Published 2018-10-09

This post is also available in Swedish

App conducive to car-free lifestyle

Is it possible to reduce the environmental impact of travel and transport while making life in communities outside metropolitan areas more attractive? The Mistra Urban Futures research programme has investigated what achieving this requires.

More and more people are choosing to live in communities immediately outside Sweden’s metropolitan areas. This has boosted the need for sustainable regional development. In particular, it requires new smart mobility solutions.

‘To reduce the environmental impact of transport, we need to develop sustainable alternatives to private motoring, and ways of complementing it,’ says Åsa Hult, Project Manager at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, who works in Mistra Urban Futures.

For the past two years, the ‘Sustainable and attractive station communities’ (HASS) research project, conducted within the framework of the research programme, has studied parking needs, new ways of travelling and how construction plans affect carbon emissions. The study area has comprised the municipalities of Ale and Lerum, two expanding station communities just outside Gothenburg.

The work has been based on two concrete and sometimes contradictory policy goals: to boost construction and to reduce emissions from transport.

‘As construction increases and more people move in, there’s a risk that emissions from passenger transport will increase. So it’s important for construction in the municipalities to be planned in such a way that it doesn’t happen,’ Hult says.

Today, the land municipalities want to use has often been given up to car parks and roads. If these areas could be reduced, using one’s own car would be less attractive for many people — provided there are alternatives.

To create such solutions, Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), one of the stakeholders in the project, has developed and tested local travel and transport services. One example is an app in which the person who makes a sustainable trip receives points that are then converted into rewards, such as a discount at the local grocery store. Car pools and electrically powered cargo bicycles have also been tested in the project, as have electric tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) taxis in cooperation with Västtrafik, the company responsible for public transport in western Sweden.

Through civil dialogue, for which Chalmers University of Technology has been responsible, residents of Lerum and Nödinge have been invited to come up with opinions and suggestions. One suggestion is to make the station a hub where you can leave your children at, and pick them up from, preschool and school; fetch goods from local shops; borrow books, leisure equipment and tools; leave waste; and gather for car pools.

One conclusion from the project is that the number of parking spaces could be almost halved, provided the land around the stations is used more effectively. To help the municipalities in their planning work, the project has developed two tools: one to calculate how many parking spaces are needed, and the other to gauge the volume of carbon dioxide emissions from transport, depending on where the municipalities decide to build.

‘The municipal planners can now easily and graphically show how much carbon dioxide would be emitted for various building plans, depending on the location. Both we and the municipality of Lerum feel that this provides a good basis for policy decisions,’ says Magnus Blombergsson, architect and Head of Department for Planning & Building in the municipality of Ale, where Nödinge is located.

Twenty-four stakeholders have been involved in the HASS project, which has had Vinnova, Region Västra Götaland and the municipalities of Ale and Lerum as its funders. It has been implemented in the context of ‘Urban Station Communities — the way to resource-efficient travel’, a Mistra Urban Futures project.

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Text: Per Westergård