In the “Venezia in Classe A” project, the City of Venice wanted to change the behaviour of commuters on home-to-school and home-to-work journeys. The city organised participatory activities with 18 primary schools and 1,300 pupils to plan and redesign mobility behaviour, and involved the five biggest local companies and 5,500 employees in innovative actions.
The project was supported by the Italian Ministry of Environment and developed in partnership with the University of Architecture (IUAV) and the Department of Management of the University of Venice. Activities started in 2018 and ended in February 2023. The project was extended twice due to the pandemic and the effect of lockdown and quarantine periods on schools.
Located in the northeast of Italy and the capital of the Veneto Region, the City of Venice faces many challenges regarding sustainable urban mobility. About 272,000 inhabitants populate the entire city, with around 60,000 in the historic city centre (centro storico), 176,000 in Terraferma (the mainland, largely in the zones of Mestre and Marghera), and 31,000 on the other islands in Venice’s lagoon. Urban mobility affects daily life in Venice. In Mestre, this is particularly evident for home-school journeys and commuting.
The City of Venice therefore felt policies and strategies needed to be developed to improve the health of residents, reduce pollution, and improve the quality of urban spaces. With first the Venice Pilot Action of the PUMAS project, followed by the Venezia in Classe A project, the City developed a new mobility plan for daily home-school and home-work journeys to promote new forms of sustainable mobility.
In order to respond to the various issues related to sustainable urban mobility, a comprehensive sustainable mobility plan was established with the involvement of all stakeholders who influence it directly and indirectly.
To encourage the sustainable mobility of students in their home-school commutes, the project included interventions to encourage more sustainable behaviour and infrastructure interventions to secure the area around schools. Infrastructural interventions re-shaped common urban spaces around and in the proximity to schools by marking off or widening the space in front of them through the installation of coloured bollards, new flower beds, the modification of side-walks, and even the colouring the side-walk to signal the boundary between side-walks and bike paths.
In addition, as a result of the involvement of young local artists, the project included the upgrade of school-yard spaces with artistic solutions to be implemented both on the routes to the schools and on the school buildings themselves.
Educational actions were also implemented which aimed to stimulate a greater understanding of the importance of public spaces for school children and their families:
- In “Green-mile competitions” in school classes, the students and their families competed to use sustainable means of transport (walking, cycling or car-pooling) to get to school;
- The “Bike to school” initiative engaged parents, teachers and volunteers to take children to school by cycling together during a shared event;
- The “Free all roads” activity consisted of taking over the public space in front of the schools for the duration of a game, without interfering with the traffic;
- The “Walking buses” activity identified meeting points where classmates from the same living area gathered and walked the last 800 metres together towards the school;
- The “Riding in the park” initiative was carried out as an alternative classroom lesson, which involved using a bicycle circuit to experience the rules of proper circulation, while recognising relevant vertical and horizontal signs;
- Finally, in the “Metro-minute” activity, the classes designed a map and flyer to distribute to new students to show them the best routes to the schools on foot and by bicycle. “Metro-minute” aimed to avoid congestion caused by parking next to schools by providing info-mobility support and highlighted the parking lots in the surrounding areas (at least 300 metres from the schools) where parents could leave their car.
To promote the sustainable mobility of workers in their home-to-work commutes to reduce CO₂ emissions, the project involved the five largest companies in the Venice area: SAVE Spa, OVS Spa, Azienda ULSS 3 Serenissima, Trenitalia Spa, and the Agenzia delle Entrate (Internal Revenue Agency), which put into practice actions aimed at guaranteeing economic concessions for the purchase of goods (bicycles) and services (subscriptions to local public transport), and the construction of bike shelters to encourage bicycle-public transport interchange (buses, streetcars, trains) and charging stations for electric vehicles. In particular, the main actions implemented were:
- Software platforms for enterprise car-pooling systems;
- Charging stations for electric cars;
- Charging stations for e-bikes;
- Mobility vouchers for employees to purchase classic or e-bikes, scooters, clothing and related accessories, and other goods for sustainable mobility;
- Secure bicycle parking reserved for employees and bike shelters;
- Development of the "WeCity" App to promote alternative means to the private car.
The project was evaluated by measuring the improvement achieved by the travel modes (towards clean and net zero mobility), quality of home-school and home-work routes (sustainability, safety, comfort), capacity to transform and re-shape a school's neighbourhood and by assessing the quality of educational and participatory activities.
