Starting point: Decision to prepare a SUMP
The starting point for developing a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan should be a decision to improve the current mobility situation and a strong conviction that change towards greater sustainability is needed. It should be clear from the outset that urban transport or mobility is not an end in itself but should contribute to higher goals, such as enhanced quality of life and well-being. A decision to prepare a SUMP always means a commitment to its general aims of:
improving accessibility for all, regardless of income and social status;
enhancing quality of life and the attractiveness of the urban environment;
improving road safety and public health;
reducing air and noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption;
economic viability, social equity, and environmental quality.
Depending on the national and local context, a legal obligation from the national level, an official decision by a local political body (such as the local council), or a commitment by the local administration can be the driving force for developing a SUMP. In any case, real commitment is needed to make it a truly sustainable and effective plan. If there is no political champion at the local level, it may be hard work to convince other politicians to become supporters. This requires persuasive arguments presented by someone who is respected by the decision-makers. A project or measure can itself also be the trigger to start the SUMP process. With the decision for a big infrastructure project (e.g. a new tram line) or a big urban innovation (e.g. a low emission zone), this measure needs to be embedded in a wider planning framework.
A SUMP can offer an integrated approach for a large project, with complementing measures, long-term targets and a participative approach. Especially for big and innovative projects with high impact, a SUMP offers comprehensive participation strategies that are needed to gain public support for the measures. A large infrastructure project may provide the initiative to launch a comprehensive mobility planning for a functional urban area, supported by a broader planning strategy.
A useful approach is to show the challenges and problems the city will face if nothing is changed, stress the benefits generated by a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan, and highlight the fact that voters will reward good results. In order to communicate urgency, it can be effective to simulate the negative consequences of business-as-usual development (e.g. in terms of future congestion and resulting economic losses, or in terms of indicators such as road fatalities or years of life lost due to air pollution) and to present these to politicians with the help of maps and figures. Current rapid changes driven by digital technologies highlight the urgency of developing a coherent strategic approach for future sustainable mobility. When communicating the benefits, it is often helpful to connect to current high-priority issues in your city - such as air quality, traffic, road safety, affordability of housing or economic growth - by explaining how a SUMP helps to solve them. It can also be convincing to point to other cities that have successfully carried out Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning (see Chapter 1.2).
Political commitment can be particularly challenging to achieve as the full benefits of a SUMP only become visible after a time span longer than the electoral cycle. It may be helpful to highlight the option of including smaller-scale measures with high visibility in the SUMP, which can generate public support in the short-term and trigger a first decision for developing a SUMP. For example, the temporary transformation of public spaces with “light and cheap” solutions can help people visualise the desired positive changes (e.g. a street closure during the summer, a temporary bike path separated with flower planters, parklets instead of parking spaces; see also placemaking box in Activity 7.2).
The first milestone and starting point for the initial phase is an explicit decision by policymakers to prepare a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan. The groundwork for the planning process is laid by answering the following questions:
What are our resources?
Analyse all available (human, institutional, financial) resources for planning and set up appropriate working and participation structures to get started. Ensure that the key institutions and stakeholders support SUMP development.
What is our planning context?
Identify factors that will have an impact on the planning process, such as existing plans or legal requirements. Analyse traffic flows to determine the geographic scope of the plan – and ensure that neighbouring authorities and stakeholders are ‘on-board’. Agree on the planning timeline and recruit external support as needed.
Activities in this and the previous step are closely linked and often run in parallel. For example, the geographic scope needs to be defined early on so that it is taken into account when setting up the working structures.
What are our main problems and opportunities?
Analyse the mobility situation from the perspective of all transport modes and relevant sustainability aspects by using an appropriate set of current data sources.
The concluding milestone of the first phase is a completed analysis of the major problems and opportunities related to mobility in the entire functional urban area.