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Published on February 27, 2020

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The Rouen metropolitan region invents "Smart Mobility for All"

Large communities face the challenge of solving a complex equation between climate issues, social and geographical cohesion and economic sustainability. French metropolitan areas are not immune to the worldwide phenomenon of urban concentration which is accompanied by lifestyle changes and a wider diversity of reasons for mobility with, consequently, denser and more complex mobility in urban areas.

Tram de Rouen

- Crédits : Cramos CC BY-SA 3.0

The intensive use of individual cars continues to predominate among the inhabitants of low-density zones who have inefficient alternative transport services at their disposal, but also those of urban centres where, notwithstanding a more attractive service offer, a quite substantial proportion of short distance trips happens by car. This leads to urban congestion and pollution.

The Rouen Normandie metropolitan region is particularly affected by these factors. While the public transport network is appropriately sized in the city centre, intermodal journeys only account for 35% of public transport trips and cars remain the preferred mode of travel in all suburban sectors (50 to 70% of trips) and rural sectors (90% of trips). The cost of mobility has furthermore become an essential factor from both individual and collective perspectives: while dependency on cars is becoming economically unviable for some people, the collective cost of public transport has become just as much of a problem with an average farebox recovery ratio that has dropped from 70% in 1975 to 25% today in urban transport areas.

A strong ambition: overhaul the mobility system in the entire region

In view of these observations, the Rouen Normandie metropolitan council and its partners have built a systemic transformation plan to act upon the place of the car and pacify the metropolitan region and its living territory. This ambition takes the form of four main priorities:

  • Firstly, improving the seamlessness of transport by making intermodality and multimodality an operational reality and by supporting a “mobility as a service” approach. The aim is to enlarge the mobility offering, but most importantly to make it integrated to provide a global and flexible proposition, making networks and transport modes interoperable in their dual dimension: physical and digital.
  • Next, reducing the environmental impact of mobility by controlling energy consumption and pollutant emissions, reducing congestion and supporting active forms of mobility.
  • In addition, reducing the physical impact of mobility and engendering the positive and controlled reclamation of public space, contributing to the well-being and quality of life of the area’s inhabitants. Reducing the space taken up by cars necessarily means asking tough questions about the space taken up by infrastructure, consequently placing the mobility system in a wider urban meaning.
  • Finally, accompanying behavioural change to entrench this dynamic, foster understanding and enable inhabitants to adopt the approach, and ensure its reproducibility and dissemination.


Projects to make up a system and progressive construction

The Rouen Normandie metropolitan council and its partners propose that progress should be made around five subject areas forming a systemic approach which on the one hand will make cars less essential and on the other will promote a more sustainable and calmer mobility at all levels.

Subject 1 - Revolutionise public transport through autonomous and connected vehicle

The mobility of the future will give over substantial space to the autonomous vehicle, on the condition that it is carbon free, shared and that the conditions of its operation within a public transport network are organised for mobility on demand and mass transit alike.

In the short term, the aim is therefore to test the autonomous vehicle through a multitude of user cases (open or closed roads, different types of vehicles, various service purposes, different speeds, and so on) to gradually build the conditions through which it can fit into the public transport service offering.

Subject 2 - Reduce the carbon impact of mobility

A territorial strategy that is smart in this field must support the development of a wide range of renewable and locally produced energies, and a smart grid with on-site storage possibilities to avoid the oversizing of facilities. Such a network also provides resilience to the power grid by offering its additional capacity when the latter suffers from a shortfall. In the short term, the idea is therefore to support the diversity of energy vectors (electricity, hydrogen) and subsequently gradually ramp up production. Another aim is to accompany the development of a ‘low emission zone’ which, in itself, will help to trigger a transition in the local automobile fleet.

Subject 3 - Free up and recover public space

Reclaiming public space is an essential issue to anticipate transformation in mobility and support active transport modes. Here, the goal is to rationalise flows in city centres by, for example, creating “car free” zones and last mile logistics areas to redesign connections between areas and extend them to other uses.

Subject 4 – Harness digital technology for the benefit of sustainable mobility

The goal here is to make intermodality an operational reality by integrating and exploiting all the mobility data available in the region. This is also about offering flexible and adaptive mobility solutions to enable everyone to choose their mode of travel in any situation. From the users’ point of view, this means new journey planners, multimodal information and ticketing systems which will be available on the market in the coming years.

Subject 5 - Leading the transformation, enriching innovation and supporting change

Since physical connections remain the best way of supporting change, the construction of a space dedicated to transformation, continuous experimentation, the assessment of and change in behaviour will help to get inhabitants involved in this virtuous circle of transformation. The creation of a ‘living lab’ dedicated to mobility will thus enable the continuous observation of the impact generated by the other projects and offer new innovation and experimentation possibilities. This, furthermore, is an open window through which to give information to users in the region and thus actively contribute to the desired transformation model.

These projects are founded upon the Rouen Normandie authority’s leadership of a partnership approach associating approximately 40 stakeholders in the region who have pooled their forces to make the metropolitan region an exemplary area where technological innovation will have been deployed for the benefit of freedom of movement and universal well-being.

The project ‘Smart Mobility for All’ constitutes a return on experience rich in learnings for all residential and mobility areas that experience similar problems and wish to act upon the space given over to cars by building solutions suited to the wide diversity of user cases that they represent.

The Authors

Aurélien Cagnard, Head of the Laboratoire Territoire et Mobilités - Public Spaces and Sustainable Mobility Department, Métropole de Rouen Normandie

Charlotte Boutry, Consultant "Urban Transport and Mobility", Consulting Business Unit, Egis
Read more: Portrait of a profession : Urban and transport, by Charlotte Boutry

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