Transport frontrunners drive change at POLIS Leadership Summit in Prague

As the climate crisis grows, so do the scale and urgency of the changes we must implement. Improving mobility in our cities and regions requires leveraging four key resources: the technology we can use, the public space we own, the money we are spending, and the people we serve. The question is: how can we do this well, and fast? This is the time for strategic clarity, public-private cooperation, and leaders with the courage and determination to pursue a vision and overcome scepticism. As Nelson Mandela said, 'It always seems impossible until it's done.'

The POLIS Leadership Summit held on 30 May 2024 in Prague proved to be a resounding success, bringing together high-level leaders in mobility from the public and private sectors, and from local and international levels, to address the pressing issues of sustainable urban and regional transport. Leaders push forward through policy, business, research, innovation, and advocacy. Hosted by the City of Prague at the CAMP (Center for Architecture and Metropolitan Planning), the summit featured insightful discussions and collaborations aimed at shaping the future of mobility.

Urban mobility leaders unite in Prague

Urban mobility leaders unite in Prague - Credit: Pavel Dvorak


The Summit prominently featured the voices of local decision-makers on an international stage, facilitating direct engagement with global organisations, including ACEA, the European Investment Bank and the European Commission. It brought together key sector representatives such as ALICE, Open Mobility Foundation, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, alongside industry giants like Google. Additionally, innovative organisations like FREENOW, which is transforming the transport sector and sponsoring the upcoming Annual POLIS Conference, the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, and behavioural scientists from SoMoCo were actively involved in the discussions.

Visionary Leadership in Action

Zdeněk Hřib, Deputy Mayor for Transport and Mobility, City of Prague, welcomes delegates to the summit

Zdeněk Hřib, Deputy Mayor for Transport and Mobility, City of Prague, welcomes delegates to the summit - Credit: Pavel Dvorak

Opening the summit, Zdeněk Hřib, Deputy Mayor for Transport and Mobility of Prague, emphasised the city’s commitment to future-proofing its transport infrastructure. This includes the construction of a new metro line, the acquisition of new trams, and the reintroduction of trolleybuses. Trolleybuses were a part of Prague's transport system until the 1970s when they were phased out in favour of the metro. This decision is now recognised as a mistake, and efforts are being made to re-establish trolleybus services to diversify and improve the city's transport options. With these massive investments, Prague stands as a testament to the transformative power of visionary planning and execution. The city aims to transform itself into a sustainable transport hub, recognising transport as a crucial sector of the economy and the vital role cities play as economic engines.

"The vision for Prague as a sustainable transport hub relies on three critical components: strategic planning, substantial investment in infrastructure, and proactive public engagement. These elements together will help create a more efficient, sustainable, and economically vibrant city," said Zdeněk Hřib, Deputy Mayor for Transport and Mobility, of the City of Prague

Key Discussions and Takeaways

The Summit hosted in-depth discussions on the critical actions needed and the opportunities for progress in urban mobility. Key topics included the indispensable and unavoidable technological innovation in the sector, reshaping behaviour through reshaping public spaces, spending money in the most impactful way, and ensuring a just and inclusive transition without leaving people behind. These discussions underscored the challenges and solutions required to drive sustainable and equitable mobility in cities and regions across Europe.

The panel discuss Money - Credit: Pavel Dvorak

The transformation towards green and sustainable mobility must be socially inclusive. It is vital to ensure that all citizens, regardless of who they are or where they live, are part of this transition. Utrecht's example demonstrated the role public authorities can play in reducing barriers to accessing green and shared mobility. France's experience with misconceptions and miscommunications regarding mobility constraints highlighted the importance of clear and effective communication. The support of younger generations for the green transition is a significant asset that needs to be leveraged. Effective communication strategies, like the nudging techniques used by Google Maps to promote modal shift, and Barcelona's active mobility campaigns, are crucial.

Achieving net-zero mobility does not equate to zero budget. We face the challenge of addressing past underinvestment in mobility measures while investing in future solutions. Three key obligations were identified: continuing to finance public transport as the backbone of sustainable transport, supporting citizens' access to sustainable modes, and financing low-carbon vehicles and energy sources. Public transport development, especially in suburban areas, remains essential, with 80% of the modal share in Prague occurring in the suburbs. New European measures to finance capital expenditures for new modes, alongside discussions on privatisation, were also addressed.

Collaboration between the private and public sectors is critical as we reach an advanced stage of technological maturity. The development of e-vehicles and the digital integration of passenger information and ticketing systems were highlighted. A major challenge is the development of charging infrastructure, with Europe needing 22,000 new charging points per week by 2030. Effective collaboration among cities, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and charging point operators is necessary to achieve this goal. Data sharing to build critical use cases and enhance the mobility ecosystem, as well as addressing urban logistics and last-mile delivery solutions, were also discussed as essential components for reducing the footprint of urban logistics in our cities.

Karen Vancluysen, Secretary General of POLIS Network and François-Joseph van Audenhove, Managing Partner of Arthur D. Little, present key results of the "Future of Mobility" study.

Karen Vancluysen, Secretary General of POLIS Network and François-Joseph van Audenhove, Managing Partner of Arthur D. Little, present key results of the "Future of Mobility" study. - Credit: Pavel Dvorak

Future of Mobility

The summit also hosted a discussion on 'The Future of Mobility 5.0,' featuring insights from the global launch of a research study by Arthur D. Little in collaboration with POLIS. François-Joseph van Audenhove of Arthur D. Little presented the report, which focused on ten transformative visions for reimagining transport. The study highlighted major behavioural trends reshaping mobility systems, such as 65% of trips now being made without private cars and 42% of citizens willing to abandon their cars if credible shared mobility options are available. The report identified high-potential solutions for innovative and sustainable mobility. Notably, over two-thirds of city leaders expressed confidence in achieving a shift from private cars to sustainable mobility. However, the ability to implement these new solutions at scale remains a significant challenge.

Conclusion and Future Steps

In closing, the summit reiterated the importance of continued dialogue and collaboration among all stakeholders to overcome the challenges in mobility. The after-summit tours offered participants a firsthand look at Prague’s innovative transport solutions, from the historical tram rides through the city centre to exploring the new metro line under construction.

Partipants prepare to explore several city cycle routes

Participants prepare to explore several city cycle routes - Credit: Pavel Dvorak

The message was clear: the journey towards sustainable, inclusive, and technologically advanced mobility is complex, but with determined leadership and collaborative efforts, it is an achievable goal. The POLIS Leadership Summit in Prague not only highlighted the progress made but also set the stage for the continued transformation of urban mobility across Europe.

Leaders from across urban mobility unite in Prague - Credit: Pavel Dvorak

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