In spring 2015 the municipality of Tilburg began preparing its Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP). As part of this it used an interactive modelling instrument to develop scenarios and provide insights into the effects of potential measures.
The goal was to substantiate ideas and ambitions with facts, figures and an independent expert view. This approach allowed Tilburg to see the potential effects of measures at an early stage, and hold discussions with stakeholders based on facts rather than assumptions.
Tilburg is the second-largest city in the southern province of Noord-Brabant, and with a population of over 210 000 it is the sixth-largest city in the Netherlands. Some 45 per cent of people in Tilburg use cars; 29 per cent cycle; 23 per cent walk; and 3 per cent use public transport.
Like with other Dutch cities, Tilburg has a history of traffic and mobility planning. The current traffic plan comprises policy goals and measures with regard to issues such as accessibility and traffic flow, with specific plans for cycling and parking.
However, the current plan is coming to its end and needs to be revised. The municipality is basing its future developments on a ‘People, Planet and Profit’ vision that has been formalised as Masterplan 2040 (Omgevingsvisie 2040). The plan includes the renewal of the urban traffic plan Mobiliteitsplan 2040and its transformation into a SUMP - which is called Mobiliteitsplan 2040.
In order to make the drafting of the SUMP successful, Tilburg sought internal and external commitment from a number of policy domains and departments that dealt with the economy, environment, social affairs and transport. This would help support the process with facts, figures and independent expert advice.
Tilburg then initiated a project with the help of Dutch research organisation TNO to set the first exploratory steps in the SUMP process. The strategic objective of this project was to raise awareness of Tilburg’s upcoming SUMP and obtain initial commitment from relevant departments and within the municipality and members of the council (particularly members of the environmental commission).
A working session was organised by Tilburg and TNO whereby the municipality invited local transport, environment, social affairs and economic experts, and TNO brought in scientific mobility, psychology, environment and modelling experts. The session’s first objective was to translate Tilburg’s vision on sustainable mobility into measurable indicators to be used in the SUMP. The second was to compile a list of potential measures. By means of interactive exercises and discussions, the session critically reflected upon and clustered a number of ideas.
To explore the potential of the measures the group also made calculations with TNO’s interactive modelling instrument, Urban Strategy. The instrument combines a suite of computational models to calculate the effects of urban developments and mobility measures on indicators such as noise, air quality and transportation. Results are produced in nearly real-time (the calculation time takes between two and six minutes) and are visualised in 1D, 2D and 3D. For the instrument to work properly, Tilburg had to import information of its traffic model and underlying geographical data.
For a solid foundation for the SUMP at political level a second working session was organised with council members in the environmental committee to substantiate ideas about policies and measures that may exist or could evolve at political level. From TNO the same experts were involved (an expert for regional economy was added). During the working session the SUMP concept was explained to the members of council, including the results of the first working session. A significant part of the workshop was dedicated to retrieving ideas and input from the members of council with regard to potential measures.
Thanks to the input of TNO’s experts and the Urban Strategy instrument it was possible to create insights into potential effects, Tilburg was then able to gather potential indicators and measures for the development of its SUMP. One of the strengths of Tilburg’s approach is that it constitutes a mix between a participative approach and an in-depth focus on substance. The fact that results have been produced in an early stage of the SUMP process by stakeholders from different departments and policy domains can be considered a success.
One of the challenges Tilburg faced was using large amounts of information in decision-making when the effects of measures are provided on multiple indicators. For example, when using the definition of sustainability in terms of ‘People, Planet and Profit’, this implies at least three indicators. Tilburg has already come to an initial list of five and calculated effects for about 15 measures and two scenarios. Furthermore, priorities on indicators could vary between areas within the city. Air quality indicators, for example, could be of greater importance in residential areas, whereas traffic flow could be more important around industrial areas.
The process of organising workshops with multiple domains and independent experts is advisable for other cities developing a SUMP. There are no specific conditions with regard to transferability. With regard to deployment of a modelling suite like Urban Strategy there are, however, some conditions. In this case Tilburg had to have a local traffic model in order to perform its calculations and involve a third party that could import this data into such a suite.