'Why public transport is a key asset for cities to achieve global net zero'

Public Transport

This week, the UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, bringing together stakeholders from all industries to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework on the Convention on Climate Change. What the world needs to achieve could not be clearer: it is essential for us to secure a global net zero by 2050 if we are to keep our global warming target of 1.5 degrees within reach.

According to the UN, countries will need to work harder to deliver these targets, focusing on the phase-out of coal, curtailing of deforestation, encouraging investment into renewables, and making our cities more sustainable. The last matter will be one of the greatest challenges as urban populations will grow exponentially this century, but one solution remains immediately in reach: the shift from single-passenger vehicles to public transportation.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), traffic on urban roads is predicted to increase by 60% by 2025, accelerating greenhouse gas emissions up to 30%. Cities are responsible for around two-thirds of global energy consumption due to the magnitude of road transportation in dense urban zones, accounting for a quarter of the EU's CO2 emissions in 2019. The journeys we make around our cities are crucial to our prosperity and wellbeing, but something must be done to reduce the environmental footprint of these journeys. The challenges presented in the shift from cars to public transportation are complex and far-reaching, as new urban transport plans must bridge large-scale infrastructure changes with a seamless user experience.

We can't build a sustainable future and maintain public support by restricting the options available to transport users. Instead, we must make public transportation the easiest option of getting from A to B. Operating in 13 countries, RATP Dev partners with cities to operate and maintain innovative and multimodal transport systems to build this future. As part of the RATP Group, the third largest urban transport operator worldwide, we operate over 100 transportation systems across the world spanning metro lines, tramways, bus networks, urban and intercity rail lines, and subway routes that move 1.5 billion people a year.

As a pioneering stakeholder in the energy transition, we aim to create a more sustainable model for city transportation from conception to roll-out. We offer cities solutions combining multimodality, intermodality, and sustainable mobility ecosystems, as well as digital innovation. However, there is no 'one size fits all' approach to implementation as each city has their own best solution.

Both public and private sectors must do their part to meet these local demands. It is not enough to just have the idea,both sectors must remain side by side to share knowledge and experience. One such successful partnership can be found in Singapore's Land Transport Authority's efforts to deliver the country's Smart Mobility 2030 vision. The Land Transport Master Plan 2040 is not working alone. It is bolstered by Singapore's Green Plan 2030, which aims to advance Singapore's agenda on sustainable development by reaching these targets: 80% of homes within a 10-minute walk of a metro station, no new diesel vehicles by 2025, all vehicles to be operated with clean energy sources by 2030, and 75% public transport modal share by 2030.

On a smaller, but no less ground-breaking scale, RATP Dev will soon become the leading electric bus operator in London through close collaboration with Transport for London. We will operate 15 zero emissions lines with nearly a quarter of the bus fleet (260 buses) and five depots converted to electric by early next year. This could only have been achieved through close collaboration with the local public authorities.

In the wake of converting manufacturing processes, there is also the wider issue of how city stakeholders can come together to improve the sustainability of infrastructure and optimise the use of scarce urban spaces. In Paris, we have had success with multi-usage depots combining garages with commercial and housing spaces. Another novel idea has been to maximise garage space during the day by renting space to Amazon or Chronopost to use as multi-purpose logistic bases in dense urban cores to reduce emissions.

Sustainable practices are also joined with digital innovation. The increasingly widespread adoption of Mobility as a Service (MaaS), where commuters can subscribe to a combination of transport options as a single service, will be accelerated through the use of data sharing and passenger information. Our mobile ticketing and open payment products - like TixiPass and Tac Mobilités, currently trialled in France, - will not only help to meet the goals of the global energy transition, but also improve the user experience of the services it intends to promote.

The future of cities and the future of mobility are closely intertwined. We must make sure that sustainability fits into both, bringing people closer and contributing to their quality of life and happiness. Our goal to improve inclusivity for both commuters and employees will help cities deliver transport for all, fostering a gracious commuting culture which attracts people to using public transport as their preferred method of transportation. It is only when going green is the best option, that going green will be the easiest choice.