How do we keep urban areas attainable, liveable, in a sustainable way? This is in short the question that the IP-SUNTAN research team addressed in the past three years. Research groups from Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Vienna worked together on this ever-hot topic, witness the ongoing media attention that all groups received, in particular Spatial Economics’ head of department and project leader Erik Verhoef and PhD student Devi Brands.

IP-SUNTAN developed and investigated smart solutions for urban transport problems. Smart in the sense of innovative technologies used, and smart in the sense of finding ways to stimulate people to change behaviour or adopt technologies that were developed and evaluated. The project considered road transport, cycling and walking, and public transport; and looked at a broad range of tools, including electronic fare cards, real-time public transport information, automated tracking of vehicles, and data from innovative pricing and rewarding experiments. The group in Vienna especially looked at new ways of parking to come to a better use of the urban infrastructure. The Swedish research group focuses on refinement of public transport pricing and on the existing congestion charging schemes in the cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg. The Dutch group at the Department of Spatial Economics worked on the theme of tradeable peak permits.

Political sensitivity

The results of the research were presented during a successful final workshop, held in Amsterdam in March 2019. ‘It is not so difficult to solve problems like congestion, pollution, parking place shortages’, says Erik Verhoef. ‘The outcomes of our research have clearly shown that. The study delivered new and more robust insights into the potential of pricing instruments in spurring behavioural change in urban mobility, and how this depends on the technical design including the differentiation of pricing, and therewith the type of behaviour changes it seeks to stimulate, as well as the availability of alternatives. However, politically this remains a volatile field. Pricing instruments are not popular.’

Related projects within the Department of Spatial Economics are U-SMILE, a Dutch SURF project that specifically looks at the development and testing of tradeable permit systems. Also BREATHE is – although less strongly – related to IP-SUNTAN: It also deals with environmental challenges in urban transportation. The projects try to obtain synergy as much as possible.

Ellen Woudstra

May, 2019