Do cities have the skills they need to achieve their sustainable mobility goals?

POLIS' meeting on 'Human Resources for Traffic Management' explored which skills and competencies cities, regions and industry partners will need to achieve sustainable mobility goals- and how academia can support them.

Traffic management is changing fast. From shared transit services to low emissions zones and alternatives fuels, transport technologies and services are continually emerging.

Managing these changes requires new skills and competencies. But understanding what human resources are needed and securing them will be a challenge for the entire urban mobility sector.

POLIS- in collaboration with associate member, Breda University of Applied Sciences (BUas)- brought together a cross-disciplinary panel of cities and universities to examine the way forward

The panel included speakers from POLIS members, Centre for Research and Technology Hellas - CERTH, Amsterdam and Gustav Eiffel University, who shared their expertise and offered advice on how local authorities, transport partners and research institutes can ensure human resources are prepared for the next generation of traffic management.

Led by Nina Dr. Nina Nesterova, from BuaS, and Co-chair of EU New Mobility Services network (NMS) at EU NMS network, the meeting explored:

  • Trends in traffic management and repercussions for jobs
  • The skills required for the future
  • Current gaps in human resources which need to be filled


We need to get to grips with data!

The introduction of AI and machine learning has prompted rapid changes in the ways mobility is managed and delivered, and local authorities are under growing pressure to keep ahead of changes.

“Previously, Traffic management was about simply ensuring the flow of private combustion engines vehicles, today it is a far more complex task, with a range of competing transit services, emissions reduction targets and new demands from users,” said Vincent Lau from Amsterdam, a city which has been leading the way with expanding data competencies and digitisation of traffic management.

As a result, the entire sector is looking to recruit and train IT professionals, data scientists, programmers and other digitally literate individuals.

Softer skills are also needed

Data skills were clearly identified, however more complex and holistic skills including creative thinking, collaborative working and communication were highlighted as necessary

“Traffic management involves a range of stakeholders, unlike 20 years ago when it was just city authorities, now new mobility services popping up, prompting the need to work with a range of private partners,” said Ludovic Leclercq, Research Director at Univ. Gustave Eiffel, and head of the LICIT laboratory.

“Those in the field will need to know how to collaborate, rather than just compete.”

Indeed, while data proficiency is essential, it will not be effective if it cannot be translated and explained between colleagues and external partners. This is a field POLIS has explored in depth, with the Shared Data for Shared Mobility survey exhibiting how cities and private operators must enhance data sharing channels to improve services.

Such communication skills are also required for engaging with transport users themselves. If emissions reduction and modal shift targets are to be achieved, passengers need to be encouraged to change their habits and informed of the new options available to them.



We need the skills, and we need them now!

Securing and deploying these human resources is not an abstract conversation, changes in traffic management are happening right now, and cities must be able to keep apace of these shifts.

This is not the future, this is today, and the need for data, digital and programming skills will become the standard,” asserted Josep Maria from Certh, who leads the data analysis and modelling laboratory supporting the Thessaloniki Smart Mobility Living Lab.

This requires an intensive effort and presents a major challenge for local authorities; however, many are beginning to address the issue.

“We do not have the, yet, but we are training our colleagues now,” asserted Vincent Lau, “And I see a lot of organisations pooling their resources to get this done.”

Speakers emphasized the need for universities and local authorities to work together to equip their employees with such skills, in a way which provided active, on the job learning.

The speakers also highlighted the need for a greater push towards gender parity in the field. Women currently account for just 20% of the transport sector; and as skill requirements change, cities, industry and academia must ensure they are delivering education and designing hiring processes to ensure the move towards gender parity continues.

Want to find out more? Join the next meeting on Skills and Jobs for Urban Freight! Date: 3rd November, 2021 Time: 9:30-11:00 AM CET

POLIS Governance working group will also be exploring this topic in more depth in the following weeks. Please contact Pedro Homem de Gouveia for further information.


Image credit: unsplash/ @sigmund