Regarding home-school mobility from 2021 to 2022, the modal shift was improved by proposing sustainable mobility options, such as a "Walking bus", cycling and public transport as alternatives to private cars. The data collected showed:
- An increase in walking (+3.5%), cycling (+ ca 2%) and car pooling (+16.5%);
- A decrease in private car use (-21.6%).
Other data collected showed:
- 1,309 students from eight primary schools were involved in the last year of the project;
- 24 teachers were involved a training course about home-school sustainable mobility and developing the project activities;
- 37,194 kg of CO₂ was saved in 2022 by the eight schools involved in the project;
- More than 1,000 pupils participated in co-designing access areas around the schools and improving the schools' environment and buildings.
From a qualitative point of view, the data that emerged from the questionnaires and interviews undertaken by the schools and families showed:
- It was very useful to re-propose common initiatives every year to all schools in the municipality of Venice to initiate appointments and synergies among them, as well as good habits (e.g., “Walking bus” and “Bike bus" and "bike to school”);
- The “Metro-minute” initiative map designed by students to give to new students information about the best ways to get to school in a sustainable way was very effective. It also resulted in a positive connection between old and new students to continue best practice in the future and created a close relationship between the project and the schools’ curricular and interdisciplinary activities;
- The celebration of successes and achievements was very important to maintain a narrative of what had been achieved;
- The enjoyment of beautifying their schools and the spaces around them sparked in students and adults a desire to undertake similar projects in the future.
Regarding the home-work line of action, collected data from 2,297 questionnaires filled out by employees showed:
- 57% of employees were inclined to adopt sustainable means of transport;
- 24km was the average travel distance;
- 28% of employees were less than 8km away.
It is also necessary to highlight the benefits achieved for the employees involved, the company, and the community:
- Benefits for employees: reduced travel time, reduced transportation costs, economic incentives, reduced risk of accidents, increased travel comfort, increased socialisation among colleagues, all of which are key factors to stimulating employee participation in the implementation of the measures;
- Benefits for companies: benefits in economic and productivity terms achieved by the implementation of the planned measures, including more regularity in the arrival of their employees, increased dedication to work as a result of the services offered, reuse of a company's areas as a result of the reorganisation of parking areas, income from possible pricing of corporate parking areas, and the possibility of strengthening corporate image, etc.;
- Benefits for the community: the reduction of pollutant and climate-altering emissions, congestion from vehicular traffic and risk of accidents are determining factors to obtain a greater willingness of the territory municipality and/or the LPT companies operating in it to support the implementation of the project.
As a result of the involvement of children and of local employees, the project intended to ensure long-term partnerships and networks with local and school communities and the administrators of the city, thus creating local references for new policies that the city intends to promote in the future.
The long-term purpose of this project was to empower new generations in the co-creation of urban spaces and sustainable mobility planning and increase urban sustainable behaviour in local companies among their employees. The City of Venice, the University and industrial actors gained valuable knowledge on resident mobility habits and on their preferences in the use of public spaces. As a consequence, future policies can support technological developments that meet these needs and there exists greater trust between governance institutions and the local communities for future initiatives.
- The project was a very complex set of interconnected activities and measures (i.e., sustainable infrastructures + home-school + home-work + air quality monitoring). Project coordinators faced the challenge of ensuring the consistency of activities and re-modulating actions, budgets and messages throughout the project lifetime.
- The involvement of parents and other adults from the local community was very demanding. Due to the active and enthusiastic involvement of the children, parents became motivated and gradually participated in the schools’ various initiatives. This was also encouraged by a more focused explanation of the project’s motivations and goals and more effective communication activities that also used social media. Another way of involving parents was to organise meetings and initiatives, not only during the week but also on Saturdays. The dual online and in-presence communication, originally due to the pandemic, enabled an even higher participation. In recent editions, families became an active part of the project, even going so far as to run working groups during the art workshops;
- Covid restrictions meant that stakeholders had to work hard to maintain long-distance contacts and incorporate suggestions from children, their families, and teachers to retain enthusiasm for future post-Covid initiatives. There was coordination with the teachers to attend programme meetings based on the previous schedule.
- At the beginning of the project, awareness raising initiatives were developed to increase awareness of the problems related to urban space (co-creation, planning, school streets), sustainable means of transport, air quality, children autonomy, involvement of artists and university students. From this, participants activated a series of awareness-raising initiatives near schools and in the neighbourhoods.
For further reading, please visit the official website at: https://veneziainclassea.eu/