In order to achieve a significant reduction in air pollution, which is considered the main cause of global warming, national and international measures must be combined to reduce emissions of harmful greenhouse gases. To this end, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) and the Kyoto Protocol (1997) were adopted. The EU has reiterated its firm commitment to the Kyoto Protocol on a number of occasions. To aid progress towards meeting the target, the Community has approved a programme on climate change and a Communication on its implementation. The programme identifies, among others, transport as an area for priority measures. Community legislation in this field is principally aimed at cutting emissions from road vehicles, namely to: reduce polluting emissions (catalytic converter, roadworthiness test); reduce the fuel consumption of private cars (in collaboration with car manufacturers); promote clean vehicles (tax incentives). The idea behind this innovative project was to encourage private vehicle owners to switch to public transport (in this case to buses) – and to do this by using lower emission buses, and by making the service more flexible and thus more ‘demand responsive’.
The overall objective of the SIDDHARTA (Smart and Innovative Demonstration of Demand Handy Responsive Transport Application) project was to reduce vehicle emissions in the City of Genova by the introduction of a pilot ‘demand responsive’ public transport service on certain urban bus routes. Two bus routes (numbers 276 and 277) in areas of the city, which at project start were operated by diesel vehicles, would be switched for methane-run vehicles operated “on demand” i.e. the user would communicate (booking via call centre, Internet or other means) the start and the destination of his/her trip; a computer system would then match the request to the vehicle in the optimum way. At the same time public awareness-raising activities would encourage a modal switch among motorists from private cars to public transport. Other objectives were to:
- Measure any improvements in air quality obtained by the substitution of the diesel vehicles with methane vehicles and by the modal shift (from private cars to public transport).
- Evaluate the potential of the replication of this system in other areas in order to assess the air quality improvement at an overall city level.
- Publish a “Best Practice Guide” for the development of environmentally-friendly flexible public transport services of transfer value to other European cities.
The so-called DrinBus “bus on demand” scheme trialled on routes 276 and 277 of the City of Genova proved both popular and very successful. The pilot scheme, which ran from June 2004 to September 2005 showed an increase from 40% to 63% of numbers of daily public transport users within the target zone. At the same time car and motorbike use decreased in both cases by 4%. The initiative proved particularly successful over short distances where users reported arrival on time, despite the necessary deviations to pick up and drop off other passengers. Notable environmental benefits were a significant reduction of air emissions within the project area: Carbon Monoxide (- 1%), total suspended particles (- 0.3%), Nitrogen Oxides (- 4.1%), Sulphur Dioxide (- 3.7%) and Volatile Organic Compounds (- 0.3%).These positive results derive both from the replacement of old buses with new vehicles fuelled by methane gas and from an increased number of local users who switched from their cars to the DrinBus service. There was also some reduction of noise emissions, as a result of the shifting of the transport from private cars to the pubic transport system. The main socio-economic impact was a reduction of the social health costs, estimated for the area within which the project took place at €34,500 per year. This rises to €187,744 per year, as the beneficiary intends to replicate its scheme in two other areas of the city. Finally, the project was supported by a very successful advertising campaign promoting the DrinBus service throughout the city (bus stops, brochures, posters and tickets etc.) The DrinBus scheme has proven so popular that the beneficiary is also considering extending it to other Liguria provinces. This project has been selected as one of the 22 Best LIFE Environment projects in 2006-2007