What should public authorities do to minimise the impact of roadworks on city life? Is disruption to the daily routine a good opportunity to promote behavioural change among the affected commuters? How best to deliver transport policies that have citizens’ interests at heart? These were just some of the questions that PoliVisu partners, among them 21c, discussed at the kick-off meeting in Gent on 7-8 November 2017.
PoliVisu is a Horizon 2020 project that wants to see transport systems more citizen-centric by promoting data-driven, ICT-based approach to policymaking. The latter can be a long and laborious process with an uncertain outcome. Take the Kyoto Protocol for example. The agreement was adopted in 1997, entered into force in 2005 and saw its first commitment period end in 2012. Laudable as these developments may be, cities like Paris have continued to suffer the highest levels of air pollution in over a decade. This goes to show that policy makers should act expeditiously, often working closely with city managers to craft, trial and assess short-term measures to more rapidly achieve their overarching policy goals.
But making agile policy decisions is easier said than done. Until recently, transport was a comparatively staid field with policy making mainly focusing on the physical compliance activities of transport providers, such as road use, licensing, insurance and safety. There was little evidence of collaborative working with other stakeholders; user behaviour was not given much priority and innovation levels were generally quite low.
PoliVisu would like to change that by offering new methods and tools to enable cities to explore, experiment and test innovative approaches to addressing transport policy related challenges. Its framework envisages agile policymaking as a continuous process consisting of three cycles. The design cycle reconciles the views of different stakeholders and facilitates experimentation of policy scenarios through data visualisation. The implementation cycle goes beyond mere policy execution and includes frequent communication activities coupled with reaction monitoring, while the evaluation cycle is all about assessing policy impact on areas like environment, mobility, financing and citizen welfare.
Which tools and policy scenarios will be adopted by pilots will become clearer in the coming weeks as the functional analysis teams carriers out its needs gathering exercise with the cities of Ghent, Issy and Pilsen. What is clear now is that the project has an ambitious vision and a correspondingly high potential to realise it while delivering multiple benefits to a variety of stakeholders. There will be financial benefits for public administrations and logistics companies; business opportunities for consultancy and IT firms; greater policy acceptance among citizens translating into greater political capital for policymakers and politicians; improved quality of life, including environmental conditions; and more opportunities to innovate thanks to the availability of new data, knowledge and tools.