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Blees > Uncategorized > Magdalena Szymańska about how urban mobility should look.
26 February 2024

Magdalena Szymańska about how urban mobility should look.

How should urban mobility look?
I think we should start with the concept of compact city or city of short distances. The example of the USA has shown that suburbanisation is a very detrimental phenomenon. That is why spilling the city into suburbs should already be avoided during the planning stage. On the contrary, we should densify the buildings and offer high-quality public spaces in the central districts. This facilitates planning mobility sustainably and reduces the pressure from individual motorisation. Urban mobility should not rely on the ownership of cars, which are parked more than 90% of the time and take up space that is, in fact, lacking. According to Gdańskie Badania Ruchu, static car journeys on the home-work-home route are made when there are 1.1 people in the car. Data averaged for different destinations is 1.2 people per car. Car, regardless of the type of drive or emissivity, not only takes up space but is also a symptom of a passive lifestyle and contributes to development of diseases of affluence. To summarize, the pillar of urban mobility should be its active forms, such as walking or riding a bike and an attractive public transport offer. Shared mobility and micro-mobility can be considered as additional offers.

What can we do to enhance and promote public transport?
We should start making a reliable diagnosis and analyzing advantages and disadvantages of the actual offer in a given place. Zarząd Transportu Miejskiego w Gdańsku regularly surveys users opinions, by asking for their rating of public transport, their opinion on work of ticket inspectors, by reviewing sources of information about public transport or by asking for a description of a typical journey by public transport. Before planning marketing communication, it’s helpful to know what challenges have to be faced. Whereas before making decisions that are supposed to make said transport more attractive, it’s useful to get to know the users’ opinions. Surely, a measure of attractiveness of public transport is a dense and fit for users’ purpose network, that is punctual, a high standard of transport and the skills of drivers and motormen. We cannot talk about the attractiveness of public transport when it is not prioritized at a strategic level in a community. Two fundings from Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme, Sohjoa Baltic and Sohjoa Last Mile, in which we presented the minibuses on demonstration routes in Gdańsk, had a huge marketing impact. Not only did they show what public transport can look like in the future, but they also
presented the city, the city organizer and the transport operator as moving with the times.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for public transport?
The main challenge is the popularity of individual motorization and the fact that the public space of many Polish cities is dominated by cars. If public transport isn’t prioritized and, for example, the bus is stuck in traffic congestion with cars, it is difficult to encourage people to use public transport.

Cities are obligated to make so-called SUMPs with a 2030 perspective.
What do you think will be the biggest changes and novelties for public transport/public mobility?

What changes can you already see in SUMPs?
SUMP, i.e. Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans with a 2035 perspective, has already been in place in Gdańsk since 2018 and was adopted by a resolution of the Gdańsk City Council. The city’s SUMP developed during workshops with citizens and other stakeholders accommodates issues such as disposing hindrances in pedestrian traffic and improving the quality of pedestrian traffic by preventing vehicles from parking on pavements. In that document we also included contemporary novelties. We assumed the need for integrated micro transport management on demand, including shared cars and rides, network transport
services (transit network companies, taxi, ride-hailing/-sourcing), in the spirit of mobility as a service and autonomous last-mile transport. We should expect smart city solutions to appear in plans developed for individual cities, for example air logistics using passenger and autonomous drones in the future, as well as those solutions dictated by legislation, for instance designation clean transport zones.

What about rural areas? Apart from FRPA, do you see any possibilities of mobility development in these areas?
It seems that after developing a legal framework, transport on demand in these areas would be a great idea. Currently, residents of these areas have to deal with a narrow number of public transport courses. On the one hand, districts cannot afford frequent courses. On the other hand, residents feel that they are forced to have cars. I think that in the future it will also be possible to support the citizens’ mobility in such areas with vehicles at increasingly higher levels of autonomy. In the current financial perspective, project syndicates are already forming in Europe to research the potential of autonomous transport in rural areas and
peripheral regions.

Will legislation finally catch up with technology?
This question is often raised in discussions about various solutions for modern, sustainable mobility and smart cities. It seems that legislation cannot keep up with the technology when it comes to autonomous mobility, but also with the possibility of using drones in the city. The same problem arises with the possibility of using delivery robots on the streets, for example in the pedestrian precincts, or, until recently, before the traffic law was amended, it concerned
electric scooters.

Do you think that autonomous buses or autobuses can be a real solution to some public transport problems? If so, in what time?
There’s no doubt. There are still needed changes in law. I have been observing the development of autonomous last-mile transport for six years. At that time, we wrote the application for the Sohjoa Baltic project together with the partners from the Baltic Sea region in order to analyze the legal aspects of autonomous mobility and to organize piloting of autonomous minibuses in partner cities. The project was a success and Gdańsk became the first polish city to test this technology on a public road. Although I expected the market for autonomous mobility for last-mile collective transport to evolve more quickly, I still believe
that this solution will prove its worth in the decades to come. Especially noteworthy are the autonomous minibuses, which are the optimal solution for accessing junctions and in areas where it is not worthwhile to establish tram routes or bus routes serviced by regular vehicles.

What do you think will be the biggest benefits from autonomizing transport for operators and organizers?
It’s not a secret that transporters, also when it comes to public transport, have problems with hiring enough drivers. Many times this problem is solved by recruitment abroad. Work of the driver is difficult and stressful. Autonomous driving in depot alone would be more efficient. It’s important to add that most accidents in traffic happen because of human mistakes. The advantage of autonomy is that the autonomous vehicle is not affected by emotions. As shown by the example of two autonomous minibuses piloting in Gdańsk, the use of such modern technology also has a positive and huge marketing appeal.

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    Mikołaj Kwiatkowski
    Business Development
    Manager - an expert in
    the field of autonomous vehicles, new technologies and mobility.
    +48 790 302 803