Editor's choice
7 Nov 19

Fleet Europe Summit: “Cities need more mobility products and services”

“The fridge was one of the most important mobility inventions ever,” said Miguel Gaspar, Deputy Mayor of Lisbon. No, the first speaker on the Main Stage at the Fleet Europe Summit had not lost his marbles. Gaspar offered an activist, public-sector perspective on mobility innovation. And launched a plea to the providers in the room: “We want to go further, and for that, we need you to offer more mobility products and services.”

“In our rapidly changing, increasingly unpredictable industry, vision is what we need,” said Steven Schoefs, Editor in Chief of Fleet Europe, introducing the Main Stage Sessions, on the second day of the Fleet Europe Summit. And vision is what we got. 

Leading by example
Lisbon is just down the road from Estoril, where the Fleet Europe Summit took place. But Gaspar (pictured) was not invited just because of the proximity. As Deputy Mayor, Gaspar is in charge of Mobility and Safety, and under his management, Lisbon is leading by example. 

“One area is decarbonisation of our fleet. The city of Lisbon operates 200 light vehicles, 91% of which are pure electrics and 9% are hybrids. However, we have no viable options for our heavy-duty fleet – garbage trucks and buses, for instance. Of our parking and shared fleet, 45% is electric. If the rest isn’t, it’s because we haven’t found alternatives.”

And those alternatives are urgently needed: “We subscribe to the main message of the Paris Climate Agreement. We want to leave the world a better place for our children and grandchildren. Europe has to cut its CO2 emissions by 26%. That won’t happen without cities, and it won’t happen in Portugal if Lisbon doesn’t lead the way.”

Stricter targets
Portugal has set itself an even stricter target: “We were the first country to say that we would go carbon-neutral, by 2050. That means emissions have to drop by 97%.” In a 2011 whitepaper, the EU published the ambition to halve the share of ‘conventional’ cars (i.e. ICEs) by 2030 and to eliminate them completely by 2050. And then there’s the target of eliminating road deaths, by 2050 in the EU, by 2030 in Portugal.

Even if those targets sound overly ambitious, they clearly indicate which way the wind blows. And this is where cities like Lisbon come in. Cities are uniquely placed to contribute to resolve problems like emission and congestion, because they have the institutional instruments to effect real change at a local level. This is where Gaspar mentioned the fridge:

“Being able to refrigerate food meant people no longer had to go on daily shopping runs. That had an enormous dampening effect on mobility.” The reverse is happening now, with e-commerce, which is fuelling the growth of urban logistics. “E-commerce represents 14% of all retail sales in the EU, and 6% in Portugal – but it’s growing at 2% per year.” The logistics boom is hitting cities hard – half of all urban congestion in the US is due to e-commerce deliveries, Gaspar said – and cities will have to find a solution. 

Main stakeholders
“Given the time it takes to deploy a new transport system – say, 10 years – it is clear we need to act fast. And that requires the cooperation of the three main stakeholders: cities, companies and citizens. Of those three, it’s citizens’ behaviour that is the most difficult to modify.” 

So, what can Lisbon do? Drastically reduce car use, for instance. “In the 1980s, just 100 out of 1,000 Portuguese had a car. Now, it’s 500. Two-thirds of people working in Lisbon commute into the city. And half the cars driving into the city are company cars. In all, 57% of all trips in Lisbon are by car. We want to reduce that to one third. That means pushing 150,000 people per day onto public transport.”

Public space available to cars is being reduced, there is more space for walking. The city is investing in public transport, increasing the offer, reducing tariffs – and simplifying them. 

MaaS solutions
But Gaspar realises this is not enough. Corporate stakeholders need to get involved: “Until recently, public transport was losing customers. We need MaaS solutions on top, to complete the mobility offer.” That’s why Lisbon is investing in a ticketing system that will give third parties access to the ‘back office’ of public transport, allowing them to integrate the offer into their own products. Simplifying the tariffs is an extra incentive for that integration. 

“Cities can’t be monopolists in mobility. We need the input of corporates, who are much better at innovating than we are. That’s why we’re opening up our back office to you.”

Every two weeks, Lisbon has a round table with the mobility solution providers operating in the city – 16 so far. The aim is to fine-tune the rules governing how they operate and interact, and improve the offer for Lisbon’s citizens and visitors. 

But Gaspar is already looking further ahead: “The mobility role of cities will change, especially with the advent of autonomous cars. We will become less infrastructure managers, and more real-time mobility managers. For example to prevent that autonomous cars drive around the city on their own, until they’re needed by their owners. That has the potential to cause massive traffic problems.”

Authored by: Frank Jacobs