The project aimed to decrease the energy consumption in urban transport through the rationalisation of the use of the private car and greater use of public transport. A programme of indirect financial incentives was set up for those who voluntarily decided not to use their cars one day per week.
Background & Objectives
The aim of this project was to raise the awareness of the population, to achieve a decrease in the consumption of energy in urban transport through the rationalisation of the use of the private car and greater use of public transport. This project entailed the set up of a considerable awareness-raising campaign and motivated the debate around the issue of sustainable mobility and car use in the city, involving the drivers in the solution of problem.
In the “Better Without Cars” Campaign drivers were voluntarily encouraged to leave their cars at home one fixed day per week - Thursdays in the case of Almada. In return, they were given several incentives, which ranged from special public transport tickets with a reduced price, to discounts for cultural and sporting activities, as well as for several shops in Almada. Eligible participants included all residents of the Municipality of Almada as well as non-residents who worked within the Municipality.
The project has been implemented throughout the entire Municipality of Almada, that occupies an area of 72 km2 with 180 000 inhabitants. 13 registration offices have been created within the Municipality, namely in the Municipal Environmental House, in each of the 11 parishes and in the Municipal Sports Complex, to ensure a good geographic coverage of the area of implementation of the project. All the public transport operators (bus, train and boat) and one of the two taxi associations of Almada have been involved and offer reduced fares on Thursdays, the day of the campaign.
These reductions range from 10 to 30% of the normal ticket price. The Municipality has offered reduced prices for access to physical and sport activities in the Municipal Sports Complex, as well as for cultural activities and books; local clubs and associations have offered reduced prices for their activities (cinema, sailing school, sports, theatre); thirteen shops in Almada offered discounts between 7 and 20% for their products; one bank group has also joined the campaign offering reduced prices for their services.
One positive aspect has been the involvement of several public and private institutions located in Almada, like the City Council, the local energy agency, public transport operators (private companies), university, local chamber of commerce, local associations and shop owners. This project allowed the establishment of a deeper working relationship and partnership between them, which did not exist in the past, changing attitudes towards the city and participating in a more active way in the creation of a more sustainable urban environment in the future.
The number of adhering shops (~20) was acceptable, but it took a strong marketing effort to motivate shop owners to join the project. Sometimes, the staff was not informed of the campaign, which could cause difficulties to benefit from the incentive given.
The most difficult barrier, or challenge, facing this project is the extreme reluctance of drivers to leave their cars at home, even for only one day of the week, which is reflected in the number of participants. This situation arises from several factors (social, lack of alternative, dependency on the car, among others) which are very difficult to change in the short run, but that, nevertheless, need to start to be tackled.