2013 Annual Polis Conference a resounding success

Delegates gathered at Area42 in Brussels on 4 & 5 December to learn about the latest developments and future plans across a wide range of transport themes. Some 30 Polis members were part of the conference programme to showcase their achievements in one of the 17 parallel sessions and two plenary sessions.

The conference presentations are now available online.

The Polis Conference on social media

Before highlighting the main outputs of some of these sessions, here are some of figures about communication: around 585 tweets were created using the hashtag #polis13; some 25 conference delegates tweeted during the conference itself; and, about 400 000 impressions were generated (total reach of the tweets delivered to timelines and in search results). These impressive figures are testimony to the communication efforts of the Polis staff.

To consult the conference tweets stream, please click here (no Twitter account needed).

Some highlights from the conference:

-       The opening plenary session focused on the interactions between urban transport and air quality. The session confronted views from cities represented by Madrid and Berlin, an NGO (Transport & Environment) and researchers (Prof. Zisis Samaras, Aristotle University, ERTRAC vice-Chair) on the relative role of urban transport policies and vehicles in reducing local emissions from the transport sector. It raised questions such as the efficiency of EURO standards to reduce emissions and the real-life performance of the vehicles compared to the expectations set by the standards. The discussion followed an introduction which provided an overview of the situation given by the European Environment Agency. One of the main conclusions of the session is the need for further coordination of European policies which have an impact on urban transport, from environment and air quality to climate and transport policies.

-       The tools to support decision making session showed how various cities around Europe are integrating and/or testing new tools to inform their choice of new measures to take in the area of traffic management and ITS. As a result of the session, various new cities came forward to express interest in using the tools.

-       The TIDE round table discussion on assessment of urban transport projects highlighted the need for strong methodologies that can help politicians to make decisions and that can motivate the industry (e.g. public transport operators) to venture into new technologies.

-       The public transport tariffication session generated an interesting discussion about price levels and quality. The 'free public transport' option of Tallinn was put into contrast with the UITP's view on ticket pricing, which states that increased ticket pricing can work when it coincides with improved quality. The story of Basel (CH) showed that decisions about ticket pricing are not only taken on a rational basis, but that emotion comes into play too.

-       The EPA-Polis parking session offered complementary view on urban parking. The FIA presentation showed the outcomes of a comprehensive evaluation of off-street parking facilities by end users. Xerox presented state of the art technological solutions for parking management, including dynamic parking pricing. The city of Nantes explained the ins and outs of their parking observatory, and the city of Amsterdam highlighted the first experiences with dual use (residents and visitors) of off-street parking facilities.

-       The open data session confirmed that there is substantial activity around Europe in opening up transport data and there are many different approaches. Of the cities presenting their activities, Madrid has the most practical experience and as a result, it will move from a licensed-based to a fully open approach. Rome will soon launch its open data portal and it offers an interesting case because it differentiates between basic and premium services and applies a charging accordingly. The Reading case is interesting as the open data platform soon to be procured will be based on its existing common database, which itself it based on the open systems approach of UTMC. The Noord Brabant presentation focused on the business modeling activities in the Netherlands, which the province is leading. The model is very much based on public-private cooperation to improve data quality and shared resources to achieve this.

-       The electromobility session brought together a wide range of stakeholders from city and regional governments to electricity providers who presented on their activities to boost the uptake of electric mobility across Europe. Cumulatively, the presentations addressed a number of challenges and opportunities the electromobility industry faces and provided a holistic overview of the electric vehicle sector today. It was positively acknowledged after the opening Polis presentation by the session speakers that the scope of electromobility activities Polis is involved in on a project and policy level is far reaching.

-       The session on linking health and transport looked at good practice from the UK where in recent years the health budget has been returned to local authorities. Reading and Bristol presented the case for health in transport policies in their cities where mobility, city planning and health departments are closely working together to deliver healthy environments. Figures from the Greater London Authority/ Transport for London showed that 20% of Londoners are active through travel alone, which is contrary to the figures of the Health Department which show that 25% are currently active and there is a potential to reach 60%. Creating better streets seems to be a 3- times "win, win, win solution" for the city environment, health and economy. The Welsh have taken a legislative approach, the first ever, through The Active Travel Wales Act. All agreed that training is essential for health and transport specialists in city administration in order to better coordinate initiatives and achieve public health objectives through transport. As a result of the session, the Polis position paper on the positive contribution of active travel on improving public health is to be revised for release in spring in 2014 and Polis will aim to bring transport and health onto the EU policy agenda in 2014.

The Ideas Market Place

A final word about a new feature of the conference, the ideas marketplace, which was set up to provide a more structured way of exchanging ideas between members. On the market board, participants were able to post their ideas and challenges and other participants could look into them and get in touch. The marketplace took place during the coffee breaks as an informal exercise. Ideas were exchanged between members, e.g. between Aalborg and Örebro on cycling objectives and monitoring and between Utrecht and Toulouse. The marketplace proved to be a good tool to get in contact with people with the same interests or ideas as yourself; people that you might not have been talking to if it was not for the marketplace.

The conference in pictures

Photos have been uploaded on flickr, access them here.