Public Transport Key To Achieving Social & Environmental Goals – Thoughts From UITP Summit Opening Ceremony

“Use of public transport & shared mobility has grown from 6% in 2006 to 19.4% in 2022”.

Mohamed Mezghani, UITP Secretary General, along with a stellar line up of economists, politicians, and civil servants remind us that public transport is solving similar problems to when Barcelona hosted the UITP Summit 100 years ago in 2026, and has an even greater role to play today in protecting the environment, creating more equal societies, and creating jobs and economic opportunities. 

After a number of years of the summit being postponed due to the global pandemic, Mezghani went on to share that the last time the global public transport summit was postponed so many times was during to World War II. He expressed excitement of being back with 1000s of public transport players in one venue. 

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What’s holding us back from achieving more with public transport today? According to Keynote Mariana Mazzucato, Professor, Author and Economist, it’s “ideology and it’s politics”. She shared that if we could drop both, we would free up the city to embrace more of the obvious solutions that exist today, which include investment and utilisation of public transport. 

The Road and Transport Authority (RTA) of Dubai, who sponsored the Opening Ceremony shared a very encouraging stat from their city. Use of public transport & shared mobility has grown from 6% in 2006 to 19.4% in 2022 and is expected to grow to 25% by 2030. All cities around the world can take note of this extraordinary turnaround in a city whose urban development has been mainly built during the era of the car, and saw the road and the car as the main way to move around for many decades.

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Dubai is embracing all types of public transport including metro rail, busses, shared bikes, hailing, autonomous taxis (coming to the streets in 2025) and autonomous air taxi (coming soon…). If Dubai, with its hot and humid summers, and occasional sandstorms, can do it, then any city around the world can feel confident of their ability to get more from public transport and shared mobility over the next 5-10 years. The Sustainable Development Goals clock is ticking, and it is clear that transport is vital to achieving these goals!

Juli Fernández, Minister of Territory Government of Catalonia made it clear that transport is key to achieve their social and environmental goals. They have a strategy which is called ‘ALL’ which translates to All forms of transport. Delivered everywhere. Available for everyone.

The Minister of Transport, Mobility and the Urban Agenda for Spain, Raquel Sánchez Jiménez reiterated these points and went further to explain that investment in, and embracing of public transport had been accelerated due to the war in Ukraine. This highlights how investment into clean public transport and shared mobility can reduce a country’s dependence on imports – especially on commodities such as oil and gas. A reminder to any country who currently finds themselves too dependent on any commodity. 

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Looking back to UITP Summit in Barcelona in 1926, Mezghani shared that some of the main talking points were around ‘peak time’ for public transport in Barcelona, which interestingly fe on a Sunday. This is when people used the service to see friends and family. Mezghani went on to say that we’ve done a full circle, as following the pandemic, peak times are once again during the weekends. 

The summit Opening Ceremony ended with an Awards which was supported by Visa. Innovations from all corners of the world were shared. Some of the delegates I spoke with from Africa were surprised to see that there were no projects from Africa this year. This sets a new challenge for my African colleagues and friends… to get at least one project shortlisted for the finals of the UITP Summit Awards by 2025.   

SMA news will be at the event for the full 4 days, seeing the latest innovations and learning from the worlds public transport community. Stay tuned for more insights and news around integrated smarter mobility for Africa. 

Join us at Smarter Mobility Africa summit on 3-4 October 2023, and explore the global mobility transition through an African lens.

REGISTER for attendance!

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