Thematic Network for Understanding Mobility Prediction
Co-operation and co-ordination becomes indeed a more and more important necessity not only between the countries or regions but also between different types of institutions which operate at different level: first there is the European Commission with the definition and implementation of common transport policy, then the members states which develop national transport policy, and most of the time concentrate on long term national flows and more and more frequently regions which take an increasing role in transport policy definition in parallel with local institutions, acting in urban areas. All these interventions have to be made in a consistent way so that general goals of sustainable transport policy can be reinforced: from that perspective it is then clear that a common understanding of transport evolutions, according to different transport “stimulus” or policy measures is a very important prerequisite for co-operation in definition of a policy as well as for acceptance of such policies in implementation process.
THINK-UP is a thematic network of the 5th Framework Research Programme whose objective was to develop a “common platform of understanding” for transport forecast in Europe. This meant first to contribute to the development of demand forecasts for year 2005/2010, 2015 and 2020 which was the expected outcome of the project EXPEDITE. THINK-UP and EXPEDITE have worked in close relation all along the life of these two projects for the definition of the modelling tool, the scenarios to be tested as well as for interpretation of results, concerning in particular trends and transport, and modal shift.
The main objective of the project THINK-UP was to build a “common platform” of understanding for transport projections, so that co-operation in the definition of the transport policy, and in particular for long term decision process, could be facilitated and strengthened.
In fact, THINK-UP aims to draw together results on transport demand forecasting and scenario building and to discuss and compare the methodologies used, the underlying hypotheses and the results obtained.
As a thematic network, THINK-UP was organised as a network of transport experts from many different sectors: policy makers, service providers, users and researchers. National representative of transport ministries involved in traffic forecasts of national master plans have also been closely associated and regularly invited so that they could follow the different steps of THINK-UP work from segmentation of the market, to modelling choice and presentation of forecasts so that they could bring their experience, and facilitate common interpretation of national and European results.
The THINK-UP work plan was divided in 4 thematic tasks.
Task 1 - Segmentation of demand and supply of passenger transport markets.
This task aimed to define market segmentation as regards supply and demand characteristics. The workshops involve both users and service providers in order to identify homogeneous demand and supply segments. Furthermore the workshops provided the forum for discussion on the evolution of the different market segments as regards core/competitive positions of the modes. The task defined 10-20 market segments to provide a focus for policy, identifying the core and competitive markets where conditions can be improved further.
Task 2 - Segmentation of demand and supply of freight transport markets.
This task, which was organised in a similar way, focused on freight transport markets, and through the workshops, it brought together users of freight services from different industrial sectors, and also service providers. By identifying specific supply and demand segments, it was possible to consider the trends in freight markets (e.g. changing logistics requirements, improved operating systems). The market segments identified were validated by experts at a final seminar, on the cross-segmentation of supply and demand for transport markets.
Task 3 - Policy variables for mobility prediction.
In this task focus was put on the policy context, but also in the implementation context of the forecasting exercise: policy content defined the policy measures or policy “bundles” to be tested, but the definition of the contextual scenarios, the type of information used, the possible impact of non-transport policies were also taken into account. A particular importance was given to the contribution of different institutional levels, regional, national, Euro
The scientific and technical results can be grouped according to the 4 thematic tasks.
Task 1 - Segmentation of demand and supply of passenger transport markets.
- A concrete policy conclusion can be derived from discussions on the evolution in the air market. The booming market for low-cost airlines and the enormous growth rates in these market segments may aggravate the problem of in-equal fiscal treatment of the modes rail and air. While the level of VAT for international rail trips differs from country to country, international airline tickets are not subject to VAT. Furthermore, fuel (and/ or energy) for rail companies is subject to tax, while airlines have access to untaxed energy. Although tariff schemes for long-distance rail services in Europe will be driven more and more by a yield management system, which allows quick reactions on the price policy of competitors, the presently prevailing in-equality in fiscal treatment of these two modes will most probably result in market distortion.
- A further concrete policy conclusion refers to the close correlation between land-use patterns and the opportunities of public transport operators for providing efficient and user-friendly services. In several examples the land-use and the settlement structure has prevented public transport operators from establishing an efficient public transport system. This aspect emphasises the requirement for an integrated transport policy, which combines the planning for transport infrastructure with land-use planning.
- Mobility – if seen in a context of being more than just a measure for reaching a certain destination, but with utility for its own sake – cannot be explained wholly by objectively measurable (dis-)utilities, since demand for mobility is not wholly derived from the attractiveness of a certain destination. This view on mobility suggested by a presentation within THINK-UP allows the conclusion that there is a substantial share of mobility, whose generation process is totally different from patterns presumed usually and which eludes the classical impact mechanisms of transport policy measures.
- Furthermore, it has been stressed vigorously that individuals’ decisions are not only based on the “minimising objective generalised cost” or “maximising utility” principle, but also – and in some cases to a considerable extent – by “subjective factors”, lik
The interest manifested by the national experts of the countries during THINK UP workshops and seminars, their reactions to the forecasts, their contribution confirm that Member States are demanding the possibility to present and compare their methods, results and questions. The modelling experience of Member States representatives and consultants revealed to be a crucial input in the discussions and should be used on a more permanent basis.
The THINK UP team recommends, in a longer term approach, the formation of a discussion platform, which might be a kind of continuation of the exchanges initiated in THINK-UP workshops concerning in particular differences between European and national results.
This “common working model comparison platform” would avoid many future misunderstandings when looking for consensus in data, scenarios and market segment definition.
Interdisciplinary Centre for Comparative Research in the Social Sciences (ICCR)
Nouveaux Espaces de Transport en Europe -Application de Recherche- (NESTEAR); Network of European Transport Researchers (NET)
Transport Research and Training (NEA)