NEWS - 2023/04/18

CARNET Leads a Project to Test a New Distance-Based Fee Solution for Cities to Improve Traffic Management

For the past decades, awareness of the externalities caused by urban transport has risen as it has been widely proven their noxious effects on citizens’ health and lifestyle. As an example, to tackle air pollution, the EU has enforced an Air Quality Standards to which all urban areas must comply. Under these circumstances, Low Emission Zones have been implemented in most cities in order to promote a transition towards a more sustainable vehicle fleet both for public transport and private vehicles. Despite the progress made congestion still remains a major transportation issue nowadays.

The project IMMENSE (Innovative demand management strategies), which is financed by EIT Urban Mobility, an initiative of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union, proposes the creation of a Transport Demand Management tool that defines a variable fee for private vehicles according to congestion and polluting parameters. This system resembles to the urban toll already functioning in a few cities (London, Singapore, Stockholm and Milano) but it will further innovate on the charging dynamicity and mechanics. The pilots for the proposed solution will take place in the cities of Munich (Germany) and Esplugues de Llobregat (Spain). The city of Munich has a total population of 1.5 million and in its central zone of the Mittlerer Ring it has an already functioning and restrictive LEZ. The city of Esplugues de Llobregat has 50.000 inhabitants and is an adjacent municipality to Barcelona with a shared LEZ to Barcelona for a fraction of its surface. The project will help city authorities in Esplugues de Llobregat and Munich and support the effectiveness of their Low Emission Zones.

The proposed solution will have a 2-month pilot phase and will involve around 1,000 citizens, testing a demand-driven pricing strategy, where users will be informed on the payment defined by a fixed fee to access the low emission zone, and a variable fee depending on the number of kilometers traveled, the level of usage and congestion at the time of access.

To ensure the best outcome from the IMMENSE project, Munich’s transport department will bring its expertise and technical resources to ensure the reliability of the proposed solution. Meanwhile, Esplugues de Llobregat will share its past experiences with gamification and citizen engagement to ensure the pilots’ success. Overall, the significant differences between these two cities aim at proving that the solution is fully scalable and serves a wide range of urban areas and municipalities.

The developed tools are set to simulate a scenario where congestion is expected to be reduced by 10% and 25% for Esplugues de Llobregat and Munich respectively depending on the availability of alternative routes within the affected areas. In the medium and long term, IMMENSE will also make it possible to free up at least 10% of public space for the use of shared transport and active travel modes, among others, due to the optimization of the use of road infrastructure and the increase in revenues of the dynamic fare system.

To this day, the project IMMENSE is successfully progressing according to the proposed plan after having surpassed its first milestone, the submittal of a technical plan that defines the solutions’ technical requirements. One of these open tasks that distinguishes for its singularity and is being carried out by CARNET is the end-user app gamification. Gamification – which states as the application of game mechanics to non-game situations- will be key to ensuring the pilot’s success by attracting users and keeping them active and amused during the pilot’s lifespan.

On the near horizon, some exciting milestones are defined. The delivery of the Product Plan to ensure the economic viability of the proposed solutions, the development of both digital tools as the main parts of our solution, or the first main steps towards engaging the citizens to use the IMMENSE app will be key and require close collaboration with all the consortium partners.

In conclusion, IMMENSE’s approach is well-aligned with the goal of changing citizens’ travel patterns to promote sustainable urban mobility, which is a key focus of many organizations working in this field. However, implementing such solutions may encounter social opposition due to the disruption of established mobility patterns. Thankfully, the implementation of IMMENSE’s gamification models and congestion charging mechanisms in City Demonstrators has proven effective in overcoming this problem, by increasing public support for TDM schemes. By leveraging these innovative solutions, cities can more effectively implement and maintain sustainable transportation systems, leading to long-term benefits for both citizens and the environment.

The project is developed by CARNET, with the collaboration of AMS Abertis, Cima Engineering & Environmental, L., the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – BarcelonaTech (UPC), City of Munich and Esplugues de Llobregat City Council.