But, on the other hand, it has also taught us that mobility is of great importance in almost all aspects of our lives. We need transportation more than ever to transport key workers, deliver essential supplies, maintain food security, and support economic recovery.
It is true that resilience has been an important part of sustainable mobility for quite some time, focusing mainly on protecting transport infrastructure from climate risk and natural disasters. But, the current crisis is different, since the pandemic has affected the provision of transport services instead of the infrastructure itself.
Health concerns and closure measures in most sectors have caused the volume of passengers to plummet, in addition to the imposition of a series of operating restrictions on transport providers. In other words, we are seeing a deep market shock on both the demand and supply sides.
To protect the sector from future crises, the recent Global Action Roadmap for Sustainable Mobility (GRA) could become a vital part of the transformation process, as it was designed precisely to help countries improve their transport, even from the point of view of resilience, by drawing on 180 proven policy measures from around the world.
The tool launched in October, a time when the term "coronavirus" was virtually unknown, and just a few months later, our world has completely changed. Now is a good time to look at the GRA through the lens of COVID-19: How can we take advantage of this work path to increase the short and long-term resilience of the transport sector? And are there new measures that should be introduced in light of the pandemic?
The GRA presents more than 50 measures that are directly relevant to the current crisis, and that can make a significant contribution to the resilience of transport. These include:
- Planning of an integrated multimodal transport network. The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of a flexible and adaptable transportation system.
- Effective coordination across the transport sector becomes essential when dealing with a crisis or emergency situation.
- Big Data can make transportation management much more efficient and responsive, especially when it comes to outages. It can be done through clear protocols to share data effectively, while protecting privacy and security.
- Reuse the road space to allow access to all modes. The pandemic has led many cities to pedestrianized some of their streets or create emerging bicycle lanes as a way to avoid overcrowding on public transportation.
- Integrating new mobility solutions. Innovative models such as bicycle deliveries or shared mobility platforms have played an important role in preserving connectivity during the pandemic.
- Foster compact, walkable, and mixed-use communities that are conducive to public transportation and help us create more resilient and sustainable cities. Reducing fuel subsidies and increasing fuel taxes could give governments the fiscal space they need to increase investment in renewable energy, electric vehicles, or public transportation. While these measures may be extremely unpopular, historically low oil prices in recent months would allow governments to reform fuel policy without a significant impact on consumer prices.
Although the measures described in the GRA can be very useful, a series of new recommendations are emerging with the pandemic, many of which could be integrated into a future version of the GRA:
- Development of physical distancing protocols for public transport.
- Preparation of contingency plans to provide vital mobility services for essential workers.
- Relaxing restrictions on the operation of heavy vehicles during the crisis response (for example, automatically extending licenses).
- Eliminate non-tariff barriers to facilitate the import / export of essential medical equipment and supplies.
- Ensuring an optimal level of vehicle availability and use in freight transportation, efficient vehicle use helps minimize the impact of disruptions to keep essential goods on the move in public transportation as well.
We want to know your opinion: how has COVID-19 impacted your way of moving? What do you think are the most important measures that should be taken?