided for various reasons not to go through with a full QUEST Audit.
The action plans clearly focus on important issues that really matter for shifting modes to sustainable mobility. Public transport, parking and cycling were the most common areas that were chosen as focal areas. But many cities included also other, related areas to their action plans. These cities have become aware that in the end success will depend on achieving an integrated approach to urban and mobility planning.
The expected impact of the action plans has been assessed with regard to carbon footprint. With a clear set of assumptions estimations have been made of the expected modal shift from car use to environmentally friendly modes of transport in each city. The overall results show a predicted yearly reduction of approximately 5% of car related carbon emissions, culminating in 2,8 million ton C02 up to 2020, which is almost 0,5 ton CO2 per inhabitant. For a relative simple and easy-to-use tool, this is a good and promising result with a high effort/result ratio.
The experiences of the performed audits clearly shows that the QUEST method is practical and applicable, both from the perspective of the auditor and the cities. There is a general acceptance of the method and strong commitment to the results in the Action Plans. Practical testing and evaluation has been a key element in the development of the QUEST method – in line with the spirit of Total Quality Management – with systematic feedback both after the first round of pilot city and at the end of WP5. Room for improvement and considerations for adaptability to local needs and context have been identified, incorporated into the manual and communicated to the QUEST auditors for future use in European cities.