The Challenges of Periurban Mobility
People are adopting different lifestyles and territories are being organised in a whole new way, leading to a new outlook on mobility. Global warming, traffic jams in larger cities, and an increase in energy costs push those who inhabit the suburban areas to try and uncover alternatives to personal cars. Let us find out what the challenges of periurban mobility are and how they can be tackled.
Periurban Mobility: An Overview of the Current Situation
First and foremost, one should establish an overview of current state of periurban mobility. Modern ways of living encourage an increasing number of people to move further and further away from big cities, and they now occupy much wider territories. To get from one place to another, they are completely dependent on fast, reliable means of transportation. Yet, the transport offering is still quite limited – or even non-existent – and suburban dwellers are forced to use their personal vehicles for all their travels. Be it for work/home commutes, for leisure, or to access various services, the car is king.
This leads to several issues:
- The impact of personal cars on road congestion in large cities and on the environment;
- The divide that sets in between those who own a vehicle and those who go everywhere on foot (access to employment and services).
Such observations inevitably invite us to rethink periurban mobility in order to facilitate transportation, to reduce the congestion in large cities, and to preserve the environment.
The 5 Challenges of Periurban Mobility
The actors of periurban mobility then have several missions, which address 5 essential challenges.
Providing a Reliable Service from the First to the Last Mile
Suburban areas often have a very limited access to public transit services, which are made up of school transportation solutions and public transportation, such as cross-region coaches or trains.
Although these means of transport are used extensively, they do not address the true need for mobility, particularly as far as the first and last mile are concerned. It is necessary to offer mobility solutions – such as Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) – which can allow users to reach existing networks easily. This provides a way for them to access intercity trains and to travel the last few miles between these means of transport and their home.
Reducing Congestion on Main Highways
The lack of offering in terms of periurban mobility has an immediate impact on urban areas. As commuters have no other choice but to use their personal vehicles in order to get to work, city centres are suffocating, and the highway system is choking. Already saturated due to city dwellers who opt for solo car driving in the middle of a big city, urban areas need to welcome cars and other vehicles from a suburban population suffering from poor mobility solutions. This leads to traffic jams and creates huge difficulties in terms of parking. The challenge of periurban mobility is to unblock the city centres by offering shared solutions for transportation.
Bridging the Gap Between the City and the Suburbs
Less densely populated areas also suffer from a form of exclusion which affects several communities. Reliance on cars weakens certain categories of people who are not able to travel as those who can afford to drive or to own a car. This is particularly the case for disabled individuals, for the elderly, for young people, as well as for underprivileged households. Without a car and with an insufficient transport offer, these people do not have access to the same services and employment opportunities as others. This creates a divide between the suburbs and the city, marginalising a large part of the population and putting others in a precarious financial situation. Thus, implementing Demand-Responsive Transport services constitutes a solution to bridge the gap between cities and their outskirts.
Reducing the Environmental Footprint
As we all know, cars have a disastrous impact on our environment. Greenhouse gas emissions have increased significantly over the past 30 years and the housing stock has doubled. Suburban areas are especially concerned, since they are the areas with the largest number of vehicles.
The challenge is therefore an environmental one as well, as suburban areas should aim to lower their use of personal vehicles. This will have a direct impact on CO2 emissions and on energy consumption. Once again, Demand-Responsive Transport provides a cleaner solution which makes it possible to optimise travels for everyone.
Multimodality consists in using several means of transport to make a single journey. This is typical of suburban areas where the transportation offer is not sufficient. By supplementing the existing network with alternatives to personal vehicles, suburban areas manage to curb the use of personal vehicles and to promote gentler mobility schemes. These solutions can take the shape of carpooling or demand-responsive transport, making it possible for suburban travellers to reach highways without having to rely on their own car.
MaaS (Mobility As A Service) falls within this scope by allowing users to create their own itinerary thanks to a mobile app which takes into account every mode of transportation available.
TAD IDFM: a flexible public transit service throughout the Paris Region
TAD IDFM is an example of a service successfully implemented to reduce the divide between suburban areas and large cities. Rolled out in the greater Paris area, this Demand-Responsive Transportation Service addresses all the challenges of periurban mobility:
- Providing a service from the first to the last mile thanks to optimised itineraries which prevent additional miles and detours;
- Reducing congestion on highways and in large cities by allowing suburban dwellers to reach existing transportation networks easily without using their personal vehicle;
- Lowering the environmental impact of transportation through an optimised public transit solution which prevents empty runs;
- Promoting multimodality by taking users to strategic points on the public transportation network (railway stations, underground stations, bus stops, etc.).
Transport à la Demande Île de France Mobilités (Île de France demand-responsive transportation service) addresses every challenge of periurban mobility and has been a huge success ever since it was implemented. Car journeys have gone down significantly, and DRT quickly became a habit for commuters. TAD IDFM constitutes a true example to follow to improve periurban mobility.