Alain Flausch, executive director of the International Association of Public Transport
Photo credit: UITP
UITP invited its members in 92 countries around the world to join forces during European Mobility Week Sept. 16-22 to display the "Grow with Public Transport" campaign message in buses, metros, trams, stations and online to make a coordinated call for greater support in order to obtain more and better public transport.
For the first time, the public transport sector united across five continents and 31 countries —including 21 capital cities — to speak with the same voice at the same time. Why? To show that the public transport sector is united with a common aim: making cities better places to live and work. Unless we take urgent measures to address mobility habits, the cities of the future will be gridlocked, polluted and a hindrance to sustainable growth. We need: urban policies that favor sustainable modes; stable and secure financing for the sector; a sound legal framework as well as a commitment to service innovation from the sector itself to ensure a significant and decisive modal shift to sustainable modes.
Some 90 city and regional public transport operators and authorities and industry members responded to the call and the "All Together for Public Transport Growth" campaign was visible in almost 60,000 buses, trams, metros, stations and stops across the participating networks. The campaign participants together transport 85 million passengers each day — a staggering 24 billion per year — and the campaign messages will have been seen by up to 200 million people. Using the "Grow with Public Transport" images, we wanted to give a friendly face to public transport but at the same time pass a serious message to citizens and politicians alike: that the sector is economically, environmentally and socially beneficial and that with public transport, cities are more pleasant places in which to live and work.
Developing city economies
In Europe alone, the economic value of public transport services is estimated at €130-150 billion per year. In many cities, such as Amsterdam, Barcelona and Dublin, public transport operators are the largest city employers. The campaign participants together employ almost 300,000 people, roughly equal to the combined headcount of Procter & Gamble and Santander. Public transport is a job intensive industry on both the operation and supply chain sides, employing workers with many different professional backgrounds and is constantly promoting innovation in the search for greater productivity and efficiency.
If we as a sector can double the market share of public transport by 2025, we could create an additional 7 million green jobs globally in an industry that already employs 13 million people around the world.
Each year €100 billion, or at least 1 percent of GDP, is lost to the European economy as a result of traffic congestion, which is simply unsustainable. This is not just a European problem; in the context of strong population growth in certain parts of the world, if we cannot convince people to choose sustainable modes, rising levels of congestion will pose a serious hindrance to economic growth and the sustainability of cities.
Public transport makes environmental sense. For every kilometer traveled, private motorized transport modes like cars and mopeds emit 3.5 times more greenhouse gas per passenger than public transport. If more people choose cars and mopeds to get around, current projections indicate that urban transport greenhouse emissions will rise by 30 percent by 2025. However, a massive shift to public transport would prevent the emission of half a billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in the year 2025. Despite a significant overall increase in urban trips, this would mean that urban transport emissions would be in line with the objectives of international climate negotiations.
Public transport is already at the forefront of delivering green transport solutions and is fully on track to further improving its green credentials. In urban areas, rail transport already runs almost exclusively on electricity. Rail as well as bus manufacturers are working on cutting energy use through traction efficiency improvements, energy recuperation and weight reduction. Bus fleets have been a testing ground for alternative fuels for many years and visitors to the Geneva World Congress will not have failed to notice the vast array of electric buses on display and the amount of innovation in the sector as a whole.
Political backing for sustainable modes
Fortunately, we are progressively building consensus among politicians around the world that we need to do something about urban mobility; we now have a window of opportunity to promote public transport as a viable alternative to private motorized modes. Taking bold, decisive action in favor of sustainable transport may not always be politically easy, but in the long term it can often be cheaper than the "business as usual" scenario. In cities with a high modal share of public transport, walking and cycling, the cost of transport for the community can be as much as 50 percent lower than in cities where the private car is king. What’s more, capital investment in public transport projects sparks a chain reaction in business activity, generating value to the wider economy of up to three or four times the initial investment.
Provided with the right conditions, public transport can thrive. With better public transport in both qualitative and quantitative terms, cities can cut traffic congestion, increase road safety, foster social inclusion, reduce pollution and be a motor for sustainable economic growth and job creation. The future of the world’s cities depends on it.
Alain Flausch is secretary general of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP)