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Unleashing the innovation potential of public transport as backbone of urban mobility
Deadline: Apr 26, 2022  

 Capacity Building
 Gender Equality
 Smart Cities
 Education and Training
 Cohesion Policy
 Climate Sciences
 High Performance Computing
 Artificial Intelligence
 Green Deal


Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  • Contribute to the objectives of the Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities Mission by accelerating the transition towards climate neutrality in cities;
  • Develop and implement a convincing approach to explore, test and evaluate the resilience and adaptability of urban public transport and promote its accrued use in line with the priorities of the European Green Deal, as part of the wider integrated urban and peri-urban mobility system;
  • Using innovative co-creation methods involving a wide range of stakeholders (e.g. public transport employees, passengers, the city authority), improve the overall public transport offer and its attractiveness in line with users’ needs and expectations, including affordability, inclusiveness and ensuring equal access for reduced mobility;
  • Using simulation tools and data, understand and trigger behaviour change in favour of public transport;
  • Understand dependencies between public transport and active travel modes including requirements towards multi-modal hubs and access-infrastructures;
  • Increase the share of public transport (modal split) in the modal distribution of motorized transportation by approximately 30% [1] in the cities involved in the projects [2] compared to their baseline at the start of the project and cover different market/customer segments, aiming at catering for specific needs of specific target groups, e.g. a better social inclusion and healthier lifestyles, envisioning a social optimum and the concept of Mobility as a Right;
  • Increase user satisfaction with public transport by 25% compared to the baseline;
  • Identify lessons and mutual learning at European level facilitating replication, upscaling and up-taking of the tested blueprints;
  • Put in place or update a local policy framework for public transport, in line with the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP) guidelines and spatial planning, including clear commitments from the relevant authorities to implement it in the short and medium term.

The European Green Deal demands ambitious decarbonisation and pollution targets and a socially just transition to mitigate related pricing policies. The Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities Mission, hereafter referred to as the Cities Mission, will support at least 100 cities in becoming climate neutral by 2030 and use these cities as innovation hubs for all cities to become climate neutral by 2050. Achieving this objective requires a systemic approach by the cities to reduce all GHG emissions, in particular in the mobility sector.

Public transport should continue to be the backbone of urban mobility, offer access and remain accessible at a reasonable cost. Public transport concepts also need to consider and include the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, scooters etc. Urban public transport needs to be understood in a broad sense including peri-urban areas and commuter belt. At the same time, Covid-19 and similar events can undermine trust between operators and passengers. Attractive, safe and secure mass transit accessibility is essential for cities that expect sprawl, population increase and economic growth. Public transport not only helps achieve environmental goals, but also plays a key role in the economy and job creation and in promoting territorial accessibility. In addition, public transport is intrinsic to the EU pillar of social rights as regards “Access to essential services”. As such, it should cater to the widest possible array of user groups and their needs. This includes persons irrespective of gender, age, disability, income, education level, and digital experience. Moreover, where public transport is widely accessible, there is increased road safety.

The objective of this call is to increase the uptake of replicable public transport solutions in the living labs involved in the proposals while facilitating joint lesson-drawing and learning at European level. The funded actions will contribute to the objectives of the Cities Mission and to the priorities of the European Green Deal, which stresses that “transport should become drastically less polluting, especially in cities. A combination of measures should address emissions, urban congestion and improved public transport.

New approaches and financing models are emerging. A secure, efficient, clean, reliable, attractive and affordable public transport is essential to address the variety of mobility needs. At the same time, it can become a silver bullet for reducing transport’s negative externalities.

Projects should enhance the public transport share in the modal distribution by 30% compared to the baseline defined for each experimentation site at the start of the project and against which progress will be assessed. The call invites proposals from consortia composed of living labs in at least four cities[3] from different Member States or Associated Countries together with at least four twinning cities, where the responsible local authorities, public transport providers and other relevant actors team up to test and implement packages of technological and non-technological innovations and policy-based measures to improve the public transport offer in line with citizens’ needs. Twinning cities can be from the same Member State or Associated Country as the lead cities.

Proposals should aim to improve the competitiveness of public transport by implementing in the living labs integrated, complementary and reinforcing packages of urban mobility measures. The packages should combine “push measures” (e.g. congestion charges, parking charges or reduced parking supply) with “pull measures” (e.g. safe and secure transport hubs, bus lanes, new zero emission rolling stock, Mobility As a Service (MaaS)/multimodal ticketing/digital payments-related incentives, facilitation of combining public transport with active modes, and an improved integration and interoperability with new mobility services).

The projects associated to this call topic should produce a comprehensive topic guide accompanying the SUMP guidelines, on public transport promotion, planning and inclusion into SUMP processes.

The package of measures could include newly-emerging technologies and soft measures such as marketing, real time information and awareness raising campaigns and co-creation of user-oriented solutions– with particular regard to the specific needs of diverse user groups (e.g. related to gender, age, disability, income, education level, and digital experience).

Proposals submitted could test the establishment of new operating and business models, where public transport providers and shared and/or on-demand mobility providers cooperate to offer services addressing user needs following the area’s typology and characteristics. Drawing on digital solutions such as AI, Digital Twins and High Performance Computing, the research could look into public transport policy evolution, users' behaviour over time, free public transport and institutional and collaborative frameworks. Proposals could also consider new business/operational models to exploit the unused capacity of public transport passenger vehicles for freight and parcel transport (cargo hitching), exploring e.g. combination with active modes and silent, zero tailpipe emission vehicles for the last mile/metres.

Proposals should ensure that an appropriate geographical balance across Europe is achieved (also ensuring the inclusion of cities in less developed and peripheral regions) to maximise impact without leaving anyone behind, and by demonstrating commitment of cooperation with concrete activities.

To allow for a thorough evaluation, a clear baseline of the use of public transport should be established in each participating city from the start of the project including a detailed analysis of present and future potential user groups. Actions should provide qualitative and quantitative information on the results of the local solutions implemented. The effectiveness of the proposed measures in achieving the objectives set out by the topic, the local policy objectives should be evaluated against the baseline and the possible barriers to their broad take up, and deployment identified, together with recommendations on how to overcome them. This should be accompanied by mechanisms for common lesson drawing and learning, within the project, between the projects funded under this topic and through the CIVITAS Initiative.

Proposals must plan for an active collaboration amongst the projects selected under this topic - for dissemination, evaluation and coordination - facilitated by and within the CIVITAS initiative through the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding. Proposals should ensure that appropriate provisions for activities and resources aimed at enforcing this collaboration are included in the work-plan. Detailed description of the specific activities and common actions that will be undertaken is not required at proposal stage and can be further defined during the grant agreement phase. Collaboration with the Mission Platform (HORIZON-MISS-2021-CIT-02-03) is essential and should take place through the CIVITAS initiative. The latter should establish, through a collaboration agreement, clear links with the Mission portfolio for synergies and complementarities.

Proposals may include demonstrations, preparatory, take-up and replication actions, research activities, as well as tools to support local planning and policy making. A demonstrated contribution to the implementation of the cities’ SUMP is expected, as well as integration with relevant other plans, such as air quality plans and noise management action plans[4] .

Meaningful results can be shared with the upcoming European Urban Initiative of Cohesion policy and the Urban Agenda for the EU. Proposals could also engage with relevant smart specialisation partnerships or EIT Urban Mobility.

To facilitate replication, upscaling and uptaking of the generated outcomes and to foster capacity building/upskilling of public authorities, local actors and communities, actions should engage in ambitious outreach, communication, dissemination and training activities in coordination and complementarity with the Mission Platform.

Actions should envisage, as appropriate, collaboration with other relevant projects on testing integrated shared automated mobility solutions for people and goods (topic HORIZON-CL5-2022-D6-01-01) funded under the European Partnership on CCAM.

Cross-cutting Priorities:

Artificial Intelligence
Digital Agenda

[1]The call acknowledges that reaching the suggested target share of public transport will be difficult for cities where a large portion of the population is engaged in active travel modes, and it would be counter-productive to the climate-objectives of the Mission to move these active travel users to public transport

[2]Three cities acting as living labs from different Member States or Associated Countries should be involved/project, together with three twining cities. An appropriate budget should be reserved to the twinning cities to deliver on their objectives within the project. The living labs should cover the full local transport catchment area or commuting zone of an urban core (or functional urban area). The key elements of living labs are: active user involvement, multiple-stakeholder platform for innovation in real-life contexts, multi-method, and co-creation approach.

[3]City, district, or other relevant urban scales with enhanced replicability and up-scalability potential

[4]Under Directive 2008/50/EC and Directive 2002/49/EC

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