Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) are essential planning tools for urban areas that are looking to move towards more sustainable and citizen-friendly mobility systems. The concept, first elaborated by the European Commission, encourages the development of a long-term vision, involving the urban area and its surroundings.

To support cities, the European Platform on Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans elaborated guidelines for designing and implementing a SUMP, published in 2013. While many SUMPs have been developed since then, a 2017 study pointed out that around 60% of EU cities still had no SUMP, and that especially smaller cities were lacking a sustainable urban mobility plan.

As numerous cities and EU projects – including Interreg Europe projects - have explored the SUMP topic in the meantime, providing new experiences, practices and knowledge, it became necessary to update the SUMP Guidelines and make sure that this new knowledge could make it through to new cities and urban authorities. 

Second edition of the EU SUMP Guidelines published 

Following extensive consultations with stakeholders, the second edition of the SUMP Guidelines was published in October 2019, accompanied by a range of topic guides on specific aspects of SUMP development

One of the stakeholders who contributed to the SUMP consultation is the Greek Centre for Research and Technology (CERTH), lead partner of the Interreg Europe REFORM project: CERTH has contributed good practices identified by the project to both the Topic Guide for Metropolitan Areas, and the core guidelines document, and the following REFORM good practices can be found in the official EU guides now:

Systemic lessons for SUMP developers and why these should matter to regional policy makers

While each good practice has its own merits, it might be most interesting to take a look at the overall conclusions the REFORM partners have drawn with regard to SUMP development and back these conclusions up with selected good practices from a number of Interreg Europe projects working on SUMPs (REFORM, EMPOWER, INNOVASUMP, SMART-MR) for illustration:

1. Those cities that still have no SUMP should catch up by developing their mobility strategy without further delay and get support in doing so.

Mobility measures make most sense if they are part of a broader long-term strategy, be it called SUMP or not. If municipalities have not got any SUMP-equivalent at this time, it is probably because they lack technical and / or financial capacity to prepare one. REFORM came to the conclusion that a stark need to local capacity building with regard to mobility planning remains and should be addressed. Thus, it is advised to include support for SUMP development in the next generation of Operational Programmes. The example of Emilia Romagna shows how combined financial and technical support from the ERDF has fostered SUMP adoption in municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants.

2. There is a need of integrating SUMPs, into larger mobility strategies, or with other related strategies

The integration can happen on a territorial level, where SUMPs of one city are integrated with wider territorial mobility strategies. An instructive example for integration of mobility strategies of a metropolitan area is the case of Manchester, where a single, regional transport authority has enabled significant improvements in transport planning at a strategic level across Greater Manchester.

For territories with several municipalities of similar size, or in the absence of a domination player, CIVITAS proposes the PolySUMP tool and explains that “the Poly-SUMP Methodology has been developed and is being used to develop a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) for a region with a polycentric profile crossing administrative areas. The Poly-SUMP Methodology uses a collaborative working process to bring together key stakeholders of the polycentric region to initiate dialogue across institutional and geographic boundaries, regarding the region’s common mobility challenges and issues.” In both cases, there is clearly a role for regional policy makers in encouraging and facilitating this.

The other type of integration happens more on a city level, where mobility strategies must tie in with energy and climate strategies. Several topics link transport and energy at local levels, such as emissions reductions or e-mobility just to name a few, and some cities have already set out to integrate their SUMP and their SE(C)AP, such as Nicosia, or the partners of the Horizon 2020 SIMPLA project. This makes the harmonized and integrated collection of data for planning and impact monitoring highly recommended, as indeed done in the new Florence Control Room. Here too, regions can play a role, both in fostering the development of common impact indicators and in jointly procuring adequate data management solutions for all entities in their territories. 

3. The participatory elements around mobility strategy development is very important

As 21st Century policy makers are fully aware by now, citizens, businesses and other organisations do expect to be involved in the development of strategies that touch their lives. This is obviously true for mobility strategy, and the Greater Manchester SUMP Stakeholder Consultation is a good example of successful inclusive planning. Budapest used traveller surveys to prepare the planning of concrete new transport lines, and Nicosia has included a user survey in its Action Plan.

4. Data is crucial to plan suitable actions and to monitor impact

Knowledge about the status quo and current and future trends is key to meaningful planning of mobility solutions. It is therefore a good practice to collect and analyse data prior to strategy development in general, but also prior to the specific planning of any particular action. While Manchester has collected evidence bases for six areas, including economy and employment, society and community, urban development to inform its SUMP development, Thessaloniki has given itself a new Mobility Monitoring Centre to accompany its SUMP implementation.

When such data collection is made not only for mobility but also for energy and other public services, such as water and waste management, we link this last recommendation with the earlier one on integration of mobility strategies with other linked strategies.

Exciting times for mobility policy makers

With the recent policy focus on transport as the poorest performing sector in terms of emissions reduction and the new and ambitious targets to curb the environmental impact of mobility severely in the coming decades, with the growing awareness that “business as usual” in transport won’t be possible any more as our cities choke with congestion and smog, with innovation offering new cleaner means of transport, and with the emergence of a new generation that cares less for showing off their cars than getting comfortably from A to B, urban mobility planning has become a very exciting area of local and regional policy making. 

There are plenty of resources to use, plenty of good practices to learn from. Start with a look into the European Platform on SUMPs. And if you’re lost, don’t hesitate to ask our thematic experts from the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform for help: they are available for questions from any public body from anywhere in Europe.

Image credit: Photo by Steven Arenas from Pexels