This article was originally published by Christopher Carey on Cities today, the leading news platform for urban mobility and innovation that reaches an international audience of city guides. For the latest updates, see Cities Today Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Youtubeor sign up for Cities Today News.
Ten years ago, Lisbon was in an emergency. The 2008 financial crisis hit the Portuguese capital hard and its citizens faced insecurity, high unemployment and declining infrastructure.
Hard steps have been taken to get the country back on the move, including an austerity program imposed by the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank.
But when you look at the city today with its renovated buildings and busy streets, the mood has changed. There is optimism in the capital, which is reflected in the boom in tourists and technicians who get on the city̵
Read: [Global e-scooter numbers could quadruple once lockdown measures lift, analysts say]
In 2018, Lisbon was the first Portuguese city to receive the European Commission’s Green Capital Prize, endowed with EUR 350,000. The jury praised him as an “inspiration and role model for cities across the EU, which clearly shows that sustainability and economic growth go hand in hand. ”
“People who visited 10 years ago and now come back always say how different things are – they can understand the change, it is very visible,” said Miguel Gaspar, Deputy Mayor of Lisbon for Mobility and Security.
Gaspar is a civil engineer and has worked in public and private transport for the past 16 years. He was instrumental in developing the city’s mobility strategy, which aims to promote sustainable travel while giving public space back to the residents.
“We want to give the city back to the citizens,” says Gaspar, who became the deputy mayor in 2017. “In my role [as Deputy Mayor] I was given the opportunity to take action to be part of a political project that affects urban life. “
He welcomes the recognition that awards bring – the city was also awarded the European Mobility Week Prize for Sensitization to Sustainable Mobility in 2018 – but stresses that the city should not rest on its laurels.
“The reason why we won these awards is not because we achieve the best KPIs or achievements in all areas, but because we are ready to make changes,” explains Gaspar. “For us, these awards are not prizes for career successes, but a starting point for renewing our commitment and driving it forward.”
A changing landscape
Gaspar is working with the municipal transport company Carris in Lisbon to implement the new park-and-ride projects and bus corridors and to increase the number of electric vehicles used in the public transport system. Capacity will grow with the planned acquisition of 420 buses and 25 trams by 2023 to respond to growing demand. This corresponds to an investment of EUR 252 million.
The strategy is part of the goal of converting 150,000 drivers to more sustainable travel modes by 2030.
“One of the biggest challenges for us is our commitment to achieving the CO2 emissions targets by 2030,” says Gaspar. “To be honest, it’s not a lot of time, because 10 years is like a day in city life. Time flies very quickly.”
In this quest for greener mobility modes, Lisbon has also welcomed micromobility and especially the e-scooter phenomenon – there are currently over 12,000 in the city that are operated by nine companies.
It is impossible to walk through the winding streets without bumping into one. However, public opinion is still very divided. Some see e-scooters as the perfect solution for driving downtown, while others see them as an unwanted scourge on the streets.
In July last year, the Santa Maria Maior district council, which oversees much of the historic center and surrounding areas, imposed fines of between € 60 and € 300 for companies whose rented scooters contaminate sidewalks and public spaces.
The Council also banned parking of scooters on sidewalks and in places that “hinder vehicles on sidewalks” and introduced a moving fee to be borne by companies.
The regulation also extends to shared bicycles that are carelessly parked in public spaces, the Portuguese newspaper Publico reported.
The Lisbon City Police said they removed more than 1,800 badly parked scooters between February and June 2019, with fees of over € 17,000.
Nevertheless, according to Gaspar, the Lisbon stance was based on cooperation with the operators, rather than taking an overly strict approach.
“First and foremost, we are very open to innovations in the city, but with two red lines – public safety and the quality of public space. Second, we look at new things through the lens of soft and hard regulation. Why? Because we also have to learn how to regulate. “
According to Gaspar, this creates trust among private sector operators who understand that they need to involve the city in a dialogue in which both have to converge their positions.
He and his team meet every two weeks with representatives from the micromobility sector, where they discuss their concerns and work on fine-tuning the rules if necessary.
“I think both sides have made every effort to make it work, and I think this type of regulatory environment has made Lisbon an interesting location for providing this type of service,” added Gaspar.
“Sometimes we make decisions that they don’t like, but they understand why we have to make them. If we understand where they come from, we can try to position things so that the same results are achieved, but without the operational business model affect what they have. “
While the private sector enables e-scooters to operate, the city has chosen a more practical approach with other micromobility modes. Although Uber’s Jump – and more recently Hive – has introduced bike sharing programs in the Portuguese capital, it is the municipal mobility company Gira that operates the lion’s share.
The city provider currently operates a little more than 450 shared bikes, two-thirds of which are electric – an important aspect when you look at the cobbled streets and hilly terrain of Lisbon.
Search for inspiration in other cities
When looking for new innovations and methods to achieve results, the city took a relatively simple approach.
“In Lisbon, we believe that every good idea is an idea that we should copy,” says Gaspar openly.
He listed some of the cities that have inspired Lisbon’s transformation: Porto, Barcelona, Copenhagen, London and Los Angeles.
“Copying others has accelerated our transformation because we don’t have to make the same mistakes,” explains Gaspar. “If someone does something better than we do, we’ll try to do it again. We firmly believe that cities have strong networks and should exchange experiences. Everything we do, we open to others to copy, if they want. “
Lisbon was inspired by Los Angeles to be the first city in Europe to adopt the Mobility Data Specification (MDS), which provides a template for data exchange for providers of dockless bike shares, e-scooters and shared ride providers that operate within in the United States work public right of way.
After its launch in Los Angeles in September 2018, Gaspar recognized the potential benefits and adapted them to the needs of his city.
“Now all e-scooter operators share their data with us and this improves decision-making. We have also started talking to Los Angeles and are sharing what we have learned from our experience to further improve it.
“I think cities have to come together in global networks to overcome global challenges.”
As micromobility has taken the cities by storm, other discussions about the future of mobility, such as the introduction of autonomous vehicles (AVs) and even flying taxis, are increasingly dominating discussions in public circles.
Gaspar is always keeping an eye on the future and says it’s important to stay on the ground. The Lisbon revival was based on a back-to-basics approach: provide citizens and visitors with the services they need for their daily business, and your city will thrive.
“It is good if someone talks about the future and asks which ethical problems and technical challenges arise for the introduction of AVs, for example, but we cannot make every effort if no bus arrives, time, a subway to certain Reaching parts of the city or transporting them on demand, ”adds Gaspar. “There is a lot you can and should do in the present before driving on the magic carpet.”
Pact for sustainable mobility
In December 2019, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the City Council of Lisbon, BCSD Portugal and 56 leading companies signed the Corporate Mobility Pact (CMP), which is committed to over 200 mobility measures to make mobility in Lisbon more sustainable .
“Decarbonization is the biggest challenge of our generation. We have to reduce our emissions and make all types of transport more sustainable. Every day counts and every action is important, ”said Fernando Medina, Mayor of Lisbon.
The signatories will take a number of measures to help the city develop a safer, more accessible, greener and more efficient mobility system.
The pact aims to promote the supply and demand for multimodal solutions by first creating conditions for employees to introduce new behaviors and solutions, and extending these measures to suppliers and customers.
Read our daily coverage of how the tech industry is responding to the Coronavirus and subscribe to our weekly Coronavirus in Context newsletter.
For tips and tricks on working remotely, see our Growth Quarters articles here or follow us Twitter.